A short story about radiators mascots or hood ornaments. According to the author of A History of Cars, the first “hood ornament” was a sun-crested falcon mounted on Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s chariot.
In the early years, automobiles had their radiator caps outside of the hood and on top of the grille which also served as an indicator of the temperature of the engine’s coolant fluid. The Boyce MotoMeter Company was issued a patent in 1912 for a radiator cap that incorporated a thermometer that was visible to the driver with a sensor that measured the heat of the water vapor, rather than the water itself.This was very useful for the driver because many engines of this era did not have water pumps, but a circulation system based on the “thermo-syphon” principle as in the Ford Model T.
The “exposed radiator cap became a focal point for automobile personalization.“ This was a very early form to customize your car by setting a statement with an elegant, a funny or even a branded radiator mascot. The radiator cap was transformed into an art form and became a way of individualizing the car, “representing a company’s vision of the automobile”, or “speaking volumes about the owner” of the vehicle.
Hood ornaments were very popular in the pre-war era until the 1950s, with many automakers fitting them to their vehicles. During the 1920s, advertisements for Mercedes-Benz emphasized their “star” hood ornament as representing the “world best automobile and as the ultimate symbol of luxury.
Moreover, a good business was created in the supply of accessory mascots available to anyone who wanted to add a hood ornament or car mascot to their automobile. Most companies like Desmo and Smith’s are now out of business with only Louis Lejeune Ltd. in England surviving. Sculptors such as Bazin, Paillet, Sykes, Renevey, and Lejeune all created finely detailed sculptures in miniature, like statuettes.
Later in time the hood ornaments in their period design were not permitted anymore because of the danger for pedestrians in case of an accident. So this era found an end, which is a bit sad, but today so many cool designs of the radiator mascots are presented at Classic Car Meetings, mounted on an old car or presented as collector items in showcases.
Have a closer look at our gallery here.