What’s in a name?”, questioned Shakespeare. Er, a lot, Will. In the auto industry, it can help make or indeed break a car. Building a vehicle is extremely time consuming and expensive. Carmakers do their best during R&D but all of that time, money and effort can be undone when it comes to putting a moniker on the boot lid — and there have been some truly forehead-slapping examples...

In the Twenties, dictatorships were rising around the world and threatened world peace, so, Studebaker brought out a car for the likes of Hitler and Mussolini it seems called the... Dictator. Hmm, talk about bad taste. And who could forget the little Charade? Customers are wary of buying a new car at the best of times but you wouldn’t blame them if they turned a blind eye at the Daihatsu which bore a name that translated to “an absurd pretence intended to create a pleasant or respectable appearance”. Oops. There have been countless others such as the Pontiac Parisienne (“French lady from Paris”) and arguably the most bizarre of the lot — the Isuzu Mysterious Utility Wizard... Japanese car names deserve a page all to themselves, but for now we’re picking on Ford as it has made some right blunders in the past such as the unfortunately designated Escort (no, it wasn’t aimed at lonely gentleman in case you were wondering...) although it can’t compete in the name stakes with the Probe. There was plenty wrong with this coupe — and it wasn’t just its invasive medical procedure-esque tag...

Introduced in 1989 and based on a Mazda platform, it was meant to be the next gen Mustang in the US but marketing a front-wheel drive sportscar without a V8 and Japanese ancestry proved tricky. Across the pond in Europe, it had the equally unenvious task of replacing the much-loved Capri. It failed on both counts. The second gen, launched in 1993, found 120,000 homes but just a year later that number plummeted to 20,000. Several issues were to blame; brand new Probes would often stall at idle, their paint was reported to flake off and the brakes showed signs of heavy wear after just several hard stops. Panel gaps on some models were huge, the ride was harsh and legroom in the back was terrible, however the real damage was done when the bigwigs sat down to come up with an epithet — which did nothing but conjure thoughts of aliens poking and probing away at us... They may well come in peace, but they still want to know what’s going on in there; labelling the Ford after their favourite investigative technique wasn’t the best idea... The Probe met its maker in 1997 and is a car the Blue Oval and everyone else (apart for those little green guys) would rather forget.

 

You may also like: Not their finest hour: Chrysler Crossfire