I’ve got a bone to pick with automakers. There are simply not enough hood ornaments nowadays, and the companies known for their flashy décor are simply giving it all up, not particularly keen on that kind of symbol. And why not?
Mercedes has once again stripped a Benz—this time, the E-Class—of its hood ornament. This, my friends, is a sad day.
Now, I’m generally here for design and technology improvements in cars. I’m not the kind of person that yearns for the good ol’ days (although I can appreciate those days for what they were; there’s a difference). Normally when an old fashioned element disappears from a car, I say “good riddance.” But hood ornaments are where I’ll draw a line.
Hood ornaments are like your car’s mascot. They serve no modern purpose aside from enhancing the visuals, but adornment has always been important to us humans. Egyptians and Romans used to deck out their chariots with ornaments and talismans, which generally served a mystical as well as aesthetic purpose. Icons of gods or animal symbols conveying strength and good luck were stuck somewhere on these wheeled vehicles, in part to bring about whatever the icon represented but also to remind their rider to embody that representation.
It made sense, then, to add similar icons to the hood or radiator cap of cars when combustion engines hit the streets. Exposed radiator caps were visible on the hood of those initial cars, and it was a way to check the temperature of water vapor. But back when just about anyone could start up an automotive company and there were tons of different names out there, the hood ornament was a nice, easy way to identify the make of the car.
They eventually became a symbol of luxury, especially because of Mercedes-Benz’s iconic hood ornaments.
They started being phased out because they’re a danger to pedestrians. I have been hit by a car, and I have to say, it was painful enough without being impaled by a giant pointy thing on the hood, too.
But they were a nice touch. They were that little extra doodad to be proud of, and we could all use that little extra bit of personalization in our lives these days.