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Cars of the Animal Kingdom: 17 Famous Vehicles with Wild Names

Vukasin HerbezJuly 3, 2019

Ever since the auto industry became one of the main industrial factors in Western society, marketing started playing a big role in selling new cars. So, the car manufacturers started giving their cars more aggressive names instead of simple model designations with letters or numbers. And soon, most of the car brands started naming their products after powerful, well-respected animals.

That was a marketing technique to insinuate their cars had the same untamed characteristics. Interestingly, this trend was and still is popular in America, as well as globally. So, here are the best-known models they have named after wild animals. It even includes some of the European models with similar names for good measure.

  1. Plymouth Barracuda

Emerging just two weeks before the Mustang, in April of 1964, the Barracuda was the first Pony car they ever made. Since the automotive world was anticipating the Mustang due to reports coming from Ford, Chrysler decided to introduce a car in the same segment. Interestingly, they based it on the standard Valiant platform.

The Barracuda had modest underpinnings with three engines, two straight sixes and one V8. So the designers had to come up with an interesting design to attract buyers. The 1964 Barracuda had a big panoramic rear glass window and a sleek fastback body line that was advanced for the period. The best Barracudas were the 1970/71 models you could order with the mighty Hemi.

  1. VW Beetle

Officially, VW started producing the Beetle in 1938 and ended in 2003. And during that time, they produced more than 22 million cars in 14 countries around the globe. Those numbers made the Beetle the first global car in terms of popularity, affordability and presence.

Interestingly, the official name of the VW Beetle was the Volkswagen Type 1. However, “The Beetle” was a nickname that was globally accepted. Soon, Volkswagen adopted the name for all their official literature and magazine ads. Simply, the design of the Type 1 was reminiscent of the beetle or bug, so the name stuck.

  1. Ford Mustang

The first Mustang was so successful, it started a new class of cars they called pony cars. And better yet, it entered the history books as one of the best first-year sales of all times. Over the years, the Mustang became the automotive symbol of America and one of the most respected products worldwide. So, what is the secret of the Mustang’s appeal?

Well, it is a mix of a good amount of performance with a V8 engine rumble. And next, they added a touch of luxury and good looks. Then they topped it off by packing it in an affordable package with a long list of options. Of course, the image and the name suggest its Wild West charm. To this day, the name, “Mustang,” creates images of wild horses running through the prairie.

  1. Stutz Blackhawk

The early ’70s saw the return of one of the most famous classic American brands: Stutz. The New York banker, James O’Donnell, resurrected the company. He invested heavily into marketing, design and bespoke production. Designed on the Pontiac Grand Prix chassis and using its drivetrain and 455 V8, Stutz commissioned various Italian coachwork companies to produce unique, retro-inspired bodies.

The first car was the Blackhawk, which entered production in late 1970. Due to its unique style, strong marketing, and celebrity endorsements, the Stutz Blackhawk soon became one of the most exclusive and in-demand American cars. Although costing over $20,000 in 1971, which was close to the price of a new Rolls Royce, O’Donnell found many customers. And that is what kept his company in business for almost 20 years.

  1. Ford Bronco

Everything started in the mid-60s when Ford realized the market for compact and off-road capable SUVs was emerging. Ford invested a lot of effort and money into constructing the Bronco, giving it its own platform, suspension and drivetrain components. Finally, they equipped it with straight-six and V8 engines, providing enough power for a decent performance. Also, the name was perfect since a bronco is a young and powerful horse.

So, it resonated perfectly with people who needed a utilitarian vehicle for farming or hunting. The Bronco was compact and that helped it to be maneuverable on and off the road. In fact, this Ford was quite capable when the asphalt ended and the trails began. Unfortunately, due to the small dimensions, the interior was cramped. However, the buyers loved it nonetheless, so the sales numbers went through the roof.

  1. Cheetah

The global success of the Shelby Cobra inspired many American race car builders to build a similar car to compete on the international level. From this perspective, nobody came close to beating the Cobra. However, Bill Thomas, a famous Chevrolet tuner and race car builder was a serious candidate. Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, the Cheetah was never got a proper chance.

As you may know, Chevrolet and GM pulled out of racing in 1963. But several independent race shops worked for GM’s back door program. That was where the company supported private racing teams with racing know-how or special racing parts. And Bill Thomas’s shop was one of those outfits. So he decided to build a Cobra competitor with Chevrolet power. And that is how the Cheetah was born with the name of a legendary and superfast animal from Africa.

  1. AMC Eagle

Conceived in the late ’70s, the Eagle was AMC’s answer to the rising popularity of AWD vehicles and SUVs. AMC decided to combine their compact sedan and wagon lineup with the tough and proven Jeep AWD system. The result was a surprisingly good and capable vehicle with the comfort and luxury of a sedan. It came with compact dimensions, a relatively low weight, and extremely tough off-road characteristics.

The Eagle was one of the first, if not the first crossover model in the world. So it is only today that most people can see how important and influential this car really was. As expected, the Eagle was a relatively popular car, especially in areas with harsh climates and long winters. AMC even produced a coupe, wagon, compact and convertible version of the Eagle, all with AWD systems as standard.

  1. Mercury Cougar

They built the Cougar on the Mustang platform but stretched it a couple of inches to add comfort and achieve a better ride quality. Also, the Mercury Cougar was available with V8 engines only, while the small six-cylinder units were reserved for entry-level Mustangs. The body panels were all unique, as well as the front fascia with hidden headlights.

In the interior, Mercury offered a wood-trimmed dash, leather seats and all kinds of creature comforts. Some could say that the Cougar was just a luxury Mustang. But in reality, it was an independent model and a successful car in its own right.

  1. Chevrolet Impala

Many people don’t know this, but the Impala is a fast, mid-sized antelope from East Africa. In fact, it can reach speeds of almost 50 mph. So, it is no surprise that Chevrolet decided to name its successful series of family sedans after this beautiful animal. However, for most drivers, the Impala SS is the best model since it combines the style of the Impala lineup with powerful engines.

Available from 1961 to 1969, the classic Impala SS featured a 409 or 427 Big Block V8. With loads of power and torque, it has the perfect street credibility among street racers.

  1. AMC Marlin

 

Back in the mid-60s, AMC was known for its lineup of economy cars and small sedans. This was the time before the AMC Javelin when AMC entered the mainstream muscle car class. Named after a big fish that is hard to catch, the Marlin’s design with its fastback styling resembled the fish’s silhouette.

However, the company management wanted an exciting sporty car, so they turned to their Marlin model. As a result, the Marlin was a cool looking mid-size fastback with a design that suggested it was fast and powerful. But the truth was that the car delivered only a mediocre performance.

  1. Plymouth Roadrunner

When it first appeared in 1968, the Plymouth Roadrunner proved to be an influential and important muscle car. Not only did it introduce a new trend of inexpensive and fun cars, but it was also a strong seller that affected the whole segment. But the idea behind the Roadrunner was simple. Present a low priced but powerful model to attract people with a limited budget but a strong need for performance.

However, the most appealing thing about the Roadrunner that Plymouth used the cartoon character of a roadrunner from the popular Willie E. Coyote cartoon. There is a real wild bird called the Roadrunner but Plymouth decided to use the cartoon character instead. Chrysler paid $60,000 for the rights to use the name and design, so everybody thought the company was crazy for doing so. But the big sales results proved everybody wrong.

  1. Triumph Stag

The Stag was available between 1970 and 1978. The market was impressed by the new model featuring such cool styling. Also, it offered open-top driving with a hardtop, yet still enough room for four adults and their luggage. The Stag was powered by a 3.0-liter V8 engine producing 145 HP, which was enough for decent performance numbers. The name symbolized a grown male deer.

With its muscular appearance and V8 rumble, the Stag looked like a luxury muscle car and attracted some buyers. But, unfortunately, some owners experienced the Stag’s notorious unreliability. And, along with its higher price, that sealed its chances on the American and global market. When they ended production in 1978, they had produced only 25,000 cars.

  1. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray

A full 10 years after the introduction of the original Corvette, Chevrolet presented the second generation in 1963. Since the Corvette was an established sports car contender and a halo car for GM, lots of effort and money went into the research and development of the second generation. With a new platform, independent rear suspension, engines and most importantly, a stunning new body, the 1963 Corvette was one of the best looking cars of the ’60s.

The Corvette Stingray got its name from GM’s 1961 Stingray concept and visual resemblance to a stingray shark. With its closed headlights, split rear window, bulged fenders and round cabin, the Stingray was one of the most fascinating examples of the famed Googie design language.

  1. Dodge Viper

Dodge presented this legendary sports muscle car in 1992 and immediately, it became an American icon. It had a monster of a V10 engine in the front and a sleek and aggressive body style. And with its rear-wheel drive, there was not much to protect you from being killed by the sheer power and wild nature of this car. It was just like a venomous snake, it was named after.

Under the hood was an 8.0-liter fully aluminum V10 with 400 HP and 465 lb-ft of torque which was unheard of at the time. In fact, it secured Viper’s place as one of the most powerful new models on the market. The design wasn’t much different from the prototypes. The long hood and short rear end with the necessary roll bar made the Viper visually dramatic and fast-looking even when it was parked.

  1. Buick Wildcat

When Buick revealed it in 1962, the Wildcat was one of the first personal luxury coupes that featured a performance-tuned engine and other go-fast options. Of course, since it was a Buick product, the luxury appointments and upscale options were a guarantee. Even before the Rivera GS or the start of the muscle car craze, Buick noticed there was a market for full-size coupes with the performance of a sports car.

Young and successful people wanted an upscale product that looked expensive but still had enough power and driving dynamics to make every day driving fun. In those days, luxury coupes like Thunderbirds or Eldorados were all big, heavy cruisers with soft handling. And that is why Buick presented the Wildcat with a name that suggested more excitement than other Buick products.

  1. Studebaker Lark

Today, most people have forgotten the Studebaker Lark. However, not only it was one of the first compact cars from a domestic car company, but it was also one of the most successful cars for a little while. The Lark was available from 1959 to 1966 in three generations.

Most of the cars featured straight-six engines, but V8 power was also available. Named after the small bird, the Lark was just that compared to other American cars of the era. Buick later used the nameplate, “Skylark,” but Studebaker was the first and most memorable.

  1. Shelby Cobra

The story of the Shelby Cobra 289 is widely known, but it’s still interesting enough to tell again. In 1962, Shelby used an AC Ace body and installed a Ford 289 V8, creating one of the first Anglo-American hybrids. Also, it was one of the best sports/racing cars of the period. The Cobra became an enormous legend among all car enthusiasts.

And, due to its limited production and high collectivity, the prices on the auctions go well over $1 million. The name doesn’t need a special explanation. Named after the dangerous and highly venomous snake, the Cobra was one of the fastest cars you could buy in the ’60s. Also, it was one of the most dangerous machines you could operate.

These are the top cars of the animal kingdom and the 17 famous vehicles with wild names. Which one appealed the most to you? Hopefully, it is still available, so you can drive one of your own.

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