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Hooniverse Asks- Hood Ornaments; Brah! or Blah?

Robert Emslie November 29, 2012 Hooniverse Asks 52 Comments

Back when hoods were unique automotive styling elements distinct from the fenders and grille, dressing it up with a mascot or hood ornament made a lot of sense. Originally serving as the decorative cap to the actual radiator fill – a frequent necessity in the olden days – they moved back away from the radiator openings, and with the advent of the mid-fifties shoebox designs they began celebrating that era’s jet age.

By the sixties and seventies hood ornaments had become little more than mechanisms for delineating the physical end of the car and sighting pedestrians should your inclinations lean toward the homicidal. Today, in the name of aerodynamics, even stalwarts like Mercedes Benz have cast off their upright three-pointed star for a grille opening or hood badge across their range. Pretty much only Rolls Royce and Bentley still rock an open air mascot, and that’s mostly only due to the Flying Lady and big B being such and iconic representations of the brands.

It wasn’t always that way, and well into the eighties one could buy almost any midsize or larger American car with a shield or gunsight-like chrome appendage proudly leading the way. It was both a status symbol – especially for urban youth who liked to lever them off the cars and wear their spoils like jewelry – and a handy guide for parallel parking. Do you miss those? Give us your thoughts on hood ornaments – are they Brah! or Blah? And, if you are in the pro-ornament group, which one is your favorite?

Image: [Fineartamerica

  • http://www.hooniverse.com LTDScott

    I'm kind of indifferent. They look great on older cars where the leading edge of the hood/grille was a peak, but it doesn't really work on most newer cars.

    Having said that, I do have fond memories of one hood ornament in particular. Back in '86, my family visited the US from Australia for the first time. I was a car crazy kid and knew and loved American cars. While we were here, my dad saw a new Crown Vic and fell in love with it. While he couldn't bring one home, he did decide to go to a Ford dealer and buy the hood ornament from one, along with an aftermarket 3rd brake light and some other car stuff that was completely foreign for Australia at the time.

    So for years, my dad had the only XD Fairmont Ghia with a hood ornament.

    <img src="http://i.ebayimg.com/t/NOS-OEM-Ford-LTD-Crown-Victoria-Hood-Ornament-Emblem-1986-1987-1988-1989-1990-/00/s/MTIwMFgxNjAw/$T2eC16JHJG8E9nyfmI4BBQDbc!D!y!~~60_35.JPG"&gt;

    • MVEilenstein

      I agree with you. Older cars with long front ends look best with hood ornaments.

    • Maymar

      My grandparents owned an '86 Crown Vic – growing up, I frequently ended up in the front middle seat (usually between my dad and grandfather), staring over the long hood at that same ornament.

  • DemonXanth
  • $kaycog

    I love hood ornaments. They add so much to a car and can be very useful.

    <img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-ivOGs1Yq_5Q/UCqSPm_2ZkI/AAAAAAAAAkU/ey5GtGAkZxE/s1600/hood-ornament-002.jpg"width="500"/&gt;

    • POLAЯ

      Oooh, is that a Sinkzuki? I'd tap that.

      • $kaycog

        Don't be a drip. It's a Faucetbishi.

        • gearz1

          Does that run?

          • $kaycog

            Off and on.

        • danleym

          I thought it was a Smart forthekitchen.

          • $kaycog

            No, it's Fordthekitchen.

            • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

              Funny, looks like a Lincoln Irrigator to me.

              • danleym

                You know, on second glace, it kind of looks like a Reliant Robinet.

                (Vavon should get this one)

                • Vavon


              • $kaycog

                And, of course, you're all wet.

                • Vavon

                  Well, at least this time you didn't say: I'm all wet!

                  • $kaycog

                    That goes without saying. We all know that.

        • POLAЯ

          Well isn't somebody a real H-2-Know-it-all this morning!

          • $kaycog

            I'm either hot or cold.

    • https://www.facebook.com/alex.w.wise tiberiusẅisë

      I'm hot AND cold on this.

      • $kaycog

        Oops, I used same comment before I got email notification.

        • https://www.facebook.com/alex.w.wise tiberiusẅisë

          Great minds…

    • Vavon

      After seeing the George Michael Ferrari, I'm guessing that this car is a special edition for Wet Wet Wet…

    • chut

      Thats obviously a Hummer H2-O

  • http://www.proofnpudding.com muthalovin
    • POLAЯ

      Fortified with double chicken taste! AyEE!

  • danleym

    In general, I like them. The good ones lend a touch of classy that isn't often present in today's cars.

    <img src="http://image.streetrodderweb.com/f/18768852+w750+st0/0906sr_12_z+1939_packard_sedan+hood_ornament.jpg&quot; width="500/">


    Completely depends on the car. I was sort of indifferent until I bought my XJR, but now I love my leaper ornament, and can't imagine the car without it. But the same ornament looks kind of dumb on an XF. So on the proper car, totally bruh. But on the wrong car, blah. Can you imagaine a Civic with a free standing H logo ornament? /shudder

  • http://hooniverse.com/ Tanshanomi

    <img src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-82TtOszive8/Tjho-frUKFI/AAAAAAACS2M/_wX-zL-drgk/s1600/car_hood_ornaments_26.jpg"&gt;
    Let's face it. Hood ornaments were just a way for engineers to sculpt naked chicks on company time.

    • danleym

      This ornament actually came about when a particular engineer was caught in his office with a half naked woman who wasn't his wife. Desperately trying to explain away the awkward situation (and keep his wife from finding out), he stammered that he was working on designing a new feature for next year's model. Much to his surprise, his boss believed him and loved the idea.

  • buzzboy7

    They look great while cars had upswept/pointy/raised hoodlines. This is by far my favorite.
    <img src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_i_AovfzNXgQ/TKlatNIyyeI/AAAAAAABUVs/Pwu42Xv8_P4/s1600/DSCN4225.JPG&quot; width="600">

  • http://www.automobile-catalog.com/ P161911

    I like them. I truly believe it made it easier for me to learn to drive way back when. You had a gun sight to aim the car!

    The favorite from a car I have actually owned is the 1967 Imperial Eagle:<img src="http://www.imperialclub.com/Yr/1967/SpottersGuide/hoodornament.jpg"width=400&gt;

    My all time favorite is the Rover viking: <img src="http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium-large/rover-viking-dennis-hedberg.jpg"width=400&gt;

  • Irishzombieman

    I love them. They were like a signature on a painting–artistic in their own right, but could stand alone from the painting itself as something significant.

    My favorite, by far, was this DeSoto. You could replace the amber face with a chrome one if you wanted, but I love the thought of having a weird, two-tone conquestidor preceding me down the highway.

    <img src="http://api.ning.com/files/BoaBhaB*-ce-8*ONg8u8medImHbx*qjAO3f9sFmHBf3Ls-Ly9BfhFfXn1VEvAyweVlYEzQRZelVmKrwwziubslVCtRkp3tV5/51DeSotoHoodOrnament.jpg&quot; width="450/">

    • gearz1

      That is a beauty,I think it may have had a light in it.

      • RahRahRecords

        I don't know if DeSoto ever did, but Pontiac had a light up face on some of their indian head ornaments

  • Vavon

    I think it's really brah on old cars, but to me it looks just blah on the new ones!
    <img src="http://pattgregor.free.fr/images/20090421140626_peugeot_403_embleme_capot_lion_pattgregor.jpg&quot; width="600/">

  • Devin

    I'm not sure what it is that makes hood ornaments work on some cars but not others, probably something to do with the shape of the hood combined with the way chrome is used and just the size of the car in general.

    For instance, this hood ornament is pretty charming:

    <img src="http://farm1.staticflickr.com/199/458990428_865288cdb7.jpg&quot; width="500" height="332" alt="Metropolitan Hood Ornament By Petty">

    But on the car itself, it looks a bit silly.

    <img src="http://farm1.staticflickr.com/196/458990464_a89a300af2.jpg&quot; width="500" height="279" alt="1955 Nash Metropolitan">

    • mr. mzs zsm msz esq

      Silly matches perfectly here, I love it!

  • topdeadcentre

    I love hood ornaments, when they match the vehicle.

    Here's a classic just as the weather is turning cold in the northern parts of the US:
    <img src="http://world.peace.net/%7Ejoelll/hood-ornament-sweater.jpg&quot; alt="Is a fisherman's knit really too much to ask for? My grandma could have done better, and she doesn't even have opposable thumbs!" title="Is a fisherman's knit really too much to ask for? My grandma could have done better, and she doesn't even have opposable thumbs!"width="400/">

  • topdeadcentre

    Ooooo… I finally located a favorite pic in my half-vast archives…

    "Oh no… not again!":
    <img src="http://world.peace.net/%7Ejoelll/mascot-oh-no.jpg&quot; alt="Of all the vintage Bentley bonnets in all the classic car clubs in the world, I had to end up on this one!" title="Of all the vintage Bentley bonnets in all the classic car clubs in the world, I had to end up on this one!" width="400/">

  • quattrovalvole

    Hongqi's translucent hood ornament is quite rad..

    <img src="http://www.carnewschina.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/hongqi-ca770-1-3-458×367.jpg&quot; />

  • salguod

    Late 40's Plymouths had hood ornaments that lit up, which is cool:

    <img src="http://assets.hemmings.com/uimage/10100370-700-0.jpg?rev=1"&gt;

    My T'bird has a hood scoop and two fender ornaments, which makes for a great view (sorry aboutt he lame Twitpic embed, too lazy to upload elsewhere):

    <img src="http://twitpic.com/show/thumb/hnk0r.jpg&quot; width="150" height="150" alt="Can't get a view like this in a new car. on Twitpic">

  • Irishzombieman

    <img src="http://img849.imageshack.us/img849/7489/78newyorkerhoodornament.jpg"&gt;

    Hood Ornament Story: The day I got my license was pretty cool. I’d failed the driving test my first three tries and had gotten a 98% on the fourth (that’s another story by itself), and my mom gave me her car for the day as congrats.

    It was a 1978 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. Huge by most standards, it was pretty average by the standards of my family. We were Jeep Wagoneer and Chrysler boat folk, and prior to this time I’d spent my youth being carted around in New Yorkers and Imperials from the late 60s and early 70s.

    So I got my license. And I drove back to school. And I drove my friends to lunch. And after school, after Academic Olympics team practice (yeah, I was one of them) I offered my friend Matt a ride home.

    Matt mock hesitated. He knew I’d failed the test three times and pretended to be concerned with my driving ability. I countered that I’d never rolled my car, which he’d done a week before. He responded with the word “yet”.

    Now the car Matt had rolled was a Escort EXP. His mom drove an E21 Beemer. Dad had an MGB. Matt had never in his life sat in a car the size and mass of my New Yorker. He climbed into the plush leather passenger seat. He closed the door, jumped a bit at the heavy, solid clunk . He buckled his seatbelt and looked around, like he’d fallen asleep and woke up on Mars.

    He pointed toward the front of the car and burst into laughter.

    “The hood ornament!” he gasped between fits. “I bet if I got out” -giggle- “walked to the front” -snort- “it’d take me ten” -wheeze- “minutes to get to the front of the” -guffaw- “BET THE HOOD ORNAMENT IS THIS BIG!” -uncontrollable cackling as he holds his hands two feet apart

    He laughed all the way to his house. Jerk.

  • Brad

    Growing up in the 70's and getting my license in the late 80's, I didn't have much experience with the venerable hood ornament. Grandpa's Lincoln Town Car had a nice one, and my parents' Olds station wagon probably had a smaller one.

    But my Hundai, Firebird, Audi and Tahoe never did. I now have a '53 Chrysler station wagon, with a giant, heavily stylized chrome eagle flying down the hood. Of the entire two ton contraption… that hood ornament is easily one of my favorite parts — pitted Korean War-era chrome and all.

  • RahRahRecords

    insert obligatory hot girl on hood image here:
    <img src="http://www.dodgechallenger.net/images/girl_on_chall_hood.jpg"&gt;
    Yep. I like hood ornaments.

  • AlexiusG55