The Beautiful Hood Ornaments of Yesteryear

9 Aug

Here’s an article by Mike Lamm, from January 1969, bemoaning the loss to the world of artistic decorations on cars:

When Radiators Were Regal

RADIATOR ORNAMENTS used to be to cars what faces are to people. Classic Packards, for example, were recognized by their hood statuary because Packard never stooped to emblazon its name on models of the late ’20s and early ’30s.

The ornaments had practical beginnings. At one time they housed stubby thermometers called motor meters, but as temperature gauges moved inside, the meters were replaced by graceful, often beautifully sculpted works of art. All but a few were gorgeously proportioned and painstakingly detailed, as these photos taken at Harrah’s Auto Museum, Reno, Nev., plainly show.

Hood-ornament art reached its zenith about 40 years ago. Toward the mid-’30s abstraction began to set in and art directors rather than artists became responsible for hood ornament design. Ornaents became more clinical, less classical, reaching their nadir just after World War II. Soon, the plastic-cum-anodized aluminum lumps that became standard at the time spelled the final doom of the once magnificent radiator art.

With the recent advent of formal safety standards, the hood ornament all but disappeared.

  •  1913 MERCER, 1928 ROLLAND PILAIN, 1931 BUGATTI ROYALE

  • 1927 STUTZ BLACKHAWK, 1925 MINERVA, 1932 LINCOLN KB

  • 1929 KISSEL WHITE, 1927 DUESENBERG MODEL X, 1928 FRANKLIN

  • 1909 MODEL T, 1930 DU PONT ROYAL, 1913 COEY FLYER

  • 1930 PACKARD, 1936 HISPANO-SUIZA TYPE K6, 1938 PHANTOM III

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