One of the GRR editorial team has just disappeared on a touring holiday of Spain for a couple of weeks, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of southern Spain, driving from Cordoba to Seville to Toledo in a hire car.
Mention of these sun-kissed cities reminded me how often car companies are inspired to name their adequate, but often mundane, models after exotic Mediterranean towns and cities to add a frisson of glamour. Take the three locations where my lucky GRR colleague is visiting, for example.
Cordoba has been used as a model name by both SEAT (which is permissible, given that the brand is Spanish) and Chrysler for a glitzy ‘personal coupe’ in the late 1970s. The Seville name was most famously used by Cadillac from the mid-1970s for its surprisingly capable entry sedan model, and Toledo was introduced by Triumph in 1970 for its Herald-replacing saloon (later morphing into the Dolomite; an exotic Italian mountain range), and more recently SEAT, with the name also appearing on pioneering American electric vehicles at the turn of the 20th Century.
SEAT has understandably cornered the market with other exotic Spanish location names too, such as Malaga, Ibiza and Alhambra, with Ford getting in first with the Granada name in 1972.
Moving away from Spain, but remaining in the Med, in the early 1960s St. Tropez inspired the Neckar St. Trop – a charming coupe and cabriolet built by NSU under a Fiat license in Germany – as well as the more recent Nice Anglo-French electric car range.
Monaco and Monte Carlo have predictably been used as model names to add much-needed sparkle to some quite unremarkable cars, such as the dreary Dodge Monaco and Chevrolet Monte Carlo (as well as the rather worthier Lancia Beta Monte Carlo).
Moving further east around the Mediterranean coast into Italy, the Italian car capital of Turin has inspired the Ford Torino (of Starsky and Hutch fame), as well as the lovely Pininfarina-styled IKA/Renault-built coupe from Argentina, plus the pretty Intermeccanica of the same name.
The hum-drum 2005-10 Mercury Milan sedan was considerably less stylish than the Italian city that inspired its name, with Milano being used by S&J Motors and Milan-based Alfa Romeo itself for the American market version of the Alfa 75.
Exotic European holiday locations such as sun-drenched Corsica (Chevrolet) and Capri (Ford and Mercury) plus the winter skiing paradise of Cortina (Ford) and Ascona (Opel) helped to sell the dream of the average family motoring living the aspirational jet-set lifestyle.
European mountain ranges and passes such as the Alps (Alpine by Renault, Sunbeam, Chrysler and Talbot), Taunus (Ford), Tatra (eponymous), Stelvio (Alfa Romeo) and the afore-mentioned Dolomites (Triumph) were also all chosen to reinforce an image of scenic, exotic locations, plus rallying success in some cases.
Closer to home, British towns and regions tend not to conjure up the same aspirational images. Granted, post-war BMC’s quaint English cities and ‘county’ models (Austin Devon, Somerset, Cambridge, Westminster, Morris Cowley, Oxford, and so on) reinforced post-war British pride and home-grown reassurance, but would you have rushed out to buy a car named after an industrial English port, for example, such as the Tilbury?!
In France, specialist sportscar maker Martin must have thought Tilbury sounded like an attractive and appealing typically-English name for its 1930s-esque British-inspired two-seater roadster. Thankfully it never attempted to sell the Tilbury this side of the Channel, just as the French couldn’t (and probably wouldn’t) buy a Cadillac (or Holden) Calais!