Once upon a time, one of the distinguishing features of all virtually automobiles – especially premium models – were their various forms of hood ornamentation. Those high-end models often had custom coachbuilt bodies, meaning that they rarely looked alike. The ornamentation not only showed the way down the road for captains of industry, it also helped bystanders distinguish a Duesenberg from a Cadillac or a Hispano-Suiza. Eventually, most mainstream cars also carried some sort of sculpture up front as well. Some of these design flourishes became truly iconic like the Rolls-Royce "Spirit of Ecstasy", Bentley's "Flying B", the Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star, and, of course, Jaguar's leaper.
In recent decades, however, the combination of cost reduction, attention to aerodynamics and safety concerns have seen the elimination of most hood ornaments. A few remain on modern automobiles, but by and large, the best place to enjoy the artistry inherent in grille-mounted statuary are at events like the Meadowbrook Hall Concours. Enjoy our high-res gallery.