From their plain beginnings as manufacturer’s badges installed on car radiators, hood ornaments evolved into an art form all their own. Early automobile badges were often made from enameled metal decorated with a company's name and logo, like the intricate butterfly symbol that branded Invicta automobiles in the 1920s ands '30s. Three-dimensional hood ornaments, or mascots as they are also called, were created as a combination of these official insignia and the home-made talismans car owners frequently attached to their radiators. A mixture of brand identifier and good-luck charm, hood ornaments quickly became standard decoration on automobiles during much of the 20th century.

A few early hood-ornament designs had functional properties, like the popular Calometer temperature gauge from the 1920s, which featured a glass-enclosed radiator thermometer mounted between a pair of outstretched wings. However, as car designs matured, most radiator mascots were created simply as emblems of speed and power, like the sleek jet-plane symbol used on Ford cars in the 1950s and '60s. Others explicitly integrated the manufacturer’s logo or brand, like the Austin of England ornaments from the 1940s, whose windswept lines formed the letters “A” and “E.”

Countless statuettes were modeled after animals, like the Packard swan, the Mac Truck bulldog, the Dodge ram’s head, or the Ford greyhound. Many other hood ornaments were created to represent ancient civilizations or mythological characters, like Armstrong Siddeley’s sphinx, Pontiac’s Native American bust, and Cadillac’s winged goddess.

While there have been many variations of the flying woman mascot, Rolls Royce’s “Spirit of Ecstasy,” is perhaps the most celebrated. Also nicknamed “Nelly in her Nighty,” the Rolls Royce ornament was designed from an original radiator cap statuette sculpted for Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, modeled after his mistress Eleanor Velasco Thornton. Rolls Royce’s hood ornaments were actually silver plated through 1914, but their frequent theft caused the company to switch to stainless steel.

During the 1920s, the illustrious glass studio Lalique introduced a series of beautifully sculptured radiator covers featuring classical deities and animal figures. These ornaments, which could be used to customize any standard car, ranged from “The Archer,” a flat disc engraved with a nude Grecian bow-hunter, to a stylized row of leaping glass horses. One of Lalique’s most popular designs, “The Dragonfly,” included a lighted, multicolored mechanism beneath its base, which revolved as the car moved to cast various shades of light up through the clear glass statue. By 1932, Lalique was offering 46 different radiator cap designs in its annual catalog, and the company’s eagle emblem had been adopted for use on cars belonging to Adolph Hitler’s Third Reich political party.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Hemmings Auto Blogs

Hemmings Auto Blogs

This great (and frequently updated) blog from the folks at Hemmings Motor News is a visual feast of old and new pho… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Most watched eBay auctions    

1930s Ford Vintage Car Radiator Airplane Automobile Hood Ornament MascotC1920 Original Old Bill Bronze Car Mascot / Hood Ornament By Bruce BairnsfatherVintage Antique Car Hood Ornament Radiator Cap Gas Oil Metal Sign~maker UnknownOriginal 1931, 1932 Chevrolet Eagle Radiator Cap Mascot Hood Ornament Nice1920s 30s Lincoln Phantom Radiator Cap Mascot Hood Ornament NiceBohemian Art Deco Glass Car Mascot Hood Ornament Butterfly Design H.hoffmannChevrolet Viking 1929-1931 Car Mascot Hood OrnamentOriginal Antique Vintage Red Devil Hood Ornament With Original Paint *no Reserve1948 1949 1950 Buick Style Gem Gun Sight Hood Ornament Red Lucite Rat Hot Rod Nr1954 Pontiac Hood Ornament Emblem Lighted Indian Chief LuciteVintage Chevrolet Hood Ornament Trunk Emblem ??Original 1935 Pontiac Car Indian Maiden Hood Ornament Mascot1936 Chevy Car New Hood Ornament L@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@k1937-1941 Packard Hood Ornament Goddess Of Speed Emblem Vintage HotrodPristine Original Bat Wing Radiator Cap Hood Ornament 1920sVintage Packard Swan Lighted Wings Hood Ornament, 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 Vintage 1931-1932 Chevy Chevrolet Eagle Hood Ornament Mascot, No Radiator CapVintage Antique Metal Lighted Airplane Hood Ornament Vintage Rare Chrysler Winged Cap With Gazelle Hood OrnamentFlying Lady Cast Iron Metal Sculpture Hood Ornament Mascot Finial Statue WomanAntique Moto Meter Radiator Thermostat Caps Hood Ornaments, Mercury, Folding CapVintage 1930s Eros / Cupid Car Bonnet Mascot - Brass Auto Rad Cap Hood OrnamentBohemian Art Deco Vaseline Glass Car Mascot Hood Ornament Victoire Vintage 1950s Standard Ten Rocket Car Mascot -british Motor Bonnet/hood OrnamentAmc Marlin 65-66 Hood OrnamentOld Antique Boyce Motometer Radiator Cap Hood Ornament Car Automobile Airplane 1953 1954 1955 Cadillac Hood Ornament Nice Chrome No PitsVintage Hood Ornament/ Radiator Cap 1920sPierce Arrow 1922 Car Mascot Hood OrnamentDodge Ram Pick Up Hood Ornament Emblem 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 Truck1954 Pontiac Hood Ornament Indian Lighted Original NiceVintage Packard Flying Swan Hood OrnamentCadillac Emblem's Lot, Hood Ornaments Trunk Emblem's 1955 - 56 Pontiac Deluxe Lighted Chrome & Lucite Jet Hood Ornament - 522077Essex Hood Ornament Radiator CapHot Rod Rat Rod Hood Ornament Oldsmobile ? Flying Spaceship Rocket AirplaneVintage Small Rocket Or Bomb Figural Bicycle Fender Or Pedal Car Hood OrnamentRare 1910s Kewpie Car Hood Mascot Ornament Radiator Cap Military Soldier Rat RodAntique Riker Car Radiator Badge Automobile Grille Emblem Hood Ornament Vtg1937 38 Dodge Ram Truck Hood Ornament Emblem Pn 746106 Antique 1940-50s Willys Jeep Grill Hood Ornament Horn Button Steering Wheel HubVintage Armstrong Siddeley Sphinx Hood Ornament Mascot Radiator Cap 1932 19281939 Hudson Hood Ornament Emblem Part# 134158 90 98 Very Rare With Plastic WingsDodge Ram Hood Ornament Mascotte Automobile Car Mascot Emblem Bonnet Vintage1953 Buick Hood Ornament Original Mounting Part 1953Ford Mustang Emblem Hood Ornament Desk Sign Pony Shelby Boss Truck Mobil Texaco1960 1961 1962 Bentley Hood Ornament Hot Rod Restore Custom Builder 60's 1955 Cadillac Hood Ornament1935 Chevrolet Hood Ornament Radiator Cap EagleHot Rod Rat Rod Hood Ornament 1940 Pontiac Indian Chieftain *wow No Reserve*Texaco Filling Station Metal Sign Gas Pump Vintage Style Chevrolet Buick Ford Vintage Classic Car Automobile Part Space Rocket Shape Mascot Hood Ornament Pontiac Indian 1933 Car Mascot Hood Ornament NrVintage Packard Hood OrnamentVintage Metal Chrome Plated Mack Truck Bulldog Hood Ornament Patent Design 87931Antique Boyce Moto Meter Radiator Thermostat Cap Hood Ornament Emblem Vintage Bucilla 70's #2827 Little Red Riding Hood Jeweled Felt Xmas Ornament KitFord Mustang Emblem Hood Ornament Desk Sign Pony Shelby Boss Truck Mobil TexacoVintage Very Nice Unknown Model Jaguar Hood Ornament Original PartVintage Antique Car Hood Ornament Radiator Cap Gas Oil Metal Sign~maker Unknown