Dagmar bumpers, also known simply as Dagmars (dag-mar), is a slang term for the artillery shell shaped styling elements found on the front bumper/grille assemblies on several makes of cars produced in the 1950s, an era recognized for its flamboyant designs and prominent use of chrome details.
The term was coined by customizers in direct reference to Dagmar, a well-endowed early 1950s television personality on Broadway Open House known for low-cut gowns and pronouncedly conical bra cups. She was amused by the tribute.
As originally conceived by Harley Earl, GM Vice President of Design, conical the bumper guards would mimic artillery shells. Placed in somewhat from the ends of front bumpers on Cadillacs, they were intended to both convey the image of a speeding projectile and serve as bumper guards.
By the late '50s American car designers began to shed both rear tailfins and bumper guards.
Postwar Cadillacs began sporting conical bumper guards in the 1946 model year. In 1951 models, some were raised into the grille. In 1957 black rubber tips appeared. The element continued to become more pronounced in size through 1958, but were eliminated in the 1959 Cadillac redesign.
Mercury sported Dagmars in 1953 through the 1956 model year. Lincoln added Dagmars in 1960, with a black rubber ring separating the body from the chrome tip.
Buick added Dagmars on its 1954 and 1955 models, in '54 as part of the bumper assembly, moved into the grille in '55.
In 1974, motoring press applied the name of statuesque British actress Sabrina to oversized pairs of protruding rubber bumper blocks added to MG MGB, MG Midget, Triumph Spitfire and Triumph TR6 sports cars to meet strengthened US auto safety regulations. The term lingered at least to the mid-'90s in some areas.