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Hood Ornaments: American Classic Cars 1930s–1950s

The kids are all grown up ... and now I have more time to share my interests, expertise and curiosities right here with you. Enjoy!

Hood Ornament Pierce Arrow C 1930

Hood Ornament Pierce Arrow C 1930

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; and 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.

The Origin of Hood Ornaments

Early automobiles had their radiator caps outside of the hood and just above the grille. Since the exposed radiator cap occupied a prominent place on the vehicle, opportunities arose to transform it into an art form.

Hood ornaments (or car mascots as they are known in the UK) were especially popular in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s as a way of individualizing the car and representing an automaker's vision of their cars.

Buick Hood Ornaments Evolved Over Time

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 1930s Female Figure

1950s "Gunsight" Hood Ornament On A Buick Eight

1950s "Gunsight" Hood Ornament On A Buick Eight

Cadillac 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 30 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

A "Winged Woman" On A 1941 Cadillac Convertible Coupe

A Stylized "Woman/Rocket" On A 1955 Cadillac

A Stylized "Woman/Rocket" On A 1955 Cadillac

Chevrolet Hood Ornaments Emphasized Speed

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
Eagle Motif Atop A Late 1920s Chevrolet Radiator Cap

Eagle Motif Atop A Late 1920s Chevrolet Radiator Cap

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

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

The 1950s "Impala" Motif

The 1950s "Impala" Motif

An Eagle/Airplane On A 1950s Skyline

An Eagle/Airplane On A 1950s Skyline

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 characterized by stylized sailing ships or schooners.

Yellow Plymouth With "Schooner" Hood Ornament

Yellow Plymouth With "Schooner" Hood Ornament

1948 Plymouth Special DeLuxe Club Coupe

1948 Plymouth Special DeLuxe Club Coupe

1950 Plymouth Woody Wagon

1950 Plymouth Woody Wagon

1954 Plymouth Belevedere

1954 Plymouth Belevedere

Pontiac's Powerful "Chief" Motif

In 1926, General Motors introduced a modestly-priced car line produced in Pontiac, Michigan (so named after a famous Ottawa chief).

So, it's no surprise that throughout the 1930s, '40s and '50s, car hoods would be adorned with sleek variations of a "chief" with head-dress motif.

Another identifying ornamental feature of Pontiacs were their "Silver Streaks"—one or more narrow strips of stainless steel which extended from the grille down the center of the hood.

I came across the photo below and was intrigued. But I can't find any reference to the model or year of this vehicle.

My guess? Since it's slightly reminiscent of some Pontiac "Chief" hood ornaments of the late 1940s and '50s. Maybe this one is a custom piece. Bottom line, it's a beaut!

Could this be a 1950s Pontiac?

Could this be a 1950s Pontiac?

Chief Pontiac's Face in Amber

Chief Pontiac's Face in Amber

1948 Pontiac Torpedo "Silver Streak"

1948 Pontiac Torpedo "Silver Streak"

What Are Hood Ornaments Made of?

Hood ornaments are usually cast in brass, zinc, or bronze, and finished in a chrome-plated finish. During the years when chrome plate was unavailable, they were plated in either silver or nickel.

Source: Wikipedia

I Could See Myself Cruising Around in This ...

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

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

© 2009 Dee Gallemore

Did you learn anything new about hood ornaments? Let me know you stopped by...

DA Churches on February 03, 2018:

Thank God these haven’t been attacked as racist or sexist. But... I’m sure they have

Liz v.d.Merwe on October 11, 2017:

I have a flying lady hood ornament - looks like a deSoto 1942 or perhaps a Cadalic Sixty Special Fleetwood. Only her head is bending further back in the Cadalic. Have in on my cell phone and dont know how to send it to you.

Paul on May 09, 2015:

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?

Dee Gallemore (author) on September 09, 2014:

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

lillianlandfried@yahoo.com on September 09, 2014:

do you have pages of older chevrolet hood ornaments?

Anna from chichester on July 11, 2014:

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

kju385 on October 23, 2013:

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

anonymous on August 31, 2013:

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

scoobydooo9r on June 19, 2013:

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!

anonymous on June 19, 2013:

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

anonymous on May 20, 2013:

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.

anonymous on April 26, 2013:

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

getmoreinfo on April 23, 2013:

These hood ornaments are classic.

Beverly Rodriguez from Albany New York on April 19, 2013:

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

anonymous on April 07, 2013:

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!

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on March 15, 2013:

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.

Deadicated LM on February 14, 2013:

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 ;-)

LouisaDembul on February 01, 2013:

Really nice to see all these old hood ornaments!

ManipledMutineer on January 29, 2013:

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.

wahmshelley on January 28, 2013:

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

WAHM Shelley... :)

anonymous on January 26, 2013:

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.)

Maria Burgess from Las Vegas, Nevada on January 25, 2013:

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

myspace9 on January 23, 2013:

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

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on January 19, 2013:

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.

anonymous on January 04, 2013:

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.

Nancy Tate Hellams from Pendleton, SC on January 03, 2013:

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

jamecl on December 31, 2012:

Nice idea! Great lens!

VspaBotanicals on December 19, 2012:

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

anonymous on December 10, 2012:

@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.

LabKittyDesign on December 05, 2012:

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

Prasque on November 20, 2012:

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!


anonymous on November 13, 2012:

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

anonymous on November 04, 2012:

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

Blonde Blythe from U.S.A. on October 31, 2012:

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

johncharlesheiser on October 18, 2012:

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,,,

anonymous on October 14, 2012:

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

Bobbala on September 23, 2012:

Great lens. Thank you!

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on August 08, 2012:

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

Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on July 30, 2012:

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.

anonymous on July 26, 2012:

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 !

anonymous on July 04, 2012:

Looking for '54 metropolitan hood ornament.

curtmaxwall on May 29, 2012:

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

caffimages on May 22, 2012:

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

JoyfulReviewer on April 29, 2012:

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

agoofyidea on April 16, 2012:

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

anonymous on February 14, 2012:

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

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

flycatcherrr on January 20, 2012:

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!

anonymous on January 12, 2012:

Returning with a fresh angel blessing on this beauty!

Ram Ramakrishnan on January 05, 2012:

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

cdevries on December 30, 2011:

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

NickyT LM on December 19, 2011:

Great topic and very well done :)

ekkoautos on December 01, 2011:

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

jlshernandez on November 30, 2011:

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

Blessed ****

agent009 on November 25, 2011:

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?

NorDac LM on November 23, 2011:

Cool ornaments. Squid angel blessed

mrducksmrnot on November 17, 2011:

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.

David Bynon from Prescott, Arizona on November 07, 2011:

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!

phsparky on November 01, 2011:

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.

meisgood132 on October 14, 2011:

Love the lens and all the cool car ornaments.

SandyPeaks on October 14, 2011:

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.

sisbrown34 lm on September 25, 2011:

yes! love the lens! cool!

mufke1 on September 25, 2011:

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

Michey LM on April 14, 2011:

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.


sawnetwork on March 15, 2011:

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.

CruiseReady from East Central Florida on February 16, 2011:

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!

anonymous on January 27, 2011:

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*

photofk3 on January 10, 2011:

Awesome collection, thank you.

Diana Grant from United Kingdom on January 10, 2011:

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

jdwheeler on January 06, 2011:

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

anonymous on January 03, 2011:

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

Tom Fattes from Naperville, IL on December 26, 2010:

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

Paul from Montreal on December 14, 2010:

These are beautiful, great lens!

thesuccess2 on December 13, 2010:

Great Lens, great idea!

anonymous on December 09, 2010:

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!

ideadesigns on December 05, 2010:

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

redwolf21 on December 05, 2010:

i learned that GM owns chevy and i didn't know that. and that GM owns a few of the different makes of cars. my favorite is the 1963, corvette, stingray, split window, coupe

TWOnline2 on December 05, 2010:

too cool

pubspy on December 01, 2010:

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

glenbrook on November 28, 2010:

Excellent lens. I love classic cars.

Edit Photos from Earth on November 28, 2010:

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

maraju lm on November 23, 2010:

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

MargoPArrowsmith on November 20, 2010:

Those were the days!

Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on November 14, 2010:

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

Mona from Iowa on November 11, 2010:

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

anonymous on November 03, 2010:

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.

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on October 29, 2010:

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

anonymous on October 27, 2010:

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.


oztoo lm on October 27, 2010:

Great lens with wonderful photo's. Pity we don't still have them. Then again those old cars really had style didn't they.

ohcaroline on October 27, 2010:

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".

lex4less on October 25, 2010:

Those are so amazing!

Pre Owned Lexus

Dianne Loomos on September 23, 2010:

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.

Bellezza-Decor from Canada on September 07, 2009:

Cool lens and hood ornaments 5*!

Robin S from USA on September 03, 2009:

Very nice work. Love your topic.

Alisha Vargas from Reno, Nevada on August 30, 2009:

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

Joan Hall from Los Angeles on August 29, 2009:

Those are beautiful. Very nice.

Cynthia Sylvestermouse from United States on August 29, 2009:

These are pretty cool! Great Lens!

anonymous on August 29, 2009:

These hood ornaments are so cool! Great job!

GrowWear on August 29, 2009:

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.

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