by James Kraus
Free-flowing cursive script is not often seen on automobiles today. It still survives at Alfa Romeo, Lamborghini, Maserati and Porsche. Outside this quartet it is rare indeed. In days past, cursive was common throughout the industry.
Such longhand script was often utilized to enable casting a complete badge out of a single piece of metal. The alternative was to either run block letters together, or connect individual block characters with a bar across the top (à la Ferrari,) a bar at the bottom (typified by BMW and Mercedes-Benz) or through the centre in the style of Alfa Romeo.
Pre-war cars used cursive scripting almost exclusively, although badging itself was generally minimal or nonexistent. In the 1900’s manufacturer nameplates were usually affixed only to the front of the radiator, and model designations were not displayed. In the thirties, even this practice declined, with most vehicles displaying the manufacturer’s name only via a stylized logo atop the radiator shell. After the war, marque and model badging began proliferating and begat its own art form.
Creative graphic artists and typographers often produced amazingly flamboyant and intricate designs as well as simple and elegant jewel-like examples. Often you can look at a vintage script and by its design cues, correctly guess the decade of inception. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the cursive script form reached its peak.
Use of color also came into vogue; in addition to the normal bright silver, gold scripts began to adorn Cadillacs, Porsches, Alfa Romeos, Lancias, and others. Porsche began using gold with the introduction of the Speedster, after which they used it on a variety of other 356’s. In the 911 era, gold badging was used to embellish the top-range E and S models until late 1971.
I have selected a number of cursive badges, arranged by county of origin for your delectation. A few are quite rare and seldom seen.
Since this piece began with a photo of the Porsche 904, I will continue on with more examples from Germany:
East to Czechoslovakia:
Now across the pond to America:
Next; back over to the Continent for a trip to Italy:
Now over to France via the Autostrada dei Fiori:
By ferry over to the United Kingdom:
Nearly all manufactures utilized some form of cursive scripting during the 1950’s and 1960’s with few exceptions. Mercedes-Benz never used cursive during this period. BMW indulged only on automatic gearbox cars, which carried a longhand Automatic script. In a similar vein, Volkswagen sent clutchless Beetles to North America for eighteen months beginning in the spring of 1968 with a badge reading “Automatic Stick Shift” rather than the customary block-letter “VW Automatic.” With the exemption of the Karmann Ghia, that was VW’s only foray into the art form. Saab were also cursive-averse.
Some of the photos above are courtesy of Chromeography which hosts superb photographs of badges and logos in both block and cursive styles from automobiles, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles and appliances. I heartily recommend a visit.