After we published our last list of cars with funny names—most of which hailed from Asia and America—we got emails reminding us that there were plenty of silly names to be found in the French Republic. We knew the French built some ridiculous cars, but we were even more pleased to learn about their penchant for ridiculous car names. Here are a dozen of the silliest.
Cugnot Fardier à Vapeur
French inventor Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot gave the world the very first self-propelled vehicle in 1770 and, simultaneously, the first silly car name. Fardier à vapeur literally means a heavy-duty steam cart, but in English it sounds like… well, you know what it sounds like. (Say the first word out loud.) As this video of a reproduction shows, the Fardier usually engulfed its driver in a cloud of vapeur—and the poor guy didn’t even have a window to roll down. Oh, the humanity.
Peugeot Partner Teepee
Though it sounds like a domicile for unmarried indigenous couples, the Partner Teepee is actually the passenger version of Peugeot’s compact commercial van. The Partner Teepee has since been redesigned and renamed; it’s now marketed as the Rifter, which sounds like something that attacked us when we were playing Dungeons and Dragons.
If you can’t see yourself driving a Rifter, perhaps you’d like to try Renault’s version, the Kangoo. We always thought the moniker had blatantly marsupial overtones, but the fact that Renault sells it in Australia under the same name makes us wonder. Perhaps it’s a viscous substance that provides motivation: “Can’t get started? Try a little Kan-Goo!” (That line is both funnier and more intelligent with an Australian accent.) Trivia: Renault once built a Kangoo-based pickup truck concept called the Kangoo Break’Up. And that’s why we love the French.
Citroën Jumpy Multispace
The urge to give silly names to vans seems to have infected all three of France’s major brands. Citroën’s contribution is the Jumpy, which is one of the few words that doesn’t sound any better when pronounced with a French accent. Shown here is the passenger version, the Jumpy Multispace. Citroën also makes a smaller van called the Jumper, which is what the British call a sweater. It definitely looks like a tight fit to us.
Sometime the jokes just write themselves. The Fukang was a range of Citroën vehicles produced in China. The name apparently means “prosperity and health”, something we wish we didn’t know because it kind of spoils the fun. There were actually multiple models of Fukang, and given the good dynamics of the Citroën ZX on which these cars were based, we’re sure at least one resident of China raved about “those great Fukang cars.”
Renault Vel Satis
Our guess is that Renault took one look at the finished Vel Satis and decided that a ridiculous-looking car needed a ridiculous-sounding title. To us, Vel Satis sounds like the name of a villain in a Victorian novel who romances your spouse right out from under you and leaves them … well, you know. Incidentally, if you use Google to translate “vel satis” from Latin to English, you get the answer “Golf”—proving that there’s a car person at Google with a sense of humor. Whoever you are, please send your resume to [email protected]
If we ever decide to rob a bank in France, this is what we’re using for our getaway car. Let’s just hope the gendarmes chase us on foot.
We’re assuming that Ronald Reagan movies were never very big in France (they were more Jerry Lewis types), but we can’t help wonder if any French delivery drivers were ever asked to get out there and win one for their mid-level commercial van. And before you ask, yes—there is a Bipper Teepee.
The Wind is a lovely little two-seat roadster that we’d love to get here in the States. The office is divided: Do we have someone drive it at a steady speed in the right lane so we can pass it over and over and over again? Or do we perform a series of 60-0 tests to determine how fast we can brake Wind?
This isn’t a car, it’s a scooter, but with a name like Speedfight there was no way we were leaving it off our list. The name makes perfect sense once you see the engine: A 50cc two-stroke single that puts out a mere four horsepower and one lb-ft of torque. Clearly, building up any sort of speed is going to be a real fight.
We think JetForce would be a fantastic name for a high-performance bike. There’s only one problem: The JetForce’s base engine is the same 50-cc two-stroker as the Speedfight. We can’t think of anything less jet-like, and yes, we’re including chilled molasses and the US Postal Service. The French build jet planes, so they really ought to know what the name implies.
Citroën Xsara Picasso
Xsara (pronounced, as far as we can tell, “zah-rah”) is a good enough name by itself, but Xsara Picasso is a work of art—though we’d like it better if one of the headlights were located on the front fender and the right rear wheel were bolted to the roof. (With its legendary hydro-pneumatic suspension, Citroën could totally make that work.) Citroën has given the latest version of this car a name that is only slightly less amusing: C4 Spacetourer. To infinity and beyond!