"something of an extraordinary nature will turn up..."

Mr. Micawber in Dickens' David Copperfield

Kit Foster's



October 22nd, 2008

PowerFlite script on 1955 Plymouth

You’ve probably noticed that automakers frequently boast about their latest technologies by putting little emblems on their cars. I don’t mean the scripts that denote series, trim level or both. I’m referring to those that advertise new features or options.

They became especially prevalent as automatic transmissions became popular, particularly in the low-priced segment. Chevrolets sported Power Glide inscriptions on their trunk lids and 1951 Fords proclaimed Fordomatic Drive, later shortened to simply Fordomatic. Mercury, for some reason, stylized the O in Merc O Matic. Plymouth, without a real automatic, touted the oddball Hy-Drive before celebrating with PowerFlite scripts once the new Chrysler autobox became available in the low-priced Mopar. Cars with overdrive, previously unembellished, suddenly gained Overdrive scripts, among them Plymouth and the new-for-’52 Aero Willys. For Volvo, it was sufficient to say merely Automatic.

This trend began long before the 1950s, with Chrysler Corporation’s Fluid Drive, which appeared in different locations on different makes. As simple Fluid Drive evolved into Gyro-Matic and Fluid-Torque, these were duly noted, sometimes inside the car. Oldsmobile might have been the first to court transmission envy with Hydra-Matic emblems on pre-war cars.

Once autoboxes became common, of course, it was unfashionable to beat the same old drum, but other forms of technology took up the cry: Studebaker put TT emblems on cars with Twin Traction limited slip differentials, Hudson touted Twin H-Power on cars with dual carbs and V8 engines in compact cars rated a fender mention. Before the ready availability of factory four-wheel drive, the few conversion systems were proudly noted.

The trend has never really stopped. Once manufacturers got electronic fuel injection to work properly they began decorating their cars with appropriate emblems. Today, GM wants us to know that many of its cars will burn 85-percent ethanol, and Hybrid logos are everywhere, even on models that don’t have a conventional drivetrain alternative and are readily recognizable by sight.

CarPorters, what other technology badges have you seen recently? And what is the earliest such emblem you can think of? Send us some pix of your favorites.

Serendipity: n. An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
“They were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
Horace Walpole, The Three Princes of Serendip
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