A rose would smell as sweet, they say, but me I’m not so sure that metaphor applies to cars. Clearly there are some names that aren’t going to work. I’m pretty sure no one wants to buy a car called the Limp, and no matter how much horsepower it has, the Gangrene is going to be a hard sell. There again, I’ve seen car colors that might have made Gangrene a suitable name, but I digress.
For the most part, car manufactures must agonize over naming their creations. In general, American and Far eastern companies work overtime to get a range of names that are related. Ford with all their F’s, Honda with their Accords and Civics.
Europeans, though? Nah, names are so passe. Europeans go for numbers. Take BMW, they haven’t given a production car a name for years. There’s the 1 series, 3, 5, 6, 7. Even when they have to break the mold, what do they do? Yeah, stuff an X in front of the number. BMW’s cousins, Audi, are pretty similar in the numbering game.
Before you start thinking it’s a German problem, lets head south. There’s Fiat with its darling of retro, the 500, Alfa with its 90, 147, 159, and one of the most beautiful modern cars in the world, the 8C.
Perhaps it’s a southern European thing? After all, there’s the stout British with their practically named Mini (built in Cowley, Oxford, but owned by BMW). Yeah, well, maybe, but in 1959 the Mini started life as the Austin 7. The company that Austin became (got swallowed up in is more like it) ended up using the Rover name for the (wait for it) 100, 200, and 400.
Even the Swedes, the kings of European sensibility, have had cars like the the Volvo P1800, S40, S60 and SAAB with its 9-3, 9-5, 900 and 9000 series.
As sterile as all this numbering of cars feels, there is one company that tops them all. A company that has won 1 in every 4 Formula 1 races it’s entered, a company that by virtue of its small size, its staggering success, and the cost of its cars, is superbly placed to treat every car and customer as an individual, not a number.
In a move that took one of the most gorgeous new supercars, a car that lapped the Top Gear track THREE seconds faster that the heart stoppingly beautiful Ferrari 458, a car that comes from a company that only builds racing cars, McLaren chose to name their latest road going creation the MP4-12C.
I’ve known toner cartridges with snappier, more memorable names than that. I mean, MP4 is bad enough, but why the -12C? Ok, ok, don’t go telling me its twelve cylinder, BECAUSE IT ISN’T.
I think there’s only one way I will forgive McLaren for inflicting such a travesty on such a wonderful car …
But I doubt they’re going give me a ride in one.