Car Logos History: 10 Iconic Car Emblems With Great Tales To Tell

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Iconic car manufacturers usually have something in common—an instantly recognisable logo or emblem that symbolises the ideologies they stand for and the image they choose to portray to their market.

Carmaker logos usually have an interesting story to tell, which is why we thought we'd take you for a little historical tour through the stories behind some of world's most famous and much-loved emblems. We've included some great pictures of older-gen cars from these manufacturers, so read on and enjoy!

1. Mercedes-Benz

The Mercedes-Benz logo is easily the most recognised car logo in the world, and is represented by the famous circular-orbited three-pointed star. The three sides of the star was supposed to symbolise Daimler's ‘ambition of universal motorisation—on land, on water, and in the air.'

The logo features a metallic gray colour, which is said to embody the company's sophisticated and suave image. While the beautiful hood ornament of yesteryear is no longer seen on Mercedes cars, the centrally positioned star on its current vehicles still pulls on the heartstrings of Merc loyalists.

2. Audi

The four rings of Audi is another extremely well known logo, which symbolised the merger of four previously independent car manufacturers: Audi, Horch, DKW and Wanderer. Horch and the then-stand-alone Audi were both set up by August Horch, considered one of the pioneers of automobile engineering.

With regard to Wanderer, the company began their foray into the automotive market with bicycles and motorcycles, finally entering car production in 1913. The fourth firm, DKW, was another bike manufacturer to begin with, that later began making cars in the 1920s.

3. BMW

Much against contrary belief, the BMW ‘roundel' is not a spinning propeller, but actually a representation of the national colours of the Free State of Bavaria. BMW emerged from a company called Rapp Motor Works who used a roundel with a black horse as their emblem—BMW continued using the same roundel but with the mirrored hues of Bavaria, because of legal constraints.

The idea that BMW's roundel represented the propeller of a plane, came from a 1929 advertisement that had the roundel imposed into the plane's propeller. However, a clarification came from Mr. Plucinsky, a BMW spokesperson who told the New York Times in 2010 that there was no connection between aircraft propellers and the logo.

4. Lamborghini

Ferrucio Lamborghini's Zodiac sign was Taurus, or ‘bull', and this and his obsession with bullfighting was symbolised in the famous Italian sport car manufacturer's emblem. The gold in the logo is said to depict excellence and rich tradition, while black represents power, prestige, integrity and elegance.

Lamborghini has an age-old history of naming its exclusive cars after famous fighting bulls. The story goes that in 1962, Ferrucio Lamborghini was at the Seville ranch of a famous breeder of Spanish fighting bulls, Don Eduardo Miura, and was much impressed by the magnificent Miura beasts. So much so, that he decided to make the ‘raging bull' the logo for his upcoming car company.

5. Ferrari

Another of the world's most recognisable carmaker logos is obviously Ferrari's prancing horse. There's a bit of a tale attached—Enzo Ferrari is said to have taken the logo from the fuselage of the airplane of Count Francesco Baracca, an ace pilot and war hero from the Italian Air Force.

Enzo later met the pilot's mother, Countess Paolina at a race, where she told him that putting her son's horse logo on his cars would bring him good luck. He then added Modena's colour, canary-yellow for the background, and kept the horse black instead of red, as a symbol of mourning for the pilot who was killed in action.

6. Porsche

Ferdinand Porsche, his son Ferry, and trusted executives of the company wanted a new emblem in the 1950s. The logo is said to have been coined by Ferry Porsche on a napkin, though another theory states that the emblem was the idea of a Porsche engineer, Franz Xaver Reimspieb.

However, what's for certain is that it was inspired by the Stuttgart coat of arms. Stuttgart means ‘stud garden' in German, as the town was known for horse breeding, hence the rampant horse on the logo.

7. Volkswagen

This one's definitely amongst the all-time greatest car logos. A bit of controversy surrounds the origins of of the VW emblem though, with some saying that it was the creation of Porsche employee Franz Xaver, and others claiming it was designed by Martin Freyer.

What's widely accepted, however, is that the blue colour in the logo represents the company's excellence and class, and white symbolises purity and charm. The iconic symbol was modified in 1996 and 2000 to include colour blends and three-dimensionality.

8. Volvo

The Volvo logo depicts the pre-historic symbol of iron-a circle with an arrow pointing diagonally upward and towards the right, with the font being a hand-drawn design by renowned calligrapher Karl-Erik Forsberg. It is also a symbol of ‘Mars', the God of War, and the symbol for ‘Man' as well.

We know that Volvo makes the safest cars in the world, but did you know that the word Volvo means ‘I roll', actually inspired by one of the company's first undertakings, the manufacture of bearings?

9. Jaguar

The ‘leaping jaguar' is the traditional logo of the famous British carmaker which symbolises speed, strength and power. The feline emblem is often seen in colours like black, metallic gray and gold.

Black is said to embody Jaguar's elegance, integrity, and high performance, while metallic grey and gold illustrate the company's sophistication, modernity and perfection. The leaping jaguar used to be embodied in a beautiful hood ornament till recently, when pedestrian safety regulations brought about its demise.

10. Alfa Romeo

The much-loved Italian car manufacturer's logo came about in 1910. The red cross on the white field on the left of the coat of arms is the symbol of Milan, Alfa Romeo's home. But ever wondered about the right side of the emblem?

The seemingly strange symbol of a snake eating a human does not actually depict a hungry serpent, instead is said to show a purified and renewed person coming out of its mouth, rather than being swallowed. The snake is an animal of ‘the changing—able to renew or rebirth itself.'


If you think the Ferrari and Porsche horses look alike, you're not alone, though we'll probably never know the real story behind the similarity. Dennis Adler's The Road To Zuffenhausen does opine that the prancing horse on Count Barraca's airplane was actually that of Stuttgart's (something that Enzo Ferrari never commented about), but others differ by questioning the logic of a German horse on an Italian war aircraft. Still, the chance that Ferrari's logo just might have had its roots in Stuttgart's coat of arms does get you thinking, doesn't it?

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Car Logos History 2: Ten Iconic Car Emblems With Great Tales To Tell

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Story first published: Wednesday, April 22, 2015, 14:10 [IST]
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