When did cars start having model names?

At one time, a Ford was a Ford, a Buick was a Buick. Sure, there were sedans and coupes, but not model names, right? When were model names introduced, and what were some of the first ones?

The very first mass produced car had a model name. Model A.

Ah so close, but so wrong.
the Ford Model T started production in Oct 1908, the Model A replaced it and appeared in March 1927.

Model T
Model A

Just for the record, the Model T preceded the Model A by well over a decade. I don’t know offhand if there might have been other, earlier vehicles with model names. I suspect there were.

The Model A of 1927 was due to starting the numbering system over. From the Ford Museum’s timeline:

So mangeorge was correct; we merely got the wrong Model A, there being two Fords by that name, some 24 years apart.

Well, but that doesn’t show that the 1903 version of the Model A Ford was the first car with a model name. Just that it was the first Ford with a model name. 1903 is quite early in the automobile, but there are quite a few cars that were made earlier.

According to this page, Charles Rolls of Rolls Royce fame purchased a Peugeot Phaeton in 1896.

I seem to recall that phaeton refers to a type of car, not a model. I could be way off, but I think phaetons are four door convertibles with two rows of seating, as opposed to roadsters which are two door convertibles with one row of seating.

Detroit started using model names in the early/mid '50s (again IIRC.)

Phaeton isn’t a model name, though, it’s merely descriptive, being a sort of carriage.

I’m not sure that the Rolls Phaeton exactly qualifies. There was a long tradition in the carriage industry of identifying the various models by type (indicating the seating arrangement, the style of roof, and, usually, the number of horses in the hitch). The names for these styles could be imaginative (Phaeton is taken from the name of the son of Helos (the sun) who “borrowed” his father’s chariot and came to a bad end) or prosaic (Brougham was named for its designer), but I have not yet found an example of a carriage that had a “model name.”

When Rolls-Royce produced their Phaeton, I would suspect that they were simply identifying it as a prestigious open seat carriage, rather than naming it for the first kid who stole his dad’s wheels.

On the other hand, About: Inventors identifies the Benz Velo (“Speed”) as the first standardized manufactured automobile in 1894, (its French predecessors having each been custom built), which would tend to indicate that naming “models” began with the earliest cars. In the U.S., the first production model that R.E.Olds built was simply called the “Curved Dash Olds” in 1901, but I don’t know whether it was advertised and sold that way, or was simply the descriptive name that became attached to it.

Henry Ford called his first (pre-Ford Motor Company) vehicle a “Quadricycle” in 1896(?), but that, too, seems simply descriptive.

In 1905, Cadillac produced and marketed the Osceola, also clearly a model name.

I guess I was fooled by the capitalization used in the linked article. In my defence this page mentions a Peugeot Phaeton Type 28, also capitalized, circa 1900

Ok then, by the time a given manufacturer produced it’s second design, it probably had to produce a model name to distinguish between the two. And if it was producing these two designs simultaneously rather than sequentially, it certainly had to have a model name for each.

When this haappened though, I couldn’t say.

Well, not saying that it wasn’t also a model name. But something more distinctive would have been more useful. “Type 28” is about as useful as M5 or 911 or V8. All of which are model names, but they are also descriptive. (M5- AMG-massaged from M, 5 for a 500 series car. I forget what the different series mean, repeatedly and continiously, but they do have meanings, 911 was simply the 911st design from Porsche, not all having been built, and the Ford V8 had… er, a V8)
The Velo certainly counts.

new model names are much better for some makes…

for example most lexus cars…
LS430 … LS being the “luxury sedan” (im guessing at the acronym actually having meaning, but…) 430 being 4.3 liters, as in engine size.

the IS300, 3.0L the (entry sedan?) ES300 3.0L … SC400, SC300, SC430 (sport coupe?) etc… all related to engine size.

bmw does it too…

etc… mercedes is the same way… for some of the cars. as are a number of manufacturers…

How about the first non-boring model name, i.e. “Mustang” or “Beetle,” as opposed to “Model T” or “Type 28?”


Oh, the ennui!

OK, off the top of my head, the Apperson Jackrabbit was produced in the first decade of the 20th century.

To get the subject back on track====

How about the Stutz bearcat-----Ford Fairlane–Rolls Silver ghost–Studebaker president-----Nash Ambassador-----Willy’s knight -------just a few from the 20s,30s,40s and 50s.

The practice of regularly using vehicle series names started in the early-to-mid 1930s. The earliest example I can think of (my reference books are all packed up in my parents’ basement) is the 1930 Chevrolet line, which called itself the “Universal.” By 1934, Chevrolet split its models into two series, with the low-line car called the “Standard” and the higher-trimmed series called the “Master” in 1934 and “Master DeLuxe” from 1935 on.

Most makes used this sort of naming system, with the standard car being called “Custom”, “Deluxe”, or “Special”, and marketed as a price leader. The same bodystyles were then offered in an upmarket series with more bright trim, standard accessories like armrests, a passenger windshield wiper and sunvisor, armrests (yes, these were options in those days!) and called something like “Super DeLuxe.” The most notable exception was the late-1930s Fords, which offered a “DeLuxe” series each year and a “Standard” series which was a detrimmed version of the previous year’s DeLuxe model.

Non-descriptive model names were first used by Buick in the mid-30s IIRC. The Buick lineup was split into four series based on price, size, engine, and level of equipment. From the lowest-priced to the highest (most prestigous) they were the Special, Super, Century and Roadmaster. These names were used from approximately 1935 to 1958. In 1959, Buick replaced these names with the LeSabre, Invicta and Electra monikers. The Invicta was dropped after a couple of years, but LeSabre and Electra lived on for a much longer period. “Century” showed up again in the mid-70s and is still used today along with “LeSabre”, and “Roadmaster” was revived for the rear-wheel drive Buick built from 1991-96.

BTW, the car model name with the longest continuous use in the US was Chrysler’s “New Yorker.” It was introduced in 1939 as the “New York Special” and became the “New Yorker” in 1940. The name was then used continuously, except for 1942-45 when civilian car production was suspended for WWII. The last New Yorker was built as a 1996 model on the Chrysler LH “cab-forward” platform shortly before Chrysler Corporation was absorbed by its new German masters.

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