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15 Car Names You Didn't Know Were Acronyms

Once in a blue moon, when the cosmos is at its dimmest, a group of car executives congregate in the dark attics of their monolithic headquarters in secret. The room is dimly lit with candles and smells of incense and premium leather. The executives stand together in their ceremonial hoods, tightly arranged in a circular pattern. In the center of it all lies a well-worn Ouija board that seem to have an overabundance of S's, R's and X's. When the time is right, the participants join hands on the gilded planchette (That triangle thing people use on a Ouija board, according to Google. Totally didn’t know that.) to come up with model name of the latest midsize crossover that is going to be crammed into a niche that nobody wanted.

That is how we imagined car companies come up with their vehicle names. To our surprise, not only are there no witchcraft or dark spirits involved, but many of these seemingly random letters and numbers stand for something. What obscure meanings hide behind names like GTO, TT, NSX or MP4-12C? Here are some of the less commonly known car names that are acronyms and what inspired them.

1. Smart Car: Swatch Mercedes ART

Photo credit Robert Basic

When Swatch (yes, the watch company) and Mercedes came together to form a company that specialized in small cars, they wanted to make not just a car, but a work of art. That’s why they put it in the title.

2. Dodge Omni GLH & Shelby GLHS: Goes Like Hell & Goes Like Hell S’More

Dodge Shelby GLHS

This one sounds like a joke, but trust us that it’s real. While the posh European companies were putting the analytical horsepower numbers on the badge, Dodge wanted to broadcast how it felt. Then when they put out a version that went even faster, they reached way back to Boy Scout campouts to find the perfect vernacular to say it. More car companies should do zany stuff like this. It makes the life of a car enthusiast infinitely more enjoyable.

3. Lexus IS, LS, GS and CT: Intelligent Sport, Luxury Sedan, Grand Sedan and Creative Touring

Photo credit M 93

Without knowing the acronyms, it looks like Lexus just likes the letter S, and put another letter in front of it to differentiate between their vehicles. With them, it makes a lot more sense. The GS is a large, or one might say grand, sedan and the IS is sporty. We’re still not sure what makes the CT so creative, but we’re willing to go with it.

4. Audi TT: Tourist Touring

Photo credit Vauxford

This one seems a little redundant, since what else does a tourist do other than tour? Then again, calling it the T, for Tourister, would be a little too short. Also, many people don’t know that Audi is an acronym, too. It stands for Auto Union Deutschland Ingolstadt.

5. Subaru BRZ: Boxer Engine Rear-Wheel Drive Zenith

Photo credit The359

While some of the names on this list simply lay out the specifications or purpose of the car, the BRZ adds a little braggadocios flair. Sure, they could have just outlined the engine and drivetrain, but then they went the extra mile to call it the zenith. It’s way more fun than its sister car, the FR-S, which stands for Front-engine Rear-wheel drive Sport.

6. Toyota MR2: Midship Runabout 2-Seater

Photo credit Errro105

Why call your midengined sports car a midengined sports car, when you can spice things up by calling it midship runabout? This little car stayed true to the fun in its name, though we would classify it more of a jet ski than a ship.

7. Honda NSX: New Sportscar Experimental

Photo credit Latvian98

This one is just about as basic as you can get. “We have a new, experimental sports car,” the head of design said. “What should we call it?”

Silence for a full minute.

“What about New Sportscar Experimental?” one of the designers said.

“We’ll use that as a working title,” the head of design said, naively.

8. Mazda MX-5: Mazda Experimental Project #5

Photo credit Kickaffe (Mario von Berg)

We’re starting to understand these acronyms better now. If a sports car has an X in its name, it probably stands for experimental, like experimental aircraft. But if aircraft ditch the X moniker once they go into full production, why don’t cars? We suppose it doesn't have the same cool-factor without it.

9. Lamborghini Aventador LP 770-4 SVJ: Longitudinal Posteriore (Longitudinally-Mounted Mid-Engine) 770HP Super Veloce Jota (Super Fast Track Car)

If one car company would literally name their car super fast, it would be Lamborghini. You would feel that putting the massive horsepower number in the name would do that, but you can’t be too careful. This is another one that calls out its mid-engine in the name, as well.

10. Nissan Fairlady Z 432: 4 Valves Per Cylinder, 3 Carbs, 2 Camshafts

Photo credit 	Morio

There may have been other engine specs they could have used to name the 432, but we’re glad that they used three that work so nicely together. The descending numbers create a natural feel to the name that many of the more robotic engine designations lack.

11. McLaren MP4-12C: McLaren Project 4, Performance Bracket 12, Carbon Chassis

Photo credit M 93

It turns out that one of the most notoriously convoluted names in recent memory actually had a meaning behind it. That said, even the fully written out name is still a bit confusing. What does performance bracket 12 mean? Also, McLaren Project 4 doesn’t refer to this being the fourth project from McLaren, but instead the combination of both McLaren and Project 4. At least we can understand that it has a carbon chassis.

12. Porsche GT3 RS: FIA GT3 Class Renn-Sport (Race Sport)

Photo credit 	Matti Blume

Out of all of the acronyms, this one might make the most sense, since it just takes another acronym that applies to it. For those of you who are wondering, GT3 stands for Cup Grand Touring Cars. Considering Porsche’s storied racing history, they wouldn’t make sports cars; they would make race sports cars.

13. Ferrari GTB, GTS, GTO and GTC: Gran Turismo Berlinetta, Gran Turismo Spyder, Gran Turismo Omologata and Grand Touring Coupe

Photo credit emperornie

You need to know a bit of Italian to make sense of a few of these names. Berlinetta means “little saloon,” while omologata means homologate, which for those who don’t know is the process by which car companies produce and sell a limited run of a race car to qualify it for specific racing series. For some, it simply means ludicrously expensive.

14. Jaguar F-Type SVR: Special Vehicle Racing

Photo credit Matthew Lamb

This one gets close to the unimaginativeness of the NSX, but we’ll give it a few more points for originality, since Special Vehicle is referring more to the Special Vehicle Operations department within Jaguar, and less to the car itself.

15. McLaren 675LT: 675 PS (666HP) Long Tail

Photo credit Norbert Aepli, Switzerland

Like the Lamborghini, this car takes its name from its power output. One cool part about it, however, is that the name references the Long Tail 1997 McLaren F1 GT, which was the last iteration of the famous car.

We also have a list of 26 car owner stereotypes and how to avoid being them!

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