What’s in an Automotive Abbreviation?

We’re all familiar with the famous automotive abbreviations, such as SS or GT. The best examples of these project power and beauty, all in two-to-three letters. Ever since the muscle car era, American motorists have fallen in love with performance cars that are denoted by abbreviation. This has its pros and cons. Perhaps the best decade for automotive abbreviations was the 1960s, when we had Chevy’s SS, Dodge’s R/T and Ford’s GT (and GT40). The muscle car era holds a special place in the hearts of automotive enthusiasts, and today, domestic carmakers use that nostalgia to their advantage. Today’s cars don’t always measure up to the originals, but naming them after great cars of the past usually resonates well with consumers. That said, carmakers don’t always get it right when it comes to abbreviations. Recently, Infiniti decided to rename its performance lineup the IPL, perhaps in an attempt to mimic Chrysler’s SRT division. Most of us automotive enthusiasts can agree there is nothing sexy about IPL. In the 1980s, it seemed like we had an obsession with putting the letter X in car names whenever possible. The Buick Regal GNX and the obscure Chevy Citation X-11 were manifestations of this obsession. 1980s cars didn’t age very well as a whole, and giving them weird space-agey names didn’t help much either. What makes a great automotive abbreviation? By looking at past great names, we can safely conclude that anything with Z, S or R will do well. Variations on the classic GT are also a safe bet. Pretty much anything from the 1960s will work as well. Whatever you do, don’t try bringing back the 1980s by sticking X after a car name. Automotive abbreviations are a tricky minefield for carmakers to navigate, and they hit as often as they miss.

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