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The History of Hood Ornaments

Cars were once manufactured with radiator caps jutting up from the hood. To make these radiator caps more attractive, car manufacturers turned to hood ornaments. These were usually miniature statues of animals, people, or even cars. They quickly became important car design elements and even after radiator caps moved under the hood, hood ornaments remained for quite some time. Some are still highly recognizable today, such as the Jaguar Leaper, Bugatti Dancing Elephant, Bentley Flying B, and Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy. However, luxury cars weren’t the only ones with hood ornaments – ordinary brands used them, too. For example, Chevrolets featured eagles (and once even featured an eagle/train mashup!), while Plymouths featured sailboats. Around the 1980s, hood ornaments fell out of use due to concerns about safety, security, and fuel economy. However, these design elements are not completely gone. If you look carefully at the grille of many cars, you will see references to the hood ornaments of yesteryear included there. For example, Mercedes-Benz displays its iconic three-pointed star prominently on the grille of their cars today.

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