The incredible stories behind car logos


A picture can paint a thousand words, but the iconographies that identify car brands go even further. In the blink of an eye, they combine pieces of alloy, steel, leather and rubber not only with the life of a brand, but also with a whole set of ideals, values ​​and associations. lifestyle.

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The stories behind these brand icons took on a life of their own. So much so that some have become urban myths. After all, why let the facts get in the way of a good story?


The three-pointed star of Mercedes-Benz is arguably the most identifiable of all the symbols of the automobile brand. Supposedly, the three-pointer was meant to symbolize founder Gottlieb Daimler’s ambition for “universal motorization” in the air, on the water and, of course, on the roads of Europe. The truth of the choice of the tristar potentially has much more prosaic origins.

The company’s official history indicates that while researching a brand for the already successful business, Paul and Adolf Daimler (Gottlieb’s sons) recalled that their late father once used a star as a symbol. .

As early as 1872, Gottlieb had “marked a star above his own house on a postcard from Cologne and Deutz, and wrote to his wife that this star would one day shine on her own factory to symbolize prosperity.”

The tristar was registered (with a four-spoke design) in 1909, then in 1916 a strip joining the tips was added, in which four small stars and the word Mercedes were incorporated. The finished object, still very recognizable as the symbol, has now become a registered trademark in 1923.

Rolls Royce

Rolls Royce has a very recognizable double-R badge, but the story behind it is nowhere near as interesting as the one behind the brand’s other enduring symbol, The Spirit of Ecstasy.

The Spirit is also known as The Whisperer, a nod to the fact that the statuette was the celebration of a secret but ultimately tragic love affair between a British aristocrat and his secretary. The story was even turned into a movie.

The who were Lord Montagu de Beaulieu and Eleanor Thornton. The when was the turning point of the 20e century when the accounts say that Montagu fell in love with ‘Thorn’ when she started working for him on his magazine, The illustrated car.

The symbol that tops the radiator on (almost) every Rolls Royce depicts Eleanor “in flowing dresses, pressing a finger to her lips to symbolize the secret of their love,” official stories state.

Montagu’s wife knew and tolerated the affair and even became friends with Thornton (who would also be said to have Montagu’s child), but the whole arrangement was kept secret from all but a very small circle of people. ‘friends.

The tragic end came during World War I when the ship Montagu and Eleanor were traveling on was torpedoed in the Mediterranean. Although he survived, the love of his life sank with the ship.


We regard ‘made’ brands as a modern invention, but the Swedes did it with their national treasure many decades ago. No, not ABBA, Volvo!

When it came to a symbol, marketers wanted something strong, masculine and Swedish. Their choice was the ancient chemical symbol for iron – a circle with an arrow pointing diagonally up to the right.

Sweden was one of the pioneers of complex metallurgy and the icon also symbolized the planet / god Mars in Roman mythology – hence the masculine connotations.

Ironic, now Volvo is one of the car brands with the highest percentage of female buyers in the world.


The archirival BMW also registered a circular icon during the open decades of the last century (1917) – very recognizable with the blue and white “Roundel” which is still in use today.

Many would say the logo is a representation of a spinning airplane propeller, but it’s one of those urban myths. In fact, the truth is as simple as the name of BMW, Bayerische Motoren Werke [Bavarian Motor Works].

The blue and white are taken directly from the German flag of Bavaria. They are reversed because it was then illegal in Germany to use national symbols in a trade mark.

True BMW enthusiasts suggest that the badge symbolizes a rotating prop comes from a 1929 advertisement that featured a biplane with the image of the cockade in its propeller. This is when the company obtains the rights to build Pratt & Whitney aircraft engines under license.


Closer to Home Holden’s lion badge has a long history that dates back to 1926, when the company (then bodybuilder) commissioned a new logo based on the ‘Lion of Wembley’.

Egyptology was in vogue at the time and the lion was the symbol of the British Empire Exhibition of 1924-25 in London. Added to this was a reference to the fable that ancient man came up with the idea of ​​the wheel after watching a lion roll a stone. The lion and the stone can be seen – even in the most modern iteration of the Holden badge – one that will see local production of cars wearing it.


According to legend, two of the most iconic automotive badges are inextricably linked: those of Ferrari and Lamborghini.

The Ferrari “Cavallino Rampante” badge is linked to the symbology used by an Italian ace of the First World War Air Force, Count Francesco Baracca. Reports say that a young Enzo Ferrari met the parents of the driver who “bequeathed” the symbol to the young racer as a lucky totem pole.

It should be noted that Baracca’s luck ran out before this point – he had been shot and killed.

Still, Ferrari made the symbol their own by keeping the black stallion but adding the yellow of their hometown of Modena to the background.

Enzo Ferrari.  Photo: Getty
Enzo Ferrari. Photo: Getty


Almost half a century later, one of Ferrari’s best customers, Ferruccio Lamborghini, fell out with the notoriously cantankerous Enzo to such an extent that he decided to start making cars in competition.

Another urban myth suggests that Lamborghini’s first move was to seriously mock Modena’s iconic brand logo. His choice – a crawling yellow bull on a black background …

Ferruccio Lamborghini.  Photo: Getty
Ferruccio Lamborghini. Photo: Getty


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