Fact Check

Misunderstood Car Names

Hilarity ensues when a clueless car owner misreads the model name of the family car.

Published Mar 12, 2002

Claim:   Hilarity ensues when a clueless car owner misreads the model name of the family car.


Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 1998]

A woman calls an import parts warehouse and asks for a 28-ounce water pump.

"A what?" says the confused parts guy.

"My husband says he needs a 28-ounce water pump."

"A 28-ounce water pump? What kind of car does it fit?"

"A Datsun."

As the parts guy writes down "Datsun, 28 oz. water pump" the light in his head goes on. "Oh yes ma'am. We've got 28-ounce water pumps. We have 24-ounce and 26-ounce water pumps too."

"Finally," she says. "You're the first place I've called that knew what I was talking about."

"Yes ma'am. That's because we're a full service parts warehouse. It's our job to have the parts you need, like a 28-ounce water pump," he says, smiling, as he jots down customer pick-up, Datsun 280Z water pump, part number ...


Origins:   One of the more powerful marketing tools available to a car manufacturer is the choice of model name to be bestowed upon its latest

creation. Words that evoke sensations of power, performance, and elitism are routinely selected, but so are letters and numbers, provided they can be combined into masculine-sounding terms that resonate with the predominantly male auto-buying public.

This proclivity for alpha-numeric naming has given rise to a special type of auto legend, that of the misunderstood car name. In the realm of lore, any stray bit of data that can be misconstrued is transmuted into a tale wherein it was misinterpreted — the merest possibility becomes a tale told as true thanks to the magic of storytelling. The one who gets it wrong will invariably be either a woman (who by virtue of her sex is deemed incapable of comprehending anything automotive) or a foreigner (who can't be counted upon to grasp the subtleties of our language and culture).

These two stereotypical figures (clueless woman and hapless foreigner) are common to the automotive legend genre. Another legend in which they feature is the venerable Cruise Control tale, wherein the gormless operator of a


vehicle sets the cruise control, then climbs into the back seat for a nap.

As for the background of this misnaming tale, the Datsun 240Z was introduced in 1969, and over the course of its history it attracted the affectionate nickname of "the 24 oz.," a playful corruption of "240Z." Not that any of those who chose to use this sobriquet were honestly confused over the name — this was humor of the deliberate, not unintentional, variety.

Datsun has since become Nissan, and the Datsun 240Z has become a thing of the past. Yet the legend has every chance to live on, because the Nissan 350Z is scheduled to go on sale in the United States in August 2002 as a 2003 model. Will the joke update along with it, with the woman now calling auto repair shops in search of a 35 oz. water pump for a Nissan?

Other cars bearing alpha numeric names have also attracted the tale to themselves, notably the Pontiac 6000:

[Collected on the Internet, 2002]

There is a story circulating here in Toronto (and was mentioned on the radio) about an auto mechanic who is approached by a man who asks if he can fix a "Pontiac Goolie." The bewildered mechanic tells him to bring it in, and discovers that the customer, whose second language is English, is actually seeking help for his Pontiac 6000 limited edition: the 6000 LE.

In another version of the Pontiac 6000 tale, a woman unwittingly believes her 6000 special edition (6000 SE) is christened the "Pontiac Goose." (Well, it did honk and chase things, after all.)

One of our readers says the following happened to him when he was in college:

[Collected on the Internet, 2003]

I answered the phone in the Automotive Shop one morning and talked to a woman who was calling because husband's car wouldn't start.

I set out to get the information for the work order, and when I asked the model, she told me it was a "Guttoe".

She say's, "It's a "Guttoe". Says right in the grill: G-T-O. "Guttoe."

The "foolish woman who misreads something automotive" theme isn't limited to just car names but also embraces car parts:

[Collected on the Internet, 2002]

Apparently this feller was in a local car parts shop when a woman walked in and asked for a seven ten cap. Two blokes behind the counter and our hero looked at each other and one said, "What's a seven ten cap?"

She said "You know, it's right on the engine. Mine got lost somehow and I need a new one."

"What kind of a car is it on?" someone asked. She said a Ford.

"How big is it?" She makes a circle with her hands about 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

"What does it do?" She said she didn't know, but it had always been there.

Someone gave her a note pad and asked her to draw a picture of it. She drew a circle and in the centre wrote 710.

The blokes behind the counter who are looking at it upside down as she writes, fall about laughing and one goes and gets her an oil cap.

Note: write "710" upside down ...

Barbara "handy capped" Mikkelson

Last updated:   22 July 2013


    Brunvand, Jan Harold.   Too Good to Be True.

    New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.   ISBN 0-393-04734-2   (p. 451).

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