10 best car logos of all time (and what they mean)
Symbols are an integral part of humanity and since the dawn of rock drawings humans have always expressed themselves through them. Flash forward to modern times, and their importance cannot be understated. We set international symbols and gestures, and anything bought can be boiled down to concrete iconography: the golden arches, the Nike swoosh, the Chevrolet bow tie, the list goes on.
These factors also apply to car logos, which should effortlessly display a company’s ideology in a single image. We’ve compiled a few form factor and iconography examples to create the 10 best car logos of all time (and the stories behind each one).
Few companies have the history, tradition and cultural weight of Cadillac. After 117 years of existence, the Cadillac brand has become a symbol of success and elegance, sought after and pondered to this day. The Cadillac logo has become a touchstone of classic car logos. Surprisingly, the Cadillac logo has quite a few historical significance.
This is a rough approximation of the coat of arms of explorer Le Sieur Antoine De La Mothe Cadillac, who founded Detroit –– the cradle of American automobile life –– in 1701. Although the logo has a lot evolved over the centuries, its same basic form and color scheme has remained true, echoing the history of royalty and class that inspired the three men who formed Cadillac.
Ford is another classic American brand that enjoys a lasting reputation. Their logo, first launched in 1912 after nine years of operation, is one of the most stable. Although what surrounds the Ford lettering has changed over the years (while retaining the color blue), the signature has remained constant.
Now over 100 years old, the Ford logo is steeped in popular culture and knowledge. Believe it or not, the signature is not Henry Ford’s. According to Ford Motor Company, the signature is that of Chief Engineer Childe Harold Wills. Although their logo represents a long history, Ford has maintained their status by adapting to the days of surprising manners.
The Porsche logo is a very classy work of art, appearing as a coat of arms for a dynasty of fast cars. This imagery is quite appropriate, as the Porsche logo is a mixture of two pre-existing coats of arms. The first is the coat of arms of the Free People’s State of Württemberg, the former Germany of Weimar. This is the outer part of the ridge.
The inner part of the design, with the bucking stallion, is actually the coat of arms of Stuttgart, Germany, where Porsche builds its cars. While the coat of arms primarily indicates where the company is from, the Porsche logo also indicates how the cars themselves will drive. Porsche is well known for speed and stroke, therefore a horse that lifts its legs is only suitable for a car designed to go fast.
Buick is an interesting case when it comes to car logos, as they have only recently settled into their current look, trying out several different logo styles over the years. Oddly enough, the three shields debuted in 1959 and stayed until 1975 when they were replaced by eagle iconography (possibly to correspond with the United States’ bicentennial in 1975).
In 1980, Buick reverted to its three-shield logo and has been playing with it ever since. Surprisingly, Buick has deleted his name of its 2019 models, but its logo remains. If anything, this move shows more how a logo holds more gravity than a name ever could.
If Rolls-Royce is known for anything, it’s their crazy standards of excellence in all aspects of the production of their cars. Rolls-Royce, much like Apple, has fashioned a timeless brand identity of sharp luxury in a three-piece suit. The same RR has been identified with Rolls-Royce from the very beginning, increasing in size with each iteration of the logo.
This polished styling image is enhanced by sharply contrasting the minimalism of the logo with The Spirit of Ecstasy, the sculpture of a woman with wings that adorns the hood of every Rolls-Royce. Some brands strive to maintain a consistent image and style, and Rolls-Royce is the excellent example in the automotive industry.
Jaguar has placed itself in a unique domain with its logo. While they could have been satisfied with a simple symbol, they created a logo thought in the third dimension. By doing the Jaguar logo hood ornament, it catches the eye and mentally associates the car with the object that represents it.
That seemed to have been the idea, with the big cat appearing to jump out of the car, implying a striding forward movement. There isn’t much history behind this classic logo, with the company using a simplistic sculpture of the titular cat. The Jaguar logo is undeniably classic and proves that simplicity can create a lasting icon out of almost anything.
When we think of Ferrari, we think of their classic prancing horse. It is a fantastic symbol for a company known for its cars which give off an aura of power and speed. However, the famous horse was not originally designed to be the symbol of Ferrari.
The horse was first illustrated by Count Francesco Baracca, a famous pilot of the Italian Air Force during the First World War. He painted the symbol on the side of his planes. It’s not too hard to see why Scuderia Ferrari found this logo appropriate for their automaker, who strove to achieve the sense of freedom felt by those who are master of flight, but here on earth.
The Maserati trident logo has been there from day one, still retained as a representation of the Maserati brand. However, the story behind the trident, as many classic logos, is quite simple.
The trident is based on the fountain of Neptune located in Piazza Maggiore in Bologna. Apparently, the use of the Trident was not to invoke any particular emotion or idea. The real story is that Mario Maserati used the trident symbol as his Maserati logo at the suggestion of a friend, the Marquis Diego de Sterlich. Although not expected, the simplistic design has an air of class and history, feeling minimalist and modern, yet classic at the same time.
The Chevrolet bowtie logo is one of the few logos that does not include a name or design bells and whistles. Like their trucks, the Chevrolet logo is tough, proud and humble. However, the real story behind the symbol has always been shrouded in mystery. It was admitted that the symbol was seen by Chevrolet co-founder William Durant at a Paris hotel, however Durant’s wife said the bow tie was seen by her husband in a Virginia newspaper in 1912.
However, Chevrolet historian Ken Kaufmann came across a 1911 newspaper advertising Coalettes brand coal, with the company logo pressed into a bow tie shape. Kaufmann came to the conclusion that the Chevy bow tie was directly inspired by the Coalettes logo.
Recently, Bentley announced its entry into the luxury world home furniture. While fun to talk about, this addition to Bentley’s operations only makes sense for a company so closely tied to wealth, style, class and heritage.
The Bentley logo is one of the humblest and simplest. The “B” obviously stands for Bentley, enclosed in fenders. The fenders are a classic symbol of speed, freedom and hope, and Bentley seems to use all of those definitions. In essence, the Bentley logo is a perfect resemblance to its cars: elegant, classic, meticulous, but modest. The Bentley logo is proud but reserved, a mirror of the understated excellence of their timeless automobiles.
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