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    

Original 1950s Ford Dealer Metal Sign - Flathead V8 Early Customline EraVintage 1919 Genuine Ford Parts Used Here Car 26" Porcelain Metal Gas & Oil SignHuge Exit Way Out Metal Sign Home Theater Cinema System Signal Street Mobil Led Vintage C.1950 Chrysler De Soto Dodge 15" Metal Thermometer Gas & Oil Sign~niceGreat Rare Autolite Ford Batteries Embossed Metal Garage SignLarge 3 Foot Lighted Arrow Metal Sign Carnival Fair Exit Mobil Led Vintage LookLarge 3 Foot Lighted Arrow Metal Sign Carnival Fair Exit Mobil Vintage LookVintage 60's-70's Chevrolet Pam Advertising Sign Light Clock Look! Nice!Porcelain Art Deco 1920's -1930's Chevrolet Dealership "bowtie" Sign Ultra Rare Rare!! Awesome Vintage 1950's Porsche 356 Dealership Metal Wall Sign! Nr!Original 1940s Dr. Pepper Cardboard Sign Girls In Jeep W/ Baseball Player -rare!Large 3 Foot Lighted Arrow Metal Sign Carnival Fair Exit Mobil Led Vintage LookNos Vintage Gm Chevy Oldsmobile Dealer Promo License Plate Advertising Auto SignRare Vintage Permatex 2 Sided Metal Sign Porsche Motorcycle Mower Wagon Boat Antique Gas Oil Tin Litho Flyswatter Sign Early Automobile Car Wheeling Wv Adv1950s 60s Vintage Aaa Washington Nos Mint Auto Club Trunk Bumper Emblem Old SignEmbossed Indian Motorcycle Sign Chief Harley Scout Vintage Style American Oil Vintage C.1950 Studebaker Ford Chevrolet 15" Metal Thermometer Gas Oil Sign~niceOk Used Cars Authorized Dealer Chevrolet Lighted Sign Led Chevy Gm VintageOilzum Vintage Metal Embossed Sign Non-chatter / For Ford CarsVintage 1920**ultra Rare**defiance Spark Plugs Metal Flange Gas Oil Sign.fordVintage Best Ford Showroom Parking Car Dealership 18" Metal Gas & Oil SignNeon Style Historic Route 66 Street Sign Chevy Usa Ford Motorcycle Truck TexacoHuge Exit Way Out Metal Sign Home Theater Cinema System Signal Street Mobil Led Ford Neon Clock, Old Ford Sales & Service Clock, Gas & Oil, Old Sign, 1970s ?Huge Exit Way Out Metal Sign Home Theater Cinema System Signal Street Mobil RedHuge Exit Way Out Metal Sign Home Theater Cinema System Signal Street Mobil Led 1950's-60's Ford Autolite Dealership Weather Forecast Sign & ThermometerEmbossed Arcade Arrow Sign Carnival Video Games Theater Exit Highway Mobil GamesEmbossed Bob's Big Boy Drive In Restaurant Sign Diner Vintage Style Mobil 7 UpOk Used Cars Authorized Dealer Chevrolet Lighted Sign Led Chevy Gm VintageEmbossed Chevrolet Sales And Service Sign Garage Chevy Nascar Corvette Truck 59 Ford Flathead V8 Sign 1932 1934 1836 1940 1941 1949 1950 1951 1953 Hot Rod RatEmbossed Arcade Arrow Sign Carnival Video Games Theater Exit Highway Mobil GamesChevrolet "ok" Used Cars Neon Sign Vintage 1950's Style - 80" Around - 25" TallNeon Style Historic Route 66 Street Sign Chevy Usa Ford Motorcycle Truck TexacoEmbossed Fishtail Drink Ice Cold Coca Cola Arrow Sign Bottle Coke Soda Mobil Vintage Rare 1947 Gulflube Gulf Gas Oil Sign Not Porcelain Ford Chevy No Reserve"dad's Workshop" Metal Sign.garage, Shop,chevy, Ford,man CaveFord Mustang Emblem Hood Ornament Desk Sign Pony Shelby Boss Truck Mobil TexacoOld Ford Porcelain Sign, 19,7" Large Advertising Enamel Dealership Original Mopar Muscle Car Era Dealer Metal Sign Rare Plymouth Dodge Chrysler Vintage 1970's Land Rover Truck Car Dealership 24" Metal Gas & Oil Sign~niceEmbossed Dad's Garage Sign Ford Chrysler Chevrolet Motorcycle Gas Oil Filter CanEarly Socony/standard Oil Co. Of New York Porcelain Sign For Ford Cars 2 SidedVintage**rare**chevrolet Advertising Carburetor Points Folding Knife Tool SignVintage 1960's Gmac Gm General Motorspayment Plan Chevrolet Gas & Oil Metal SignFord 351 Cleveland Sign 1969 Mustang 1970 Torino 1971 Ranchero 1973 1974 C Boss 3d Distressed Aged Style Exit Way Out Home Theater Rec Room Garage Metal SignVintage Antique Early 1900's S Studebaker? Car Hubcap Gas & Oil Metal SignEmbossed Diner Sign Vintage 1950's Style Cafe Coca Cola Pepsi Smoker Mobil MetalNostalgic Tin Metal Sign - Rustic Super Chevy Chevrolet Service Station Mts1355Dodge Super Bee Embossed Die Cut Metal Sign Great For Any Garage Or Man Cave!!!!Ford Mustang Emblem Hood Ornament Desk Sign Pony Shelby Boss Truck Mobil TexacoWe Don't Call 911 Metal Sign Pistol Colt Smith Wesson Shell Texaco Retro VintageRare!! Awesome Vintage 1950's Porsche 356 Dealership Metal Wall Sign! Nr!Dodge Scat Pack Sign Dart 1968 Coronet 1969 Charger 1970 Super Bee 1971 Rt1972 Ford Mustang Emblem Hood Ornament Desk Sign Pony Shelby Boss Truck Mobil TexacoFord Garage Sign 1966 Falcon 1967 Fairlane1968 Mustang 1969 Mach I 1970 TorinoEmbossed Dad's Garage Sign Ford Chrysler Chevrolet Motorcycle Gas Oil Filter Can