From ancient times until the 20th century, horses were the fastest form of personal transportation on earth. If you had to get somewhere in a hurry, chances were you’d be riding one of these beasts.
Given their speed, stamina and physical majesty, it’s only logical that early automobiles didn’t stray far from these odd-toed ungulates. A century ago, cars were little more than motorized carriages, rife with equine influences. Their seating arrangements, wheel design and chassis layouts all mimicked buggies.
But some early automakers took things a little too far. Case in point: The Horsey Horseless. Supposedly built in Battle Creek, Michigan, around 1899, this machine featured an imitation horse head on its prow as to resemble other traffic and perhaps to avoid frightening actual horses on the road. Ultimately, this “car” was a failure, a certified horseless miscarriage, if you will.
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Luckily, the Horsey wasn’t an omen of things to come, and plenty of equine-themed automobiles have landed on the market since then. In fact, there are at least enough for at Top 10 list, so make sure your saddle is on tight because here they are.
10. Ford Mustang
This one’s more obvious than Hillary Clinton’s political baggage, but we can’t not include it. The Ford Mustang is an American favorite that’s been transformed into a global product since the newest generation came out last year. Seductive styling, powerful engines and rear-wheel drive are but three reasons for this icon’s continued success. Like a wild stallion, the Mustang is all about speed and performance. Plus, it basically created the whole Pony Car segment.
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9. Hyundai Equus
Believe it or not, the Hyundai Equus luxury sedan is named after a horse, well, more specifically the entire genus these animals belong to, which also includes donkeys and zebras, if you’re curious. Nothing but the best for a flagship-caliber South Korean car!
But in spite of how stately it sounds, this nameplate was recently sent out to pasture. Now before you start stamping your hooves or braying in protest, Hyundai hasn’t culled this model. Instead, it has transformed Genesis into a standalone luxury division and the Equus will now be called the G90.
ALSO SEE: Hyundai Equus Review
8. Mitsubishi Starion
The Starion was a sporty coupe manufactured by Mitsubishi during the 1980s. It featured rear-wheel drive and was offered with a fuel-injected, turbocharged engine, heady stuff 35 years ago.
But what about this car’s name? If you sense there’s something off about it, you’re on to something. Supposedly, it was a portmanteau of “Star” and “Orion,” but other sources indicate something more ridiculous. Allegedly, this car was destined to be called the “Stallion,” but something was lost in translation from its Japanese engineers, who had trouble pronouncing L’s. Believe what you want, but the second explanation seems more plausible to us.
7. Subaru Brumby
The Subaru BRAT was a small utility vehicle with all-wheel drive. Its name stands for Bi-drive Recreational All-terrain Transport. What does that mean? Well, imagine a compact pickup truck that rear-ended a coupe and you’ll have an idea what they look like.
In Australia, this vehicle was not called the BRAT because of that term’s negative connotations. Instead, it was christened the Brumby, named after the continent’s indigenous feral horse, definitely an odd choice. It sounds more like a degenerative bone disease than something a car should be called, but whatever; it’s all ancient history now, since it’s been out of production for decades.
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6. Ford Bronco
Mustang isn’t the only horse-themed vehicle Ford ever built. Nearly as legendary is its Bronco sport utility vehicle. Introduced in the mid-1960s, this off-road beast stayed in production for three decades and five generations.
The first version of the Bronco was a bare-bones machine designed to challenge rivals from Jeep and perhaps Land Rover. By the end of the line, this filly had grown into a full-sized Clydesdale. The last-generation Bronco was made famous (or infamous) by O.J. Simpson and the low-speed police chase he was involved in. Perhaps this is why Ford no longer offers the nameplate …
5. Mitsubishi Colt/Dodge Colt
Mitsubishi may have screwed things up with its Starion sports car, but it was much more successful with other products, like the Colt. Named after a young male horse (or a military sidearm … or malt liquor), this economy car was introduced in the early 1960s and stuck around in one form or another for about 50 years. Chrysler sold rebadged versions of these machines starting in the 1970s, because just like college freshmen, everyone made mistakes during the malaise era.
4. Hyundai Pony
Supposedly Korea’s first mass-produced car, the Hyundai Pony was a noble, if flawed, effort. Longevity was a sore point with these machines, as they were apparently built of pre-rusted steel, but on the plus side, they were cheap, easy to maintain and economical before they collapsed into a heap of ferrous-oxide flakes. Looking at the Pony, it’s incredible to see just how far this company has come. Hyundais used to be like facial tissue; you’d use them once then throw them out. But this is no longer the case. Today, they build world-class products.
3. Volkswagen Polo
The VW Polo isn’t named after a horse, rather a game you play whilst riding one. This fuel-sipping subcompact car was introduced in the mid-1970s and remains in production to this day. The current model is offered as a three- or five-door hatchback with corporate styling that resembles other models in the company’s range; think of it as a three-quarter-scale Golf.
Further burnishing the Polo’s equine credentials, Volkswagen even offered a sedan version of the first-generation model that was called the Derby.
Next, we come to the Pinzgauer, a multi-wheel-drive Austrian military vehicle. If you need to cross the Alps and roads are off limits, this truck will probably be able to get you to your destination. Named after a breed of draft horse, the Pinzgauer resembles a cinderblock perched atop a roller-skate, not some majestic horse breed with a muscular build and gracefully flowing mane. Perhaps this ungainly looking transporter was named after a breed of cattle with the same name …
Did you know there was an entire automaker named after a horse? IT’S TRUE! Pegaso is a fairly obvious Spanish cognate for Pegasus, a mythical winged equine with the ability to fly. While this horse from Greek mythology may live forever in popular culture, the car company named after it went bust in the mid-1990s. But how awesome would it be to own a car named after a Pegasus? Pretty fricken’ sweet.
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