Everyone knows or at least has a good idea what their name means. For example, take our beloved editor Bob; in the Hindi language, Bob means “wise, old man with infinite Chevrolet knowledge.” Not really. But, you get the idea. Have you ever been sitting at a car show, looking out over the show field and wondered, “What the heck is a Caprice really?” Or, “Why did they name it Camaro?” We thought it would be fun to take a look at all of our brands, look through our sales literature and archives and try to come up with why Chevrolet named some models certain “things.” This is not a complete list; but, rather a few of the popular models. So, sit back and take a look at what we were able to come up with.
150 – Chevrolet’s budget line was actually just a shortened version of the production series number 1500. It was later replaced by the Delray model designation.
210 – Same story as the 150. The 210 was the middle of the road Chevrolet and just a shortened version of the production series number 2100. The 210 was later replaced by the Biscayne model designation.
Biscayne – The Biscayne was formally named after a GM show car released to public view in 1955. The Biscayne XP-37 demonstrated the forward thinking of GM design which would show up in some shape or form on later models.
Delray – Used for only one year, the 1958 Delray received its name from Delray, Georgia because the trunk could hold so much moonshine. It became extremely popular with ‘shine runners of the time.*
Bel Air – The Bel Air was named after the exclusive district in Los Angeles long before the Fresh Prince invaded the television air waves.
Nomad – The Nomad wagon in 1955 received its name from the Corvette wagon concept car of the same name introduced at the General Motors Motorama in 1954.
Impala – The Impala is a very fast running antelope native to South Africa. That one should have been a dead-giveaway due to the stylized antelope emblems found on most Impalas.
Caprice – The Caprice started life as a trim level for the Impala and later found its niche as a separate model altogether. Bob Lund, who was the General Sales Manager of Chevrolet at the time, named it after a favorite restaurant on trendy 5th Avenue in New York City because “It sounded good.”
Camaro – The Camaro reportedly got its name because it was a car that could be your friend and just go. Loosely translated, the French word for “comrade” was Camaro. When the Camaro was released in September of 1966, linguists actually said it was Spanish for a species of shrimp. Ford said it was something else which cannot be printed in our family-friendly magazine.
Z/28 – The Z/28 was about as unremarkable as the 150 and 210. The Z/28 was named for the next RPO (regular production order) option in line to be used…Z28.
Firebird – The Firebird was introduced 5 months after the Camaro and cost $200 more. The Firebird borrowed its name from the three GM concept cars of the mid to late 1950s designed by Harley Earl. These cars traveled around the country to engineering schools and universities to stimulate thought among students and professors alike.
Trans AM – The Trans AM began its life as a separate trim level for the Firebird and later became a separate model in its own right. It was named for the hugely popular SCCA Trans Am racing series that spawned the “Pony Car Wars” of the late 1960s.
El Camino – Our in-house A-body expert, Dan Peters explained the El Camino got its name from the El Camino Real. Literally translated from Spanish, El Camino means “The Road.” El Camino Real means “the King’s Highway” or “the Royal Road.” The El Camino Real connected Spanish missions up through California at exactly one days’ travel by horse apart. It is now known as Highway 101.
Chevelle – Dan also commented on the Chevelle for us. In Hebrew, Chevelle is translated as “My God is a vow.” Bunkie Knudsen, General Manager of Chevrolet, stated at a press conference in 1963 that, “Chevelle means nothing but, we’re going to make it mean something.”
Malibu – The Malibu also started as a trim level for the Chevelle. It later made a name for itself as a separate model named after the beach front community of Malibu, California.
Corvette – The Corvette came off of the line after World War II and it made sense to name Chevrolet’s new flagship after a warship. The Corvette class of warships is comprised of armed warships which are smaller than frigates.
Nova – The Nova was a trim level of the Chevy II which later became its own distinct model. It was named after a supernova which was fitting during the height of the Space Race of the early 1960s. There has been an urban legend floating around for years that the Nova did not sell well in Spanish speaking countries because “No va” translates as “No go” which is incorrect.
Truck – The Chevy trucks were known as the “C” or “K” Series which were strictly model designations. “C” stood for 2-wheel drive while the “K” stood for 4-wheel drive. The “10” was a short bed while the “15” was a long bed. So, if you have a K15 model truck, it would be a 4-wheel drive long bed. We didn’t cover separate trim levels like the Longhorn, Sierra Grande, Scottsdale or Cheyenne simply because they did not turn into separate models.
There you have it. Our list is not exhaustive but, it is comprised of some of the more popular models that Eckler’s offers the best parts and accessories for. If you see one we may have missed, feel free to drop us an e-mail or letter so we can add it to the archives. We do not remember the author who once said, “Words have meanings and names have power.” That statement is 100% correct because the names of the cars from our youth have helped shape our generation as will shape generations to come. We should strive to pass our knowledge down to future generations to keep the hobby alive.
* We were unable to verify the exact origin of the name “Delray” so we just applied what people in Delray, Georgia may have used this model for!