European Cars: The Stories Behind the Badges

European Cars: The Stories Behind the Badges

You don’t have to ‘sprechen sie Deutsch’ to understand that European cars are alluring, sophisticated, reliable, sexy and fast. Those who own them are ‘chuffed to bits’ about it! But there’s more to these beautiful cars than big screen car chases and status. Europeans are not only masters of engineering and design but each brand is rich in history, with logos that hold secrets you may not know.

So what’s the scoop behind these sweet sedans and coupes? Here’s a bit of history on the most popular European cars we service at Motor Werke:

BMW

Rumour has it that the logo is a representation of airplane propellers, an indication of the quality and power of BMW‘s legendary aircraft engines. This myth was unintentionally created when a company ad was published in 1929 that superimposed the logo over an airplane propeller.

The original BMW logo was designed in-house at Bayerische Motoren Werke AG in 1927. The checkered design does not represent spinning propellers but is a combination of the Rapp Motorenwerke logo, from which the BMW company grew, and the colours of the Bavarian flag.

Despite growing hype about the true meaning of its design, the BMW logo has become one of the world’s most recognized symbols that exemplifies class, personality, and sophistication.

Mercedes-Benz

If you want to get to know Mercedes-Benz, then you have to start with Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (founded by Gottlieb Daimler) in 1890 and Benz & Cie (founded by Carl Benz) in 1883. Both companies created the foundation of motorized vehicle transportation which later became one of the most recognized car brands in the world.

When Daimler passed away in 1900, chief engineer Wilhelm Maybach took over Daimler’s duties and invited a racing enthusiast by the name of Emil Jellinek on as a partner. Why is he important? Well, his daughter Mercédès (Spanish for “grace”) was the inspiration for the soon-to-be trade name.

When coming up with a logo, Daimler’s sons were the inspiration as they described a postcard sent by their father to their mother with a three-pointed star marking the location of his house in Germany. Their father had explained that one day the star would shine over his factory and bring prosperity. DMG went with it and the star was born. The logo started as a blue colour but was changed to the signature silver after its first Grand Prix at the Nürburgring in 1934.

At the same time, Benz & Cie was creating their logo with their company name surrounded by a laurel wreath. When the companies merged in 1926, so did the star and the laurel wreath. The name changed to Daimler-Benz AG and later morphed into Mercedes-Benz.

Many automakers go through countless logo changes but the three-pointed star has remained a constant from the beginning. According to the company, it represents the drive toward universal motorization with its engines dominating the land, sea, and air (three points).

Audi

Before Audi became a company on its own, it was part of the Auto Union company which included Horch, Wanderer and DKW. Prior to World War II, these four automakers produced some of the finest racing machines ever built in and around Germany. The 4-ringed logo we know today was used on all of these racing machines.

During the war, the entire company almost disappeared completely, making only 1% of the world’s vehicles. For 20 more years, the four companies would struggle and three would not make it. Audi kept some popularity throughout the dark times and went on to be one of the world’s most prestigious manufacturers, producing extremely well engineered vehicles that provided both performance and luxury.

The four rings are still used today in remembrance of their sister companies and the challenges they conquered along the way.

Jaguar

Jaguar was founded in 1922 as Swallow Sidecar Company. The first vehicles from this British car company simply wore an “SS” badge on the hood. The name “Jaguar” was added to the name in 1935 and in 1945, the “SS” was removed for political reasons. They needed a new, stylish emblem to go with their new name, Jaguar Cars.

You know it – the fierce jaguar leaping off the front of the hood.  That classic cat was all about strength, speed, and relentlessness plus it looked sophisticated as hell! However, with the introduction of the latest pedestrian safety regulations, Jaguar was forced to remove the javelin-like emblem from the front of the vehicle.

The jaguar has now been moved to the rear of the cars as a flat emblem. They created a second logo with the animal’s face in silver and a red font which decorates the radiator grills of all Jaguar cars.

Land Rover

In 1948, Rover created an off-road car, similar to the famous American wartime vehicle Willys. It was incredibly durable with a Spartan interior and was an overall hit with drivers. But, some customers wanted more comfort so, in 1970, a more expensive version called the Range Rover was introduced. Land Rover did not become its own brand until 1970 and the logo used until the 80s was actually a model nameplate, not an emblem.

Their famous green logo dates back to 1989, when the black nameplate was finally replaced with the oval shape we know today.  Why oval?  Legend has it that the logo designer was inspired by an oval-shaped oil drop while he was having lunch at his drawing desk.  A Z-shaped line was incorporated, connecting the words Land and Rover, which are believed to reflect the company’s motto ‘Above and Beyond’.

The current Land Rover logo has remained relatively similar to the original.  The deep green represents vitality, leaving the grey city roads to get closer to nature. The stark white letters stand for purity and dignity. The emblem is typically placed in the right bottom side of the grill. Because, why not be different? Land Rover has mastered ‘being different’ along with the look of sophisticated adventure.

Mini

You won’t need the Mini to race through tight European streets, jump from roof to roof or speed downstairs like in the movie “The Italian Job”. Or, will you? Whatever business you need to handle, these cars are small but mighty.

In the mid-50s, Great Britain faced the need for small economical cars that would be suitable for anyone and everyone. The British Motor Corporation engineered the first Mini cars alongside Austin and Morris, and were aptly named Austin Seven and Morris Mini-Minor.

In 1961, John Cooper built the first charged Minis, and the name changed to Mini Cooper. The winged badge that later went on to inspire the current logo was used for the first time.

In 1969, the company was changed once again to Mini, and a new logo was designed – a shield with the company’s name on a black background and white-blue ornament.

Rover came along and bought Mini, altering the logo to match their branding and painting it green.

The brand was then acquired by BMW in 2000, and the name was changed slightly to MINI. And…you guessed it! A new logo was introduced with a black circle with the company’s name placed between the sharp-edged wings. Edgy, modern, and quickly becoming the symbol of the brand’s rejuvenation and commercial success in today’s market.

Porsche

Is it “porsh” or “porsh-uh”? It’s the latter but don’t worry if you got it wrong – you’re not alone. This topic has been so widely debated that Porsche actually made a video to help settle it once and for all.

Porsche’s history dates back to 1948, by founder Ferdinand Porsche. Within just a few years, they introduced one of their most popular models, the 1952 550 Spyder.

Their logo is based on the “Coat of Arms of the Free People State”, inspired by the war. Today, the Porsche brand stands for luxury and high performing vehicles that deliver a stellar experience on the race track.

Their racing numbers and colours are historical as well. Porsche’s WEC LMP1 numbers, 17 and 18, are a tribute to the fabled 917 KH that won Le Mans in 1970 and the high-performance 918 Spyder sports car. They both run in white, as that’s the traditional German racing colour.

With over 30,000 race victories, no other brand can keep up with them in the record books, let alone the track.

Volkswagen

This company’s logo is so recognizable that its cars are merely referred to as the letters on the emblem – VW. The Volkswagen Automobile Company was founded in Wolfsburg, Germany in May 1937 and has remained as one of the top automakers in the world for nearly a century.

What does Hitler have to do with Volkswagen? Before World War II began, Adolf Hitler approached Ferdinand Porsche to manufacture a less expensive car for the working class. Porsche got to work and founded the “people’s car” or volks-wagen in German.

The origin of the VW logo is unknown but here are some possibilities:

  • In 1937, Franz Xaver Reimspeiss, a Porsche employee won an office competition for his logo design.
  • In 1939, graphic designer Nikolai Borg created the emblem before it appeared at that year’s Auto Show. He went to court over this to fight for his rights!
  • In 1938, German artist Martin Freyer, claims he won a design competition for his similar logo.

Here’s what we do know about the evolution of the logo:

  • The first Volkswagen logo included the iconic V and W, plus a radial design many compare to a pedestal fan.
  • The wings of the logo were removed before WWII for a cleaner appearance.
  • After the Nazis were defeated, and the British took control of the company, the black-and-white colours were inverted and the gear cogs were removed to look less like the Nazi flag. Good choice!
  • Very few changes occurred until 2000, when the emblem was given its current three-dimensional appearance.

Volvo

ABBA, Ikea, meatballs, The Muppets’ Swedish Chef – this country has given us so much to love, including a vehicle that was made for durability, safety, and quality. In August 1926, financial backer Svenska Kullagerfabriken (say that three times fast!) reactivated a company that had been sitting idle since 1915. This company was Volvo and it had been formed for the manufacturing and marketing of bearings for the automotive industry. The company also produced some other oddities such as gas burners, camping trailers, and office chairs.

“Volvere” is the infinitive form of the verb “roll” in Latin. In its first person singular form, the verb “volvere” becomes “volvo” or “I roll”.  Volvo has been rolling out cars ever since its resuscitation.

Volvo chose to use the ancient chemical symbol for iron, a circle with an arrow pointing diagonally upwards to the right. It was meant to symbolize honoured traditions of the Swedish iron industry: steel and strength with properties of safety, quality, and durability.

In 1999, the Volvo Car Corporation was sold by its owner AB Volvo to Ford Motor Company, however, the Volvo brand was to be left as is and it’s still rolling today as one of the most trusted cars for safety; radiating modern and exciting design with a strong emotional connection with drivers.

European cars all started by filling some kind of need whether economical, political, or social. Today, most of these vehicles still stand for their original purpose and offer quality, durability and high performance but are now found in driveways throughout the Okanagan. When it comes to your European car, bring it to the auto mechanics at Motor Werke for service and repairs second to none. Our team delivers thorough, efficient service at a reasonable price to get your car back on the road where it belongs.

Book your appointment today and gute reise!