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Some car names are out of this world

Some car names are out of this world

Posted by Dale Edward Johnson on Mar 16th 2022

Haven’t we all daydreamed, looked into the sky and gazed with wonder at the vastness of the universe? While looking at the sky can be relaxing and inspiring, looking skyward can be serious work for astronomers and scientists – and also for people who come up with car names.

Let’s start with the sun. When the car industry was young, there was a car called the Sun, and another called the Sunset. In the 1980s Plymouth introduced the Sundance. Pontiac had models called Sunburst, Sunfire and Sunrunner.

The sun is just one of the stars in the universe – and stars have also been a source of inspiration for car names. After William Durant lost control of General Motors, he launched an automobile called the Star in 1922. At least half a dozen other firms also produced cars called Star in the early days of the industry. Studebaker offered a Starlight model from 1947 to 1955. A little star – or Starlet – was offered by Toyota in the early 1980s.

Starliner and Sunliner

Starliner and Sunliner were two models offered by Ford in the Galaxie lineup. When there are a lot of stars together, it’s a galaxy. Ford changed the spelling and offered the Galaxie from 1959 to 1974.

The Chevrolet Nova, introduced as a trim package on the Chevy II in 1965, later became the name for the model line. To astronomers, a nova is a star in the late stage of evolution. A nova gets suddenly brighter and then fades – which is eventually what happened to the Chevrolet Nova, too. A supernova is the final explosion of a star, meaning it’s very bright for a short period before fading away permanently. A Chevy show car of 1966 based on the Nova was named the Supernova. The name of what’s left behind after the explosion of a supernova is a pulsar, and that name was used by Nissan. Maybe it would have been appropriate for Chevrolet to use the Pulsar name for the follow-up to the Nova. Chevrolet called its new sub-compact introduced in 1971 the Vega, after one of the brightest star in the northern hemisphere.

Vega GT

When there are a lot of stars in a recognizable pattern it’s called a constellation. In 1955 and 1956 Packard used the Constellation name.

Together, constellations form the zodiac; the name Zodiac was used by Ford of England in the 1950s to the early ’70s.

Taurus is one of the constellations of the zodiac, and when Ford decided to use the Taurus name in the 1980s, it came from the astrological sign of the wife of one of the designers of the car. Another astrological sign of the zodiac is Aries, a name used by Dodge for its K-Car of the 1980s. A rare car of the 1980s sold at Mercury dealers was the Merkur Scorpio – another name that comes from a sign of the zodiac. By the way, Mercury is also the name of a planet; Saturn is the name of another planet that was also used for a car name.

Another name for the Northern Lights is Aurora Borealis, a natural display of brilliant lights in the night sky. Oldsmobile offered a model called the Aurora.


To an astronomer, a comet is a small body that is made up of rock, dust, ice, frozen carbon dioxide and other chemicals. As comets pass the sun they warm up, producing a tail as they pass through the sky. Perhaps the most famous is Halley’s Comet, which appears every 76 years, with its last appearance in 1986. The Comet name has been used on several different cars going back to 1907. In the spring of 1960 Mercury introduced its compact version of the Ford Falcon, the Comet. Starting for the 1966 model year the name was used on the intermediate Mercury line. The Comet name disappeared for the 1970 model year. But just like real comets, the name soon returned; in 1971 the Comet name was used for a new compact, Mercury’s version of the Ford Maverick.

mercury comet

When comets streak in the night sky, they can break up and be the cause of meteor showers, and if debris reaches earth it is called a meteor. The Meteor name was used on several different cars during the 1910s and ’20s. Ford also used the name Meteor for a Canadian model from 1949 to 1976 – with the exception of 1962 and ’63 when the Meteor name was used on a mid-size Mercury in the U.S. and Canada, similar to a Ford Fairlane. The Meteor name was revived in Canada for a full-size model in the late 1960s.

The Moon Motor Company, named after the surname of the founder, produced cars from 1905 to 1929. One of Moon’s models was called the Diana. In Roman mythology, Diana is goddess of the moon.

In 1965, Plymouth introduced the Satellite name for an intermediate line when all sorts of satellites were being fired into outer space. Buick’s version of the Chevrolet Nova, the Apollo, is a name also used for the spaceship to carry astronauts to the moon.

Carmakers will no doubt continue to look at the heavens to come up with names for their vehicles.

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