The car names Ford should bring back... and the ones it shouldn't

Graham Hope

24 Sep 2021

1/9
As Ford continues its badge revival policy, here's some free advice...

What’s in a name? Quite a lot actually. Ford certainly seems to think so at any rate, as it has been following a successful policy in recent times of reviving badges from the past, as seen here in the UK with the use of the Puma and Mustang names on new SUVs and, in the US, with the return of the Bronco. And there could be more to come, with Euro design chief Murat Gueler quoted as saying: “I think we have the unique asset of having nameplates from the past that we can tap into to emotionalise our product and to tell stories no other brand can tell.” There’s no denying Ford has a lengthy history to reflect on; here we take a look at the badges that it might do well to revive – and those that should stay firmly in the past.


Bring ’em back!


Ford Capri

 

If “emotionalising” the product really does lie at the heart of Ford’s strategy, then a rebirth of the Capri is surely worth serious consideration. The much loved 2+2 coupe, originally conceived as Europe’s answer to the Mustang, became a true icon of the 1970s and 1980s, selling nearly 1.9 million over a 17-year production run. The secret of its success was simple: it brought affordable, sporty motoring to the masses. (The fact each generation looked great didn’t do it any harm, either). Such was its popularity, there would be massive public approval for the return of the Capri, but in many ways, that might be the biggest obstacle. Any new Capri would have to stay true to the original formula; it’s unlikely Ford would get away with reinventing it as an SUV, for example, as it has done with the Puma.



 

 


Ford Anglia

 

Anglia is the Latin name for England, so given the rise in populism and patriotism we’ve seen since the Brexit referendum, could there be some mileage in bringing back this badge for the UK market? The name was first used by Ford in 1939 on what was then the smallest model in the company’s range, but arguably the most famous Anglia today is the 150E that was sold between 1959 and 1968, courtesy of its starring role in the movies of a true British icon, Harry Potter. Given that exposure and heritage, it’s clear to see how a return for the Anglia might make some kind of sense – although how enthusiastic the reception would be in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is debatable.



 



Ford Thunderbird


The importance of a good badge is illustrated by the Thunderbird. It’s hard to imagine the classic US sports car would have become quite the same pop culture icon had it been launched as the Beaver, Detroiter or – rather alarmingly for us here in the UK – Savile, which were all names suggested as the car was being developed prior to its unveil in February 1954. Over 11 generations, the two-seater became a globally recognised symbol of America, and its return would be warmly welcomed (across the pond at least). One reservation, however, might be the public response when Ford attempted to revive the Thunderbird badge in 2002. While the general idea was warmly received, the actual car itself didn’t prove to be hugely popular, with criticism of its design, quality, price and engine translating into poor sales. It provided all the evidence needed that the public can’t be fooled – no matter how ‘emotive’ the name, the car that it sits on has to be executed properly.


 




Ford Escort

 

The fact that Ford continues to use the Escort name – on a compact car based on an old Focus, which is produced in China and Taiwan – suggests that the company still recognises the appeal of a badge that became synonymous with motoring in Britain in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s (although you could feasibly argue that this modern-day deployment cheapens its heritage). For those of us in the UK, though, the Escort is a true legend: a monstrously popular small family car (more than 4.1 million were bought over 33 years) that spawned some truly great performance versions, most notably the RS2000, RS Cosworth and XR3. The Escort is a name that has real currency, and interest would be massive if Ford was ever to decide to resurrect it for Europe.



 

 


Er, no thanks!


Ford Pinto

 

Far from being a car that Ford would be keen to revive, the Pinto is one that the company in all probability wishes had never existed in the first place. Launched in the US in 1970 as an affordable alternative to the growing numbers of sub-compact models being imported from abroad, its name has become synonymous with scandal. A fuel tank sited directly behind the rear bumper made it a serious fire risk, but the company was accused of continuing to sell the car regardless, having decided that dealing with lawsuits from victims was more cost-effective than doing remedial work. Whatever the truth of the matter, the Pinto became mired in controversy, and it’s safe to say there’s no chance of it ever making a return.



 



Ford Scorpio

 

Yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who had much positive to say about the look of the Scorpio, launched in 1994 as a replacement for the respected but ageing Granada. A blobby, bug-eyed, chrome-festooned, gurning mess, it was Ford’s attempt to try to produce something different from the generic Euro designs that had begun to dominate the road. While the company’s ambition was commendable, the execution was off target and to this day, the Scorpio – despite having many legitimate merits – is regularly mentioned in any discussions of the ugliest cars ever. Mud sticks, and its inability to shake off this reputation ensures there will be no comeback.



 



Ford Aspire

 

The Cambridge Dictionary’s definition of the verb “aspire” is as follows: “to want something very much or hope to achieve something or be successful”. And therein lies an immediate problem; by calling a car “aspire” it suggests it is not as polished as it might be, not quite the finished article. The was certainly true of the Aspire itself, which – let’s be kind here – could never be considered among the more memorable Fords. Launched in the US in 1994 to widespread derision, the aesthetically challenged supermini wasn’t even a true Ford – despite its blue oval badge, it was actually designed by Mazda and built by Kia (which Ford owned). It limped on until 1997 before being axed, although the badge has reappeared in India on what is essentially an old Ka. Ford wouldn’t dare use it in the UK or US though.



 



Ford Probe

 

Some might argue that time has not treated the Probe terribly kindly. Sold for 10 years between 1988 and 1997 across two generations – although only the later version was offered in Europe – the sporty coupe had a decent pedigree, being based on the excellent Mazda MX-6, and was actually a thoroughly impressive car to drive. But it struggled to find buyers, and the problem, generally, was one of perception – in the States it suffered by way of comparison to the much-loved Mustang, whereas in Europe it had the challenging task of following on from the wondrous Capri. And, let’s face it, the name was also something of an issue – anything that conjures up images of instruments being inserted you-know-where is not a good thing. Another one that should remain consigned to history.



 

 

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Graham Hope

24 Sep 2021