Hood Ornaments: American Classic Cars 1930s - 1950s

Updated on March 1, 2018
Dee Gallemore profile image

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 | Source

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.

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 | Source
1950s "Gunsight" Hood Ornament On A Buick Eight
1950s "Gunsight" Hood Ornament On A Buick Eight | Source

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 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
A "Winged Woman" On A 1941 Cadillac Convertible Coupe | Source
A Stylized "Woman/Rocket" On A 1955 Cadillac
A Stylized "Woman/Rocket" On A 1955 Cadillac | Source

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 | Source
The Speed of A Locomotive Is Implied On This 1940s Chevrolet
The Speed of A Locomotive Is Implied On This 1940s Chevrolet | Source
The 1950s "Impala" Motif
The 1950s "Impala" Motif | Source
An Eagle/Airplane On A 1950s Skyline
An Eagle/Airplane On A 1950s Skyline | Source

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
Yellow Plymouth With "Schooner" Hood Ornament | Source
1948 Plymouth Special DeLuxe Club Coupe
1948 Plymouth Special DeLuxe Club Coupe | Source
1950 Plymouth Woody Wagon
1950 Plymouth Woody Wagon | Source
1954 Plymouth Belevedere
1954 Plymouth Belevedere | Source

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? | Source
Chief Pontiac's Face in Amber
Chief Pontiac's Face in Amber | Source
1948 Pontiac Torpedo "Silver Streak"
1948 Pontiac Torpedo "Silver Streak" | Source

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 | Source

© 2009 Dee Gallemore

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

Submit a Comment

  • profile image

    DA Churches 

    5 months ago

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

  • profile image

    Liz v.d.Merwe 

    9 months ago

    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.

  • profile image

    Paul 

    3 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?

  • Dee Gallemore profile imageAUTHOR

    Dee Gallemore 

    3 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

    lillianlandfried@yahoo.com 

    3 years ago

    do you have pages of older chevrolet hood ornaments?

  • tazzytamar profile image

    Anna 

    4 years ago from chichester

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

  • kju385 profile image

    kju385 

    4 years ago

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    4 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

  • scoobydooo9r profile image

    scoobydooo9r 

    5 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 

    5 years ago

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 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 

    5 years ago

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

  • profile image

    getmoreinfo 

    5 years ago

    These hood ornaments are classic.

  • artbyrodriguez profile image

    Beverly Rodriguez 

    5 years ago from Albany New York

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 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!

  • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

    Nathalie Roy 

    5 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.

  • Deadicated LM profile image

    Deadicated LM 

    5 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 ;-)

  • LouisaDembul profile image

    LouisaDembul 

    5 years ago

    Really nice to see all these old hood ornaments!

  • ManipledMutineer profile image

    ManipledMutineer 

    5 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.

  • profile image

    wahmshelley 

    5 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... :)

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 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.)

  • MBurgess profile image

    Maria Burgess 

    5 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

    myspace9 

    5 years ago

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

  • MariaMontgomery profile image

    MariaMontgomery 

    5 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

    anonymous 

    5 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.

  • OhMe profile image

    Nancy Tate Hellams 

    5 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

  • jamecl profile image

    jamecl 

    5 years ago

    Nice idea! Great lens!

  • VspaBotanicals profile image

    VspaBotanicals 

    5 years ago

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 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.

  • LabKittyDesign profile image

    LabKittyDesign 

    5 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

    Prasque 

    5 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!

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 years ago

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 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

  • Blonde Blythe profile image

    Blonde Blythe 

    5 years ago from U.S.A.

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

  • profile image

    johncharlesheiser 

    5 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,,,

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 years ago

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

  • Bobbala profile image

    Bobbala 

    5 years ago

    Great lens. Thank you!

  • Scarlettohairy profile image

    Peggy Hazelwood 

    5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

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

  • Margaret Schindel profile image

    Margaret Schindel 

    5 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.

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 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 !

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    6 years ago

    Looking for '54 metropolitan hood ornament.

  • curtmaxwall profile image

    curtmaxwall 

    6 years ago

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

  • caffimages profile image

    caffimages 

    6 years ago

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

  • JoyfulReviewer profile image

    JoyfulReviewer 

    6 years ago

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

  • agoofyidea profile image

    agoofyidea 

    6 years ago

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    6 years ago

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

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

  • flycatcherrr profile image

    flycatcherrr 

    6 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 

    6 years ago

    Returning with a fresh angel blessing on this beauty!

  • Ram Ramakrishnan profile image

    Ram Ramakrishnan 

    6 years ago

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

  • cdevries profile image

    cdevries 

    6 years ago

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

  • NickyT LM profile image

    NickyT LM 

    6 years ago

    Great topic and very well done :)

  • profile image

    ekkoautos 

    6 years ago

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

  • jlshernandez profile image

    jlshernandez 

    6 years ago

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

    Blessed ****

  • profile image

    agent009 

    6 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?

  • NorDac LM profile image

    NorDac LM 

    6 years ago

    Cool ornaments. Squid angel blessed

  • profile image

    mrducksmrnot 

    6 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.

  • autofanatic profile image

    autofanatic 

    6 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!

  • profile image

    phsparky 

    6 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.

  • meisgood132 profile image

    meisgood132 

    6 years ago

    Love the lens and all the cool car ornaments.

  • profile image

    SandyPeaks 

    6 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.

  • sisbrown34 lm profile image

    sisbrown34 lm 

    6 years ago

    yes! love the lens! cool!

  • mufke1 profile image

    mufke1 

    6 years ago

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

  • Michey LM profile image

    Michey LM 

    7 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

  • profile image

    sawnetwork 

    7 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.

  • CruiseReady profile image

    CruiseReady 

    7 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

    anonymous 

    7 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*

  • photofk3 profile image

    photofk3 

    7 years ago

    Awesome collection, thank you.

  • Gloriousconfusion profile image

    Diana Grant 

    7 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

  • jdwheeler profile image

    jdwheeler 

    7 years ago

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    7 years ago

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

  • ILoveLegosToo profile image

    Tom Fattes 

    7 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.

  • Timewarp profile image

    Paul 

    7 years ago from Montreal

    These are beautiful, great lens!

  • thesuccess2 profile image

    thesuccess2 

    7 years ago

    Great Lens, great idea!

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    7 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!

  • profile image

    ideadesigns 

    7 years ago

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

  • profile image

    redwolf21 

    7 years ago

    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

  • profile image

    TWOnline2 

    7 years ago

    too cool

  • profile image

    pubspy 

    7 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

  • glenbrook profile image

    glenbrook 

    7 years ago

    Excellent lens. I love classic cars.

  • EditPhotos profile image

    Edit Photos 

    7 years ago from Earth

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

  • maraju lm profile image

    maraju lm 

    7 years ago

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

  • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

    MargoPArrowsmith 

    7 years ago

    Those were the days!

  • paperfacets profile image

    Sherry Venegas 

    7 years ago from La Verne, CA

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

  • WildFacesGallery profile image

    Mona 

    7 years ago from Iowa

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

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    7 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.

  • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

    Nathalie Roy 

    7 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 

    7 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

  • oztoo lm profile image

    oztoo lm 

    7 years ago

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

  • profile image

    ohcaroline 

    7 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

    lex4less 

    7 years ago

    Those are so amazing!

    Pre Owned Lexus

  • Dianne Loomos profile image

    Dianne Loomos 

    7 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.

  • Bellezza-Decor profile image

    Bellezza-Decor 

    8 years ago from Canada

    Cool lens and hood ornaments 5*!

  • aka-rms profile image

    Robin S 

    8 years ago from USA

    Very nice work. Love your topic.

  • AlishaV profile image

    Alisha Vargas 

    8 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!

  • joanhall profile image

    Joan Hall 

    8 years ago from Los Angeles

    Those are beautiful. Very nice.

  • Sylvestermouse profile image

    Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

    8 years ago from United States

    These are pretty cool! Great Lens!

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    8 years ago

    These hood ornaments are so cool! Great job!

  • profile image

    GrowWear 

    8 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.

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