Can You Name the Car Company from Its Old Hood Ornament or Logo?

By: Robin Tyler

Now a badge on modern vehicles more than a hood ornament, the Mercedes-Benz Tri-Star logo has been around since 1926. Interestingly, the three points depict the land, air and sea as Mercedes made engines in all those spheres in their early years.

Rolls-Royce – Perhaps the most recognizable hood ornament in the world, the Spirit of Ecstasy was designed by sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes and features a lady leaning forward with arms stretched behind her and clothes billowing in the wind. The design has changed slightly over the years and still appears on cars produced by the company today. Interestingly, they are spring loaded and designed to retract into the hood if the car is involved in an accident.

Another extremely famous emblem that even those not interested in motor vehicles will be able to identify, the Prancing Horse is the symbol of Italian sports car company Ferrari. Interestingly, it first appeared on Alfa Romeos in the 1920s when Enzo Ferrari worked for the company.

The emblem design for Audi features the now famous ‘Four Rings.’ Not many people know what these symbolize, however. In 1932 four different companies merged – Audi, Horch, Wanderer and DKW. The rings symbolize this merger.

The Peugeot Lion has formed part of the French brand's logo and hood badges since inception. In fact, it was used even before the company got into the auto manufacturing business. It first appeared on the saw blades the company manufactured in 1850 and was registered in 1858.

A red cross, a snake eating a man … what’s not to like about the Alfa Romeo badge? Well, the red cross is actually the symbol for the city of Milan, where the marque was born. The snake eating a man comes from the tale of an important Milan citizen who killed a knight and brought the symbols he used on his shield back to the city. True or not, no one knows, but it is a great story!

This emblem, which appears on the hood of all Porsche sports cars, is extremely similar to that of the City of Stuttgart which was built on the site of a horse farm. And those are not swords toward the top and bottom of the horse, they are antlers.

Most will recognize the BMW hood logo, the iconic blue and white quarters in a circle. Many believe this, in fact, symbolizes a propeller as the company did first start out by manufacturing aviation engines.

The iconic Ford Mustang logo, featuring a mustang breed of horse, adorned their iconic muscle car from the 1960s onward. Interestingly, it was originally drawn from left to right and its reversal was an error.

The Flying B is one of the most famous hood emblems in the world. It has adorned Bentley models since the company was started by W.O. Bentley with the first car produced in 1919. Interestingly, in 2010 Bentley was forced to recall cars and modify the hood ornament for fear that it could injure pedestrians in an accident.

One of America’s pioneering car manufacturers, Cadillac took the unique step of offering this Flying Goddess hood ornament on early models. Certainly very eye-catching!

Lincoln, the luxury division of Ford, has used the leaping greyhound as a hood ornament on its vehicles. It was chosen as a mascot by Edsel Ford who wanted an animal with speed, stamina and beauty. They started appearing on Lincoln vehicles in the 1930s.

The winged theme is certainly a favorite among many car manufacturers including Auburn. The company originated in 1900 before it went bankrupt in 1937. The hood ornament on Auburn models featured a winged woman with her chest out and wings sweeping backward.

The Steel Bird appeared on all vehicles from French luxury car manufacturer Avions Voisin between 1919 to 1939.

A direct link to the name of the auto manufacturer, the Silver Archer, a kneeling man with a bow, appeared on Pierce Arrow vehicles. The company made cars between 1901 and 1938.

You probably don’t want to be a pedestrian who gets in the way of this hood ornament – a knight with a very pointy lance. These appeared on cars made by Willys who later made the Jeep for the United States military in World War II.

This incredible design looks nothing like a ship until you take a closer look. It is then that you see a sailing ship within the borders of the hood ornament. Strikingly beautiful and yet simple. Plymouth also changed the design from time to time.

Another flight-themed ornament, the Flying Stork appeared on Hispano Suiza vehicles, a Spanish luxury brand often compared with Rolls-Royce. The Stork itself is in a downward flap, with the wings attaching it to a base. Incredible beautiful and striking.

The Chevrolet ‘Bowtie’ is instantly recognizable. But where does it come from? It is claimed that it was designed by one of the people who started the company, William Durant, and first appeared on vehicles in 1913. This may not be the whole story, however, and some historians believed he may have ‘borrowed’ it from a company called Coalettes.

A prototype car, the hood ornament on the Luigi Colani Horch Mega Roadster was almost as dramatic as the overall design, as it gives a sense of speed even when the car is standing still.

Packard liked hood ornaments, so much so that they changed them often. One of their designs was the Reclining Woman, said to be the Greek nymph Daphne.

Although you won’t find them on a Dodge now, the Leaping Ram was found on all early vehicles produced by this American manufacturer. Eventually, it progressed to just a ram’s head and then a ram on a badge. Now the ram is associated with a truck brand.

Duesenberg produced a range of hood ornaments between 1913 and 1937 when the brand went defunct. One particular favorite was the Duesenbird, a sharp, angular design, definitely very different from what other manufacturers used. It would never get past health and safety today, however.

Pontiac is a manufacturer that has had a range of hood ornaments and other badges over the years. This includes the ‘dart’ which in fact is an arrow head, a natural progression from the Native American chief who formed part of their early logos.

If you see this in your rearview mirror, best to pull over and let the car past … unless you are driving a hyper car! Why a bull for Italian car manufacturer Lamborghini? Well, it’s the zodiac sign of founder Ferruccio Lamborghini. Simple really.

French manufacturer Renault certainly liked to change their logo in the early years. A few of the early designs include a tank and a car grille among others. In 1925, they used the diamond which we still see in our rear view mirrors today.

Volvo, which means ‘I Roll’ originally manufactured bearings for the automotive industry. The circle and arrow pointing up is actually an ancient symbol used to denote iron, an important alloy in the bearing manufacturing process.

Probably one of the most iconic hood ornaments in history, ‘The Leaper’ adorned most early models of this iconic British brand. Today, because of various safety laws, you can buy one as an accessory when purchasing your Jaguar.

Founded by Walter Chrysler, De Soto manufactured vehicles between 1928 and 1961. On their Diplomat Model, they chose to have a Spanish conquistador as the hood ornament. Not very politically correct, particularly in the Americas.

The Dancing Elephant appeared on Bugatti vehicles. It was designed by Rembrandt Bugatti, a sculptor and brother to the owner, Ettore Bugatti. Sadly, he never saw it appear on vehicles having taken his life years earlier.

The four-pointed star hood ornament appeared on Lincoln vehicles in the 1950s. It was called the Continental Star. It has become an indelible part of this luxury car maker's identity.

Maybach, the luxury German automaker, has the double MM logo which appeared on vehicles as a hood ornament as well. The company was founded in 1909 by Wilhelm Maybach.

An alternative emblem to their other famous hood ornament, the Leaper, this badge is commonly known as the Growler. It was used before the 1940s but became a regular badge option from the 1950s onward.

An iconic Italian marque, Maserati uses a trident as its hood logo design. It was designed by Mario Maserati, an artist and one of five brothers who founded the firm.

Certainly one of the most striking hood ornaments ever designed, the Jet Bird featured on the Chevrolet Bel Air in the 1950s. It’s beautifully patriotic as well, although not officially a bald eagle.

Packard certainly had a variety of hood ornaments during its history. One of its designs was the Goddess of Speed, essentially an angel figure with wings facing toward the rear and outstretched arms holding a car wheel. It certainly added a certain grace to the Packards it adorned.

Produced in the Soviet Union, GAZ automobiles have been in production since 1932. From 1950, models featured an elaborate Leaping Deer as a hood ornament. The first model to have this was the GAZ-12 ZIM, a limousine and first executive car produced by the company.

This hood ornament appeared on Pontiac vehicles in their early years and certainly into the 1950s. They were redesigned over the years, with some of them even lighting up!.

Packard certainly had a variety of hood ornaments during its history. One of its designs was the Goddess of Speed, essentially an angel figure with wings facing towards the rear and outstretched arms holding a car wheel. It certainly added a certain grace to the Packards it adorned.

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Image: BarbeeAnne / Pixabay

About This Quiz

Hood ornaments and badges have been used since the beginning of motoring. Back in the early years of motoring, a hood ornament was a great way to just zing up your vehicle a little.
Some could even be bought and added, for instance, a hood ornament called 'The Swallow' could be attached to any car. It was not sold by an automaker but by the Susse Freres foundry.

Some royal families such as that of Kaiser Wilhelm had their family crest turned into a hood ornament and added to their Mercedes-Benz. We're not sure what Mercedes-Benz thought about that!

And as the automotive industry is one that is closely associated with badges and symbols, hood ornaments carried on until health and safety got involved. Yes, a pedestrian on the wrong side of a hood ornament was sure going to be in for some pain! Another reason why you won't find hood ornaments on modern cars ... thieves!

Nowadays, a few cars still have hood ornaments, but these can retract into the hood with just the click of a button.

Let's see how good you are in recognizing hood ornaments and badges from yesteryear, some of which are still used today and have changed very little.

Good luck!

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