(first posted 2/13/2013) I’m not just a car lover – I’m also a former book editor. From my years in publishing I learned how subtle type and layout choices can change a book’s entire look and influence how readers perceive it. It made me into something of a type geek. And so I look at the badges on cars. Do you look at them too?
Most letterforms you see attached to cars are not downloadable as typefaces you can use on your computer, though. Artists create them specially for each use, such as on this 1961 Pontiac.
Car logotypes are meant to convey something about the automobile to which they are attached, such as the stately, elegant lettering on this 1947 Cadillac.
This badge’s closely-spaced, forward-leaning letters say that this 1969 Dodge Charger means business. The swirling C suggests the turbulence this powerful car leaves in its wake.
This Forward-Look 1959 Plymouth Sport Fury’s badge fashions an F out of a chevron reminiscent of the futuristic dual-vertical-chevron Forward Look logo itself. And just check out that long, flat flank to which it’s attached.
All of these forward-leaning logos suggest moving forward, something you certainly hope your car can do. This 1963 Impala runs against that grain with upright, individual block letters that exude confidence and strength.
Have you ever noticed how seldom individual letters are used anymore? They certainly have to be more expensive and harder to get right in assembly. Notice the slightly dropped O in the Plymouth logo on this 1962 Belvedere.
This badge from a 1941 Buick Super solves that problem by only making the letters appear to be individual, when they’re really in relief as part of a single stamping of steel.
Sometimes it takes very little to make a bold statement. These three small numbers on this hood scoop say an awful lot about the 1970 Dodge Super Bee to which they are attached.
I’ve always thought GM’s 1960s logotypes were the most appealing ever. Admit it – you can spot this SS badge on a car from a mile away using just your peripheral vision. These two letters instantly convey a certain meaning, or at least they did until the 1970s when GM fouled it by attaching them to cars that were only trimmed to look sporty. But I digress.
A swirly, whimsical logo simply would not do for an engine as serious as this one, which is stuffed into a 1972 Dodge Charger. Blunt, block letterforms speak more clearly to the punch under this hood.
Automobile badges most commonly identify make, model, trim level, and engine. They also sometimes call out important new features, too, at least until those features become common to all automobiles. Remember how many 1990s GM cars called out ABS on their haunches? The same was true for some early automatic transmissions. I love how the rendering of Dynaflow on this 1951 Buick Special conveys a feeling of fluid motion.
Eagle-eyed type geeks look for lettering in the smallest details, such as on the hood ornament of this 1967 Plymouth Belvedere GTX.
I took all these photos. I like how this 1967 Oldsmobile reflects me! To see a slideshow of several other interesting examples of automobile typography, go here.
Very nice. That 426 GTX ornament is rather anachronistic, given the year and how different the Road Runner was ornamented just a year or two later. It looks like it was left over from 1961.
Now here’s the really big question: which automotive typeface should we use for our new Curbside Classic logo (which is way overdue for a re-do)?
Given the variety of cars we cover here shouldn’t it look like an automotive ransom note with a little bit of as many automotive typefaces as possible? 😛
Iconic logos get their power through longevity. Consider the Ford logo — its basic look has changed relatively little over the last century.
Since your site is about classics, why not follow in Ford’s footsteps and make only incremental changes?
Your current logo is a little basic so I could see an experienced designer argue for a completely different approach. Perhaps the site is new enough that it could get away with such a sharp change. But if you go that route the resulting logo needs to be good enough to survive the test of time.
Whatever you do, don’t let an amateur completely redesign the logo. Then you’ll be back in the same place two years from now.
The logo can be used to “position” your site relative to other sources of auto history. What makes you different? For example, I don’t think you want a highly polished logo like Ate’s or Hemmings’. That wouldn’t express the populist culture of CC.
Very good point, and one I’ve been grappling with since the beginning. I made up the current logo using MS Paint in about 30 minutes, the first time I’d ever even attempted anything like that.
I knew I didn’t want the stereotypical shiny/chromey “classic car” site logo, and when the web designer helping me put the site together showed me a couple of her drafts for just that, it reinforced my desire to go in a very different direction.
The “populist culture” of CC was its inspiration. And I don’t want to lose that. So whatever we do, that has to very much be kept in consideration.
Paul, that makes sense. So perhaps you might invoke the first rule of logo design: When in doubt, do absolutely nothing.
Remember that logos are like faces — their most important role is to be readily identified. Beauty isn’t necessarily an advantage. Would Jimmy Durante’s career have benefitted if he had gotten a nose job?
You could also make some minor tweaks such as switching out some new photos. One of them might be a “slice of life” photo that includes people. That would emphasize the site’s unusual emphasis on stories.
The Blue Oval has been pretty constant, but Ford went through a phase in the 1950s and ’60s when they used a red, white and bluweshield adorned with three lions. Chevy’s “bow tie” is probably a better example, or Daimler-Benz’s three-pointed star.
Which Curbside Classic(s) best exemplify this site? Maybe there’s inspiration in those cars’ logotypes.
Alternatively, stay away from logotype mimcry altogether. Make a statement about the site’s purpose and style that will endure.
Copy the typeface of any car that didn’t have roll up rear windows. That’ll do nicely.
lots of options
I’m in the camp of the folks who believe you should do very little to the logo if anything at all… Let it live for a while longer in its current form. Like a child, it needs to grow on its own. Someone further up mentioned Jimmy Durante’s face, I think the comparison is apt. Just think of Jennifer Gray and what happened after her infamous nose job…
I’d like to take a swing at it if you do decide to change it, but I’d opt for not fooling with it for now.
Just my 2 cents.
I LOVE this article! I practiced as a Typographer for many years, in a retail print shop (the dry version of my dreams). I studied typography, use of type and font histories in University. As a car-buff, I have always been interested in why car makers (and their designers) select the type and its treatment on their vehicles. SO: I agree, I think it is time for this AMAZING WEBSITE to select a fresh new look for their logo. Here are some suggestions from my computers’ basic MS-Word selector. What do you think?
Contrast these with dull typefaces and general lack of badging on modern cars. The marketing geniuses have all decided to stop spelling out the name of marque on the vehicle in order to build “brand recognition” for oversized, overchromed generic trademark on the grille, and designers don’t want any extra badging to interfere with their bulbous, milquetoast styling.
Cars are faster, more comfortable, more efficient and safer than ever. And they’re also really, really boring.
The badges are getting very disappointing. Cadillac’s badge is a prime example, it has gotten larger and larger while getting LESS and LESS detailed.
Totally agree. The Buick Tri-shield is another prime example. My 86 Roadmaster must have been the last use of the detailed Tri-shield, but just for the Collectors Edition Hood Ornament. Chrysler also did the same post bankruptcy.
I like the art deco lettering on the Buick.Pure class and so elegant
Please., please do not change how we navigate the site. another site frequinted by alot of people changed how they do things and is now almost impossible to view on anything but a traditional computer.
As for changing the typeface somthing classy and auto related.. But not tacky.love the site.
No worries on that regard; any changes will be only “superficial”. We don’t have the time or interest in anything major.
As a public school teacher, I can testify that part of the challenge with designing interesting badges may be that many young people are unable to read or write cursive.
It seems to be a dying art.
Send the lil’ darlings to my shop.
I’ll teach ’em “curse-ive”.
A fabulous piece. I too am a badge geek, although I have not really set out to photograph them.
I recall the individual chrome plated letters making a comeback on Chrysler vehicles in the late 90s, but there seem to have been stick-on plastic letters with very, very cheap “chrome” surfacing that would delaminate on about the 9th trip through the car wash. They were striking when new, but did not hold up.
The modern Cadillac script really irks me. Cadillac started to use it at the beginning of the Brougham era, and has kept it. With their modern art & science design and their emphasis on performance, they need to go back to an older, more muscular nameplate, like the one you pointed out. And Chevy could do worse than to re-employ that classic Chevrolet in cursive.
I prefer the current Cadillac script. It’s been around since the early ’60s virtually unchanged…why start now? The ’50s script shown here feel too gimmicky to me for use on a modern vehicle.
The thing (among many others) Cadillac does that annoys me is they now emboss the script on the chrome trunk garnish. It’s too small and oddly placed…they might as well not even bother.
I also prefer the similar Chevrolet script from the ’60s/’70s. Or the scripted model name with a little “By Chevrolet” badge below. It’s better than what they do now…Chevrolet’s current badging might be the dullest in the industry.
I believe some of the early Toronados also had “Toronado by Oldsmobile” badging on them.
My ’75 Ninety Eight is “Ninety Eight” BY OLDSMOBILE in the same manner as the Chevelle badge.
I’m not sure how important the logo is to a website. If I didn’t know what CC was about and had to guess just from the logo I might think it’s about classic taxi cabs. But anyone drawn here will either have been tipped by someone or will have googled certain search words relating to classic cars. Once they get here they aren’t going to pay much attention to the logo.
As long as the logo doesn’t take up too much room on the screen, doesn’t spin, and doesn’t emit noises, I’m happy with it.
That’s an interesting point that I hadn’t thought about. I wonder how the logo would look with a simple color change.
One of my friends had a 4×8-foot pegboard that had dozens of various Chrysler Corporation car name, model, series etc. chrome trim pieces attached to it. I wish I’d photographed it while he was still around.
I had a fancy New Yorker piece – think it was off a 1960 or 61 car – bold upright cursive against a gold anodized background. I’m certain it’s still in my shop somewhere. And there was the red 16-valve logo off a VW GTI that I was going to put on my modified Dodge pickup but never did.
There was one particular model of Camry that really bugged me – the Toyota and Camry logos on the trunk were in different fonts. Ech.
I love car emblems and logos, I love logos in general, be it from a a car, a business or an airline. One my all time favorites has always been the cursive “Riviera” emblem from a Buick along with the big “R” logo.
Love this script as well as what its attached to.
I love emblems and badges though refitting them to my car at present is very trying every moulding seems to be for a different car to mine and of course the piece I am missing is like rocking horse shit to find, Anybody got a left side S moulding for the fin on the rear of a 3abor c Minx? I have letters across the front on the bonnet Im missing the A and rootes conviniently changed the font regularly.
You have effectively tapped into something that helps set the tenor for the whole automobile. In these days of minimalist taped on name tags, you have pounded the drum even louder.
This has prompted me to think, especially after a car I saw this morning. The factory tags on it were in a completely different font. The first tag said “Caprice Estate” and beneath it was “Diesel”. Two totally different fonts and it was this way on both front fenders. How often is there a change of font?
Type choice is tough, really tough. I remember some combos, notably from GM in the 80s, that didn’t work at all. There’s an art to getting it right.
GMs problem was that the “brand” would have a font all their own (Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, etc.) while GM would design a universal badge for some feature (fuel injection, diesel, etc.) So you would end up with a tacked on badge that didn’t match the font of the brand. My Celebrity had a “fuel injection” badge that didn’t match the font of the rest of the car.
Though I think each division had “diesel” badges, they weren’t the same as the vehicle badges, because they would be attached to any different car, but for example Cadillac used these kinda cool red lettered “diesel” emblems.
The diesel Oldsmobiles had a “Diesel” hood ornament.
Yes, it was a sideview of a piston.
I don’t think I’d change the logo at all. That old Datsun wagon and the three-on-the-tree Cadillac should stay, too. The two cars do a good job of showing the spectrum of cars that are covered.
Regarding honest-to-goodness individual lettering, the most recent car that sticks in my memory would be late 80s and early 90s Acuras. That lettering across the trunk gave the cars such a solid look. It really seemed to me that they were going after the B U I C K crowd. Of course one problem with individual letters is that, after the passage of time, your car turns into a VI OR or a PO TIAC or a BU CK when one of the letters falls off…
My favorite is “ICK” when the BU has fallen off.
Or when the U swings upside down and it becomes BNICK.
I’ve seen the B broken into an F and the I missing. I’ll leave working out the result to the reader.
Hmmm… I’ve also seen the letters rearranged, such as the lady in my neighborhood who drove a 1967 Pontiac Lamens.
I always wanted a Dodge Drat.
Oh, yeah. I had an Econoline….I was missing a letter off the grille. So, when I retrieved a replacement on my next trip to the self-service wrecking yard (you could call it a repeat-customer premium…or not) I messed around with replacement.
Not wanting anything obscene or requiring more trips for letters, I settled on D O R F. Matched the rear to the front.
I was in college at the time, and my Molester Special windowless van was well-known (not to the police, I hasten to add) but a lot of young women weren’t car-savvy. So I was known as the strange guy who drove a Dorf van.
Later on…I worked with fleet vans; new Fords (blue oval by that time) and old Dodges. The Dodges got some of my creativity; I made one GOD and another DOG. The other drivers were so used to jumping in, they never noticed. Or let on, anyway.
I’ve seen spray-paint creativity on old pickup tailgates. Old Datsuns used to get this a lot; they would be marked T S. Or RAT…put legs on the D. Nissans occasionally became SS trucks.
The trouble with more elaborate names is, it takes time to find the letters in passable font, and more time to hock them without the counter guy noticing.
@JPT: I had a buddy back in the day who had a DEDGO van; with the slant six and the three on the tree, it was an appropriate handle….
I’ve seen DORF done on Fords before!
I was always threatening to turn my FORD Cortina into a FRODO. Never did though…..
A guy in town when I was younger had a Studebaker with the last six letters missing … his deck lid read STUD.
Was it the Lark-based truck?
A STUD CHAMP…that would just do it.
My first car, a ’63 Rambler American became the SCRAMBLER when I added 2 letters from a Chrysler to the trunk lid. Font was totally different and everything was offset to the left (I even drilled holes for mounting) but at 16, did I care?
Back in the custom van era, relabeling your Dodge van as Dog was also popular.
And we’ve all seen TOYOTA pickups with the OTA painted out.
This made me curious to know if there is a CC article on hood ornaments; I don’t remember one recently.
Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer the Cadillac logo/script/hood ornament of the 1970’s and 1980’s:
I guess the current badge is nice-looking, too:
Though there were a few different Cadillac crest combos in the 70’s, there were see through ones, crest only with no wreath, like on a Deville, and the wreath and crest like on a Fleetwood series car.
Originally, Cadillac was crest only. It wasnt until the 1960s that Cadillac started putting a wreath around the crest on some Fleetwood models to distinguish them and using a V with the crest for lesser models. The Eldorado started the trend of the big standup hood ornaments in 1971 that was discussed in the post about the limo. Various designs were used to denote different trims in the late 1970s by the 1985 redesign, all Cadillacs (except Cimarron) received the wreath and crest.
For anyone interested in Cadillac emblem histor please visit this website put together by my friend and customer that does a great job:
I was looking at the 1981 Cadillac brochure on oldcarbrochures.com last week and until then, I never noticed that they had wire wheels with both the wreath and crest and with the crest only.
Good idea, you should write one!
There’s a nice story about the “Spirit of Ecstasy” hood ornament in my Rolls CC.
I am right there with you I love them too, I dont really like the new ones!
When I was a juvenile delinquent in training (JDIT) the thing to do with one’s new used car was to nose it (remove all hood ornaments), deck it (remove all trunk ornaments), and de-badge it. The resulting holes left by the offending dingles (when removed and dropped on the ground, they went “dingle”, no other purpose in life) were then brazed, smoothed, and the area shot with gray primer. The car was generally driven in this state for at least two months just to make sure everyone knew that you had done something cool. Real hipsters would even have the nose and deck primer blobs pinstriped.
Thankfully the automakers went from chrome plated-zinc held on by Timmermans to chrome plated-plastic held on by 3M long ago. One of my favorite activities after having bought a new or used car is its ritual de-badging. My garage is full of them. The emblems look particularly neat on tool boxes.
Contrast my wife’s Forester with five emblems on the hatch with my Impreza with only one. If I could find a Ford blue oval to replace the Subaru starry oval I would, just to screw with people.
Blue oval on a Subaru? I like it. Do-it-yourself badge engineering!
I always thought it was odd that Subaru had a Blue Oval too.
If you really want to screw with people, plaster your Subaru with right wing bumper stickers, then get an old Ramcharger and plaster it with left wing bumper stickers. I have always wanted to do this.
My Chevette was rockin’ an Ichthys fish and a pimpit.com bumpersticker for awhile — how’s that for a mixed message?
You must have a thing for yellow…
I am evidently a magnet for yellow/beige cars and coincidently those are the two colors I hate the most. The Cutlass was bought to resell and $80 for a straight 80K mile Chevette was too good to pass up.
I do have a thing for blue and green and anything with white interior.
Fabulous, I’ve always been fascinated with logos, especially the automotive scripts and lettering.
Chromeography is a whole endless picture site devoted to these timeless bits of commercial art.
I’m surprised no one remarked about the revised lettering on the back of the ’59 Pontiac in Laurence’s CC yesterday.
I always liked this on those ram air Mustangs and Torinos.
Because sometimes a regular Cobra just isn’t enough!
My favorite in recent times….
De-badging is a fairly common practice around where I live. A neighbor recently bought a new Chevy pickup and de-badged it soon after he got it. Being the purist I am, I have trouble understanding the desire to de-badge. It makes me wonder if the he is ashamed of what he drives. It used to be that a car missing a badge was a clue that body work had been done on it and someone never quite finished it.
Jim, regarding your comments on the SS396 emblem; remember the SS package started as a trim package in the early sixties. Then it moved into a separate model, but with no engine restriction involved. There were many six cylinder SS’s on the road (especially Nova’s). It was not until the late sixties that the SS model came with a high performance engine.
As for the CC logo, I had to scroll back up to remind myself what it looked like. It is fine with me as is, but a subtle update would be ok. I’ve come to accept such things in today’s ever changing whether we need to or not world. The pictures do represent the diversity this site deals with as someone said previously. However, diversity suggests more than 2 cars. I would be in favor of regularly changing photos (monthly?) to better display the diversity you find here.
Many thanks to all of you who write, contribute or comment. I look forward each day to what new things I can learn, and what old things somebody besides me recalls.
Ok just to spice up this thread can we think of the longest or largest whole emblems used on a car? Not like “F O R D” written across the hood of a car in individual letters. When I had my 86 Regal T-type the “3.8 SFI TURBO” script was Nearly 10″ long…
I believe these were over 14 inches long:
I can’t get the coding down.
It’s the side lettering on an SJ Jeep with the Buick 350 engine.
This is probably my favorite script besides the “Swinger” script and ’68 Impala script. I’m a little biased because I’m a Camaro & Impala fan. Didn’t care for the Dodges too much nor the “Swinger” innuendo but love the emblem for some reason.
HMMM… Innuendo? Perhaps it’s time for a parody piece on the Plodge Innuendo. And speaking of typography, the front-fender-mounted badges for the optional Insinuator V-5 were beautiful. I suppose I’m going a bit off-topic with this.
I love that old Camaro script too! I think especially because it’s kind of out of character for such a sporty car, or at least seems so now. I guess Corvette had a similar script back in the ’60s, didn’t it?
Yes! The ’74 Malibu Classic sports a neat Chevelle script on its grille too 🙂
Junqueboi, the juxtaposition of those two badges sent me on a creative tangent. This is what the Chevette badge would have looked like if they’d made them in 1969.
Wonder how many Chevelles got Chevette badges? Or vice-versa?
For the late 60s early 70s Chevelles, the trunk badge changed pretty much every year. The relationship between the “Chevelle” script and the “BY CHEVROLET” in the rectangular box would get changed around. The “Chevelle” itself would get scrunched up and stretched out, too. Same idea, but differently done each year.
As a onetime Pontiac-family member, I found it interesting that at the front and back of the 1967 models, the Bonneville started using cap/lowercase style, whereas the lesser full-size Pontiacs still used the all-caps PONTIAC as they’d done for some years. This persisted for three years only, and in 1970 BONNEVILLE went back to all caps. Personally I liked the three-year interlude, especially the 1967s. Here’s one that I took off a ’67 around 1976 in a junkyard while liberating a power window motor for my ’66.
When imports try to play the logo game (those nice badges weren’t used at all on European-type Peugeots). From my ’79 504 diesel.
I’ve very taken with principaldan’s idea of building the logo out of real script. Here’s my rough whack at it, offered in the hope it will inspire one of you with actual skill.
Chevrolet + Fury Sport Suburban + Fleetside + Rambler Classic.
If someone had a close-up, the hood lettering of the 1957-58 Chrysler had a really strong vertically-oriented capital “C” for the lead-off letter. That early 1950s Cadillac script in Jim Grey’s piece from the other day is also a great lead-off letter.
Yes, I Googled around for the ’57 Chrysler C without success. Which Jim Grey piece are you thinking of?
Oops – I guess this one. (I don’t know how to do a red-faced emoticon with a sheepish grin).
That “Camaro” Junqueboi just posted has a pretty great “C” as well. Plus Chevy itself and all the Chev- and Corv- cars, Cadillac, Chrysler, Clipper, Checker, Classic, Concord and Concorde, Cordoba, Caravan, Cruiser, Commander, Corsair, not to mention all the Toyota Cs. And the C-Class Mercedes. So many C-cars! “C” the USA in your Chevrolet.
“URB” was tough until I remembered the various Suburbans. Any “SIDE” emblems besides “Fleetside”?
Going off MikePDX’s comment, here’s a better Camaro “C”
Big Old Chryslers shared a photo of a grille badge from one of his cars. A cool initial C if the photo can deal with the shine in the emblem.
This idea has sparked a mental image of what I’d like to see: the logo as a composite of car scripts, but each letter being different and distinct. A little like those ransom notes made up from cutting out different letters from a magazine. It would be playful, as well as symbolic of CC being about many different kinds of cars.
The letters should be quite different from each other, yet it needs to be obvious where they’re from. Now where to find all those letters…
I’ll have to start shooting lots of emblems.
Something like this (thrown together very quickly)
I like the idea as it’s not biased toward a particular make. If you fiddle with this, the “R” from a Riviera hood ornament and “E” from an Edsel would be nice examples.
This is a little GM heavy but I always loved the ’73-’80 GM light duty fonts. Curbside Classsic would be very doable. There are so many emblems with this exact font: Bonanza, Caravan, Scottsdale, Suburban, Sierra Grande, Gaucho, Step Van, Jimmy, etc.
Yes! It has so much character, from that Malaise Era we’re always going on about here.
You can get the URB for Curbside from a Suburban emblem of that era. Like this thumbnail, but I couldn’t find a bigger one on the web. If somebody sees one of these in the wild, please give it a closeup!
Did they ever do “Fleeetside” in this font? With the Classic from Sierra, one could do the whole logo in this.
I have a friend that has been trying to figure out what year this Cadillac emblem is from. I have spent hours on the web trying to help him out to no avail. Maybe you can help. I’m thinking the style looks like something popular in the 20’s or early 30’s but that is just a guess.
Kathy; I’m putting your question and picture into a post asking our expert readers to help identify this logo precisely. Come back tomorrow and check our front page.
Kathy, it’s from a 1939 under-dash heater. Details here: https://www.curbsideclassic.com/blog/qotd-what-year-cadillac-is-this-logo-from/
As a kid I was always impressed by the brass New Yorker emblem on the front fenders of my neighbors 64 Chrysler.
I always found it amusing how many logo changes the 2001-2009 Volvo S60 went through. In 2001 it had the blue arrow grille logo (introduced a couple of years earlier) but the black-and-white “hamburger” on the wheels, black-and-white VOLVO text on the steering wheel, and VOLVO at the center of the trunklid. Around 2003, the steering wheel switched to the blue grille logo, and at some point after that, the wheels also did. For the S60’s final year, 2009, the trunk switched to the spaced V O L V O text, as did all other Volvo models. So the only logo shared between a 2001 and 2009 S60 is the grille logo!
I’m also convinced that this is the car responsible for the “Volvo Mandela Effect”, where people are convinced that the Volvo logo didn’t have an arrow before. Well, if you’re looking at the wheels of a 2001-2009 S60, that might very well be the case!
Early wheel logo.
Later wheel logo.
Speaking of Volvo…
“Most letterforms you see attached to cars are not downloadable as typefaces you can use on your computer, though.”
If you want the letterform that is used on Volvo logos for most of the 70s-90s, you can come close by downloading Egyptienne Bold.
I was going to talk about Volvo when I saw the article. Volvo’s trunk typeface (the one used to write the model) has been used for more than twenty years and still looks modern. Alongside BMW’s, it might be the prettiest one still used
Great topic! Here’s something that everyone can waste a few hours on:
When my 1988 Pontiac Grand Prix was repainted, the body shop stuck the original letters back on the car. They quickly popped off, leaving what I thought was a more attractive car.
People would ask if the GP was a custom car or something imported from a faraway country. My theory is that people subconsciously read the brand and model names. Take that away and they can get lost.
A sidelight: A Kansas City, Kansas traffic officer was admiring my badge-less car and mentioned it was illegal in many states not to have the manufacturer and model name on the rear of the vehicle. These identifiers are used in enforcement and accident investigation. No ticket or anything. Also, he said, ABS badges were unofficially advocated by law enforcement to help in accident investigation. ABS equipped cars seldom leave skid marks.
Car badges first got me interested in handwriting styles. Periodic visits to my uncle’s printing works got me familiar with fonts. Looking at Dad’s new ’62 Falcon, I soon realised the ‘F’ didn’t match how they taught us to write in school, but didn’t match how my parents wrote either. That got me looking at other car badges too, for the styles used. By the time I finished my schooling, my handwriting was quite different from what they’d taught us.
“Have you ever noticed how seldom individual letters are used anymore? They certainly have to be more expensive and harder to get right in assembly”
Not hard at all. A tad more expensive… maybe. As there are many ways to skin a cat you can go with a combination of individual letters + tooling (error-proofed template), end result being time consuming. Low volume, heavy trucks go this way.
The other way to do it is laying the letters on an adhesive transparent sheet, which holds them in place up to the moment of installation. Depending on the car and the design of the part, it may need some tooling to locate it in the panel or not. This may suit higher volumes. Also throws the burden of putting together the badge to the tier 1 or 2.
All letters in a single badge makes assembly in the line a breeze. Bear in mind that in high volume lines, the operator has just ~45-60 seconds to complete 2-3 operations.
The “Cooper” badges on the back of my Minis were made up of individual letters. I’ve always wanted to remove the leading “C” and replace it with a “P” from a replacement badge. Fortunately for my marriage, they’ve both been leased.
I believe that each letter had to be applied separately on the 1969 300.
In spite of the unlimited creative opportunities car typography allows, lots of conformity among car makers, through different eras. Often very easy to identify the automotive decade, simply by looking at typefaces and styles used. Regardless of the maker. Popular for domestic makers in the 80s, to copy typefaces and branding styles, used by European makers in the 70s. Conformity, continues today.
Automotive typography, generally remaining on the very conservative side. With vinyl graphics packages, probably being the most assertive historic expressions of typography creativity.
> Have you ever noticed how seldom individual letters are used anymore? They certainly have to be more expensive and harder to get right in assembly
Boy has this changed since this article was first posted. Lexus just went with individual letters recently spelling out their brand, whereas Hyundai, Ford, Lincoln, Volkswagen, Jeep (at least on the Wagoneer), Kia (Telluride), and probably others i’m forgetting about now spell out the model names in individual letters. Some think Land Rover/Range Rover started this trend. It doesn’t work well for brands that insist on alphanumerics; 3 3 0 i X wouldn’t look right on a BMW.
I never understood that weird 1950s script with a straight line between each letter, as shown on the Chevrolet and Cadillac emblems above. Nobody ever wrote like that, unlike the common 1970s script that actual resembled cursive writing.
I’ll nominate the Simca Ariane 4 as having the prettiest script nameplate.
That look of a straight line below was likely the result of where the logos were created– on a drafting board. It was only natural, when grappling with the assembly process and human tendency to zone out during repetitive tasks, to draw a pencil line between characters, so the resulting nameplate would be a simple casting, easily fastened. Any designer would have been weaned on lined paper when taught to write, so connecting characters along a baseline was ingrained. With that convention stuck in their heads, most people’s brains could easily filter out the connecting baseline. The ’30s brought widely spaced characters that were a fashionable way to turn a word into a logo, and it was a small step to switch out block letters for cursives. Spreading them out also added an element of action to the end product: the letters to the left looking as though they were accelerating away from those on the other end.
“right”, not “left”.
As a teenager, that wanted to study fine art, and graphic design, I really liked Renault’s choice of script typeface for the Fuego. It said very modern, European, fashion-influenced, sexy, and spontaneously hand-rendered, at once. A perfect face for the times, and the image they wanted to convey for this car.
Logos. Not always descriptive. As in the Ford 3150.
The ‘Ventura’ script on the ’61 Pontiac stands out to me, conveying a great combination of energy and elegance.
I checked back with David Saunders’ 1961 Pontiac Laurentian series, one of my favourite CC’s over the years. The ‘Laurentian’ script is basically in the same style but seems dialled back a notch – maybe the name was a little too long, or the ‘L’ was harder to dramatize than the ‘V’, or maybe the name itself doesn’t have the same pizzazz.
I have saved a few emblems off former cars I owned, and have them around here.
I notice by its absence, the Blue Oval “Ford” emblem. Perhaps one of the most iconic of all time.
As much as I like cursive emblems, they shouldn’t be on any new vehicle. Young people aren’t taught cursive anymore. They are the future and they need to be able to read the emblems. Cursive emblems today are as cool as a Lawrence Welk 8 track tape in their eyes.
Turn “Rover” into “Lover”
Lamborghini Miura. A close look reveals its bullish features.
I enjoyed both the essay and all the Flickr photos. I have no eye for this kind of design, and so hugely admire the design folk and typeface designers of a pre-digital age.
Henry Ford Museum’s online collection has many nameplate photos (not all of them FoMoCo), and then also engineering drawings like this for Thunderbird (dated October 1954): https://www.thehenryford.org/collections-and-research/digital-collections/artifact/455898#slide=gs-431893
Awesome article. I’m another self-professed type geek! 40’s Lincolns had a beautiful script too.
I believe the scripted fonts become to hard to decipher, especially when many readers view on their phone or a laptop. A clean crisp no nonsense font should reign, with a subhead that defines who CC is. I love the Gremlin as a mascot, in spite a few modest failings, it was an honest car. And the story of the Gremlin is much the story of Curbside Classic. Here’s my take. Bill