Iconic Chevy Hood Ornaments: The Golden Age of Autos
In the early days of the automotive industry, cars needed hood ornaments – even though they were more utilitarian and ornamental. Early cars had radiator caps that had meters that drivers could see from the interior. Once auto manufacturers moved the radiator meters into the interior, exterior radiator caps became ornamental and car designers used the hood ornament as a decorative status symbol.
Even though hood ornaments were originally designed to show the differences between each car maker, the hood ornaments, especially on American cars, were quite alike. The streamlined look of the hood ornaments existed from the late 1920s through the 1950s. Once the muscle cars came into popularity, the hood ornament became a luxury item and they detracted from the toughness of the hot rods.
Most of the American hood ornaments followed the popular trends of the day. The earliest hood ornaments tended to be female and then evolved into sleek and streamlined birds (or bird-women), and especially eagles. The Chevy Master was first decorated with a female eagle that transformed into a more streamlined eagle through the years. Many Chevy Master owners take special care to put the appropriate eagle, locomotive, or combination ornament and to make sure it has an homage to the Art Deco period that defined the glory days of the early Chevy.
Along with the Master, the Chevy Impala was known for its exquisitely designed hood ornament. While most other Chevys especially those built in the 30s and 40s had eagles, locomotives or airplanes, the Impala had an impala.
Watching the evolution of the hood ornament is a lesson in aerodynamics. The earliest hood ornaments were tall and rather bulky, but as cars became sleek and streamlined, so went the hood ornaments. It was only natural that the locomotives became a common site on Chevys and other cars that were designed to be swift and stylish.
The final years of the decorative Chevy hood ornaments were gun sights that were found on the iconic 1957 Belair and Delray. Instead of one big ornament in the middle of the hood, the 1957 models had two on both sides of the hood. In the post-1957 years, the Chevy Caprice was one of the last models to have a hood ornament, but it was not overly artistic; it was just the blue bowtie Chevy logo.