By any name — badge, emblem, insignia, logo, nameplate — whatever symbol a car manufacturer uses to market and showcase its vehicles means a lot in the automotive industry.
Some car badges are globally recognizable, while other a far less well known but remain distinguished among collectors and automotive insiders.
A car badge is some ways is no different from a badge on a law enforcement officer. In different ways, it means the same thing — authority.
The three-point star of Mercedes-Benz means the authority of the open road and Germany engineering. The Leaping Jaguar is unmistakable as the symbol of the authority of elegance of Jaguar. Corvette has used several different badges, including the one below
Not all automobiles badges or emblems carry the same authority or are as well known. But automobiles all bear badges.
Here are 10 favorites:
A visionary car manufacturer for his time, Sydney Allard was an Englishman who married powerful American V8 engines with lightweight British chasses. The company, with Allard’s penmanship skills as its badge, lasted less than a decade.
Power junkie car collectors like Allards (only about 1900 were made) because they’re reminiscent of the Shelby Cobra and Sunbeam Tiger. Allard died in 1966.
Sometimes mistaken for a reference to the Olympics, the four Audi rings represent the merger in 1932 of the Germany’s oldest manufacturers: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer.
The merger occurred for economic reasons and the carmakers together became Auto Union. Following WWI, the company assumed the name Audi, which is Latin for “I hear.”
Defunct 45 years ago, the emblem is the amalgamation of four German automobile manufacturers, which later became took only the name Audi. The others were DKW, Horch and Wanderer.
The Auto Union logo was particularly well-known racing, where its teams dominated Grand Prix racing for years beginning in the mid 1930s. BMW BMW was established in 1913 and its initials stand for Bayerische Motoren Werke or Bavarian Motor Company.
The famed marker reflects the company’s beginning as an aero engine manufacturer. The four quadrants of white and blue color represent an airplane propeller spinning against the clear blue sky.
The logo represents a white propeller blade against a blue sky. And there’s nationalistic connection, too. White and blue are the traditional colors of Bavaria.
With its redesign in 1968, the C3 generation, the Corvette also featured a new emblem. It was appreciably bolder with the flags no longer including a circular boarder. The flags had a much stouter stance, just like the larger C3.
The black prancing horse symbol on yellow background, usually with the letters S F for Scuderia Ferrari, was originally the symbol of Count Francesco Baracca, a legendary Italian air force ace during World War I.
He painted the prancing horse on his planes. Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the company, admired Baracca, who in addition to his flying skills had been enrolled in a Cavalry regiment and was reputed to be the best cavalier of his team.
Sometimes assistants deserve a lot more credit. Henry Ford’s engineering assistant developed a stylized version of the words “Ford Motor Company.”
The presentation of the word “Ford” has changed, but the original penmanship style remains. The last and current edition is the blue oval, named the Centennial Blue Oval. It debut in the 2003 in honor of the company’s 100 years.
Is there a better logo or more recognized logo in car industry?
Introduced in 1935, the current “leaping jaguar” logo was unveiled a decade later. Jaguars are known for their speed, strength and power, but the car manufacturer uses the symbol in different ways.
The use of a black jaguar represents elegance, integrity and high performance. The metallic grey and silver options, according to the carmaker, designate sophistication, modernity and perfection. Who’s to argue?
The Maserati badge represents Neptune’s trident and is a traditional symbol of the town where the brand’s factory was first built, Bologna.
Although there are variations, the trident is often red and rests on blue base. Ironically, Mario Maserati, the only brother in the automobile-oriented family, created the Maserati logo, basing its design on the Neptune’s statue at Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore. It was first used on a Maserati in 1926.
Based loosely on a hand-drawn star on a postcard sent as a symbol of pending prosperity from Gottlieb Daimler, the found of Daimler, to his wife. Daimler’s sons suggested a three and four-point star as the company’s trademark to honor their father.
Both star options were trademarked, but the three-point option was chosen in 1910 as was further defined apparently as Daimler’s ambition of universal motorization – “on land, on water and in the air.” In 1916, a circle surrounded the tips.
(Click on the image below to view 10 famous and not-so-famous car badges.
My blogpost was written as part of my collaboration with eBay.
Article Last Updated: September 14, 2014.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.