There was a time when a lady would never dream of leaving the house without her hat and gloves, and in the case of early motorcars, these "ladies" were dressed for status with stunning hood ornaments, also called mascots. Luxury Experience Magazine visits the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance to have a look at these shining examples of art.
The Greenwich Concours d'Elegance, held each year in June at the Roger Sherman Baldwin Park in Greenwich, Connecticut, offers car aficionados the opportunity to see some of the finest examples of American and International motorcars over a period of two-days. The show held from June 7-8, 2008, featured 275 motorcars and 20 motorcycles, and as always, Edward F. Nesta and I attended both days of the show with a focus this year on learning more about the famous mascots.
The first day of the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance always features American motorcars, and the second day feature International motorcars, and the selection of motorcars represented this year at the show was exceptional from the earliest entry of a 1901 Crestmobile Runabout to the latest entry a 2006 Spyker C8 Convertible, and even a Target/Ganassi Racecar.
Edward and Debra at Greenwich Concours d'Elegance
Hood ornaments, or mascots as they are often called, were designed not only as mere status symbols, but they also served a function to decorate the radiator caps when the caps were on the outside of the car on the hood. When radiator caps no longer appeared on the outside of cars, hood ornaments mostly disappeared except for ultra-luxury motorcars, for a variety of reasons, two of which were the risk of safety in a crash, and theft. However, when they were in fashion from 1910s to the 1950s, they were fabulous pieces of sculpture, and for the fortunate few, who had personalized hood ornaments designed for them, the ultimate in vanity accessories.
One of the many American motorcar mascots that caught my eye at the show included the 1929 Duesenberg J116 Four Door, with its stylized art deco design. Duesenberg built the model J between the years 1928 - 1937.
The Pierce-Arrow motorcar built in Buffalo, New York, was another popular status car of its day (1901 -1938) and features the easily recognizable mascot, "the archer," with a man poised on one knee holding a bow and arrow. Pierce-Arrow motorcars on display at the show included a 1930 Pierce-Arrow Model B Dual-Cowl Phaeton, and a 1934 Pierce-Arrow Silver-Arrow 840A Coupe.
1930 Pierce-Arrow 1934 Pierce-Arrow
Buick was well represented with selection of motorcars including a 1928 Buick Master Four-Door Sedan, a 1930 Buick Marquette Sports Roadster Model 34, and a 1952 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon. It was interesting to note the changes in the Buick mascot over the years.
1928 Buick 1952 Buick 1930 Buick
Packard Motor Car Company was based in Detroit, Michigan and produced luxury motorcars from 1899 to 1958. The Packard motorcars had either one of two mascots, the "Cormorant" a bird with its head in a downward position and its stylized wing tips straight up, or the "Goddess of Speed," a woman holding a tire in her outstretched arms.
1931 Packard Model 833 1933 Packard Model 1005
There were several examples of the Packard style at the show including a 1931 Packard Model 833 Convertible (Goddess of Speed), 1933 Packard 1005 Convertible Coupe (Cormorant), 1935 Packard Super 8 Coupe Model 1204 Convertible Coupe (Cormorant), 1937 Packard 120 Convertible Coupe (Goddess of Speed), 1941 Packard 180 Touring Sedan (Cormorant), and a 1942 Packard Model 110 Convertible (Goddess of Speed).
1935 Packard 1937 Packard 120
It was interesting to note the slight variations of the Goddess of Speed Packard mascot in the 1931 version where the mascot has her head pointed up and a more graceful and defined body, whereas the 1937 version has a definite art deco style and less defined body, and the 1942 Goddess of Speed has Lucite wings.
1942 Goddess of Speed
The following day, the show featured International motorcars, where among the many interesting French motorcars on display included a 1907 Peugeot 92D Tourer that caught my eye with its unusual menacing exhaust; and a 1927 Georges-Irat Two-Door Cabriolet which featured a streamlined hood ornament.
1907 Peugeot 92D Tourer 1927 Georges-Irat
Another beauty was the 1927 Isotta-Fraschini Tipo 8A S Roadster built by the Italian luxury automobile maker that was in operation from 1899 - 1949, with its cobra mascot with red tipped fangs that looked like it was poised and ready to strike.
What I especially enjoy about attending the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance, besides the ability to see spectacular motorcars, is the opportunity to always learn something new each year. Speaking with one of the Judges, who noticed me admiring a 1927 Rolls-Royce Playboy Convertible Coupe, he shared a little of the history behind the legendary intertwined RR emblem, which of course stands for the initials of the owners Frederick Henry Royce, and Charles Rolls, who founded the company in 1906. When the owners died, Charles Rolls in 1910 in a flying accident, and Frederick Henry Royce in 1933, the RR emblem that had been painted red was changed to black. The next time you see a Rolls-Royce with the RR emblem in red you will know that the car was made before 1933.
1927 Rolls-Royce Playboy Rolls-Royce RR Emblem
The artist Charles Sykes' created the first mascot to adorn a Rolls-Royce motorcar for John Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, (Second Lord Montagu of Beaulieu). The muse for the sculpture was none other than Eleanor Velasco Thornton, who was the secret love of John Edward Douglas-Scott-Montagu, and the mascot was called "The Whisper."
By 1910, other Rolls-Royce motorcar owners began to request mascots for their motorcars, as until that time, there was only the RR emblem on the motorcars. The company employed Mr. Sykes to create a mascot that would adorn all future Rolls-Royce motorcars. He modified "The Whisper" which became the now famous "Spirit of Ecstasy" or the "Flying Lady" as she is known in the United States. Throughout the years, there have been two versions of the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, a kneeling version, and a standing version. Although reduced to a mere 3inches today, the standing version of the mascot still adorns Rolls-Royce motorcars. A few of the other Rolls-Royce motorcars at the show included a 1929 Rolls-Royce Springfield Phantom 1, and a brand new 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe.
1929 Rolls-Royce Springfield 2008 Rolls-Royce Phantom
Also on hand for the occasion was racing legend and specialty car and safety engineer, John Fitch, who at 91 years young come August 4, 2008, captured the audiences' hearts and their ears, as he shared a few of his racing stories, whose many racing credentials include being the only American driver for the Mercedes-Benz team in the 1950s, driving for the Briggs-Cunningham team at Le Mans, and winning at Sebring in a C4-R. Racing aficionados were also interested in purchasing Mr. Fitch's book, Racing with Mercedes, and the documentary A Gullwing at Twilight: The Bonneville Ride of John Fitch. At 89 years, he raced a Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing at Bonneville proving that the racing "bug" lasts a lifetime.
Terry Dunne and John Fitch
In the true spirit of the glory days of motorcars and their fabulous mascots, a few of the owners and their friends dressed in period clothing to accessorize their motorcars. Gorgeous period outfits at the show included those worn by Gwen and Parker Ackley; and the Pritchard family: Lynn, Nicholas, and baby Lili.
Nicholas, The Pritchard Family, Lili
The next time you have the opportunity to see a vintage motorcar, be sure to take a look at the mascot. Until next year!
Gwen and Parker Ackerley
To learn about the Greenwich Concours d'Elegance, please visit the website: www.GreenwichConcours.com. Hope to see you June 6-7, 2009!
Bruce and Genia Wennerstrom
Greenwich Concours d'Elegance
30 Sumner Road
Greenwich, CT 06831
© August 2008. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com All rights reserved.