Alarmingly, 2014 is now here. While I'm sure there's all sorts of worthwhile self-examinations I could be doing (spiritual, intellectual, testicular) I think a better way to end the year would be to look at some really great hood ornaments.
I took these pictures this past weekend over at Irwindale Speedway, where they were hosting the Holiday Motor Excursion, a delightful little drive for cars from 1932 or older. There were some fantastic old cars there, gleaming contraptions of brass and nickel, and I'll have a more detailed write up soon.
But what I want to focus on here are a detail, and a detail all but gone today: the hood ornament. The number of cars that actually have these now is minuscule; aside from Rolls-Royce, I can't think of any cars that come with these nose-sculptures from the factory anymore. But back when they did, each parking lot was like a miniature sculpture garden.
So let's see some, already!
Ford Model A "Flying Quail" radiator cap
This is actually a popular aftermarket hood ornament made by Stant Manufacturing of Indiana. Stant got their start making precision piano tuning pins, and later got into auto accessories. This pretty little birdie was quite popular for Model As.
Lincoln Driving Light Mount
This is clearly another aftermarket accessory, and I've never seen another central driving light that mounts to the radiator cap like this. I guess it's a stretch to call it a 'hood ornament,' but I still thought it was pretty cool. And it does ornament the hood.
Starting in 1927, Lincoln was using this sleek, thinspiration-ready greyhound as a mascot. By the 30s they switched to a coat-of-arms and knight helmet for their identity, and I still think that was a mistake. This greyhound is elegant and dynamic in the way a shield and helmet never can be
Packard Goddess of Speed and temperature meter
Lots of pre '30s cars had their radiator water temperature gauges right there on the radiator cap, encouraging drivers to maintain good distance vision. This Packard has the meter, but also Packard's mid-late 20s mascot, the Goddess of Speed.
That's a pretty good deity right there. The Church Of The Speed Goddess I bet has some pretty exciting services, held in a bus doing 120 on a banked track.
Cadillac Temperature Gauge Radiator Cap
This Cadillac radiator cap is pretty close to the MotoMeter temperature gauges many cars of the era had, but I do like how Caddy decided to give it a wreath like their logo. Because they're Cadillac, dammit.
Amphicar Navigation Lights
Yes, it's well after the 1930s, and yes, it's not really a true hood ornament as such, but I rather like the sleek look of the Amphicar's port and starboard lights, and also it's a freaking Amphicar.
This archer mascot/sculpture actually has a name, "Tireur d'Arc" which basically just means 'archery.' Sculptor W.Schnell (isn't that 'speed' in German?) designed the mascot/hood ornament for '30s-era Pierce-Arrows. It's also interesting that the company's name is two words, the first of which is the verb the second word, the noun, achieves. Neat, huh?
Plymouth Mayflower Mascot
That ship represents the Mayflower, since "Plymouth" is from Plymouth Rock and all that Thanksgiving stuff. I love how deco-stylized this one is.
Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy
This is probably the hood ornament absolutely everyone, even your cousin who bought a Camry because it's "grounded to the ground" knows about. If you like checking out a tiny silver ass on a winged woman while you drive, save your pennies, because this is the car for you.
Stutz Ra Radiator Cap
You've got to hand it to Stutz. They made what is really the first supercar, the Bearcat (also, a fantastic name that should be brought back by someone), but for their mascot they picked the Egyptian sun god, Ra. No making up "Goddesses of Speed" or any bullshit like that — Stutz just dig through history and plucked out an actual, worshiped god. If it's good enough for Akenaten, it's gotta be good enough for car buyers of the '20s and '30s.