Ram emblem first used as '32 Dodge Eight hood ornament

Fairbanks' clay model for the 1932 hood ornament.

Designer Avard Fairbanks (1897-1987) was a sculptor in the art department of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor who was influenced by the Art Deco style of the 1920s and '30s.

He designed the winged mermaid or “Flying Lady” radiator cap for the 1931 Plymouth and then created the first Dodge ram emblem, a hood ornament, for the 1932 Dodge.

In later years, Fairbanks was quoted in the magazine Southwest Art about how the ram design was born:

“One evening, I got an urgent call from the engineers at Dodge automobile company asking me to meet them in 10 minutes. They explained that they had 10,000 cars that needed hood ornaments and that they wanted something as attractive as the ornament on a Rolls Royce, but for Chrysler's least expensive make of car.

“I took along my clay and an animal book by my friend William Hornaday and spent the next several days at their headquarters. They brought in food and a couch, and I went to work.

The ram ornament on a 1935 Dodge pickup truck.

“I suggested a mountain lion, a tiger, a jaguar and other animals. Finally, I started modeling a mountain sheep.

"When the engineers read that the ram was the ‘master of the trail and not afraid of even the wildest of animals’ they became enthusiastic about the symbol. Walter P. Chrysler wasn't as convinced. But I explained that anyone seeing a ram, with its big horns, would think ‘dodge!’ He looked at me, looked at the model, scratched his head and said, ‘That's what I want – go ahead with it.’ “

Fairbanks left his models at Dodge headquarters for a few months. When he returned, he was surprised to see an assembly plant lot full of new Dodges with rams on their hoods. He immediately sought an audience with Dodge Division President K.T. Keller.

Keller explained that, because of the rush to build the car, his own designers had modified the ram ornament for production. They had tilted the head down a bit more and pulled the horns away from the head, a suggestion Avard had made but thought would be too costly for production.

A more stylized version of the ornament used in 1951-53.

Keller paid Fairbanks $1,400, then the price of a top-of-the-line Dodge Eight, and  Dodge got one of the most enduring corporate symbols in American history. A ram of one sort or another went on the hood of every Dodge car and truck from 1932 through 1954.

The ram emblem returned to various models beginning in the early 1980s, and in addition to its present-day appearance on Dodge trucks and other vehicles, the emblem appears on a host of promotional and aftermarket items from baseball caps and tote bags to taillights and tonneau covers – even fishing lures.