A new kind of retro: naming a model after the company’s founder

As manufacturers are running out of inspiration for another retro styled car, a trend for which Volkswagen is credited since it introduced the New Beetle back in 1997, I have started to notice a new trend: retro naming. And with that, at this moment, I don’t mean re-using model names from the past, like Alfa Giulia or Chrysler 300, which could be the subject of an entirely different article, but I mean using the first name of the company’s founder as a model name.

Ferrari-EnzoFerrari started this trend in 2002 when the Italians decided to name their supercar Ferrari Enzo. While the model’s two predecessors, F40 and F50, were named to celebrate the company’s 40th and 48th anniversary in 1987 and 1995 respectively, the Italians may have been a bit too quick with the development of their next supercar. It was already completed and ready to be sold in 2002, so the Italians must have called for an emergency board meeting during lunch time:

  • “Oh mama mia! Grande catastrofe! Gianni, what do we do now? The F60 is already finished!
  • — Eating spaghetti —
  • “When is the 60th anniversary, Alberto?”
  • — Drinking Chianti —
  • “That’s another five years, Vincenzo! We cannot wait that long! The Germans are working on a Carrera GT, which is much better than ours. We need it to be sold out before they finish their car!”
  • — Eating more spaghetti —
  • “I have an idea, Alberto: we should call it the Ferrari F55!”
  • — Drinking more Chianti —
  • “No, that’s too much like the F355, Carlo. That was a sissy’s car. This is a great car. We should name it after the great man himself!”
  • — Drinking even more Chianti —
  • “You mean Ferrari Mussolini?”
  • — Eating Tiramisu —
  • “No, no, no, Nicola! I mean Enzo! Enzo Ferrari! Ferrari Enzo!”
  • — Drinking Espresso —
  • “Si! Si! Si! What a great idea! Grazie a Dio. Why didn’t I think of that? Ferrari Enzo!”

And ten years later, there must have been a similar meeting, with even more abundant amounts of Chianti before they were too passed out to think of anything, so they just called it the Ferrari LaFerrari.

Opel-Vauxhall-AdamIt would take the Germans another ten years to recognize this first Italian stroke of genius, when Opel/Vauxhall introduced its Adam minicar, named after Adam Opel. This means the Germans probably handled their Weizenbier at lunch better than the Brits handled their Lagers, as the Vauxhall version was also called Adam, instead of the more properly named Vauxhall Alexander. To make this little car’s name even more confusing, it will be rebadged as a Buick for the Chinese and maybe even the North-American market, but just the brand will be rebadged, as its name is expected to remain Adam, instead of the Buick David.

Just like two swallows don’t make a summer, the Enzo and the Adam don’t make a trend, but back to the Italians for that. At the Geneva Auto show last month, Maserati showed an absolutely stunning concept car of a Gran Turismo coupe. Maserati-AlfierThe name of this beautiful creature? Maserati Alfieri, named after one of the Maserati brothers who founded the company. Did I just say brothers? That means there are more of them! Well, five more to be precise. So expect the Maserati Carlo, Maserati Bindo, Maserati Mario, Maserati Ettore and Maserati Ernesto in the next couple of years. That saves the company a huge healthcare bill for liver transplants, as it only took one meeting to come up with six car names. Actually, it may be seven names. If Maserati would just copy Ferrari’s strategy, they will also introduce the Maserati LaMaserati sometime in the next few years.

I am curious to see which companies will join this trend, although there may be some copyright issues between the Bentley Walter and the Chrysler Walter, the Renault Louis and the Chevrolet Louis, not to mention the Cadillac Henry, Ford Henry, Morgan Henry and Rolls Royce Henry. Apparently, if your first name was Henry sometime in the late 19th century, your primary school career test would read: start an automobile company.

Besides that, in my opinion, the Italians have a little edge on the Japanese and the Germans in the continuation of this trend. Fiat Giovanni and Lancia Vincenzo are a little easier on the tongue than Mazda Jujiro, Mitsubishi Iwasaki, Nissan Masujiro and Toyota Kiichiro. And Alfa Romeo Nicola and Lamborghini Ferruccio just sound so much more melodious than Audi August, BMW Franz and Mercedes-Benz Karl. Volkswagen-New-BeetleNot to mention the folks in Wolfsburg, as I somehow have the feeling that there’s something about the Volkswagen Adolf that’s keeping this hypothetical car from becoming as successful as the retro New Beetle has been for the past 17 years.