Five game-changing grilles
Automotive faces that launched a thousand outraged posts on the internet*
*or would have done if the internet had been around.
What's the most dominant feature on a car? The headlights? The sillhouette? The wheels? Yes to all three. Sometimes. But very often, it's the theoretically functional bit that allows cool air into the engine. The grille.
Originally just a necessity to stop engines overheating, the grille rapidly became one of the chief tools in a car designers arsenal, and since the very earliest days of motoring, it's a statement. For better or worse, grilles grab headlines. Feeling all nostalgic, we thought we'd compile our top five game-changing grilles. Obviously there are squillions to choose from, so feel free to shout about your favourites in the comments. But here's what we came up with.
Bugatti Type 35
The Bugatti Type 35T grille
When it comes to brands that count the grille as a major part of its visual identity, you can't look past Bugatti. Arguably the most identifiable bits of the Veyron and Chiron are the big ol' horseshoes nailed to the front. And like most such features, they're retro throwbacks. In fact, they've adorned every single Bugatti since the 1924 Type 35.
And again on the Chiron
Expert opinion varies on why head honcho Ettore Bugatti decded on that particular design. One theory is that he really liked horses, and was referencing actual horseshoes. Another is that it's actually inspired by an egg, which was a shape that Ettore's dad, Carlo, used regularly in his furniture designs. If that's true, then every Bugatti literally has egg on its face.
Shiny (Photo: Malcolma on Wikipedia)
Rolls-Royce is another brand that, arguably, is defined by its grille. Although having said that, the British luxury brand has also gone big on the Spirit of Ecstasy figure above it. Presumably when you're throwing down big bucks on a motor, you want all more than just one iconic feature.
Anyway, the massive verticale facade first appeared as a radiator, rather than a grille, on the 1905 Rolls-Royce 15hp, right in the earliest days of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce's business venture. The look stuck. Today, it's officially known as the Pantheon Grille, and the company says it's inspired by the Pantheon temple in Rome. Fun fact – all RR grilles are arranged by hand.
303? Yeah, you know me
There's much internet-based gnashing of teeth over the size of the BMW's kidney grille in recent vehicles, but it's been ginormous since day one. The first car to sport the split design was the 1933 BMW 303, a six-cylinder family saloon, and it was made this way for functional reasons; the idea was that it would improve the cooling of the engine.
Sure, the BMW iX is electric and doesn't need a grille. But BOOM, it's got one anyway
But the look went down well, and it's been splashed over the front of every BMW since. In one size or another. Begin your angry commenting now.
Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Turismo
A 6C 2500 in production and ooh look, what a fancy grille. Scudetto in the middle, Trefoil at the sides
The classic shield-like badge on the front of pretty much every Alfa in the past 70 years is called the Scudetto, and it first appeared on the 1933 6C 2300 Turismo. Scudetto means 'little shield', and while it's evolved over the years, the general principle has remained constant.
The Giulia GTA. Basically the same
But like a Pokemon evolving into its final form, the Scudetto formed part of what's known as the Trefoil; the three-part grille that Alfas sport today. It's a more flexible arrangement than BMW's kidney, but look hard enough and you'll see it.
Aston Martin DB2
The Aston Martin DB2
It seems strange to think that Aston Martin used to make cars without the now-trademark grille shape. But the cars used to sport three-piece grilles, not dissimilar to Alfa Romeo.
The almost identical Aston DBX
When David Brown (he of the DB initials) took over Aston Martin in 1947, he brought in designer Frank Feeley and told him to make a one piece grille for the DB2, which would be cheaper. Frank basically smooshed the three pieces together, giving us the shape we know and love today.
BONUS: Five more iconic grills
Where would we be without grilles, grills, grillz or Grylls? In a sadder world, that's where.
Tefal OptiGrill Elite
*boop* SIZZLE SIZZLE SIZZLE
Want your food perfectly grilled? Want presets for different foods, and an automatic sensor that measures the thickness of your meat? OPTIGRILL ELITE, BABY. *Do not mount to the front of your car
That's not how we drive Bear, stop messing about
Bear is a British adventurer and former speacial forces soldier, and as tough as nails. Here he is with a Land Rover.
I think we can all recognise the iconic G grill, seen here on the back of an 1869 US postage stamp (Photo: Stan Shebs on Wikipedia)
In philately (that's the study of stamps), a grill is an embossed pattern of small indentations, designed to stop people reusing stamps. It was all the rage in the 1860s and 1870s.
Rapster Paul Wall and his silly teeth (Photo: Bradley G on Wikipedia)
Why have normal teeth when you can cover them in metal for no discernible reason? STYLE.
A thorough grilling
"Dave, we know you stole the microfilm. Tell us where it is or Amanda here will get to work on your fingernails" (Photo: Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash)
When you want to get information out of someone, you sit them down for some intensive interrogation. That's a proper grilling.