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Car News:  Oversteer

5 Japanese Cars With Ridiculous Names

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author photo by Aaron Gold February 2017

We've all seen non-English speakers wearing clothing or backpacks with nonsensical English phrases ("Joy of Life is Happy Make!") -- but you'd think with something as expensive as a car, you'd do a little research to find out what the words mean in other languages. But the Japanese automakers don't always do that. Here are five ridiculously-named Japanese cars you'll find on foreign streets.

Daihatsu Applause

Daihatsu Applause

You'd expect most of the cars on this list to be sold in Japan, where misuse of a given word might go unnoticed. But the Daihatsu Applause was sold throughout Europe, including in English-speaking countries, like, you know, England -- places where the true silliness of the name could really be appreciated. I got to drive one of these little beauties when I worked for a British car mag; we nicknamed it The Clap. Daihatsu's model names in Japan were even worse: Their home-market selection includes the Wake, the Boon Luminas and the Naked.

Honda That's

Honda That's

My introduction to the world of silly Japanese car names came when I was in Kyoto and was passed by a Honda That's. Now, as a writer, I feel strongly that misuse of apostrophes should be a capital crime, so I have to give my Applause (heh) to Honda for proper use of what I assume is a contraction. (Though I suppose it could be a possessive; anyone know a Mr. That?) Still -- That's? Oy. Other good Honda names: Ballade (yeah, I know, it's a musical term, but doesn't it sound a bit dirty?), Zest and my second-favorite, Life Dunk.

Mitsubishi Toppo BJ

Mitsubishi Toppo BJ

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves. This sounds like something you'd pay for on a red-light street -- and that's an explanation that still stands once you find out that BJ actually stands for "Big Joy", and that you can also get a Toppo BJ Wide. Other Mitsubishi cars you can buy in non-U.S. markets: the Town Bee, the Grunder, the Lettuce, the Mirage Dingo and (thanks to an Eisenhower-era marketing agreement with Willys that lasted well into the 1990s) the Jeep.

Nissan Diesel Space Dream

Nissan Diesel Space Dream

Nissan car names appear to be fairly well researched; aside from the somewhat-silly-sounding Fuga and the Brazilian-market Nissan Kicks, their car names mostly make sense. But cross over to the commercial market and you go right through the looking glass with the Diesel Space Dream, a double-decker tour bus that is part of the same product family as the Diesel Space Arrow and the Diesel Space Runner. And if you need to buy a tractor trailer to drive in Japan, you might want to scour the used market for -- and I swear I am not making this up -- a Nissan Diesel Big Thumb.

Toyota Noah

Toyota Noah

Gosh, how I'd love to see this car marketed in a predominantly Judeo-Christian country. The Noah certainly fits the name: It's a small 8-seat minivan with plenty of room for kids and animals, though I'm not sure if it floats. There are other Toyota models that probably wouldn't do well with a religious audience, including the Isis, the Vellfire and the Origin, although they'd probably be just fine with a Toyota Light Stout or a Toyota Sparky.

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5 Japanese Cars With Ridiculous Names - Autotrader