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    

Ca1880 Old Abe Tobacco Tin Lithograph Advertising Sign W/ Abraham Lincoln ImageVintage Antique Pontiac Lighted Glass Sign - Ohio Advertising Display Co.Porcelain Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick, Pontiac Gmc Trucks Dealership SignVintage 60s Nos Pep Boys License Plate Topper Ford Gm Chevy Buick Amc CadillacVintage 50s Drive Safely License Plate Topper Ford Gm Chevy Buick Amc CadillacVintage Large Porcelain Dodge Brothers Detroit U.s.a.dealership 18 Inch SignVintage 1940's Keystone Automobile Club Gas Station Oil 20" Metal SignPorcelain Pontiac Authorised Service Double Sided 42 Inches Enamel SignPorcelain Rare Collectible Item Buick Enamel Sign 28"x 48"Vintage Hood Tires Porcelain Sign Metal Garage Gas Station Lube Can Chevrolet 17Vintage 40s Motometer Tire Auto Tester Tool Kit Ford Gm Chevy Amc Buick Dodge Vintage Large Porcelain Magnolia Petroleum Co. Magnolene Oil Ford 18 Inch SignVintage 1950s Hudson Hornet Polishing Cloth Tin Can Oil Sign Auto AccessoryVintage 1950's Delco Packard Electric Motors Chevrolet Gm Gas Oil 20" Metal SignVintage Genuine "ford" Porcelain Gas Station Advertising SignTomlinson Lincoln Butter Powder Grocery Shop Advertising Card Sign C1900sPorcelain Authorised Buick Service Double Sided 42 Inches Enamel SignFord Genuine Parts Porcelain Oval Dealership Sign Excellent Gloss & ConditionIh International Harvester Tractor Dealership Sign Kit Sales Brochure 1977Vintage 1960's Nos Autolite Spark Plugs Tin Embossed Sign Fomoco Auto Lite FordPorcelain Ford Magnolene 2 Sided Enamel Sign 22.5''x 16''.flange 2''Porcelain Ford Parts Stockists Enamel Sign - Size 24 X 16 InchVintage Porcelain Enamel Mercedes-benz Sign Dealership Service Dealer Auto CarPorcelain Oval Ford Enamel Sign 24 X 36 Inches 2 SidedHudson-essex Service,double Sided Porcelain Automobile Sign,1922-1933Porcelain ''rare Ford Double Sided'' Enamel Sign Dimensions -36''x 24''Vintage Original Nos Packard Approved Service Auto Advertising Thermometer GaugeUnited Motors Service Porcelain Oval Dealership Sign Excellent Gloss & ConditionPorcelain Plymouth Chrysler Motors Product 2 Sided Enamel Sign 29.5x21.5 Inches1950's Ford Ferguson Plate Topper Porcelain Sign General Store Seed Tractor Vintage Ford Service Entrance Porcelain Sign Metal Gas Mustang F150 Bronco A T 8Porcelain Ford Sale & Service Enamel Sign - Size 23.5" X 9.5"Porcelain Ford Parts Enamel Sign - Size 24 X 16 InchUnited Motors Service Oval Porcelain Sign Vintage Dealer Gas Pump Gasoline FordPorcelain Packard Enamel Sign 21 X 48 InchesOld Ford , Porcelain Sign 20" Heavy Convex Rar Advertising Service Logo GarageOld 1968 Sunoco Gasoline Sign Metal Studebaker Pontiac Buick Chevy Ii Am MotorsOld Vintage Original 40 50s Ford Script Metal Embossed Truck Tailgate Bench SignPontiac Engineered Parts Porcelain Door Push Sign General StoreVintage Sinclair Opaline Motor Oil Porcelain Sign Metal Garage Ford ChevroletVintage Original Chevrolet Automobiles Sales And Service Sign Display Phone 105Pep Boys Advertising Sign Vintage Oil Gas Service Station Car Automobile GarageVintage 60s Nos Pathfinder Back-up Light Lamp Ford Gm Chevy Buick Amc CadillacVintage Chrysler Plymouth Porcelain Sign Metal Garage Station Lube CanFord Porcelain Double Sided SignOld Mopar , Porcelain Sign 16" Convex Rar Advertising Service Garage Chrysler Porcelain Plymouth Chrysler Motors Product 2 Sided Enamel Sign 29.5x21.5 InchesOriginal Double Sided Ac Delco Battery Sign Trucks Gas Oil Car Chevrolet Gm Dodge Brothers Sales Service Porcelain Sign Thick Steel Vintage Gas Motor OilPorcelain Pontiac Sales & Service Parts 24" X 14" Porcelain Enamel Sign 1950s Pontiac Cadillac Vauxall Gmc Sign Lighter Mason City Iowa Mint Unused1962 Dodge Showroom SignPorcelain Ford Monarch Enamel Sign 16 X 24 Inches1955 Oklahoma Truck License Plate (188t431) Tag Sign Chevy Ford Farm OkPorcelain Plymouth Chrysler Motors Product 2 Sided Enamel Sign 29.5x21.5 Inches1950's Vintage Old Collectible Genuine Ford Parts Ad Porcelain Enamel Sign BoardFerrari Dealership Porcelain Sign Thick Steel Vintage Gas Motor Oil GasolineVintage Ford Genuine Parts Porcelain Sign Metal Gas Mustang Cobra F150 Pickup V8Old Vintage Flying A Gasoline Porcelain Advertising Sign Oil Gas Pump AutomobilePorcelain Genuine Chevrolet Parts 2 Sided Enamel Sign 24''x 18''