Style Files: Hood Ornaments

At AntiquitiesWeb we like to shake things up from time to time. Sure, we love settees and chaise lounges, but we also enjoy unique antiques and love to offer our clients a variety of vintage wares. Some of our latest finds are amazing antique hood ornaments. We found some great American made hood ornaments dating from 1941-1954, which we mounted on custom wood, stands for easy display. The ornaments are a timeless piece of automobile history and pure Americana.

Did you know in the early years of American automobile manufacturing that automobiles had their radiator caps on the outside hood? The caps would sometimes be positioned on top of the grille as well and used an indicator of the temperature of the engine’s coolant fluid. In 1912, Boyce MotoMeter Company was issued a patent for a radiator cap that incorporated a thermometer that would be visible to the driver. The thermometer measured the heat of the water vapor instead of the actual vapor and became a useful gauge for drivers. Because many early engines did not have water pumps, rather a circulation system like the “thermo-syphon” found in the Ford Model T, the new gauge was very helpful to avoid engine trouble.


Art Deco Streamline Hood Ornaments from American Automobiles from 1941-1954. All are mounted on custom wood stands.


In the 1920’s until the 1950’s many automakers started added decorative caps to the new gauges. They were known as hood ornaments and they became a lucrative business. Anyone who wanted to add a hood ornament r car mascot to his or her automobile could do so. The ornaments often featured miniature sculptures of winged women, beasts, or mythological creatures.

Restrictions on hood ornaments caused motorists to stop purchasing the mini sculptures in the mid 80’s. In Europe, restrictions were places on ornaments on the front of vehicles, claiming that there is increased risk of injury for pedestrians in the event of an accident. For example, Rolls Royce’s mascot is mounted on a spring loaded mechanism that retracts into the car if struck with more than 10 kilograms of force. Mercedes’ three-pointed star folds flush into the bonnet with impact. Other companies have made their hood ornaments completely flat.

Some of the most iconic hood ornaments include the following examples:

Trishields on Buick cars

Spirit of Ecstasy on Rolls-Royce Motors cars

Chief Pontiac on Pontiac automobiles

Leaping jaguar on Jaguar cars

Lion rampant on Peugeot cars

Rocky Mountain big horn ram’s head on Dodge cars and trucks

If you’re looking for a unique antique contact AntiquitiesWeb. Our selection of top quality antiques are unique, original, and timelessly beautiful. Whether you are looking for gift for a car collector or a fan of American collectibles, AntiquitiesWeb has the piece for you. To see these pieces and more call us at 212-644-4236, contact us, or visit our New York gallery.

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