Motoring mascots at the Concours d’Elegance of Texas
MONTGOMERY, Texas — Like miniature sculptures, mascots sit atop the radiators and hoods of classic cars as if they were posing in an art gallery. While some are easily recognizable, I found several new ones at the Concours d’Elegance of Texas, held May 5 at La Torretta Lake Resort in this northern Houston suburb.
This is the second year for the event at the recently renovated resort on the shores of Lake Conroe, and about 100 cars were displayed on one of the resort fairways.
According to Motoring Mascots of the World by William C. Williams, the first mascot was a St. Christopher statuette placed on the dash of an 1896 Daimler by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. After that, the mascot idea caught fire. Examples could be purchased in jewelry shops and accessory stores.
One of the most interesting mascots was found on a 1928 Moon Diana two-door sedan. The Moon Motor Company was based in St. Louis. The Diana was produced by a wholly owned subsidiary, Diana Motors Company, between 1925 and 1928. The engine was a 72-horsepower, eight-cylinder Continental. Hydraulic brakes were standard. The beautiful radiator shell has a cameo-like badge, and this car was topped with woman mascot.
Designers began creating all kinds of figures for radiators. Some mascots were brand-specific, such as the Pierce-Arrow kneeling archer or the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy, but others were used found on a variety of makes. The Goddess of Speed, a forward leaning lady holding a wheel, is one of the most recognizable and often used mascots. Rene Lalique, a French jeweler and designer, created large mascots in crystal.
One of the most popular radiator adornments is the Boyce Motometer that contained a thermometer that the driver could read from inside the vehicle. Knowing the temperature of the water was crucial.
A 1932 Plymouth Sports Roadster had a flying lady wings leaning into the wind, and a stunning 1932 Buick Series 67 sedan sported a Mercury figure perched on the edge of its radiator cap. According to the car’s owner, Charles Nixon of Fort Worth, the Mercury was an option on the Buick.
Over the years, Cadillac’s flying lady has gone through several permutations, each one more streamlined and less distinct. The earlier versions, like the one on a 1941 Series 62 coupe, show a winged lady smiling into the wind, a fairly common theme.