Home » You Must Choose: The Two Best-Known Fish-Based Car Hood Ornaments

You Must Choose: The Two Best-Known Fish-Based Car Hood Ornaments

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Generally, the automotive world is fairly focused on land, mostly because that’s the primary place car owners tend to use their vehicles, Amphicars aside. That also could be why car names tend to be focused on land-dwelling animals and other things, but not exclusively. There are some aquatic-animal-named cars out there, but not too many. Some have secondary names from aquatic animals, like the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, but for this moment, I want to focus on what I believe are the two best-known cars named for fish: the Plymouth Barracuda and the AMC Marlin.

Importantly, both of these cars could be had with hood ornaments, and, even more importantly, these hood ornaments featured fish. I believe these are the most-produced OEM fish-based hood ornaments, and the approaches taken by the two companies to the design of these pescatorial hood ornaments are similar and yet quite different, so I think they’re worth evaluating. Because, again, it’s important, dammit.

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Both of these fish-cars were similar sorts of muscle car fastback designs, and both quite appealing in their own ways. As is expected from AMC, the Marlin is the stranger of the two, with slightly more awkward – but still quite engaging – styling. The original concept for the Marlin was a concept car based on the Rambler American named for another fish, a tarpon.

Tarpon

The production Marlin had a higher roof and more awkward proportions, arguably, but retained the fastback and pillar-less design that gave the car its unusual charm.

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Marlin 1

Plymouth’s Barracuda was the more popular of the fish-cars by a pretty significant margin, and I think the Barracuda had a bolder look, mostly due to that huge, curved rear window glass:

Barracuda

They weren’t actually ever painted in cool stripes like that; this was just some brochure magic. Also, here’s a better view of that fantastic, massive rear window glass:

Cuda2

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But look, as much fun as this is, I don’t want to get sidetracked into a full discussion of the aesthetics of these two fastbacks; we’re here to decide which car had a better rendition of a fish on their hoods. So, with that in mind, let’s look at these two fish hood ornaments:

Fish Hoodornaments

Look at these! Two similar yet quite different approaches to making a chromed fish on the end of your hood appealing. I think the Barracuda may have had a harder job here, since I think it’s the uglier of the two fish in reality, though I’m not sure how much of a looker a Marlin really is:

Thefishes

So, let’s consider the two approaches carefully: the Barracuda takes a side view of the fish, embraces its long narrowness, and stylizes the fish quite effectively, simplifying its forms until it becomes sleek and machine-like. The stylized fish is set over a circle, which significantly, doesn’t bound the fish, which breaks through its edges at either end. The result is powerful and sculptural, but perhaps a bit static.

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The Marlin’s approach is quite different; we have a view of a leaping marlin, its body curving dramatically and gracefully into a swoosh. This one is bounded by a circle too, but in the Marlin’s case the fish is not just entirely contained within the chromed circle, it’s contained quite easily and with generous room, making the fish feel a bit small. The interior isn’t an empty void like the Barracuda one, either; a bluish-transparent plastic insert with a cocentric circle pattern fills the space, evoking water ripples or a target or a radar scope, depending on your state of mind.

It’s tricky, I’m really not certain which fish ornament I prefer; I think the Barracuda is more clean and bold, but the Marlin is doing some interesting things, too.

Here, if it helps you decide, you can listen to two songs relating to these fish. First, Barracuda by Heart:

A classic! What a banger about a fish! For the Marlin, we have George Strait’s Blue Marlin Blues:

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Also a solid fish-themed song!

Okay, time for you to put down whatever other bullshit you’re doing, really focus and choose:

Also, feel free to explain yourself or argue or berate or cajole or evangalize or whatever in the comments! It’s fun! At least fun-ish!

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Doug Kretzmann
Doug Kretzmann
11 days ago

I like the Barracuda ornament better, sleek and ferocious like the fish. Barracuda fish aren’t very lovely, a rather intimidating creature, beauty of the predator only.

The Marlin ornament as you say is a bit cramped and confined, doesn’t do the fish justice. A marlin live fish is spectacularly beautiful, glows purple and green and silver flashes.

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