Carmakers always want to project symbols of pride, durability, and strength with their logos. Some end up boring and others end up brilliant. Jalopnik readers have picked the very best of all.
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Now, some classic car emblems are heralded as great by millions of adoring fans, but they're usually pretty boring. Ferrari makes fantastic cars, so you find the cavallino badge everywhere. On flags, grafitti'd onto buildings, tattooed onto people's butt cheeks, all over the place. Just because the cars are cool, though, doesn't mean the logo is anything more than a doodle of a horse in a rectangle. BMW is a blue-and-white circle. Nothing special.
Great car logos can come on really terrible cars. In fact, they come almost exclusively on cars that sucked. Six out of ten car companies on this list are out of business and there's another that's nearly on life support as it is. Our theory is that these emblems were just so cool that the car-buying public couldn't handle them.
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Also, since these are specifically car company logos, we did not include emblems specific to a model of car, not a marque. That means we had to leave off things like the Mustang, the dragon/boat thing that was on the Celica, and a bunch of other cool emblems.
Still, if you have a favorite car badge that you didn't see on this list that you love so much you inked it into your forehead, please feel free to scream about our ignorance in Kinja below.
Photo Credit: Denis De Mesmaeker
Many people thought that Porsche has the greatest family crest-style logo. They are all wrong. Cadillac has the same basic style, but instead of a boring old horse, Caddy used to have little ducks in their badge. Cadillac was making the best cars in the world and when it came to pick a noble beast to represent their name, the company bosses picked a duck.
That would never fly today.
Suggested By: Stig-a-saw-us-wrecks, Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk
German carmakers these days are the masters of elegant simplicity in car logos. Audi is just four interlocking circles, BMW is a Bavarian flag, and VW is just a ‘V' and a ‘W.' The best and simplest of all is Mercedes-Benz's three-pointed star, certainly the most iconic automotive symbol in the world. It's hard to top that.
The logo also makes a good gun sight for running over poor people.
Suggested By: stuntdriver, Photo Credit: Raphael Orlove
Abarth may seem to skirt the definition of a carmaker since it just tunes Fiats today, but back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, Carlo Abarth was building all kinds of race cars of his own, even basing them off of Porsches. Abarth also has one of the coolest animals on its logo, a super blocky scorpion. Way cooler than a prancing horse, a raging bull, or Neptune's trident, if you ask us.
Suggested By: tetsu_no_usagi, Photo Credit: Oldtimerfreunde-Freising e.V.
Kaiser was a startup car company in the ‘40s and ‘50s that tried and failed to take on the Big Three. Did Kaiser pick some wussy animal for its logo like a horse or an eagle or a lion? Hell no! They picked a buffalo. Kaiser even cast them in one of the biggest car emblems you've ever seen. It was all kinds of awesome.
Suggested By: biodieselvw, Photo Credit: CAHairyBear
There are many fantastic Art Deco car emblems, from Ford's graceful ‘V8' badge to Hispano-Suiza's elegant winged circle thing. The classiest of all these nameplates, though, was the French Voisin. They started out making airplanes, but when they were making cars, they sometimes used this scarab logo, which looks like it could have been robbed from Cleopatra's jewelry case.
Suggested By: Ramblin Rover, Photo Credit: Jay Bonvouloir
Most carmakers that want to use a mythical animal for their logo go with the griffin. That thing is a lion and an eagle, which seems pretty boss, so both Saab and Vauxhall stuck it on their cars. Even cooler than a griffin is Lea-Francis' hippocampus. It's like a horse mermaid.
Suggested By: Ramblin Rover, Photo Credit: Andras Csore
We always liked Volvo's logo because it was the ancient chemical symbol for iron, which seemed appropriate for solid Swedish cars. Reader Biased_Waffles has a more detailed explanation for why the logo is great, though.
—It's manly as fuck.
—It's a fucking manly man symbol.
—Shit is blue and silver, like, nyomygod.
—Shit has an arrow. Architects and engineers drive Volvos. What do engineers use to end dimension lines? Fucking arrows. You see that fucking connection?
—You know that Volvo is Latin for "I roll"? Bet you didn't know that shit.
—It's a simple design, like apple. Bitches love apple products, thus, they'll love Volvo.
There you have it, folks.
Suggested By: Biased_Waffles, Photo Credit: Niklas Morberg
Rover made some horrible, horrible cars in their final years, so their logo is slightly tarnished by association. Still, it's a Viking ship, and that's just mega.
Suggested By: Trunk Impaired 318, Photo Credit: kenjonbro
Playboy the car company predated Playboy the magazine (the mag actually took its name from the car), but somehow the automaker from Buffalo, NY still ended up with this gentlemanly-as-all-get-out logo. There is no way this could get approved today.
Suggested By: $kaycog, Photo Credit: Playboy Motor Cars
Gordon-Keeble was a high performance British sports car and it has a freaking tortoise for its logo. That's so amazingly backwards it deserves our respect and admiration. It's also no surprise the company went out of business in a matter of years.