Theme: Places – Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset

Indeed. Quite a list of destinations for the person interested in cars named after UK places.

1961 Morris Oxford: source
1961 Morris Oxford: source

And they don’t do that anymore, do they? Yet the Americans are still happily driving around in Aspens, Tahoes, Malibus and Colorados. Seat, to my knowledge still sell an Ibiza, Ateca and Leon. The French and Germans are less willing to use their place names for their products, are they not?

1974 Fiat 131 Mirafiori: source
1974 Fiat 131 Mirafiori: wikipedia.org

The case of the United Kingdom is curious. The French and Germans never really went in for celebrating their lovely towns: Bamberg, Bordeaux, Aix-en-Provence, Miltenberg, say. The Spanish are still doing it. The British did and gave up. That change makes it an interesting case. What has happened to the British (I am not British) to make them feel like their entire country is uncool? Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster are still respectable places, for various reasons. Yet it seems unthinkable to name a car after them today. Then again, what car would fit such a moniker? Minis are British but have their own nomenclature and anyway a car as purportedly small as a Mini would not fit a big name like

1959 Austin Westminster: source
1959 Austin Westminster: source

Westminster (but in 2030 it will be able to). Jaguar cars are fitted with useless two-letter codes to make them sound like an order from a supplier of suppositories or like trim levels from an Infiniti or Honda. Nissan have a set of wholly-made up namoids and they are Japanese. Rover has gone the way of Austin, Wolseley and Humber (there is another name). A few weeks our very own stalwart Myles Gorfe was discussing Granada limousines. In the ye good olden days of bygone yore Coleman-Milne could unselfconsciously call their vehicles names recalling the great London hotels: Dorchester and Grosvenor. The latest limousine has the anodyne name of Rosedale. I accept Rosedale is a place in Yorkshire. It could also very well be a road in a housing estate or the name of a retirement home: cosy and bland. Roses can grown anywhere. It’s a curiously reluctant name, and it might be the last British place name on a production car (apart from Vauxhall which is also viewed as a liability).

(Post script: the Ford Taunus and Eifel sprang to mind and then the VW Westphalia camper van. Are their others? Not so many?)

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

21 thoughts on “Theme: Places – Oxford, Cambridge, Blenheim, Hereford, Somerset”

  1. Porsche Cayenne?

    Or the demonymic Hanomag Harburger van? Then there’s the Glas Isar, named after a river, rather than a settlement.

    The German car manufacturers do seem to have an aversion to place names. on the other hand Blaupunkt’s in-car entertainment catalogue was a veritable geography lesson. Just about every city in Germany except Bielefield, since, of course, it doesn’t actually exist.

    The only Japanese car with a Japanese place name I can think of is the Mitsubishi Sapporo. The UK Mazda importer chose to re-title the 78-82 626 the ‘Montrose’. The eponymous Angus port and industrial town has many virtues, but they don’t include any sense of exotic glamour.

  2. Westphalia is a company, rather than a model range.

    Frontrunners for giggle-inducing German cars-named-after-towns would have been the Lloyd Itzehoe and the NSU Kirchheimbolanden. But all we got in real life was the Bertone Garmisch…

    1. I’ve just thought: Opel Ascona (as mentioned previously) and Olympia. Not German, but at least places.

      The BMW E3 2500/2800 was sold in the USA as the “Bavaria”.

      (Scratches head for cars named after their place of origin): Alfa 75 Milano, Fiat Mirafiori, Volvo 200-series Torslanda, Morris Oxford, Hillman Imp Caledonian.

      There must be more out there…

  3. I tried really hard to think about French cars with place names – they seem even more averse to this than the Germans. But there are some, like Simca’s Versailles, Cambord, Beaulieu and Marly. On one hand, these are trim level designations of the Vedette, but they also seem to have been used on their own.

    1. Renault Floride and Hotchkiss Anjou.

      There is something of a French – and also Ford – tradition of naming engines after places: Renault Cléon and Ventoux, Simca Poissy. I don’t think “Douvrin” was ever an official title for the PRV V6, but it’s widely used.

      Oh, and another place of origin name. How could we forget the Ferrari 575M Maranello?

  4. Could I add the Peel, made in Peel on the Isle of Man and for Japanese cars how about the Subaru Tribeca, surely one of the least appealing names for an AWD vehicle.

  5. There are the Cord 810/812 Westchester and Beverly, both body styles of their own, so certainly more deserving of separate model status that a Mostin Oxbridge.

    1. Holden did the Kingswood and Belmont, suburbs of Sydney and Geelong respectively.

      Monaro is a region of NSW, Barina Park is a suburb of Woolongong NSW. Camira Creek is a settlement in the Northern Rivers area of Northern NSW. Torana, thankfully, just seems to be a made up word.

    2. Kingswood is a suburb in western Sydney, but the car is actually named after the suburb in Adelaide where the original Holden factory was. (Or imported from Detroit via the Chevrolet Kingswood, depending on whom you believe.)

      As far as I know, Camira and Torana trace their etymology to Aboriginal words – Camira means ‘wind’ and Torana means ‘to fly’. Having looked up Barina, it seems it is the same – in that case, ‘summit’. Monaro means ‘small hill’.

      Supposedly one of the nixed names for what became the Marina was ‘Monaco’. Interesting to reflect on how that might have tarnished the principality’s reputation if fate had taken a slightly different turn.

      Certain wealthy parts of the US Atlantic seaboard seem to be a reliable go-to for American brands – Chrysler New Yorker, Fifth Avenue, Newport, and Buick Park Avenue.

    1. OK then… How about the Austin Atlantic?
      I’d call that British.

  6. Robertas: Ascona is in Switzerland. Olympia isn’t a place in Germany. The Taunus fits the requirement: a German car with a German model name.
    Arguably Bristol named the Blenheim after the aeroplane and not the mansion.

    1. Blenheim Palace was named after Blindheim in Bavaria, the site of the first of Marlborough’s decisive victories in the War of the Spanish Succession.

      It’s not widely known, but the Austin Hereford was actually named after the cow.

  7. Angus: yes, one of many British cars with a British sort of name. They do seem to have died out though. If I had the time I would make a nice timeline diagram and use it to define the moment Britishness became ironic.

  8. In the 1990’s I lived in Tacoma, Washington, USA, an impoverished and violent city at the time.
    Even locals scratched their heads at Toyota’s decision to name their pickup truck line after said town.

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