Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Bigger Numbers are Smaller Cars

In the days of alphanumeric vehicle names, automakers typically setup their model lineup so that the bigger number represents the bigger, better, pricier car. There hasn’t been a better example of that than the BMW lineup of the 1990s. The 3-series was a small sedan for yuppies. The 5-series was the bigger sedan designed with mid-career manager in mind. And finally there was the 7-series, a proper luxury sedan reserved for directors.
Even their subsequent numbering placed the models in specific hierarchy that reflected their price and power. The 318i got all the jeers for its tepid acceleration whereas the 325i was the proper small sport sedan. But a 525i was just driven by someone who wanted a bigger vehicle than the 3-series. Serious drivers stepped up to the 540i and its V8. Likewise, the 750i with the V12 separated the successful entrepreneur from the corporate ladder climber in the 740i.
But not all companies, or brands, follow this logic. Take Hummer for instance. H1 was the original uncompromised military based beast purchased by the nouveau riche. GM then figured out that there many people who would love a Hummer but can’t afford the H1 it or find uncomfortable. So the GMT-800-based H2 was born. The followed that up with an even smaller H3 which was based on the GMT-355 compact pickup platform.
Your Hoonatian topic for today is makes, brands, or models with numerical names where the smaller number represents a bigger, more powerful, or more expensive model.
The Caveats (there are always caveats):

  • Specific higher performance versions of pedestrian cars don’t count, such as the BMW M2 being pricier and more powerful than the 530i.
  • One-off models don’t count as well, such as the M1 being superior to the M3. I think BMW regrets calling it the M1, anyway. 
  • The model distinction has to be clear, for example: A loaded 340i will cost more than a base 520i, but that doesn’t meet the requirement.
  • Models of the same brand that are vastly different from one another such as the Mazda MX-5 being pricier than the Mazda6. Apples-to-apples, sedans-to-sedans, coupes-to-coupes, please.
  • Open to all vehicles, even planes, bicycles, or horse carriages. 

Difficulty: 2 out of 8, the bigger the effort, the smaller the prize.
How This Works: Read the comments first and don’t post duplicates! Bonus points for adding photos.
Image Sources: My twitter feed, by my pal Joey. 

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47 responses to “Encyclopedia Hoonatica: Bigger Numbers are Smaller Cars”

  1. ptschett Avatar

    Scout 80/800 (smaller), Scout II (based on full-size pickup).
    Bronco (based on F-150), Bronco II (based on Ranger).

    1. P161911 Avatar

      Also, Chevy and Chevy II. Although the base Chevrolet was never known as a Chevrolet 1.

  2. P161911 Avatar

    While possibly more expensive and more powerful, the BMW 8 series is smaller than the 7 series. 6 series is smaller than 5 series too.

    1. salguod Avatar

      But coupes vs sedans, right?

  3. GTXcellent Avatar

    Olds W30 – big block 455 – the biggest, baddest Cutlass they made
    Olds W31 – 350 small block (though still pretty awesome)

  4. mdharrell Avatar

    From personal experience: The SAAB 95 is larger than the 96, which larger than the 97. This flies in the face of the “apples-to-apples, sedans-to-sedans, coupes-to-coupes, please” rule but I’m so happy to see Encyclopedia Hoonatica again that I don’t care.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2e4e839a7fa8a96fa18088d432faf651e2f9ec588adc52adbf26ebe9b0f0a440.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/56359173eab4eff104d3151926da1c6d39162bd47350473681f3648387cc1d49.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c06ea90e54441d58dad29966950e20997025dda2b83726aff26ac7744df1e670.jpg

  5. fede Avatar

    don’t know if it counts, but everything in peugeot lineup was bigger/better than the 1007, and most were a smaller number. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/90edab62fea45c355b7a400b0825e9cf20cfd4541e5f8ad4f61e4a3107146c7c.jpg

    1. Vairship Avatar

      You can’t go wrong with a sliding-door coupe

  6. Alff Avatar

    Fiat 850 Spider vs. 124 Spider

  7. mdharrell Avatar

    The history of Packard’s nomenclature is a bit of a mess but for a while the larger, more powerful, and more expensive Senior cars were known as the Eight, the Super Eight, and the Twelve, for their engines, whereas at the same time the Junior was the 120, for its wheelbase.

  8. P161911 Avatar

    Porsches bounce back and forth. But two contemporaries, the 928 was bigger, more power and more expensive than the 944.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      I would like to hear the 914 owners, and maybe our resident 912 owner has a comment…

      1. 0A5599 Avatar

        A comment about the 911 would be helpful.

        1. Eric Rucker Avatar

          How about the 911 GT2 being higher-end than the 911 GT3? (Which is in turn higher-end than the Carrera 4, but that’s stretching it.)

  9. Tomsk Avatar

    Provided you’re willing to classify the Volkswagen Type 2 as a station wagon (which was not at all uncommon among companies selling vans in the U.S. in those days), it’s considerably more commodious than the Type 3 “Squareback.”

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Of course the Type 2 is a station wagon. Haven’t you ever seen a station wagon before?

  10. Maymar Avatar

    It’s not correct because Toyota isn’t using it to refer to numerals, but as far as the Prius lineup goes, C is greater than V

  11. P161911 Avatar

    Aircraft are included?
    Boeing commercial airliners in order from smallest to largest based on maximum takeoff weight of the biggest one of each series.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      They put themselves into a position here for their next model, at least concerning the naming.

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        They can buy themselves some time by claiming their designations are hexadecimal.

  12. nanoop Avatar

    A Golf ball is like 1.5″, whereas a Polo ball is more like 3″.

    1. Alff Avatar

      And in comparison, and Eos ball is huge.

      1. nanoop Avatar

        Eos balls are fired from Canons, right?

        1. Alff Avatar

          That didn’t work out as I’d hoped. You were supposed to ask, “What’s an Eos ball?” to which I could reply, “Nothing. Who’d want to get busy with something that ugly?”

          1. nanoop Avatar

            My apologies for not playing ball.

  13. wohho Avatar

    Top of the hill has been the F1 and P1. All others have much bigger numbers.

    1. 0A5599 Avatar

      For that matter, in auto racing, Formula 2 < Formula 1.

  14. crank_case Avatar

    Good news! A Dacia Sandero 0.9 is more expensive than the 1.2, though the smaller capacity car does have a turbo.

  15. Zentropy Avatar

    Only commenting to say that damn, the H2 and H3 were absolutely awful vehicles.

    1. Andrew Pierce Avatar
      Andrew Pierce

      I’m just glad they folded up shop before we got an H5 based on a Daewoo subcompact.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        I could see them doing a version based on the Buick Encore/Opel Mokka.

  16. HuntRhymesWith Avatar
    1. neight428 Avatar

      This post is homophonic.

  17. neight428 Avatar

    I think Infiniti’s Q obsessed nomenclature is based entirely on starting MSRP, which gives odd results. The Patrol based QX80 is the largest, but the QX70 is the weird one that’s smaller but nominally more expensive than the three row QX60. Likewise the coupe version Q60 is roughly the same size as the Q50 sedan, though two doors seems smaller and apparently cost more. There was a Q40 in there somewhere too.

  18. neight428 Avatar

    The whole Hummer brand was one of those GM decisions everyone could see coming but people at GM. Take only the superficial essence of a decent idea, throw the pre-existing parts bin at it, and then kill it because it was terrible but only after showing how you could have made it work all along.
    They kept the V8 out of the H3 and everyone thought it was a dog. Then they decide if we make an ultra premium version, it would be ok to give it adequate power, but it was too late because gas shot up over $4 and your whole brand was launched on cartoonish excess and that didn’t play well in the bankruptcy process.
    I kind of liked the H3T, for reasons I can’t explain.

    1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      No need to explain. I like em, too. I couldn’t own one that wasn’t an Alpha, though. That I5 was a mistake. It was sad as the “big” engine in the Colorado, and it was inexcusable as the (for a time) only engine in the H3. It should have offered the 5.3 from the start, or at least they should have added whatever necessary length to drop the 4.2 Atlas from the Trailblazer into it.

  19. 0A5599 Avatar

    Continental Mark II: $10,000+ in 1956 dollars, 126″ WB, 218″ long, 5000 lbs.
    Continental Mark III: $6,500+ in 1969 dollars, 117″ WB, 216″ long, 4700 lbs.

  20. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    Volvo 263 smaller than Volvo 245 and bigger than Volvo 343. For that matter 200 series Volvos are bigger than 300 and 400 series.
    Not that 300 series are ‘real’ Volvos anyway
    Oh wait ‘One-off models don’t count as well’
    Here it is anyway.
    There would have been a 243 as well, of course
    Only one Volvo 162 as well

    1. crank_case Avatar

      Are you saying the 300s are theoretical/abstract Volvos? A Platonic driftmobile?

    2. mdharrell Avatar

      “Not that 300 series are ‘real’ Volvos anyway…”
      I maintain that they’re just as real as the Volvo 66.

      1. Rover 1 Avatar
        Rover 1

        And in every sense, just as valid.

  21. sunbeammadd Avatar

    The Peugeot 203 was bigger than the 204 which was bigger than the 205.