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WHAT'S IN A NAME?
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We drive them, race them, and probably spend too much time pampering them. Ever since its inception, the motorcar has undisputedly represented much more than just a means of getting from point A to point B. It is a symbol of pride and a reflection of our personalities.

This is most evident in the years just following the Second World War. It is when our “love” for motorcars really exploded in all forms of motor sports, spawning decades of unprecedented growth for the world’s recognized and upcoming car companies. It was even responsible for all the newly formed cottage industries supplying everything from port and polished heads, baby moons and NOS systems, to the fuzzy dice proudly dangling from the rear view of a ’49 chop and channeled Merc.

Additionally, in an attempt to satisfy our post WWII motoring appetite, this growth would gradually introduce (to the U.S.A.) a host of new models not only from the big three (Chrysler, Ford and General Motors), but slowly from an invading army of strange sizes and shapes we simply referred to as “foreign” cars. The era also sparked groups of enterprising individuals knocking out a limited number of backyard specials, while other talented visionaries successfully (or unsuccessfully) built various configurations of competitive machinery to fulfill the country’s racing bug as well.

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All this, of course, has led us to hundreds of new breeds or models joining the well-established line–up and for the purpose of this little writing exercise, the exploration of the inspiration behind the norm and not so norm designations we either drive, would someday love to own, or just enjoy racing from behind the wheel or as a spectator.

Whether you are enjoying a Concours d’Elegance, motorsport racing, or are just perusing through one of the thousands of periodicals covering the history of the motorcar and its achievements, you quickly discover (probably have already) most of the breeds’ brandings simply utilize the surname of the individual creator. Henry Ford, Ferdinand Porsche, Ettore Bugatti, Walter Percy Chrysler, Bruce McLaren, Sir Jack Brabham, Bill Devin, Bill Sadler, the Maserati Brothers (Carlo, Bindo, Alfieri, Mario, Ettore, and Ernesto---while all contributed in the business in some ways, Carlo, the eldest, was the first to actually build a car–––---selling their name later on, some of the brothers also were responsible for the OSCA), Roger Penske, Stanley “Wacky” Arnolt, the two brothers, W. O. and H. M. Bentley, Emile Delahaye, and countless others punctuating this point.

Still, the origin of the motorcar’s official crest isn’t so obvious at times. One method employing a portion of a breed’s namesake probably counts for the second most variation in nametags adorning the hoods, a concept easily illustrated by the formation of the TVR badge. Basically, the three letters are borrowed from the car’s founder, TreVoR Wilkinson. Wilkinson, who began by designing the TVR as a hand–built special in 1947, watched his dream elevate from its modest start to the TVR Company that became the 3rd largest sports car manufacturer in the world.

Another keen example of partial usage of the surname is the partnership between, Gene Beach and Henry Grady, the principles behind the ultra lightweight sports racer, Begra. Although the Begra was short-lived, the aluminum-bodied prototype did manage to score a third overall in its first contest (4/60) up against Triumphs, Porsches, MGAs and Alfas. Gene Beach would go on to later develop the very competitive Beach Formula Vees.

And while the small well-made English sports car, the Dellows (rumor has it that some of the first models were actually built on surplus rocket tubes as chassis’s), further strengthens the aforementioned axiom with the motorcar’s architect’s, Ken Delingpole and Ron Low, supplying the key syllables, Aston Martin’s founder, Lionel Martin, integrated “Aston” into the company’s header, a prefix he borrowed from the Aston Clintozi Hill Climb at which Martin’s cars had great success – hence, Aston Martin was born.

Most racing connoisseurs know the Fathers of the very successful Cosworth motors are Frank Costin and Keith Duckworth.

Donald Healey (Donald Healey Motor Company) followed the “namesake” tread, but like Aston Martin, with an added twist. The Gerry Coker designed Healey 100 sports car as seen at a ’52 auto show gained its formal Austin Healey badging only after Donald penned a deal with Austin Motor Company to build the sexy sports model at their Longbridge factory.

Ditto for Dale And Lyle Forsgren who successfully designed and constructed several Forsgrenii sports racers and formula racecars during the late 60s, early 70s, and one actually won the National Championship at Riverside. They amended their birthright with a trailing “i”, thinking, “Forsgreni“ sounded more Italian.

Ford’s GT40, built around the successful Ford Indy engine, stood at 40 inches in height, thus the future four–time Lemans winner was officially dubbed the GT40.

And while James Ellis Hall (Jim Hall) revolutionized motorsports with his innovative and aerodynamic wings, ground effects and use of lightweight materials, the Lone Star State resident naturally selected the West Texas Road Runner, the Chaparral, to adorn all his innovative creations. Co–founder, William Lyons of Jaguar, disputed the rumor he chose the feline’s nomenclature from a list of 500 insects, birds, animals and fish. He states clearly that he was always attracted to the “Jaguar” name ever since the First World War.

Unarguably, the MG sports car helped reintroduce road racing to America in the years immediately following the Second World War, but not everyone realizes the octagonal shaped MG logo stands for Morris Garage, a distributor of Morris Cars which coincidentally was initially owned by William Morris. Years later, Morris Garage began producing “MG specials” by 1924 that evolved into a structured manufacturer of various MG styles and shapes over the decades.

There’s also no doubt that “Chevrolet” is probably very close to being the most recognized brand of automobile in the country, if not the world. But in a weird twist, it was General Motors𔃺 GM founder W. C. Durant, who after splitting from GM, hired Louis Chevrolet as a consulting engineer to make the car of his dream. As we know, everything would kind of come full circle with the Chevrolet brand become part of GM. Louis could never use the Chevrolet name thereafter.

The first time the public saw Harley J. Earl’s “Dream car”, the Corvette, it was January 1953, at the Motorama display at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. By June of the same year, the Corvette went into full production (each car was built by hand). Originally designed under the auspices, “Opel Sports Car”, and following GM’s pattern of using only “Cs” in its name selections, the prototype was called the Corvette, after a light and fast type of World War II warship. Luckily, “Corvair” was considered, but rejected–––sorry Mr. Nader.

As the story goes, Carroll Shelby always slept with a pad and pencil close at hand to capture moments of inspiration during the night. Well, waking one morning, he found the word “Cobra” written. Picking the name may have been simply the result of a dream, but the reality of the Shelby’s adrenalin rush, the “cobra”, is no illusion, but the quintessential American sports car.

Established in 1958, Eric Broadley’s Lola brand of race cars grew to be Great Britain’s longest–serving manufacturer of competitive machinery. But while we can enjoy its engineering at almost any vintage event, we can only speculate at the origin of “Lola”, anywhere from an old girlfriend to the name of a horse. Colin Chapman’s Lotus source is also a mystery.

And while an impressive 1000 racers and road–suitable Elvas were produced since its birth in 1955 (and seen at many vintage races), most vintage enthusiasts probably don’t even realize that the “Elva” nametag is simply a translation of “elle va”, meaning “she goes.” Additionally, another racecar seeing its humble beginnings traced back to the 50s, is the Elden built by Brian and Peter Hampsheir. As Brian informed me about his chose of names, “Sorry, nothing very inspiring I’m afraid. My middle name is Elton, but this does not roll off the tongue, so I changed some letters to “Elden.”

This leaves us with the Mustang, probably one of the most recognized icons that defines a generation, whether on or off the track. It’s a most interesting tale. The car that was earmarked to carry the Torino, or possibly the Cougar badge, did receive its “Mustang” name change seemingly in the eleventh hour. While the emblem depicts a horse, the car was actually named after the lightning quick P–51 Mustang WWII fighter, very capable of duking it out with the state–of–the–art German jet fighters. The Mustang’s introduction began the “pony car” era.

Another quirky fact is that many were quick to point out that the horse emblem was placed incorrectly, galloping in a clockwise direction, instead of counter–clockwise, the direction in which the Mustang gallops. The Father of the Mustang, Lee Iacocca, never at a loss for words, just answered, “it’s a wild mustang.”

As you probably can imagine, this little exploration to the root of the great marques, badges and symbols we enjoy from all angles can go on infinitum. Everyone probably has one or two additions that could be added (we welcome any additions you’d like to share), but as Lee Iacocca reported in his autobiography, “it’s easier to design doors and roofs than to come up with a name.𔄢......Walter Pietrowicz

The above image is the nose badge from a 1938 BMW 328. BMW started life as Rapp–Motorenwerke and changed its name to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH (BMW) in 1917. They originally manufactured military aero engines.

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