Let These Bird-Named Cars Fill Your Brain With Automotive History

Let These Bird-Named Cars Fill Your Brain With Automotive History

Good gravy y’all, is it Thanksgiving already? Time sure flies when you’re dealing with soul-crushing supply chain issueshigh inflation driven by skyrocketing gas prices and the deadliest roads in 16 years.

Despite all the bad news that hit in 2022, we still have a lot to be thankful for as we’re almost at the end of 2022, and hey, we’re still here. That’s reason enough to celebrate. While we’re still here, something else is as well: the cars, of course. For one, there are the cars. There are always the cars. And if you’re celebrating America’s #1 eating holiday, you might just be grateful for a large amount of roasted birds as well.

Ah birds, our feathery, delicious friends who arrived on Earth a little bit before cars by about 65 to 53 million years, give or take. When you put those two wonderful concepts together you get two kinds of cars: Tiny ‘lil tweety vehicles and soaring birds of prey. Here are the few I could summon up from memory in no particular order.

Ford Falcon

Image: Ford

The Ford Falcon, along with the fancier Mercury Comet, was the Blue Oval’s first foray into the emerging compact car segment. While GM and Chrysler’s smaller cars weren’t huge sales successes, the Falcon sold well for a decade before its demise in 1970. The Falcon would become a victim of its own success. In the mid-60s, Ford used the Falcon as the basis for what would become the Ford Mustang. The ‘Stang outshone the Falcon almost immediately, and the Falcon was crowded out of the lineup. However, Aussies got a Falcon up until 2016.

Stutz Blackhawk

Photo: Wikicommons

The big beauty favoured by Elvis Presley, we once called the Stutz Blackhawk one of the most vulgar cars ever made. It’s certainly ostentatious and was known as a vehicle for flaunting wealth. Famous Chrysler designer Virgil Exner helped bring the Stutz brand back from its Great Depression death in the 1970s. In its first life, the brand built both consumer cars focused on safety and racing cars that place high in Grand Prix around the world. In the ’70s it was a rare and, with its $22,500 to $75,000 price tag, flashy way to announce to the world you were new money. It was favoured by stars like Sammy Davis Jr. and Dean Martin, as well as prize fighters, actors and musicians.

Aston Martin Cygnet

Image: Aston Martin

This tiny little city car only existed from 2011 to 2013 and is named after a term for young swan. It may have been small, but it was mighty—capable of 106 mph, according to the company. Aston Martin sold fewer than 150 of this fancied-up Scion iQ, and it only existed to help bring the overall fuel economy of Aston Martin’s lineup. But it has a sort of uncool coolness to it that’s hard to resist today.

Kissel White Eagle

Image: RMSothebys

One of America’s sadly forgotten automakers, Kissel, built luxury cars out of a factory in Hartford, Wisconsin. Of the 35,000 built by the automaker between 1906 and 1931, only 150 remain estimates the auction house RM Sothebys. In 2013, the great-granddaughter of the Kissel found Lionel Kissel refurbished a White Eagle in honour of her family’s heritage, according to Hemmings.

Toyota Tercel

Image: Wikicommons

Fun etymology fact of the day: a Tercel refers to a the small male hawks favoured by falconers. But if you’re not up on your falconry terminology (what are they even teaching in schools these days?) you probably hear “Tercel” and picture a cheap, tough, no-nonsense little Toyota sold in the U.S. between 1980 and 1990. The tiny car might not have the cool appeal of classic Celica or Corolla from the same era, what it lacked in looks it made up for in reliability and affordability.

Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle

Photo: David Tracy

In 1974, the term “Sport Utility Vehicle” was used for the first time, according to Silodrome, and it was used in a brochure on the Jeep Cherokee. That Cherokee came in several trims, one of which was an appearance and graphics package called the Golden Eagle.

It’s not exactly a car named after a bird, but one our of our favorite bird-brains had a complicated relationship with one, so it made the cut. If you’re a fan of this site you are very familiar with David Tracy’s glorious, continuously broken Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle. He went from wondering if he should buy this Jeep to buying it because it was freaking amazing to regretting it years later.

Pontiac Firebird

Image: Pontiac (GM)

The car that needs no introduction on this site, but definitely requires a slide to make any bird-themed car slideshow complete: The Pontiac Firebird was available from 1967 to 2002. Not quite until the end of the brand in 2009, but damn close. This Mustang-fighter was released along with the slightly fancier Mercury Cougar.

Buick Skylark

Image: Buick

I forgot how long this nameplate existed! The Buick Skylark is a big vehicle named after a small song bird. You could get it as a wagon, a convertible or a coupe. When the ‘70s Energy Crisis hit, the Skylark morphed into a two-door hatchback or coupe model. It maintained its heavy facia well past the Malaise Era styling. The last generation got slightly better drag coefficient, but it wasn’t enough to save the Skylark. Buick cut the model in 1998.

Plymouth Road Runner

Image: Greg Gjerdingen/Wikicommons

Another muscle car from a dead brand, the Road Runner was built between 1968 and 1980. It originally wanted to keep to the spirit of building muscle cars that were both cheap and fast. It stayed fast, but spent the Malaise Era getting uglier and uglier until the line was brought to a grateful end.

Ford Thunderbird

Image: Ford

There are many amazing images of beautiful Thunderbirds, which cycled through an astonishing 11 generations and was produced, on and off, for 70 years. But I love this massive version of what was once considered Ford’s answer to the Corvette. It’s fitting that Thunderbirds aren’t real, because anyone driving this undeniably dope sixth generation is a legend. It’s certainly a better ride than the sad, retro cheesefest that was the 11th generation.

Reliant Robin

Image: Wikicommons

Fans of Top Gear will recognize this cheery little fellow as the car the hosts modified specifically to make it roll over. It was a bit of a scandal, because why would you need to go out of your way to sully the name of what is already a joke car? Leave the little wheelbarrow with headlights alone you mean-spirited Brits! The car sold well in the UK over its 30 years of existence and didn’t leave its owners as smears on the pavement.

Riley Kestrel

Image: Makizox/Wikicommons

Riley existed as a company from the mid 1920s until 1969. The trademark is currently owned by BMW. While focused on racing, the company made several generations of the Kestrel, another term of falcon. I couldn’t find a ton of info on this cute little car, but I included it because it looks like something straight out of Rocko’s Modern Life.

Image: Ford

Want more Aussie car news? Here’s every EV we’ve reviewed in the last two years, all the EVs we can expect down under soon, and our guide to finding EV chargers across the country. Check out our dedicated Cars tab for more.

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