Company and Club Mascots
In addition to accessory mascots, company or corporate mascots became just as common to see on automobiles.
Auto manufacturers and other companies were looking for ways to not only make their brand recognizable on the roads, but also to advertise their cars’ prowess and technical achievements.
La Cocotte, circa 1924
Designed around 1924 as a corporate mascot for Avions Voisin was the mascot known as La Cocotte. Avions Voisin, based in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, was founded by aviation pioneer Gabriel Voisin (February 5, 1880 – December 25, 1973) in 1919, after he abandoned aviation design because of World War I and the use of his designs in warfare.
A mechanical enthusiast who studied at the Fine Arts School of Lyon, Gabriel Voisin’s car designs focused on using light metal alloys, especially aluminum.
Gabriel Voisin soon collaborated with André Noel who also focused on lightness, central weight distribution, and angular lines. Voisin also used his designs to emphasize what he thought a car should be and made sure that it had comfort, good visibility, quiet operation, and plenty of luggage space. By including these impressive technical and rational details into car design, Avions Voisin soon became known as a luxury automobile manufacturer and was viewed to be in the same league as Bugatti.
Much of this rational design philosophy was embodied in the La Cocotte mascot that adorned Avions Voisin cars. The wings and head of the bird reflect Gabriel Voisin’s past in aeronautics, aerodynamics, and fluid dynamics. Each mascot was created with a dozen or so thin aircraft-grade aluminum sheet pieces, held together with rivets. Supposedly, this art deco inspired bird with its aircraft motifs was made from scrap aluminum left over from car production.
Mr. Therm, circa 1931
Automotive mascots were not only used by auto manufacturers but by other types of companies. For example, Mr. Therm started out not as a mascot for radiator caps, but as an illustrated character for an advertisement for the British Gas Light & Coke Company.
The Gas Light & Coke Company (GLCC) were makers and suppliers of coal gas and fuel coke with headquarters in Westminster, London. The company was founded in 1812 by Frederick Albert Winsor with royal approval by King George III and was the first to supply London with coal gas. By 1827, the GLCC was supplying gas to over 70,000 street lights in London, making it a significant company of the time.
Like any other company, the GLCC used advertisements to promote new gas products as well as their “clean burning” gas and coke. In 1931, the "Mr. Therm" character was created, and he would first appear in an advertisement for gas in 1933. The character would continue to be used for over 30 years by the gas industry. The creator of "Mr. Therm" was none other than noted illustrator Eric Fraser.
Eric Fraser (June 11, 1902 – November 15, 1983), known for his contributions to the Radio Times, a British weekly television and radio program listing magazine. Fraser’s art varied from pen and ink illustrations to watercolor, and he worked for many publications, including magazines such as Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar as a fashion illustrator. Fraser would later produce illustrations for the Folio Society’s edition of J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in 1977, adapting his personal style to that of the text.
Soon after the "Mr. Therm" character was created by Fraser in 1931, it was used as an automotive mascot and could be seen on many of the GCCL’s delivery vans. The stylized gas-flame sprite leans forward with a cheery smile, its wings spread to the sides and sweeping backwards.
Cygne, circa 1930s
Another corporate mascot is Cygne which was used by Citroën in the 1920s. Citroën, a French automobile manufacturer, was founded in 1919 by French industrialist André Gustave Citroën.
André Gustave Citroën (February 5, 1878 – July 3, 1935) was born in Paris, and his family had moved to Paris in 1873 from Warsaw. Supposedly, when André was in school, one of his teachers added the French diaeresis to the Dutch surname Citroen changing it to Citroën. The Citroen surname comes from his paternal grandfather from the Netherlands who sold tropical fruit and took the surname Limoenman or “lime man,” and his son then changed it to Citroen meaning “lemon.”
As a young boy, André was inspired to become an engineer after watching the construction of the Eiffel Tower and reading the works of Jules Verne, famous for Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He graduated from the École Polytechnique in 1900 and began his military service as an artillery sub-lieutenant in Le Mans, France.
On a trip to Poland, he bought a patent on herringbone or double chevron gears, which were more efficient and quieter than traditional gears. The look of these gears would later become the inspiration for the historic Citroën logo.
In 1908, André was hired by Automobiles Mors to reorganize their manufacturing process. He was able to increase their production from 124 to 1,200 cars per year by studying American mass-production methods.
By World War I, as an artillery lieutenant, André noticed a lack of ammunition, and he proposed that France support his creation of a factory capable of producing 20,000 shells per day. After six weeks, the factory was constructed and within a few months, daily production reached up to 55,000 shells.
After the war, André converted his factory from making ammunition to manufacturing popular mass-produced cars. With the success of the 10 hp Type A in 1919, André was able to make more technological advances, such as the all-steel body, unibody chassis, front-wheel drive, and the floating-power engine.
The floating-power engine used flexible rubber mounts placed between the engine and chassis. These rubber mounts reduced engine vibrations which made for a smoother ride. By 1932, the Citroën C4 and C6 were fitted with the new system and were renamed Moteur Floating Power. Soon all Citroën cars were equipped with the floating-power engine.
To celebrate and advertise this advancement, Citroën designed a logo and the Cygne mascot to represent the floating-power engine. The mascot depicts a swan floating on the water’s surface. The elegance of the swan and how it could smoothly glide through the water illustrated the improvements the floating-power engine brought to Citroën.
Royal Automobile Club Full Member, circa 1910s-1920s
The Royal Automobile Club Full Member mascot was one of the club mascots for the Royal Automobile Club. In 1897, the Royal Automobile Club, originally named the Automobile Club of Great Britain, was founded by Frederick Richard Simms. Frederick Richard Simms (August 12, 1863 – April 22, 1944), born in Hamburg, Germany, became a British mechanical engineer, inventor, and motor industry pioneer. By founding the Royal Automobile Club, he was able to promote the automobile and its place in society.
In 1900, the club introduced the 1000 Mile Trial and with its success the club held the first Tourist Trophy in 1905. The Tourist Trophy is considered to be the longest running trophy in motorsports. Since 1905, the race has been held at various venues and different types of cars such as Grand Prix, touring, and sports cars have competed.
The Royal Automobile Club is noted for campaigning for the rights of motorists throughout history. In 1902 and 1903, the Royal Automobile Club, along with the Association of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and then Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, had major influence on the Motor Car Act of 1903. The Motor Car Act had originally proposed to remove all speed limits for cars after the Locomotives on Highways Act of 1896 was thought to be “absurd” with its 14 miles-per-hour speed limit.
With the support of the Royal Automobile Club and other organizations, the Motor Car Act was adjusted, and even with considerable opposition, instituted a 20 miles-per-hour speed limit. It also introduced the offence not only for reckless driving, but dangerous or negligent driving, as well as mandatory vehicle registration, driver’s licenses, and regulations regarding the braking ability of vehicles.
As the Royal Automobile Club flourished, the club developed a motoring service that consisted of uniformed motorcycle patrols that would help members with mechanical issues on major roads. This resulted in not only a desire to have an automotive mascot to represent the club but the need for a mascot to show who was a member. The Royal Automobile Club mascot enabled these patrols to clearly see who was a club member, their member status, and if they were a member from a foreign country. The patrols would also salute members as they drove by, and if they didn’t salute it was a sign to the driver that there was a speed trap ahead. This practice of saluting stopped by 1963.
Over time, this patrol service grew and became available for the general public for roadside assistance and insurance, known as RAC. In 1999, the RAC company was sold by the members of the Royal Automobile Club.