The stately hood ornament’s quiet demise

That ultimate symbol of brand and luxury, the automotive hood ornament, seems to be nearing the end of the road. Newsweek reports that Jaguar has quietly stopped offering its signature cat figurine as a standard feature, and Mercedes is using a raised ornament on less than one-third of its new models. Hood ornaments have been on the decline for decades, especially since Ralph Nader ruined the fun by pointing out that these often spear-like flourishes had a habit of, well, spearing pedestrians. But you have to admire the impressively long run of a design technique that started out simply as a way to gussy up radiator caps in the 1920s. If you just can’t say goodbye to yesterday, fear not. Hood ornaments still come standard on Lincoln Town Cars and Mack trucks. And they must still be popular with at least one crowd: thieves. Rolls-Royce has had to program its ornaments to retract into the hood when the doors are locked. For more photos like the one above, check out this beautiful Flickr set from the Blackhawk Museum.

—Posted by David Griner

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