Hood Ornaments: American Classic Cars 1930s - 1950s
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.
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
==>The 1950s "Impala" Motif
Photo used under Creative Commons from: L. Marie, on Flickr
==>An Eagle/Airplane On A 1950s Skyline
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
==> Red Plymouth With "Sailing Ship" Hood Ornament
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
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.