Car names - What Do You Reckon 443

By: Glenn Torrens

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mitsubishi pajero mitsubishi pajero

Glenn Torrens wonders at the wisdom - or the shimsy - of car names

Thomas is a mate of a mate I met about 18 months ago. Since I’ve known him, he’s come along with a few of us for a couple of good fun weekends: the usual bush-driving, campfires, swags, camp ovens and cold beers. Aussie bloke stuff.

But, lately, a couple of us have noticed he’s been a bit crook – not quite at his best. So, when it was suggested he come and stay at my place for a while for some rest and recuperation; well, it was a matter of not if, but when Thomas would arrive. After all, what are mates for?

As I write this, Thomas will be going home in a couple of days, looking much healthier after his week at my place. Actually, it’s been good having Thomas stay; a change is good for the soul – and all that – and I‘ve been happy to be able to do my bit for Thomas’s well-being.

So now that I’ve cut out the rust near the tailgate hinge, welded in a small patch and filled and painted it, Thomas is ready for another rego safety inspection and another year of weekend camping trips.

Yes, Thomas is a vehicle: my mate Dodty’s 1986 Suzuki Sierra. But the way Dodty and I have come to speak of Thomas (and his mate Tonka – my yellow 89 Mitsi Pajero 4WD) you’d think we were talking about people – or possibly pets.

But it spurred me into thinking about how some people personify and name cars. Plenty of people seem to call their cars a ‘she’; "She’s a great old thing," or give their cars names but, to be honest, it’s not something I’ve done.

When I was young, my mum’s name for our family car (an HK Holden Belmont) was Betsy. And I’m absolutely certain our Betsy was not the first car in history to be named Betsy. But did Dad have a name for his yellow Commodore or white Skyline? No.

Later, my then girlfriend named my VW Beetle Wobby after the WOB-prefix number plates worn by cars in VW’s German home-town of Wolfsburg: we’d back-packed around Europe together (me and the girl… not the car) and I’d bought one of these plates home as a souvenir.

But even though I’d lovingly rebuilt and modified that car myself (and I still own it today!) to me, my Beetle was just "the car" or "my Bug".

Since then, I’ve had cars as ordinary and characterful and varied and bland as Calais and Fairmont Ghia and Swift and Berlina and Sigma and Senator and Volvo and Pathfinder and MX-5 and of course a couple more Bugs, but I didn’t name any of them.

That’s not to say I don’t respect and look after them: I certainly treat my Hilux 4WD with respect… in fact, I’ve noticed myself giving it a pat on the dashboard and saying ‘Good job’ when we’ve travelled a particularly difficult section of terrain. And given that it’s carried me more than 30,000km in less than two years during trips to the Flinders Ranges, the Snowies, Alice Springs, through the East MacDonnell Ranges and across the Simpson Desert, around North Stradbroke and Fraser Islands, and a lap of Tassie for my role with 4X4 Australia mag, it’s had plenty of pats!

And I found myself apologising to my Pajero (Tonka – the only car I’ve named) the other day: I accidentally scraped his left rear door along some out-of-sight junk in my backyard. "Awwww… Sorrrryyyy! I didn’t mean to do that!" I heard myself saying, before I became really shitty with myself after seeing how much hurt I’d caused.

And I can’t deny whispering something like "let’s do this", or "go you good thing", when sitting in my hill-climb or salt-lake VW Beetles as I cinch-down my harness, warm-up the motor and approach the starter’s flag.

So why – with my mate Dodty’s influence – have I willingly named only Tonka? Maybe I should name all my cars.


From Unique Cars #443, Aug 2020

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