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Plymouth logos and hood ornaments

Plymouth hood ornament

1939 Plymouth hood ornament

Plymouth Mayflower radiator cap sculpturePlymouth logoThe original logo was the Mayflower; it was brought back in the 1990s. This emblem was joined by a coat of arms that is believed to be the seal of a county in Massachusetts where the Pilgrims first landed. The coat of arms, with the Mayflower either part of it or above it, appeared from 1949 to 1958.

Starting in the 1940s, concurrent with the sailing ship, Plymouth used a sloping, tall triangle "rocket ship" logo with two colors, featuring it on steering wheels, hubcaps, etc.; it made a comeback in 1959.

Plymouth logo

Emblem on Bill and Rose Firth’s 1939 Plymouth

The first one shared space with the last appearance of the Mayflower until it was brought back in the 1990s; the 1959 Mayflower is noteworthy in that this is the only year where the ship was clearly shown facing forward. A stylized gold forward-facing Mayflower was also used on the trunklid and most grilles starting in 1957 (the one below is from 1959), but was so abstract that many people had no idea what it was supposed to be.

trunk

The rocket logo, as seen on a Valiant, is shown below; it made sense given Chrysler’s building of large sections of the Moon rockets.

valiant rocket Just before Plymouth’s demise, a new “sailing ship” logo was designed; conveniently it had the same round shape as the new Chrysler logo, so the two could be used interchangeably, and in fact the Chrysler logo would supplant the Plymouth sailing-ship on the Prowler, Voyager, and PT Cruiser, as though it had been designed to do so from the start. plymouth logo Plymouth sailing ship

As for hood ornaments:

It was 1929 when rising young sculptor Avard T. Fairbanks arrived at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to head up the sculpture department. He needed a more reliable car than his 1928 Willys- Knight with its sleeve-valve motor that wouldn't start on cold winter mornings. But it was the Depression and he didn't have any more money than anyone else.

Flying Lady - Plymouth hood ornament

He reasoned he could design a radiator cap ornament in trade for a new automobile. Chrysler Corporation, in nearby Highland Park, was an up-and-coming auto maker, with innovative engineering and designs. Yet its radiator caps, with their little Viking wings (shared with Chrysler), needed improvement. Avard Fairbanks was just the artist to replace them with sculptural masterpieces.

radiator cap

Plymouth logoAt Chrysler headquarters he was told they were about to introduce an all-new Plymouth, the PA series, featuring Floating Power (which meant shock-absorbing engine mounts). "The Smoothness of an Eight with the Economy of a Four" was the advertising pitch. Could he symbolize that in a radiator cap ornament?

Fairbanks designed a little mermaid (of Norse mythology) coming up out of a swirling wave...then gave her the wings of an eagle. The mermaid was a hit: Floating Power, indeed!

In return for his work on the little mermaid, Fairbanks was paid with a handsome, red 1932 Chrysler Royal Eight.

Over the years these radiator caps have come to be known as "the Flying Lady." Only the Fairbanks family seems to know who she really is. Take a close look, the next time you see one; take a closer look at the point where her hips emerge from the swirling waves and where her tail disappears topside. Notice the little ridges that represent her fishy scales. She's a mermaid, all right!

Plymouth hood ornamentThe 1931 Plymouth was a runaway success. Walter P. Chrysler may have thought its success had to do with his engineering features such as hydraulic brakes, free wheeling and Floating Power. But Avard Fairbanks, never averse to taking due credit, always said, "everyone just loved my little mermaid."

There is a feature of the Little Mermaid on which almost everyone seems compelled to comment. It's not about the feathery pattern on her wings, nor her flowing wavy hair, nor her graceful emergence out of the waves. It's about her healthy torso! Fairbanks reply spoke strongly in her defense: "She's a mermaid, and that's just how mermaids are!" Dispute that if you can.

The "Little Mermaid on the waves"--as a symbol of floating power and Plymouth--soon got lost on the marketing people at Plymouth. A line drawing of the design appeared on each page of the sales brochures of the PA models, but the Fairbanks design was used only on the 1931 PA and 1932 PB Plymouths. The 1933 design, which was taller and slimmer, was the work of someone else. By 1934 Plymouth ornaments had become sailing ships.

Flying Lady hood ornament   1939 Mayflower logo

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