For decades, hood ornaments were literally at the forefront of automotive design. Cast and chromed, occasionally illuminated, they suggested grace, elegance, power, and gave vehicles a touch of character.
As styles changed, several themes have come and gone across the industry. A winged female figure was used by Cadillac, Auburn, Nash, and perhaps most famously, Rolls-Royce with its Spirit of Ecstasy.
If you’re a fan of Art Deco, then the late '30s and early '40s are chock full of great examples. Cadillac’s flying goddess transformed to a stylized and finned version by 1937, with Chevrolet following suit. Chevrolet also had wonderful train-inspired Art Deco ornaments in '40 and '41 that stand out. Pontiac’s Chief emblems also moved from more realistic depictions of the human form to faceted and geometric.
The 1950s were big on aircraft inspiration, with Ford, Mercury, Hudson, Kaiser, Chevrolet, and Packard all getting in on the Jet Age, just to name a few. The aftermarket took note, with sci-fi-inspired creations of chrome and plastic that looked like a Buck Rogers blaster.
By the '60s, most proud hood ornaments had disappeared, along with many of the brands that sculpted them. Most of what remained evolved into much more subtle representations of the brand logo, although luxury marques keep them alive.
Does your favorite hood ornament take human form or is it a means of transportation? Is it an animal, like Mack’s famously sturdy bulldog or the angry duck from Convoy? Whether it’s a factory part or an aftermarket addition, tell us about your favorite hood ornament in the comments below.