Naming of cars: every great car deserves a good name

I’ve owned three different cars in my life, and all three have had a carefully chosen name.

I’ve only owned three because I believe in saving up for at least 10 years, buying a brand new car and keeping it as long as possible.

It doesn’t make sense to buy used. You have no idea what you’re getting. There’s no way to know how the car has been treated.

I bought my first car with help from my parents in 1986. It was a 1986 Chevy Nova. My step great grandfather came with my dad and I to the dealership.

That told me it was a special occasion. It must be special when a man in his 80s wanted to see a young guy take possession of his first car.

I remember the pride I felt when I drove it home. It made me feel like an adult, someone old enough to have a major responsibility for something valuable.

I wasn’t the person who named the Nova. My sister named it Butterscotch. At first I didn’t like it. My Nova wasn’t exactly a muscle car, but I felt it should have a name that wasn’t so sweet sounding.

After about a month I decided I liked the name Butterscotch. It matched the light brown color. It also seemed like an appropriate label for a sporty little car.

Butterscotch lasted for 14 years. It was my college car. It only went 4 miles to college, from Marguerite Avenue down the bypass to Southwest State University.

It made far more trips in the 1990s. I ventured to area towns to do news coverage for the Independent. I took it down many gravel roads to write farm articles. It was an incredibly dependable car. It always got me to the places I needed to go.

It was finally time to trade it in 2000. I replaced Butterscotch with a 2000 Chevy Cavalier. I went with an obvious name, one that matched color and that was solid. I called it Silver.

I had moved in 1999 from my downtown apartment to a four-plex with a garage, so I had a sheltered place for my new car. It was another great vehicle.

One of my favorite features was its CD player. It even had a random option, which played songs from the CD in a random order. It was just like being at a concert. I never knew which song would come up next.

Silver didn’t log as many miles as Butterscotch, so I kept it a little longer. In 2017 I knew I couldn’t keep Silver forever. It made sense to trade it before it had maintenance issues, while it still had a small amount of value.

I traded it in for a 2017 Chevy Malibu. My Malibu is almost solid black, so I gave it the name Onyx. I thought I might as well stay with the tradition of matching the color.

Onyx reflects the changes made to cars between 2000 and 2017. It’s loaded with electronics. They were an adjustment at first and are still not perfect. Sometimes they’re helpful. The computer lets me know when tire pressure is low. It happens whenever it gets cold in the fall, but several times it’s warned me about a tire issue.

Onyx is 7 and still going strong. I have no immediate plans to trade. I wonder if by the time I get another new car it will have to be electric.

At this point I hope not. I think proponents of the electric car are wrong when they claim that rural Minnesota is ready for it. The technology just isn’t there yet. Someone wouldn’t want to be driving down the highway in sub-zero weather and have an electric car battery run out of juice.

Whether it’s electric or a gas engine, it will have a good name. I might break with tradition and go with something other than color. I might just give it a simple human name like Bill or Fred or Mavis.

I’m not exactly a car person. I don’t care how engines work. I just expect them to work after I pay good money for them. That’s a major reason I always buy brand new.

Even though I don’t work on cars, there’s something special about the cars I’ve owned. They’re part of me. They’re vital for getting around. They deserve to be thought of as a prized possession, one that I can be proud to own and to take on the road.

— Jim Muchlinski is a longtime reporter and contributor to the Marshall Independent


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