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Mercedes-Benz
1913 Boyce MotoMeter
Occasionally, people will create their own hood ornament, as this Texas pick-up truck driver has done

A hood/bonnet ornament or car mascot is a specially crafted model of something which symbolizes a car company like a badge, located on the front center portion of the hood. It has been used as an adornment since almost the inception of automobiles.[1]

Contents

History

In the early years automobiles had their radiator caps outside of the hood and on top of the grille. In the early days, the radiator cap served as an indicator of the temperature of the engine's coolant fluid.[1] The Boyce Motormeter Company was issued a patent in 1912 for radiator cap that incorporated thermometer that was visible to the driver with a sensor that measured the heat of the water vapor, rather than the water itself.[1] This became useful gauge for the driver because many early engines did not have water pumps, but a circulation system based on the "thermo-syphon" principle as in the Ford Model T. Many automakers wanted their own emblems displayed on their vehicles' hoods and Boyce Motormeter accommodated them with corporate logos or mascots, as well as numerous organizations that wanted custom cap emblems to identify their members.[1] The company had over 300 such customers at one time during the mid-1920s, for car, truck, tractor, boat, airplane and motorcycle manufacturers, and in 1927, had 1,800 employees in six countries: U.S., England, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany. The hundreds of motor vehicle manufacturers before 1929 meant many customers for their customized emblems.[2]

The radiator cap was transformed into an art form and became a way of individualizing the car, "representing a company's vision of the automobile", or "speaking volumes about the owner" of the vehicle.[1]

Hood ornaments (or car mascots as they are known in the UK) were popular in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s with many automakers fitting them to their vehicles. Moreover, a healthy business was created in the supply of accessory mascots available to anyone who wanted to add a hood ornament or car mascot to their automobile. Most companies like Desmo and Smiths are now out of business with only Louis Lejeune in England surviving.

Hood ornaments are usually cast in brass, zinc, or bronze and finished in a chrome plated finish. In the years when chrome plate was unavailable, they were plated in either silver or nickel. Some also incorporated other materials, such as plastic, while others incorporated a light bulb for illumination at night.

There is now a strong collectors market for hood ornaments and car mascots. Sculptors such as Bazin, Paillet, Sykes, Renevey, and Lejeune all created finely detailed sculptures in miniature.

The best-known glass mascots were made by René Lalique[3] in France, but other sellers or producers of glass mascots include Sabino in France, Red Ashay in England, and Persons Majestic in the U.S. The latter two had their products made in Czechoslovakia. The Lalique company, like Louis Lejeune, is one of the few survivors from this era of motoring.

Examples

Along with the grille, the hood ornament is often a distinctive styling element and many marques use it as their primary brand identifier.

Examples of hood ornaments include:

Additionally, many vehicle models such as Buick's Regal, the Chevrolet Impala, or Chrysler's Cordoba had their own unique emblem and accompanying hood ornament.

Few current vehicles have hood ornaments because such ornament have fallen out of style. Some designs may pose a risk for injuries in collisions with pedestrians (although this hazard has been largely mitigated by mounting modern hood ornaments to springs so that they will fold down if struck by a pedestrian). Ornaments are also a target for vandals and thieves, with the Mercedes-Benz three-point star gaining some notoriety because it could be used as a weapon, Rolls-Royce has counteracted this with ornaments that can retract into the grill.

References

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