4 Most Controversial Race Car Names in Motorsports History
It’s true: cars are just machines. But they are so complex that each comes with unique quirks you might call a personality. It is easy to think of your car as a living breathing thing. And if you are a racing driver who knows your car inside out, and trusts your life to it every week, it’s even more tempting to give it a name. Throughout motorsports history, there have been many fantastic race car names. Here are four of the most controversial.
1908 FIAT Mephistopheles
The idea of cramming the biggest engine you can into the lightest car possible is far from new. In 1923, Ernest Eldridge shoehorned a 21-liter straight-six airplane engine into the remains of a 1908 FIAT SB4. Spectators in France (which was a major force in motorsports at the time) nicknamed it Mephistopheles–French for demon.
The open-wheeled Grand Prix car was red, its logo was a trident, and it set a 146 mph world record with nothing but cable-actuated drum brakes. I have to say its name was spot on. But in the 1920s, it was far from polite. Rumor has it that French fans named it because the car’s unmuffled exhaust hurt their delicate ears. But considering that the Italian machine came to France and set a world record on French roads, it might have also hurt their egos.
1955 Porsche Little Bastard
By the time he headlined his third film in 1955, James Dean was an icon of teenage rebellion. In a time when auto racing was a niche sport, he bought a Porsche 550 Spyder and competed. Despite the studio’s protests. The slimy studio president referred to Dean–who was from a broken family and 5’7″–the “Little Bastard” behind his back. So Dean painted “Little Bastard” on his race car.
Dean initiated cart-to-car contact in every race he entered. Just one year into his career, other drivers had learned to stay out of his way and he was winning races. But we’ll never know how successful Dean’s acting or racing careers could have been: he died when he crashed his Porsche on the way to a race.
1971 Porsche Pink Pig
It’s easy to show up to a race with ferocious car names, like “Mephistofeles” or “Little Bastard.” But poking fun at yourself is a move that communicates much more confidence. Porsche new it had something special with its more aerodynamic version of the 917, the 917/20. But the resulting car also looked much…bigger boned than other 917s at the 1971 24 hours of Le mans. So Porsche painted it pink, even labeling the body with the names of various pork cuts, and named it the “Rosa Sau.” The phrase is, of course, German for “Pink Pig.” During a more sensible era in motorsports, this saucy race car name caused a stir.
Ironically, Mercedes-Benz had a similar idea going into the 1971 endurance racing season. The other German manufacturer had bumped a 300 SEL 6.3 up to a 420 horsepower 6.8-liter engine. They named the car the Rote Sau, or “Red Pig” when they debuted it at the 24 hours of Spa. But it was, of course, overshadowed by the unforgettable Porsche.
2022 Hoonigan’s Pigasus
The late Ken Block was a legendary rally driver and drifter. His Hoonigan race team had some of the most creative vehicle names in recent memory: He named his 1977 Ford F-150 the “Hoonitruck” and his 1,400 horsepower 1965 Mustang the “Hoonicorn.” So what did he name his first electric race car, a custom-built Audi? The “Hoonitron” of course. But you have to remember that the phrase “Hoonigan” itself is controversial, originally an insult for someone who operates a car in an irresponsible way. Good for Ken Block reclaiming the phrase with Hoonigan racing.
Ken Block planned to return to the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb in style. He had a custom, 1,400 horsepower mid-engine Porsche SVRSR built for the race. And of course he painted it pink as a tribute to the original Porsche “Rosa Sau.” His main sponsor for the event was Mobil 1, so the car’s livery included the brand’s iconic flying “Pegasus” horse. At that point the car pretty much named itself and the “Pigasus” was born. Or if you want to use its full name, the Hoonipigasus.
Tragically, Ken died in a snowmobile accident before he was able to take on Pike’s Peak again. But his daughter Lia Block, a talented rally driver in her own right, did a tribute run up the mountain in this gnarly Porsche: