As Americans we seem to have this obsession with vehicle badging. By that I mean model designations. In my years of driving in the greater Los Angeles area I’ve seen some pretty amazing examples of false advertising.
A couple months ago I was driving to the airport and found myself following a Mercedes SL. Badges on the trunklid indicated it was an SL55 AMG. But when I pulled around, there was no “V8 Kompressor” badging behind the gills on the quarter panels. There were other appearance problems—lack of quad exhaust tips and a seeming absence of AMG bodywork. All evidence seemed to indicate this guy was a charlatan.
Two days later, I walked out of a restaurant in Paris to find an RS4 Avant parked at the curb. You could tell it was an RS by looking at any number of subtle clues: massive brakes, subtle fender bulges, a faint outline of high-bolstered sport seats through tinted window glass. But not a single RS badge on the exterior.
Seems most customers of high-performance cars in Europe would prefer you didn’t know exactly what model they’re driving—or, by extension, how much they paid for their ride. In order to discern what you’re looking at you need to pick out the subtleties.
This seems to highlight a fundamental difference in the mindset between your average European and your average American driver. Going out on a limb, I’d say the difference is that more Europeans buy high-performance cars to enjoy driving them, while many Americans seem to want them more to impress the neighbors.
Most manufacturers offer the option of deleting model designations when you order a car. Porsche, for example, offers badge delete for zero dollars—the most affordable option on the list by far. I'd challenge you to find an American 911 owner who elected to check that box on his build sheet.
The false-badging phenomenon gets more hilarious the further down-market you go. I once saw a Hyundai Sonata whose owner had pried the Hyundai “H” off the trunk lid and added Brabus script to the upper right edge. You have to wonder—who’s he trying to fool?
My all-time favorite has to be the Mk III Jetta with a three-pointed star in place of its VW badge. Flanking the star on the right and left sides of the trunk were the letters “SLK” and “Kompressor.” A case of extreme identity crisis, but the guy gets high marks for creativity, at least.
If you’ve seen any other beauties, send some snapshots to email@example.com. I'd love to see what else is out there.