Pie Pellicane

I took our Triumph TR4 to the Matching Green Classic Car Show in convoy with James in his TVR Chimera and my daughter in her 'best' Honda S2000.

As soon as we arrived this car bonnet emblem caught my eye. Firstly because nothing as pointy as this would be allowed on a car today. Much too dangerous for pedestrians in the event of an accident.

It was on a Packard, known in its day as the American Rolls Royce. Its owner from Clare in Suffolk told me the emblem was a swan or a cormorant. I wasn't convinced. The bird is in a characteristic pose which I was sure represented a myth that I had half-forgotten.

I've researched since and discovered that it is a stylised pelican. Pelicans are quite ungainly birds and it has been made to look more swan-like. A pelican features in the Packard, formerly Packers, from south-east England, family crest.

In heraldry and in Christian tradition the pelican is depicted piercing its own breast so that it can feed its young with its blood. The physical reality which probably resulted in this legend is that the long beak of the pelican has a sack or pouch which serves as a container for the small fish that it feeds its young. In the process of feeding them, the bird presses the sack back against its neck in such a way that it seems to open its breast with its bill. The reddish tinge of its breast plumage and the redness of the tip of its beak prompted the legend that it actually drew blood from its own breast.

I was also interested to read that Rolls Royce Merlin engines were made by the Packard company in America. There were some difficulties at first as Packard worked to much closer tolerances than Rolls Royce did. In the UK the engines were hand-built and fitters torqued using their experience. Packard was geared up to mass-production techniques.  


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