At the Arizona Concours d’Elegance I was taken back and inspired by the rare and unique automobiles that were on display. The ambiance of these immaculate cars sprawled across the Arizona Biltmore lawn with music from Frank Sinatra playing in the background almost made me feel a bit sad. My generation, the millennials, don’t want to stop and smell the roses, let alone take time to notice details. We want to push forward and focus on the bottom line. This mentality has been reflected in the modern automobile as well as harsh restrictions and regulations.
I long for the elegance of a time when there were big swooping fenders, long hoods, chrome for days, headlights the size of my head, wheels with a million spokes, and ornate hood ornaments. Was I born in the wrong decade? Possibly. But I am thankful the generations before me have preserved such beautiful cars to be inspired by and learnt from.
What gets me the most are the hood ornaments. Because of regulations and cost, hood ornaments are nearly extinct in today’s automobiles, and while I don’t exactly think they need to make a comeback, I do think we need to stop and appreciate the details that goes into each one.
On this journey of examining hood ornaments I realized that most have a theme of motion, or even flight.
This is the hood ornament of a Pierce-Arrow car. The detail in this archer is amazing. One can clearly see the archer’s fingers, his hair, facial features, and defined abdominal muscles. I think if I was to drive around in this car I would pretend I was shooting everyone with arrows.
And they said flying cars were ridiculous. Clearly someone initiated this idea a long time ago but slightly underestimated the propeller size that would be needed… I’m ready to take flight with this hood ornament. On a serious note, I do enjoy the simplicity this ornament has, but the small details make it extraordinary.
This one is clearly a radiator cap, but it is cool because it has a bird in flight on the hood. I see this taking flight/flying thing is a reoccurring theme among these classic automobiles. I really appreciate that they took the time to give this ornament texture and show the feathers.
Here we are presented with the idea of taking flight with this crane-like bird exhibiting grace and elegance on the hood of a glamourous old Cadillac. The details in the wings are simple and clear, while the head of the animal shows a distinct face.
This classic MG ornament appeals to me in an odd way. Yes, it has wings, and is more complex than the birds and even the propeller ornament because it has more components, but the more components make this ornament less desirable. The details aren’t as clear and sharp as the other ornaments making this particular ornament far less impressive or commanding.
Purely for ornamental purposes, this grey hound dog ornament is intense. I feel like the dog is about to jump off the car and come at me. The lines are so clean and the rib detailing makes this ornament realistic along with the head detail. However, this ornament kind of loses me toward the bottom where the hind legs of the animal are tangled together in a metal mess making the tail seem obsolete.
The Packard ornament is one of the most iconic ornaments and one of the most identifiable. No matter from what angle you see it, it looks beautiful. It captures that sense of flight and aggressiveness that designers seemed to love on the old automobiles. What I like so much about the ornament is that the design is clean and has sharp lines that take the guess work out of guessing what it is.
Nicole James has been involved in the automotive world her entire life. Her dream car is a 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe. She currently drives a 2005 Mustang affectionately known as Marilyn and uses the car to participate in track events, car shows, and explore the world around her. Nicole joined the ClassicCars.com Content and Marketing team in 2014. Nicole is an automotive journalist and the creator of Pretty Driven - an online source for car culture and news for millennials, as well as a contributor for ClassicCars.com. Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @Nicoleeellan