Hood ornaments have a long history and originated as radiator caps when cars first featured water cooled engines. Their prominent upfront location caused them to be used for all sorts of announcements, not all of them admirable. Early hood ornaments, which were often customized by the car's owners, consisted of fat cops, airplanes with rotating propellers, the devil thumbing his nose and so on. In some cases manufacturers put some design effort into the shapes, creating what we might today refer to as a "branding" effect. When radiators ceased to be part of the exterior of a car the tradition continued with the hood ornaments and badges seen today in new cars.
The Spirit of Ecstasy
The iconic Rolls Royce hood ornament has been the same since 1911 and was designed by Charles Sykes. The official Rolls Royce label is "The Spirit of Ecstasy", but it is informally known as "Nellie in her Nightie", a nod to Eleanor Velasco Thornton, the model for the original sculpture. Other monikers include "Spirit of Speed", "Silver Lady" and "Flying Lady". It is still in use today on Rolls Royces with the added feature of being electrically retractable.
Well known Packard hood ornament is sometimes known as "Man pushing a donut". Below is the classic Duesenberg symbol.
1935 Auburn 851 Speedster
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