What’s In An Emblem?

Anyone who knows me, knows I love cars.  My favorite television show is BBC’s Top Gear.  I was watching it the other night when they featured the new McLaren and toured the factory.  I noticed the McLaren logo and my first thought was “That doesn’t belong on a car.”  That started me thinking about the origins of some of the most recognizable car emblems.  Here is what I found, starting with a personal favorite.

The BMW roundel is actually a propeller, and the blue and white colors come from the traditional flag of Bavaria.  From the BMWism.com website:

 Originally BMW was an aircraft engine company, however as a result of the Treaty of Versaille (June of 1919)  Germany was not allowed to produce the airplanes,  BMW stepped initially into the production of engines for boats and agriculture, returning to the production of aircraft and car engines in the mid-1920-ties.

The Mercedes three-pointed star represents the original car producers’ wish to build motors which could be used on water, land and air.  The Mercedes Benz emblem was later combined with Benz laurel wreath, symbol of victory and glory, in 1926.

The prancing horse on the Ferrari is another favorite of mine.  When I was in grade school, I had a Ferrari magazine advertisement tacked on my bedroom wall.  The slogan back then was “What can be conceived can be created.”  I have always kept that in mind, and always loved Ferraris.  From the website http://www.etiziano.com

On June 17, 1923, Enzo Ferrari won a race at the Savio track in Ravenna where he met the Countess Paolina, mother of Count Francesco Baracca, an ace of the Italian air force and national hero of World War I, who used to paint a horse on the side of his planes. The Countess asked Enzo to use this horse on his cars, suggesting that it would bring him good luck. The original “prancing horse” on Baracca’s airplane was painted in red on a white cloud-like shape, but Ferrari chose to have the horse in black (as it had been painted as a sign of grief on Baracca’s squadron planes after the pilot was killed in action) and he added a canary yellow background as this is the color of the city of Modena, his birthplace. The Ferrari horse was, from the very beginning, markedly different from the Baracca horse in most details, the most noticeable being the tail that in the original Baracca version was pointing downward.

The Maserati trident is the traditional symbol of Bologna, where the cars were originally made.

The Aston Martin wings.  The Aston in the name comes for the Aston Hill Hillclimb races near Aston Clinton, and Martin is Lionel Martin’s last name, one of the founders.  As for the wings, this comes from www.astondriver.co.uk

There have been four styles of badge. Lionel Martin built cars were graced with a small circular badge featuring the letters AM neatly superimposed. A die-cast emblem was the adopted from 1928, in which the full name was set against a pair of wings.

During 1930 a new version of the winged badge was introduced, which being a pressing, could be plated with the radiator shell. The first samples of a new enamelled badge appeared shortly after the introduction of the Second Series early in 1932. Although still of the winged variety, the new design bore no resemblance to any previous type, the wings being more angular and of a symbolic nature, whilst the name Aston Martin was inserted in a central panel, complete with the hyphen.

The enamel badges didn’t appear on production models until the introduction of the Mark II model in 1934, and became standardised. The David Brown addition was used from the DB2/4 to the end of that era, and with only minor variations, has remained in use to the present day.


Ferruccio Lamborghini was born in Italy under the zodiac sign of Taurus, the bull. In 1962, Lamborghini visited the Seville ranch of Don Eduardo Miura, a renowned breeder of Spanish fighting bulls. He was so impressed by the majestic Miura animals that he decided to adopt a bull as the emblem for the car manufacturing company he started in 1963.


According to wikipedia, “Porsche’s company logo was based on the coat of arms of Free People’s State of Wurttemberg of former Weimar Germany, which had Stuttgart as its capital.”


The origin of the cat logo on the front of Jaguar cars, according to www.famouslogos.org:  

The professional Jaguar logo design was seen for the very first time in 1935 on the first new style of sedan that was produced at the time (known as the S.S. 100 Jaguar), but later on, when it started the production of Jaguar cars, it renamed and altered its logo to the famous wild cat ‘Jaguar’ leaping over its Word mark logo name.

Shape of the Jaguar Logo:
The logo consists of a jumping jaguar across the company’s name possibly representing velocity, control and quickness of the cars manufactured by the company.

Color of the Jaguar Logo:
The use of black color in Jaguar logo very well goes with the company’s image and also compliments the physical jaguar.



From www.logoblog.org:

Although not used with the Rolls Royce logo, “The Spirit of Ecstacy” or “The Flying Lady” is also an important element of Rolls Royce. It was designed by Charles Sykes as a statue to embellish Rolls Royce cars. The mascot was commissioned by Claude Johnson to ‘counteract a craze among motorists for fixing golliwogs, toy policemen and other unseemly objects to their cars’.  The Rolls Royce logo and ‘The Spirit of Ecstacy” had adorned the radiators of Rolls Royce motor cars since 1911.


Audi’s 4 rings, named after August Horch, whose family name would be “Audi” in Latin(www.cartype.com):

The History of the Four Rings. A brief summary.
The Audi emblem of the four rings denotes one of Germany’s oldest automobile manufacturers. It symbolizes the merger in 1932 of four previously independent motor vehicle manufacturers: Audi, DKW, Horch and Wanderer. These companies are the foundation stones on which the present-day AUDI AG is built.

From these few examples, you can see that there is a lot of history behind the emblems.  They represent the local region, or something very specific.  Now here is what McLaren uses:

McLaren Automotive logo.jpg

I think it reminds me too much of the Nike swoosh, so it makes me think of shoes not cars.  I read that the air scoops on the car resemble the logo.  That may be, but it is more an abstract design than history.  The MP4-12C is truly a remarkable car (with a remarkable $231,000 price tag), getting high reviews and giving the traditional supercars a run for their money.  I just wish they had used some history or something from a good story for their logo. 


2012 McLaren MP4-12C
2012 McLaren MP4-12C
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