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10 Origins Behind Your Favorite Sports Car Names

By Tony Franklin on August 27, 2018


The one that started the famous “pony car” models, the Ford Mustang changed the sports car landscape by introducing a sleeker, more affordable kind of automobile. It became an icon for blue-collar workers and encouraged new car hobbyists among those who previously could not afford the cost. Many suspect that the name Mustang comes from the wild horse logo forged into the grill, representing the furious speed and the legacy of the American West. Others though believe this car was not named for a horse at all, but a WWII fighter plane instead - the P-51 Mustang. However Lee Iacocca, creator of the Mustang line says they were following a tradition of choosing animal names for their cars.


Ernst Fuhrmann was the genius behind the Type 547 four-camshaft engine used in the first Porsche Carrera. The origin of the name Carrera refers to racing in general, but is specifically drawn from a Mexican endurance race called the Carrera Panamericana - or “race across American”. Porsche has a history of winning this race, especially with the 550 Spyder models.


Lotus loves to name their cars with names that begin with the letter “e”. They have models called the Elan, the Evora, The Exige, and the Eleven - which was the first to begin this tradition. This started when marketers thought the number “11” could be confused with the roman numeral “II”, or “two” so they decided to write out the number instead. The Elyse however, is the most famous of Lotus supercars. It was named after the niece (Elisa) of the former owner, Romana Artioli.


Sporting a name which means “redhead” in Italian, the first model to bear this fiery name was the Ferrari 500 TR. It followed the Mondial and won ten World Sports Car Championship races. It also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the years 1958, 1960, and 1961. 23 years later, Ferrari unveiled the Type F110 “Testarossa” which was in production from 1984-1996 as a 12-cylinder mid-engine model sports car.


If you follow the history of Lamborghini models, you know that many of them are named for famous bulls slain by famous bullfighters. The Lamborghini Countach is a very different kind of creation. This car from the 70’s and 80’s supposedly draws its name from an expletive that escaped the mouth of the designer, Nuccio Bertone when he saw the car’s incredibly sharp design. He shouted aloud “Countach!”, which is a Piedmontese idiom that roughly translates into English as “HOLY SHIT!”


Pagani has several cars that are steeped in the natural mythology of Peru, Chile, and Argentina. The Huayra, like several other Pagani cars, is named after a particular wind. Huayra-Tata is the Quechuan god whose name means “Father of Wind.” Living in the Andes, Huayra-Tata is said to reign over the directions of the wind, which meant he was the cause of both hurricanes and gentle rains - a god of both devastation and new life. The Pagani Huayra is a car that can move with that kind of ferocity and provide that same kind of gentle ride.


The Corvette is where modern American sport’s cars find their beginning. Being the first mass-produced American sports car after WWII, the Chevy Corvette helped define American culture. Where did it get its name? The Corvette was the name for a small warship - the smallest ship in battle. Seeking a new name for this model, GM sent out a survey to their employees. The winner was Myron E. Scott, who thought the name of a battleship would appeal to men returning home from the war, many of whom were soldiers in the Navy. The aquatic names would later continue with the Mako Shark and Sting Ray models of the Corvette.


One of the lesser-known models of De Tomaso’s line of sports cars is the Mangusta. Named after the Italian word for “mongoose”, this car was created and named in direct competition with the Shelby Cobra. The mongoose is one of the few predators that hunt and kill snakes, and Tomaso, a good friend of Carroll Shelby, was having some fun with some friendly rivalry. Sadly, the Mangusta did not manage to overtake the Shelby Cobra.


The Senna is a 2018 mid-engine sports car named for the incredible F1 driver Ayrton Senna. He drove with the McLaren Formula One Team for five years between 1988 and 1993 and won three World Driver’s Championship titles and 35 Grand Prix. He was killed on May 1, 1994, after a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix. His story was captured by a documentary also called “Senna”.


The Ghibli is the name given to three separate models throughout the history of Maserati carmakers. The first was a V8 grand tourer, made between 1966-1973. The second, the AM366 was a V6 twin-turbo coupe 1992-1997. The last incarnation of the Ghibli is the M157 (2013-present). Ghibli was also the name for scouting airplanes from Italy in WWII. However, it originally was a name for a hot desert wind in Libya.

Tags: DeTomasoMcLarenPaganiLamborghini CountachLamborghiniLotus EliseLotusFord MustangFordFerrari TestarossaFerrariPorsche 911 CarreraPorscheMaserati GhibliMaseratisupercars