What’s in a Name?

BatzBullDecalThe name of a car is something manufacturers lavish untold hours of research and surveys to determine. The name should conjure an image or persona, and hopefully it’s one that relates well to the public. Names like Impala, Charger, and Mustang are instantly recognizable, but designers didn’t know what impact they would have as they went to production. One of the more famous stories is how the Chevy Camaro was almost named “Panther” since the car was launched in response the huge success of the Mustang. Dies were cast to stamp the nameplates when the last minute decision was made to go with “Camaro” instead. Who knew?
In 1985, Ford reached back into ancient history and the signs of the Zodiac to name its new sedan. Taurus is Latin for ‘The Bull’, and for the Mesopotamians, it was The Bull of Heaven. There is a huge amount of mythology surrounding the second sign of the Zodiac, but the sign of the Bull represents strong-willed character with great determination and perseverance. A worthy name for a car aimed at being the flagship sedan for the brand of the Blue Oval.
The decision may have been an inspired one as the Ford Taurus is now in its sixth generation, spanning over thirty years of production. My 2013 Taurus SEL is the second of the breed I’ve owned. The first was a short-lived dance with a 1991 SHO, the performance variant equipped with a Yamaha-sourced 3.0 DOHC that produced 220hp (which was considered potent in 1991) Alas, the SHO proved expensive to maintain and I grew weary of its manual gearbox on daily basis. My current Taurus was chosen as a cheaper alternative daily driver to my thirsty and issue-plagued Dodge Magnum R/T.
I have lamented in print many times over my search for another car that could fill the role as completely as my trusty 1995 Dodge Intrepid. Its as though the car has taken up a mythical status, but the fact remains it rolled up 275k almost trouble-free miles between me and my son, and road warriors like that don’t happen everyday.
I’ve had my current Taurus almost two years and it slowly keeps getting better, like a buddy you weren’t certain about at first but keeps growing on you as time passes. Like many other gearheads, I tend to shop for cars on a recreational basis. Shopping and dreaming can run the gamut from ‘possible next choice’ to ‘only if I win the lotto’ circumstances. But for all the vehicles I’ve browsed with thoughts of replacing the Taurus, it reminds me each time I climb in the command chair of all the things it does so well. It also doesn’t hurt getting frequent comments from others on how good the car looks. The Deep Impact Blue paint is an eye-catcher, and one of the major reasons I drove to Carolina to buy the car. A well-named color on a well-named car…or is it the best name?
Like many enthusiasts I know, we tend to name our cars. Like pets? Maybe, but it never happens instantly, rather taking time to expose its true personality. My mythical Intrepid was named on a fluke by my step-daughter on one of my trips to New York. She found it strange I like to drive so much and called my car ‘The Taxi’ which quickly became the ‘Bat-Taxi’ and its status was cemented after that.
I’ve browsed SUVs, that offer all-wheel-drive, a benefit for foul weather and the occasional dirt road, and additional seating with improved load space. All things that can be useful from time-to-time, but when I walk into the parking lot to see that shiny blue, bullet-shaped cruiser waiting to ride…well…there just isn’t an SUV that looks that good. It simply can’t, because the nature of a high-riding, two-box design works against any manner of sleek profile. There are a scant few that put on a good show (the Jag F-Pace springs to mind) but they will never be sports cars or sports sedans.
Yes, a few high-priced examples provide enough muscle and technology to overpower their shortcomings, but they still look like the utes they are, and no Porsche Cayenne S or BMW X5 will ever look as potent as say, an Audi A7 Sportback. It just ain’t happenin’.
I attempted to create a Batman-esque persona after I bought the Taurus, thinking I could steal a little Bat-Taxi thunder. I worked up logos and decals but time proved I was still off-base. My wife will attest that a name sticks when I refer to the car in conversation either by its factory nameplate or the badge earned at Timmy’s garage. I will not dispute her wisdom.
Anyone who has read or seen “The Watchmen,” know the masked hero, Nite Owl, and how similar he is to Batman in many respects. I also have a huge fascination for birds of prey, so the Nite Owl character intrigues me. I also recall see pictures of an organization made up of police officers called “Blue Knights,” and the wheels in my head began turning. The Taurus shares its DNA with police interceptors, the blue color is that of the police Knights, and Nite Owl is crime fighter, all stuff that is the inspiration of heroes. In addition, in the fantasy story, “The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” a Great Horned Owl was a blacksmith who was the first of his kind to forge battle claws. Heroes, fantasy warriors, birds of prey, the spirit of constellations from the night sky, and the dedicated code of honor of crime fighters both real and imagined. Yes indeed, “The Knight Owl” is a persona of determined character.
So what’s in a name? As much or as little as you choose to believe I suppose, but names like Ferrari and Lamborghini embody the very essence of automotive passion, and to this day Lamborghinis are still named for champion fighting bulls. My car will never hold the status of those legendary icons, but for me it represents a trusted teammate, one that is an extension of my driving enthusiasm and a representation, no matter how small, of a vision brought to life.
Artists will craft many works in their lifetime, and there will always be those few pieces near to their hearts. For me, cars are both friends and works of art I’ve expressed through the years, and each will be remembered for the joy they provided and the names we discovered together. They beckon me to the driver seat, holding the promise of great sights and sensations along the endless ribbons of asphalt.
Let’s roll…
– T. August Green

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