Before television, car companies relied on signs to do their promotional work. Some vintage automobile signs date to the 1920s, with bold slogans like “Ford: The Universal Car.”

Most of these early automobile signs were enameled or porcelain signs, in which layers of colored, powdered glass were heated and fused onto an iron base. This technique came to the United States from Europe in the early 20th century and rose in prominence until World War II, when the iron in the signs was needed for the war effort. Untold numbers of porcelain signs were recycled for their base metal—after the war, porcelain-sign production seriously declined.

Porcelain automobile signs were made by a number of regional companies, including Veribrite Signs of Chicago. Some were rectangular while others were oval; some had graphics on only one side, while others had graphics on both. Some signs doubled as advertising clocks, designed with functionality in mind so that they would hopefully not be discarded as quickly.

In the 1930s, neon signs became fashionable, so many porcelain signs were adorned with the bright lights to make them stand out at night. In the following decade, with the coming of the war, many sign manufacturing companies switched from porcelain to painted metal and tin. These signs were cheaper to manufacture and ship.

Car companies utilized signs in a variety of places where they would be seen by customers, but the prime locations were repair shops and dealerships. While the messaging in Coca-Cola signs and those of other beverage makers needed only to promise refreshment, automobile signs had to reassure hesitant customers that their prized possessions were about to be delivered into competent hands. One very common Ford sign, for example, bore the slogan “Genuine Ford Parts”; a Buick sign read simply, “Authorized Service.” Some dealers’ used-car lots had to instill confidence without overpromising. Thus, signs in Chevy used-car lots read simply, “OK.”

Ford signs may be the most common among surviving examples, but collected brands also include Buick, Cadillac, Chevy, Dodge, Oldsmobile, Packard, Porsche, and Studebaker.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Jersey Vintage Ford Collectibles

Jersey Vintage Ford Collectibles

Sam Baker's excellent collection of vintage Ford porcelain and neon signs and related memorabilia from the 1920s an… [read review or visit site]

Advertising Antiques

Advertising Antiques

This classy looking British site features hundreds of high resolution photos of antique porcelain pre-war (enamel) … [read review or visit site]

Hemmings Auto Blogs

Hemmings Auto Blogs

This great (and frequently updated) blog from the folks at Hemmings Motor News is a visual feast of old and new pho… [read review or visit site]

Historical Marker Database

Historical Marker Database

If you're the type who pulls over when you see a 'historic marker ahead' sign, you'll love this site. Orchestrated … [read review or visit site]

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Falvo Collectables Gallery

Ralph and Carol Falvo's excellent collection of automobiles, petroliana, jukeboxes, soda, and general store items. … [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Gas Station Or Dealership Porcelain Advertising Sign For Goodrich TiresRare Double Sided Ford Genuine Parts Porcelain Enamel Sign 18" X 28"Porcelain Genuine Chevrolet Parts 2 Sided Enamel Sign 24''x 18''Vintage Smile Orange Soda Automobile Metal Advertising Topper SignVintage Lincoln L Highway Gas Oil 22" Porcelain Metal Road Sign~nice ConditionPorcelain Automobile Club Sign California Sign Aaa Sign Vintage Sign Old Sign Old Double Sided Porcelain Oldsmobile Service SignVintage 50s Aaa Southern California Good Roads Auto Emblem Badge Gm Ford Chevy 1940's Vintage Porcelain Chrysler Plymouth Motors Product 2 Sided Enamel Sign1950s Double Sided Ford Parts Porcelain SignAuthorized Buick Service Double Sided Porcelain Enamel Sign 42 InchesPorcelain Pontiac Sales & Service Parts 24" X 14" Porcelain Enamel SignRare Vintage Antique Automobile Michigan Pre State Leather License Plate SignHuge Plymouth Dealership Banner 1950s 1960s Mopar Vintage Sign 1940's Vintage Porcelain Ford Genuine Parts Enamel SignVintage Ac Delco Gm Chevrolet Parts Gas Oil 19" Metal Thermometer Sign W/boxVintage 12" Round Cadillac Authorized Service Thick Heavy Porcelain Sign Rare Vintage Hudson Sales And Service Porcelain SignPorcelain Genuine Ford Parts Used Here Porcelain Enamel Sign 26" X 9 3/4" Vintage 1960's Flower Power By Ford Hippie Gas Oil Embossed Metal Emblem SignPorcelain Chrysler Genuine Parts Enamel Sign Dimensions - 26''x 20''Porcelain Plymouth Chrysler Motors Product 2 Sided Enamel Sign 29.5x21.5 InchesSaleen Mustang Lighted Dealership Sign, 5.0 Fox Body Cobra Ford Mustang 1987-93Kansas Route 66 Porcelain Us Highway Sign Motorcycle Bicycle Tractor Garage FordVintage 1950 Buick Service Technician Car Dealership Gas Oil 24" Metal SignOld Ford Monarch Porcelain SignPlymouth Chrysler Motors Product 2 Sided Enamel Sign 29.5 X 21.5 InchesVintage Porcelain Dodge Brothers Sales Service SignNo Reserve Volkswagen Dealership Marquee Metal Sign Collectible Vw AutomobiliaVintage 60s Nos Pinup Girl Steering Wheel Spinner Suicide Knob Gm Ford Old ChevyFord Monarch Enamel Sign 16 X 24 InchesPorcelain Ford Parts Enamel Sign - Size 24 X 16 InchRare Near Mint 1930s Vintage Chevrolet For Economical Transportation Old SignVintage C.1960 Ac Acron Air Filter Chevrolet Gas Oil Metal Sign~nice ConditionChampion Spark Plug Embossed Metal Sign,ford Chevy Dodge Garage Man CaveDads Garage Always Open Hanging Embossed Metal Sign Ford Chevy Garage Man CaveNational Mazda Automobile Lamps Display Gas Oil SignVintage "restored" F.d. Roosevelt Automobile Sign And License Plate C.1930's Vintage Ac Delco Gm Chevrolet Parts Gas Oil 19" Metal Thermometer SignVintage Daa Dominion Automobile Association Gas Oil 2 Sided 24" Metal SignAaa Approved Resort 5.75" Porcelain Advertising Automobile Club Of America Sign Jeep Willys Its A Jeep Thing Embossed Metal Sign Shop Garage Man CaveDodge Super Bee Embossed Metal Sign Chrysler Mopar Sales Service Shop Garage Large 20" Ford Oval Dealer Sales Service Embossed Metal Sign Garage Shop GarageHarley Davidson Firestone Tires Vintage Lighted Dealership Workshop Metal SignVintage Antique "private Pond No Boating No Fishing" Lake Cabin Sign Lincoln MaAutolite Ford Gt 40 Wire Spool / Display Sign Circa 1968 /1971Vintage Car Wash 25c Vending Area Gas Oil 16" Metal Sign W.antique AutomobileVtg Foe Fraternal Order Eagles Automobile Advertising License Plate Topper SignPlymouth Barracuda Sign 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 CudaLarge 20" Chevrolet Bowtie Metal Sign Gm Motor Sales Service Shop Man Cave.Old Atlas Battery Service Station Porcelain Advertising Automobile Car SignFord Motor Company Detroit Embossed Thermometer Metal Sign Ford Motor Sales ShopHigh Performance Holley Carburetor Engine Embossed Metal Sign Ford Chevy Mancave Sohio Porcelain Pump Plate Sign Station Standard Garage Ford Mustang Cobra 429 Ford Genuine Parts Porcelain Sign Station Mercury Edsel Mustang Tire Cobra 429Texaco Aviation Porcelain Pump Plate Sign Texas Indian Garage Station Ford CanAutolite Ford Battery Cable Display Sign Circa 1961Super Chevrolet Service Embossed Thermometer Metal Sign Gm Motor Sales ShopDodge Brothers Sales And Service Porcelain Sign Gas And Oil Pump Plate