In the last installment of Hood Ornament Highlight, I examined the dashing archer adorning the hood of a 1938 Pierce-Arrow Town Car Limousine at the Northeast Classic Car Museum. However, this week’s featured ornament decorated something far more pedestrian than the decadent Pierce-Arrow: the Ford Model A. Available from 1928 to 1931, the Model A served as the replacement for the Model T and sold nearly 5 million units in its short production run. This makes the quail atop the grille a relatively common sighting at museums and classic car meets; the 1929 Model A Phaeton pictured above resides in the Saratoga Automobile Museum, which you can read more about here. Hood ornaments were growing in popularity during the 1920s, and Henry Ford wanted his new Model A’s mascot to represent rapid acceleration while remaining simple and unpretentious. A rabbit was briefly considered but Ford ultimately chose the quail, allegedly saying that “A quail flushes just like a firecracker going off.” Ford himself was heavily involved in the design process, reviewing hundreds of sketches and prototypes until he was pleased with the result: a quail with its neck outstretched and wings pointing down as if it had just taken flight. The hood ornaments were mass-produced not by Ford but by George Stant Machine Works, a Connersville, Indiana-based company which specialized in mascots and radiator caps. However, the quails were made of pot metal, a term for alloys which consist of cheap, low-melting point metals, meaning very few originals survive today, and most quails you see soaring atop the Model A’s grille are reproductions.

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