Carmel Magazine

CM Summer 2015

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C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S U M M E R / F A L L 2 0 1 5 97 hood. Thus the hood ornament was born as a design element to deco- rate the radiator cap. Elaborate hood ornaments became a focal point for personalization and branding by automotive manufacturers. The bold lines of the 1930s' Art Deco era produced winged goddesses, soaring birds and impeccably styled animals, cast in brass, zinc, or bronze and often finished in chrome plate. The best-known glass mascots were made by René Lalique in France. By 1920, Lalique envisioned a new design for the automobile, elevating glass artistic design above the metallic standard in the mascot. During the next seven years, Lalique created a total of 27 mascots, symbolizing ener- gy, speed, motion and human sensuality, each expressing the grace and details of human and animal forms, and offered the mascots either "light- ed or unlighted." Once the automobile was in motion however, a tightly fitted Lalique glass mascot was subject to damage by bumps, road debris, weather con- ditions, and wind pressure. Such conditions remain the primary reason that so few original Lalique mascots exist today. Even the finest mountings possible survived little more than a few years. In the '50s, automakers moved toward a wide, smooth design for hoods. Consequently the ornaments became more abstract expressions, such as jet planes or rockets. The 1958 Chevy Bel Air was released with the absence of a hood ornament. It was a sign of the diminishing art. As we progressed through the '60s, hood ornaments all but vanished from the cars coming out of Detroit, once safety regulations stepped in and they had to be designed retractable. Where once every model seemed to be graced by one, they now seemed to be exclusively the domain of large autos with a reputation for luxury. Most automotive mascots were reserved for prestige autos like Mercedes, Rolls Royce, Bentley and Jaguar. There is a collectors' market for hood ornaments. It is big business and some mascots, such as a René Lalique Mascot Renard—a frosted glass fox figure on a round base — sold at Bonham's Auction for $338,500, as only about seven are known to exist worldwide. Collectors can find them at auc- tion, on eBay and at automobile shows such as "Automobilia," August 11- 12, scheduled during Concours week at the Embassy Suites in Monterey. These elegant, miniature works of art represent the golden age of the automobile, a time when the car symbolized something grand. They are viewed as either wonderful or garish, depending upon your perspective. But no matter, they were drawn to decadence and impeccably styled as they sat upon the hoods as a great perch from which to view their admirers. Marjorie Snow is a published writer and photographer with a vast knowl- edge of antiques and their history. Snow was the owner of Terra Cotta in Las Vegas, an exclusive architectural vintage gallery, which was featured in numer- ous West Coast magazines. French Frog Pulling Snail - circa 1920s René Lalique Falcon, 1930s Custom Mascot Custom Bespoke Mascot, titled "The Driver" - circa 1920s

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