How do you name a car?

An interesting aspect when discovering new bicycle, cars and motorcycle makers are the names that they choose for their vehicles. This blog post is dedicated to some of the vehicle names from the North-West. Many have been discovered from trade directories, newspaper advertisements and show catalogues.

Some companies went for the tried and tested policy of using their last name or the company name. An example being the “Brock” cycle and motor bicycle made by the Brock Cycle and Motor Depot in Levenshulme or Ardwick (they had two addresses). A few companies with longer names chose to abbreviate. “R-P” cars, motorcycles and bicycles were made by Robinson and Price Ltd. of Liverpool. Likewise “N-B” cars were manufactured by Newton and Bennett in Salford. A little bit more inventive were textile machinery manufacturers Horsfall and Bickham. They called their cars “Horbick”, a handy shortened version of their company name.

This is an image of the "Liver" car build in Birkenhead. It had a 3HP Benz engine, Image is from an article in The Autocar 1/6/1901
This is an image of the “Liver” car build in Birkenhead. It had a 3HP Benz engine, Image is from an article in The Autocar 1/6/1901

Another way of associating a product to the company was to name it after the area where it was produced or sold. The Liver Motor Car Depot produced the “Liver” car, which was actually made in Birkenhead, but sold in the companies showrooms in Liverpool. Beyer, Peacock and Company, famous for their locomotives, produced the “Gorton” steam lorry at their Gorton based works. Bennett and Carlisle manufactured the “Manchester” car, sold at their showrooms on Deansgate, but built in their works in Salford.

Others named their vehicles after the works where the vehicles were made. “Belsize” cars were made at the Belsize Works in Clayton, by Marshall and Co.. They later changed their name to the “Belsize Motor Company” so vehicles, factory and company were all conveniently the same.

An advert for the "Hermes" made by the Autocar Construction Company of Openshaw. Taken from The Autocar 18/4/1903
An advert for the “Hermes” made by the Autocar Construction Company of Openshaw. Taken from The Autocar 18/4/1903.

Other companies took a very different approach, attempting to invoke feeling or draw attention to their vehicles characteristics. A few did this by naming their vehicles after mythological figures. Examples include “Vulcan” vehicles made by the Vulcan Motor and Engineering Company of Southport; “Hermes” cars made by the Autocar Construction Company of Openshaw; the “Hercules” steam waggon, made in Levenshulme by the Hercules Motor Company; the “Royal Mercury” cycle made by the Bracegirdle Cycle Co. of Hulme; and the Etesian Cycle and Motor Company’s “Estian” cycle and motorcycle, named after a Greek wind. Whilst all are linked to ancient civilisations, they also have a strong link to either power or swiftness.

An advert for the "Lion" tricycle made by
An advert for the “Lion” tricycle made by WM. Wilson of Swinton. From the Motor, Motorcycle and Cycle Trade Directory 1905-1906

Many companies used animal names to link certain animal characteristics to their vehicle. This method of naming has never really gone out of fashion, with famous brands and names using and reusing animals, for example Jaguar, the Ford Mustang, various Lamborghinis and the Fiat Panda. In the North-West you were spoilt for choice. You could buy, at various points in time, a “Lapwing”, “Courser, “Owl”, “Crane”, “Lion”, “Eagle”, “Hornet” or even an “Ostrich”. There was a “Yagyfarnog” (Welsh for Hare) cycle made by John Roberts in Ardwick; “Ladas” vehicles, named after a famous 19th century race horse, available in Didsbury and Heaton Moor. Also the “Seal” three-wheeler, made by Haynes Economy Motors, which you might associate with rather awkward movement, at least on land, so perhaps apt for a three-wheeler.

Maybe newer entrants into vehicle building felt that a different animal would get lost in the menagerie, as there are some fairly unique examples of naming amongst some manufacturers. Robert Moxon, based in Manchester, made a “Mafeking” cycle and motor. This would have been made between 1905-1906, just years after British victory in the Boer War. The Co-operative Wholesale Society made a “Federation” motorcycle in the early 1920s, they also had “Federation” flour and tobacco, often naming products after co-operative ideals. There was also the strangely named “Umpire” cycle and motorbike… Howzat?


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