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Choosing a car’s model name is no small task, as automakers must send the right message with their monikers. The Dodge Challenger invokes the right kind of imagery for a muscle car, but the Ford Probe sounds extremely uncomfortable. Automakers have regularly turned to the animal kingdom to inspire the image they want to convey with their new models, whether it’s the Dodge Viper and Buick Wildcat, or the less exciting Volkswagen Beetle and Reliant Robin. Of course, many automakers have turned to the car’s mobility predecessor, the horse, for inspiration with somewhat mixed results. Let’s check out some of the most notable equestrian-inspired car names.

1. Dodge Charger

In modern parlance, “charger” is far more associated with electronics than equestrianism, but a far older, horse-related definition inspired Dodge’s muscle car. Though some variances exist in defining a “charger,” the term is essentially used to describe a calvary or war horse, one that, quite literally, charges into battle.

That definition invokes a far better message for a muscle car than another way to define charger — a large dish or platter. Charger implies big, brawny, muscular, aggressive, and speedy, all the things a warmonger might need from his steed. Of course, Dodge’s definition of a Charger is changing as the Dodge Charger Daytona EV replaces the traditional V8-powered model. When it arrives, you’ll have to charge your Charger before setting down the road.  

2. Ford Bronco

A bronco is not a particular breed or type of horse; instead, the term is used to describe an untrained or not-fully trained horse, according to Smithsonian Magazine. American cowboys apparently adopted the term from a Spanish term for “rough,” which adheres to the notion of a “bucking bronco.”

A wild and seemingly un-tamable horse conveys what Ford wanted for its SUV — that it isn’t confined to the paved paths. That imagery worked well when the Bronco debuted in 1966, and it’s still appropriate with the current Bronco’s emphasis on being seemingly untamable. Of course, the 2023 Bronco takes things a step (or gallop) further with its wilderness theme of trim level names like the Badlands, Wildtrak, Big Bend, Black Diamond, and Outer Banks.

3. Ford Pinto

A Ford Pinto, named after a horse breed, compact car driven by Emma Mathes on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway
A Ford Pinto on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway | Jeff Speer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another Ford joins the list of equestrian-inspired model names, but the Blue Oval’s choice to use “pinto” isn’t as obvious as its use of Bronco or Mustang. The term describes a horse’s coat color, specifically one that includes large patches of white with another shade. Underneath the pinto umbrella are other terms, including tobiano or overo, for describing specific kinds of pinto color schemes.

Ford’s use for this term isn’t very apparent, but of course, the Pinto is far more known for its fire risk in a crash than its naming convention.

4. Mitsubishi Colt

In equestrian terms, a colt is defined as a young, uncastrated male horse. So, was Mitsubishi trying to convey that its little car was sprightly and still had all its “manly” bits?

In the automotive realm, Colt could perhaps be defined as a “shapeshifter” because the moniker has been applied to a long list of cars. It was first thrust onto Mitsubishi’s small sedan in 1962, the Colt 600. The nameplate was also used for a Mirage-based hatchback (and later a sedan) with production beginning in 1978, and the moniker was used for the Colt Galant sedan in the late 1960s and even on Mitsubishi pickups. To add to the confusion, Mitsubishi used the Colt name for some of its exports, branded as the Dodge Colt or Plymouth Colt. In 2002, the Colt name was even used for a small minivan in the Japanese market.

According to Hemmings, the Colt nameplate has been used on at least one Mitsubishi model every year since 1962. That is set to continue. Mitsubishi is set to revive the nameplate for a new hatchback based on the Renault Clio that will debut later this year.

So, a colt may mean young when applied to a horse, but in the automotive sector, it apparently now means “extremely overused.”

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