Antique Detective: Old Car Mascots Can Be Costly

ad_1_2By Anne Gilbert


   Once upon a time an ultimate status symbol was a hood mascot for wealthy auto owners. A mascot wasn’t a pet dog. These days old car hood ornaments are an expensive collectible, and the pet name is Rene’ Lalique.    Probably the first hood ornament didn’t adorn a car, but a chariot. Credit Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamen with having a sun-crested falcon (a good luck symbol) mounted on the front of his chariot.


   Fast forward to the 1920s, and early status cars like Citroen and Bentley. In 1925 Citroen autos commissioned famed glass maker Rene’ Lalique to created a figural glass sculpture to put on top of auto radiator caps. It served as a temperature indicator for the engine coolant. He referred to them as “radiator caps.”


   Laliques’ first creation was fitted for the 1925 Citroen 3CV. Over the next seven years he designed 27 mascots. They were a diverse group that symbolized energy, speed, motion, religion, forms of nature and sexuality.


  ad1_1 Made of glass they were clear, frosted or had a satin finish. Others were tinted amethyst, pink and other colors.


   His rarest mascot is the “Renard” (fox). Only seven are known to have survived. Later mascots were sturdier, made with thicker bases.


   When private collections come to auction, prices are in the high thousands.


   Other artists of the 20s also made hood ornaments, mostly in metals. Among them Casimir Braus who created them in silvered bronze as well as chrome-plated steel. William Schnell made Lalique type figural mascots.


ad1_3   CLUES: Of course, there are reproductions. Bohemian glass, currently makes Lalique glass reproductions from the original molds. One example “Victoire” is priced at $169. The original Lalique car hood could sell for as much as $17,000.


   All authentic Lalique pieces are signed “R. Lalique-France.”


   These days it isn’t the fancy cars sporting hood mascots, but trucks and pickup trucks. Made of chrome they feature all kinds of sometimes weird subjects, from skulls to rams heads with illuminated eyes. Prices are modest these days but they can be future hot collectibles.


   PHOTO CAPTION: (1) Cast metal Packard Hood ornament. PHOTO CREDIT: (1) Skinner auctions PHOTO CAPTION: (2) Lalique frosted hood mascot, “Tete D’Aigle’ (The eagle.) PHOTO CREDIT: (2) Skinner auctions. PHOTO CAPTION: (3) Reproduction, Bohemian glass. “Victoire.” PHOTO CREDIT: CHARMARTS2000. Prague Czech Republic

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