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Hood Ornaments: American Classic Cars 1930s - 1950s

Updated on December 11, 2014

When Car Emblems Made Bold Statements

Several decades ago, car hood ornaments were more than just emblems identifying car manufacturers . . . they were adornments that made bold statements.

History reveals that many hood ornaments were themed to reflect the most powerful (or modern) technology of the times . . . locomotives in the 1930s . . . airplanes, torpedoes & gunsights in the 1940s . . . jet aircraft and rockets in the 1950s. These technology imageries coupled with several other stylized shapes and themes inspired a wide array of hood sculptures that still fascinate classic and vintage car aficionados today.

When the next county fair or antique car show rolls around in your area, take the time to visit. You'll be amazed at the display of immaculately kept (or restored) classic American automobiles sporting their original grills, trim and yep, you guessed it . . . beautiful hood ornaments.

In the meantime, take a "scroll" through this photo exhibit of several American car makers and their hood ornaments from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

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Photo courtesy of: jorbasa, on Flickr

The Origin of Hood Ornaments

Did You Know?

In the early years automobiles had their radiator caps outside of the hood and on top of the grille. The hood ornament was born as a way of decorating the cap. 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. Source: Wikipedia

Buick Hood Ornaments

Buick's Car Ornamentation In Contrast

The Buick Motor Company was originally incorporated in 1903, by David Dunbar Buick in Detroit, Michigan. Later that year, the struggling company was taken over by James H. Whiting who moved it to his hometown of Flint, Michigan.

Throughout the years, Buick hood ornaments were characterized by stylized versions of:

  • Female figures . . . Early 1930s
  • Locomotives . . . Late 1930s
  • Airplanes . . . Early 1940s
  • Gunsights . . . Late 1940s to Mid 1950s
  • Jetfighters . . . Mid to late 1950s

==> Buick 1930s Female Figure

Buick Hood Ornament circa 1930s -- Photo used under Creative Commons from:curt., on Flickr

==> 1950s "Gunsight" Hood Ornament On A Buick Eight

1950s Buick Eight -- Photo used under Creative Commons from:califrayray, on Flickr

Cadillac Hood Ornaments

Hood Ornaments With A Female Influence

The Cadillac Automobile Company was founded in 1902 and was subsequently purchased in 1909 by General Motors. Over the following thirty years, Cadillac established itself as America's premier luxury car.

Throughout the years, Cadillac hood ornaments were characterized by stylized:

  • Woman with feathered wings . . . 1930s to Early 1940s
  • Woman/airplane . . . 1940s
  • Woman/rocket . . . 1950s

==> A "Winged Woman" On A 1941 Cadillac Convertible Coupe

1941 Cadillac - Photo used under Creative Commons from: cliff1066, on Flickr

==> A Stylized "Woman/Rocket" On A 1955 Cadillac

1955 Cadillac -- Photo used under Creative Commons from: cole24_, on Flickr

Chevrolet Hood Ornaments

Hood Ornamentation Where Speed Is Emphasized

In 1911, the Chevrolet Motor Company of Michigan was incorporated by Louis Chevrolet, a race car driver who eventually partnered with William Durant (original founder of GM) in 1915. Louis Chevrolet eventually parted ways but the namesake company grew to become General Motors' top-selling line.

In the early years, Chevrolet hood ornaments were characterized by stylized:

  • Eagle . . . Late 1920s to Early 1930s
  • Locomotive or locomotive/eagle . . . Late 1930s thorugh the 1940s
  • Eagle/airplane and an Impala . . . Early 1950s
  • Gunsights . . . Late 1950s

==>Late 1920s Chevrolet - Eagle Motif Atop A Radiator Cap

Circa 1920's -- Photo used under Creative Commons from: Van Pelt, on Flickr

==>The Speed of A Locomotive Is Implied On This 1940s Chevrolet

Photo used under Creative Commons from: califrayray, on Flickr

==>The 1950s "Impala" Motif

Photo used under Creative Commons from: L. Marie, on Flickr

==>An Eagle/Airplane On A 1950s Skyline

Photo used under Creative Commons from: califrayray, on Flickr

What Are Hood Ornaments Made Of?

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. Source: Wikipedia - Hood Ornament

A 1950s Oldsmobile 88 Sporting A "Jet Plane" Hood Ornament

Photo used under Creative Commons from: NCBrian, on Flickr

Hey, Here's A Hood Ornament That Needs A Name

Photo used under Creative Commons from: The CJM, on Flickr

Plymouth Hood Ornaments

Inspired By Sailing Ships

The Plymouth automobile was introduced in 1928 by the Chrysler Corporation. From the 1930s to the early 50s, Plymouth hood ornaments were typically charaterized by stylized sailing ships or schooners.

==> Yellow Plymouth With "Schooner" Hood Ornament

Photo used under Creative Commons from: particlem, on Flickr

==> Red Plymouth With "Sailing Ship" Hood Ornament

Photo used under Creative Commons from: particlem, on Flickr

Hood Ornaments: A Focus On Human Form - Aptly Named ... "Boyz n Girlz on the Hood"

Okay . . . the picture quality could be better in some spots but you get an idea of the vast array of stylized male and female hood ornaments that have graced our vehicles in times past.

Learn More About Car Ornamentation of YesterYear - A Wonderful Collection of Car Emblems

Brightwork: Classic American Car Ornamentation
Brightwork: Classic American Car Ornamentation

In the golden age of the American automobile-from the early 1930s to the late 1950s-cars were festooned with elegant chrome and colorful enamel decorations that manufacturers called "brightwork." If you ever forgot what kind of car you were driving, numerous emblems, horn buttons, script, and hood ornaments were there to remind you. Brightwork shows off these shiny treasures as small sculptures that capture the essence of grace in motion.

 

Did You Learn Anything New About Hood Ornaments? - Let Me Know You Stopped By . . .

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    • profile image

      GrowWear 7 years ago

      Very interesting. I remember being fascinated by hood ornaments when I was a young girl. I loved to look at them and try to pick out every detail.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      These hood ornaments are so cool! Great job!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      These are pretty cool! Great Lens!

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      Those are beautiful. Very nice.

    • AlishaV profile image

      Alisha Vargas 7 years ago from Reno, Nevada

      Fascinating! I love all the variations, never really noticed them before though I have always been a bit intrigued by hood ornaments!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 7 years ago from USA

      Very nice work. Love your topic.

    • Bellezza-Decor profile image

      Bellezza-Decor 7 years ago from Canada

      Cool lens and hood ornaments 5*!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 6 years ago

      Hood ornaments are cool! Those were the days as far as cars go. They sure were distinctive and you could tell one car from another. Today they pretty much all look alike. A Mercedes looks about like a Honda. Too bad.

    • profile image

      lex4less 6 years ago

      Those are so amazing!

      Pre Owned Lexus

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 6 years ago

      I liked this subject and how you presented it. Very nice...and blessed by an Angel. This lens will be featured on my angel lens: "angel-on-assignment".

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Yes, I finally found out what brand of car that was in our drive-way when I was 8 years old. I called the hood ornament a flying angel A 1955 Cadillac. So, I have been talking to angels since I was 8 years old. Thanks nice pictures, LOVE EM all.

      Marjean

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 6 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      I love those in art deco style the best. Many would make nice mantle piece! Too bad they no longer make those beautiful ornaments

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have an Lighted Amber Wing Cormorant (Pelican) hood ornament that I think comes from a '52 Packard, but I can't find it anywhere. I have found all chrome cormorants. Am interested in what it might be worth. If anyone has an idea, I would appreciate the help.

    • WildFacesGallery profile image

      Mona 6 years ago from Iowa

      Really lovely. The old ornaments were such works of art.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 6 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Hood ornaments! I remember those. Beautiful collection of photos on them.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Those were the days!

    • maraju lm profile image

      maraju lm 6 years ago

      Art deco I love but they are all beautiful art work, a great collections. Thank you for sharing.

    • EditPhotos profile image

      Edit Photos 6 years ago from Earth

      Great lens! If only my mini-van had a place... Blessed - great memories!

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 6 years ago

      Excellent lens. I love classic cars.

    • profile image

      pubspy 6 years ago

      Great bit of nostalgia here. I just wonder about the Plymouth. They do look like ships and I wonder if it has anything to do with Plymouth UK. A major port that many years ago was a sailing starting point to the US.

      Thanks for the lens, Great

    • profile image

      TWOnline2 6 years ago

      too cool

    • profile image

      ideadesigns 6 years ago

      Good stuff here, haven't seen these before. Very elegant.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I miss them! When I was little, they were every where and were my favorite part of a care. Great art and beautifully displayed, thanks for the smiles and the memories!

    • thesuccess2 profile image

      thesuccess2 6 years ago

      Great Lens, great idea!

    • Timewarp profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Montreal

      These are beautiful, great lens!

    • ILoveLegosToo profile image

      Tom Fattes 6 years ago from Naperville, IL

      I just saw an episode of the Antique Roadshow that had featured hood ornaments. Very interesting and a great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I have a hood ornament that is an M in a circle. What is it from?

    • jdwheeler profile image

      jdwheeler 6 years ago

      Nice collection of pictures. Makers really took pride in their hood ornaments back then.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile image

      Diana Grant 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      What an original subject - I love car hood emblems.

      I used to have a Mercedes, and had to replace the emblem twice - obviously other people love them too! The third time it was snapped off, I just drove round without it, as there didn't seem much point in buying new ones just so that people could take them

    • photofk3 profile image

      photofk3 6 years ago

      Awesome collection, thank you.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Seems to me that there was just as much thought put into the design of the hood ornament as there was into the design of the vehicle itself. This is a great collection of hood ornaments and very nicely presented. *SquidAngel Blessed*

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      I did! And I just LOVE this lens... I had to special order a hood ornament once, when mine got lost... and they weren't making cars with hood ornaments anymore by then.

      Nice to see that you got a SquidAngel Blessing on this one!

    • profile image

      sawnetwork 6 years ago

      Hood ornaments also became collector's items that were stolen from the vehicles. That is why some manufacturers made them swivel so it was more difficult to snap off. Two of the most cherished prizes were the Mack "bulldog" and the Dodge "ram." Also any of the high roller cars would do. Mercedes, Cadillac, etc.

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 6 years ago

      Great idea because hood ornament become the branding of the car, a precious symbol, and a piece a history for this industry. You have a great collection here.

      Regards

    • mufke1 profile image

      mufke1 5 years ago

      Like your lens..I have made one about Renault 4...hope you will see it and post some comment :)

    • sisbrown34 lm profile image

      sisbrown34 lm 5 years ago

      yes! love the lens! cool!

    • profile image

      SandyPeaks 5 years ago

      Most enjoyable lens! My father had an old Jaguar in the 1970s - I loved to polish the hood ornament on it! Blessed by a SquidAngel.

    • meisgood132 profile image

      meisgood132 5 years ago

      Love the lens and all the cool car ornaments.

    • profile image

      phsparky 5 years ago

      Great site! I Googled "1930s spinning winged hood ornament" while doing research to find out if there's a name for the winged, spinning hood ornament in the film "Paper Moon." There's a lot of emphasis on it and it's obviously a symbol to the protagonist -- am just hoping to narrow down OF WHAT & thought if it had a name I could be a little more specific. If you do know the name, please let me know! Anyway, I'm glad I stopped by -- interesting & cool stuff here.

    • autofanatic profile image

      autofanatic 5 years ago

      Fantastic! I love the deco era hood ornaments. The style and creativity was amazing. If I had only thought to start collecting them 40 years ago. Thanks for the beautiful images and the wonderful stories to go with them!

    • mrducksmrnot profile image

      mrducksmrnot 5 years ago

      Wow. A lens with all the hood ornaments. As a young boy I always wanted to get one of each and collect but no one would give them up. These are beautiful and remind me of years gone by. Thanks for keeping these ornaments alive.

    • NorDac LM profile image

      NorDac LM 5 years ago

      Cool ornaments. Squid angel blessed

    • profile image

      agent009 5 years ago

      Hood ornaments look so cool but I've hardly seen them on modern cars. Would it be difficult to modify the hood to place one on a Honda Accord?

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      These vintage hood ornaments are so artsy and classy. These are like trophies to collect.

      Blessed ****

    • profile image

      ekkoautos 5 years ago

      Wow, they are so wonderful, thanks for sharing these great information

    • NickyT LM profile image

      NickyT LM 5 years ago

      Great topic and very well done :)

    • cdevries profile image

      cdevries 5 years ago

      I love hood ornaments! Why don't we have them any more? Revive 'em I say! Thanks for these great images.

    • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

      Ram Ramakrishnan 5 years ago

      Arty relics of an age gone by - must be a collecter's delight. Impressive lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Returning with a fresh angel blessing on this beauty!

    • flycatcherrr profile image

      flycatcherrr 5 years ago

      Learned a fair bit here today - when I wasn't too busy ogling the lovely pictures! Man, that was a time when cars were really cars, wasn't it? Nice one!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      i think i'm just fall in love ..........

      Awesome cars................

    • agoofyidea profile image

      agoofyidea 5 years ago

      I think my Honda Civic needs a hood ornament. These are so cool.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image

      JoyfulReviewer 5 years ago

      What an awesome showcase of these classic hood ornaments ... very nicely done. ~~Blessed~~

    • caffimages profile image

      caffimages 5 years ago

      Great lens and choice of photos! I've added you to my Vintage car rally lens.

    • curtmaxwall profile image

      curtmaxwall 4 years ago

      superb collection of hood ornaments... great pictures... loved the lens really...

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Looking for '54 metropolitan hood ornament.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Your site brought back some terrific memories. I was a kid always fascinated by hood ornaments, and as I looked at your examples, I recognized them all imemdiately. Well done !

    • Margaret Schindel profile image

      Margaret Schindel 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      My husband is a huge vintage car enthusiast (he owns a 1973 Buick Centurion convertible), and I've accompanied him to many wonderful vintage and antique car shows and museums. He'll love this lens! Blessed.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I had no idea that there were so many hood ornaments. Nice close up photos. Thanks!

    • Bobbala profile image

      Bobbala 4 years ago

      Great lens. Thank you!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a jet plane hood ornament for sale. 50's model..

    • profile image

      johncharlesheiser 4 years ago

      Great stuff. Takes back to when automobiles stood out from each other. Today either you can't tell from a distance or the sound, what's coming down the road. Had a cousin that designed cars(the Excalibur) ... Today, the auto companies rarely seem to get it. It's too bad. My first time on this site, Nice job,,,

    • Blonde Blythe profile image

      Blonde Blythe 4 years ago

      Yes! They're all so beautiful, they really bowled me over!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Sir. I have a fender or hood ornament I can't identify. If I could get your email address I can sent you pictures. any help would be appreciated. thanks for your time. Ray

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I'm looking for a '36 Chevy pickup hood ornament, does anyone know where I could get one?

    • profile image

      Prasque 4 years ago

      That certainly is a great effort worth providing all this info! Classic stuff! Those hood ornaments, are really ornaments! I am a big fan of cars and usually like classics and muscle cars but this information gave me a whole new perspective! Now it'll be those hood ornaments I'd be looking for in today's cars!! Thanks!

      Cheers!

    • LabKittyDesign profile image

      LabKittyDesign 4 years ago

      So what happened to the hood ornament? Don't really see them on production vehicles anymore (only Mercedes comes to mind).

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @LabKittyDesign: For the most part all hood ornaments have been eliminated or at least become flush mounted items due to federal law safety standards. Can't have pedestrians being impaled on sharp pointy things. Yeah, thanks government.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      I remember seeing many of these on old cars my family members owned. Brings back memories, that's for sure. Thanks!

    • jamecl profile image

      jamecl 4 years ago

      Nice idea! Great lens!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 4 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Classic Car Shows are pretty big around here and we have a good friend who is a collector. I will be sure to share this great page about Hood Ornaments

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Love the hood ornaments you displayed, but I am trying to determine about a hood ornament I have. It is a swan in silver with its head bent down and red plastic wings.

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 4 years ago from Central Florida, USA

      When I was a child, my dad traded cars a lot. Every time we got a new car, he "had" to pick out a new hood ornament. He loved his chrome. Thanks for a trip down memory lane.

    • profile image

      myspace9 4 years ago

      Beautiful lens and thanks for visiting and squidliking one of my lenses.

    • MBurgess profile image

      Maria Burgess 4 years ago from Las Vegas, Nevada

      These are great! Classic cars have so many neat features we don't see today. Nice lens, nDee! =)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Thank you. I grew up with these cars and thought hood ornaments were works of art and would continue forever. Auto design has since gotten very dull with the idiotic Green Revolution and Political Correctness. (I'm 82 years old.)

    • profile image

      wahmshelley 4 years ago

      Yes, I did learn something new about hood ornaments...Thanks for writing this great lens and featuring some beautiful hood ornaments...

      WAHM Shelley... :)

    • ManipledMutineer profile image

      ManipledMutineer 4 years ago

      Fascinating! I love Art Deco styling and 1930s design generally (as I think my vintage clothing and cufflinks lenses bear witness to.) I was familiar with car mascots such as Rolls-Royce's "Spirit of Ecstacy", Bentley "winged B", Rover Viking, etc, but not with the range of US ornamental and makers.

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 4 years ago

      Really nice to see all these old hood ornaments!

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      Fantastic idea for a Lens, I love them, they just don't make stuff like this anymore "Built To Last" too.

      Happy Valentine's Day, thanks for the visits ;-)

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 4 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      I love the look of many of these hood ornaments, especially the art deco ones. i understand the interest in collecting them. they make such a nice mantle piece decoration.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I was looking for the actual material that hood ornaments were made of pre 1940s - but found so much more information - not to mention a visual buffet! Thanks!

    • artbyrodriguez profile image

      Beverly Rodriguez 4 years ago from Albany New York

      I enjoyed the wonderful photos and lens. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 4 years ago

      These hood ornaments are classic.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I learned a lot here today. I didn't know that hood ornaments were originally radiator caps.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      found the one my daughter found in a box from her grandmother's antique shop. Chevorlett Skyline. Never heard of that model but looks exactly like the hood ornament she has.

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      I want to buy some of these Hood ornaments.pls. suggest.

    • scoobydooo9r profile image

      scoobydooo9r 3 years ago

      What an awesome topic! My Dad has a '56 Buick, it has the jet hood ornament on it, totally awesome. They just don't make cool stuff like that today!

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      Yes no doubt your site is very informative, i wish you will add more interestings facts about about hood ornament, also please help me to purchase a hood ornament and radiator logo of dodge 1931 dh series six cylinder car, all the best Virendra Singh

    • kju385 profile image

      kju385 3 years ago

      Great lens, a car's beauty hides even in the smallest details :)

    • tazzytamar profile image

      Anna 2 years ago from chichester

      You've featured some real beauties here - great lens. I really enjoyed browsing through it :)

    • profile image

      lillianlandfried@yahoo.com 2 years ago

      do you have pages of older chevrolet hood ornaments?

    • Dee Gallemore profile image
      Author

      Dee Gallemore 2 years ago

      No I don't have any other pages on hood ornaments ... but maybe I should consider it! :-) Thanks for stopping by!

    • profile image

      Paul 2 years ago

      I have two old hood ornaments that I can't identify. Is there an app. That would allow me to take a photo and submit to find out what they came off of?

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