The use of decorative embellishment is what makes some vintage cars truly special. They were rolling works of art, created at the hand of an artist, decorated with rich details, often purely for effect. It is the use of these decorative details which makes people treasure these old cars. This is one of the things I look forward to each year at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the chance to uncover some unusual decorative detail on a car and admire the craftsmanship and time utilized in creating such fussy ornamentation. Here are the top 10 decorative car details we found at Pebble Beach this year. 1. ‘Triomphe’ mascot by made specifically for Isotta Franschini for sculptor Francois Bazin.
2. Packard Cormorant mascot with wire wings and red tips to coordinate with the car.
3. Interesting how air vent is carved into the top of the door and front fender on the 1955 Moretti 1200S Michelotti Spyder, this location must have been difficult to engineer. Then there is the almost streamlined cut-out for the muffler, another difficult choice.
4. Aside from this bulbous ‘Narval’ nose being just weird, again we have to appreciate the artistry behind exaggerating the nose of this 1947 Delahaye 135 MS Figoni et Falaschi in such a way.
5. Ever seen a windshield like this before? This 1936 Rolls-Royce Phantom III H. J. Mulliner Sports Limousine was ordered by the then chairman of de Havilland Aircraft Company who felt the car would be 15% more aerodynamic with this design vs a standard windshield.
6. I have no idea what this purposeful box with the glass vials on top is on what we would call the dashboard of a rare 1907 Renault AI 35/45 HP Vanderbilt Racer, but it caught me eye. If anyone wants to email me what it is, I’ll be happy to update this. It just looked cool to me.
7. Also in the purposeful category these velocity stacks on a 1958 Ferrari 335 Sport Scaglietti Spyder were mesmerizing.
8. Pinstriping the wheels was a fairly common embellishment on early cars but these added little white buttons on this 1909 De Dion-Bouton BV Type de Course which match those on the edge of the fenders are just delicious.
9. The special grille designs of the Isotta Franschinis were quite amazing. Rarely does such specialized design enhancements take this form.
10. Sometimes you’ve just gotta appreciate ingenuity, after all this car was a TV start three times over, “Batman,” “Star Trek,” and “Bewitched.” The 1964 Reactor Gene Winfield Custom Coupe is a one-off handbuilt aluminum bodied car.
Mass production and economies of scale have understandably all but obliterated the art of embellishment, though we can always appreciate the cars from yesterday.