HomeCar CultureEye candy: Hood ornaments from an elegant era

Eye candy: Hood ornaments from an elegant era


Photos by Larry Edsall

Once upon a time, radiators that provided coolant to a car’s engine sat proudly out front in the open air. Often, that radiator was topped not merely by a cap, but by a decorative piece that included a temperature indicator to warn the driver of approaching the boiling point.

Along came engineers with wind-cheating aerodynamics and designers who added style to the automotive equation and instead of exposed parts cars had sleek bodywork that enclosed the radiator behind a sometimes decorative grille and beneath a hood.

But how would the driver know the temperature of the coolant? Now there was a gauge on the vehicle’s dashboard.

And what of the ornate radiator cap? Well, that space now could be used for any sort of  decorative ornament, usually designed by the car company to portray its mascot, but sometimes car owners would find, commission or create their own hood ornaments.

For your nostalgic viewing pleasure, these are some of the hood ornaments we’ve seen as we’ve visited classic car shows and auctions in the past few months.


Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


  1. Hood ornaments often are sold at automotive “flea” markets and at automobillia sales and by some of the vendors at classic car auctions. The new Automobilia Scottsdale sale is coming up later this month (there’s a story on the blog about it).

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