But fear not, you can indulge your motoring obsessions in considerably less costly ways. And you can find a way to scratch the itch for something car-related by checking out this online auction that features fantastic pieces from the automotive past.
For anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, you can collect works by renowned designers and artists like Raymond Loewy, William Schnell, or Rene Lalique – and you won’t require a 12-car garage to house your collection.
There was a time when a hood ornament on a car was nearly as interesting as the coachwork or the gleaming chrome, and over time the ornamentation on hoods and radiators became expressions of aspiration and artistic creation. Experts say these bits of ornamentation – or ‘mascots’ – have been around for thousands of years. In fact, one of the first was a Falcon mounted on Egyptian Pharaoh King Tutankhamun’s chariot.
It seems the work done by pioneering French industrial designer Loewy for the 1932 Hupmobile – his first production automobile design – set the tone for things to come. In terms of automotive involvement Loewy is most well-known for his work with Studebaker. But his initial automotive client was Hupmobile. Hupmobile was attempting to attract middle and upper-middle price buyers during the late 1920s, just as the Great Depression set in.
Their answer to the problem was to hire Loewy, and the designer offered a different take on the cars in general which featured swooping coachwork with aerodynamic features. Loewy’s futuristic ‘spaceship’ hood ornament mascot for the 1936 Hupmobile is now prized by collectors and perfectly complements one of the first ‘aerodynamic’ automobiles designs built in the United States. Loewy was also responsible for iconic design projects such as the S1 Steam locomotive, the Studebaker Starliner, the Metro Van, 1932 Hupmobile and the 1954 Greyhound Bus.
Lalique was also one of the pioneers of the mascot niche, and he went on to produce 29 designs over seven years and become the most famous name in a field that included competitors in France, Britain and the artists at the Corning Glass Company in upstate New York. Lalique mascots often depicted animals, birds, insects, comets and some nudes. Most were blown in clear glass and others were frosted or tinted. The Art Deco-inspired Spirit of the Wind of 1928 stood 255 mm high.
These mascots eventually morphed into functional pieces of art in the form of radiator caps and gauges. The company that pioneered the idea and owned the patent for the gauged hood ornament, Boyce MotoMeter Company, took orders from individuals and created commissioned pieces for auto manufacturers.
Motometers were originally aftermarket devices but later vehicle builders soon began offering them as standard or optional equipment and dealerships began offering them as sales incentive items. The MotoMeter Company also found a market in customizing their products for specific automakers. The company went on to offer new designs such as hood ornaments, illuminating devices or locks and lock covers.
It took the 1970s to kill the hood ornament, and by the late 80s, hood ornaments were so rare thieves set to work ripping them from body panels to wear as necklaces and sell on street corners.
One of the largest and most expensive collections of mascots was sold during the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance where Canadian-based RM Auctions hammered a close to an auction for a 30-piece collection of the works of Rene Lalique for a startling $805,000 USD.
So that thing about indulging your tastes in a relatively inexpensive way? I guess I may have been wrong about that, but you can check out these lovely designs at Bonhams.