11 car and truck models born as trim levels

Naming a car can be difficult. Often manufacturers that market their cars in different countries— in different languages—choose to go with something alphanumeric. Some argue that strengthens their core brand name, others say it’s lazy and uninspired—that’s me, I’m “others.” Some car names come from lengthy creative brainstorm sessions, surveys, or focus group clinics, while others are just blatantly recycled, even when they make no sense at all. Another option is to promote the name of a trim level to that of a full-blown model, as is the case in the following nine examples.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/11/19/car-and-truck-models-born-as-trim-levels

You forgot the GMC Envoy that started out as a Jimmy Envoy as the top trim level , then is ‘own’ model briefly with different option groups , then a whole new vehicle for several years before being shown up by the still current Lamda based Acadia

Here are a few more.

Chevy Malibu–trim level of the Chevelle.

Buick Park Avenue–this was first an appearance package on a mid 70s Electra 225 Limited, and in the late 70s became an Electra trim level.

Chrysler LeBaron–that was a “drifter.” My uncle’s late 60s/early 70s Imperial was the LeBaron trim, but prior to that, LeBaron had its roots as a coachbuilder in the 20s and 30s. In the later 70s, LeBaron became its own Chrysler model.

1 Like

How about the 63 Buick Riviera? The Riviera was a trim level on earlier Buick’s. Right?

yes the riviera in the 1950s was the hard top option trim level on the roadmasters

The article also missed the Toyota Supra, it was originally a Toyota celica Supra.


And also the Subaru Outback, that began as a Legacy Wagon trim level.

You wrote: " yes the riviera in the 1950s was the hard top option trim level on the roadmasters"

That is correct. And Pontiac called their hardtop cars Catalina. Oldsmobile called their hardtops Holiday.

Plymouth and Dodge. Belvedere/Satellite became the Road Runner/GTX, Barracuda and the ‘Cuda, Coronet and the Super Bee/R/T, not to mention Daytona and Superbird.

others i can think of
*Chrysler newport- was the hard top trim on the 1950 chryslers
*.the imperial became its own brand,in the 50s
*The belair in 1953 was a trim on the chevrolet deluxe
*the 1958 impala was a sport trim on the belair
*the caprice was a trim of the belair early on aswell
*the 1958 pontiac bonneville was an appearace package on the catalina.
*the cadillac eldorado was originally a trim on the fleetwood
*the seville was originally a trim on the 1958 fleetwood eldorado
*the chrysler 5th ave was a package on the lebaron then the newyorker before becoming its own model in the 90s.
*the sebring was a trim on the Plymouth Satalite
*the town and country was a trim on the new yorker for years before getting its own model
*the cross tour was marketed in its first year as an accord cross tour


Lemans was originally a trim package for the ‘63 Tempest.

You also missed the Chevrolet Corvair Spyder. Like the GTO, it was originally a package for the Monza in 1962 and 1963 but got its own model designation / VIN identity in 1964.

You beat me to it. Since I own a 93 Park Ave Ultra, I too, was aware the name was first attached to the Electra 225, affectionately referred to a a duce and a quarter back in the day.

1 Like

Cadillac Brougham is one! A trim level for years, it’s own model from 1986-1992, and back to a trim level of Fleetwood, again!

How about the Oldsmobile 442. I belief it was a F-85 trim package before.

1 Like

Was just coming to say that!!

Seems like the Z28 and Trans Am should be here someplace…

1 Like

The Z28 and the Trans Am where never sold as a separate car. The easy distinction back in the day was if you went into the dealership and asked for a specific model brochure for a Trans Am they would hand you the Firebird model brochure and it listed the trims as Base, Sprint, Formula and Trans Am. Labeling/decals, my 2000 Trans Am doesn’t say Firebird anywhere on the car other than the manual in the glove box.

One model that is not mentioned which is fairly recent is the Honda Civic Si, though it still also has the word “Civic” in the name it’s now sold as a separate model with its own brochures. I suspect Honda recognizes that keeping “Civic” with the model name fits the long historic formula of win on Sunday sell on Monday. I remember my mom telling me the story when she bought an Impala in 64, she ended up with a different model but the SS trim got her in the door. Honda must be selling enough Si’s on their own to make it worth printing separate brochures and listing it as a separate model on their website. For the sake of this conversation though, until Honda removes the word 'Civic" it technically does not qualify. Maybe next year they will sell it as the “Honda Si”.

Another interesting note about the GTO, it flipped to a trim level twice, the 2nd time was in 1973, which it was again an option to the LeMans model.

The Citation, Corsair and Villager were also Edsel trim levels that went on the be Chevy, Lincoln and a Mercury models.

Actually, before the Firebird, there was the Camaro. The powers that be came up with a trim package, including the Firebird decal, to make the Camaro a Firebird. That begat the Gen 1 Firebird model. Then, there was the Gen 2 Firebird model, arguably the longest running model at least in the GM family. The Gen 2 had the four trim levels mentioned before.

Pontiac engineers got more out of their motors, and suspensions for Firebirds than Chevy engineers could get for the Corvette, so when it came time to close model lines, it was a good time to eliminate the Corvette’s competition.