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What happened to hood ornaments?

By Product Expert | Posted in Mercedes-Benz, Rolls-Royce, Safety, Tips & Tricks on Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 at 9:37 pm
Rolls-Royce Phantom purple side view front close up

Why do modern cars not have hood ornaments?

Do you want to know where hood ornaments came from? How about where they went? Come to think of it, why do modern cars not have hood ornaments anymore? We have your answers and we will dive into many more fun hood ornament facts.

Jaguar hood ornament black and whiteOrigins of hood ornaments

Hood ornaments have been around for longer than cars have been around. In fact, The Egyptian Pharaoh King Tut had a hood ornament of sorts on his chariot. In cars though, they actually originated as a radiator cap embellishment.

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Many of the first cars had their radiators mostly exposed. With the cap sitting at the crest of the hood in the middle, manufacturers needed to do something to make it look better. Thus, the hood ornament was born, and its tradition carried on for decades after the radiators became buried underneath hoods.

2019 Mercedes-Maybach green front side view with hood ornamentSafety reasons for the decline of hood ornaments

Hood ornaments are actually a major safety concern as recognized by countries the world over. They are not a concern for the driver, or even other drivers, but for pedestrians. If a car with a fixed hood ornament strikes a pedestrian, they can become impaled or the ornament can break off inside them. Nobody wants that.

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For this reason, the United States began requiring hood ornaments to fold in the event of collisions in 1968. The European Union followed with similar legislation in 1974. To accomplish folding, many techniques were employed, but most common was a spring type mechanism. However, many manufacturers found it easier to just exclude hood ornaments altogether.

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Rolls-Royce Phantom front view purpleOther reasons for the decline in hood ornaments

One big issue that isn’t safety related was that hood ornaments were very easy to steal, and since many people collected them, they became a popular item for theft. Many manufacturers began reinforcing them for a time, but once the safety regulations were in place, making a hood ornament that was hard to steal became much more difficult.

Another reason, and perhaps the biggest reason is that hood ornaments simply fell out of style. Solutions have been made to reduce injury to meet safety standards and even to reduce theft. For example, the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament will retract if it detects that it’s being tampered with.

Hood ornaments are an old artifact from the history of cars, and only brands that like to hold a candle to their history, like Mercedes-Benz and Rolls-Royce, still have hood ornaments in their lineups.


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