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    

Large Vintage 1950's Ok Chevrolet Used Cars 62" Porcelain Metal Gas & Oil SignNice Pontiac Indian Sales And Service Sign Automobile Not PorcelainGenuine Chevrolet Parts Flange Sign Good ShapeVintage Nos Mint 50s Aaa Arizona Rare Auto Car Club Trunk Emblem Accessory Sign1940s Original Ford Genuine Parts Porcelain Sign,single Side,16 5/8x10 3/4,namedHuge Exit Way Out Metal Sign Home Theater Cinema System Signal Street Mobil Led 1950's Jaquar Sales & Service Dealership Porcelain Sign Nos Excellent OriginalBob's Big Boy Kip's Drive In Classic Hamburger 3d Metal Sign Cruising 50's 60'sRare Mint 1940's Nyc Subway Destination Roll Sign Includes Hudson TerminalStihl Light Up Sign Dealership Piece Stand Up Or Hang Chainsaw Vintage Man CaveLarge Stp Oil Wood Sign Gas Nascar Garage Art Texaco Mobil Sinclair Shop MotorVintage Ac Delco Tune Up Chevrolet 36" Embossed Metal Gas & Oil SignVintage General Motors Embossed Metal Vertical Sign Gm DealershipEmbossed Fishtail Drink Ice Cold Coca Cola Arrow Sign Bottle Coke Soda Mobil Being In The Dog House Never Felt So Good 3d Metal Sign Man Cave Bull Hound Wife1930s Vintage Willys Knight Overland Car Old Le Roy Ny Tin Arrow Sign Hurst Shifter Sign Ford, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Amc, Dodge, PlymouthOld Illinois Us Shield Route 67 Highway Embossed Road Sign Not 66 Or LincolnTexaco Motor Oil Can Metal Gas Station Man Cave Garage Chevron Ford Chevy SignNeon Style Historic Route 66 Street Sign Chevy Usa Ford Motorcycle Truck TexacoVintage Nos Mint 1953 Aaa Award Emblem Rare Gold Auto Car Accessory Topper BadgeFord Model T Plant Vintage Metal Sign, Nos,found At Plant,6x10,green,no SpittingEmbossed Chevron Gas Sign Pump Petroleum Motor Oil Texaco Sinclair Mobil Can Officially Licensed Ford Truck Parking Only 3d Sign 1955 F100 1953 1954 1956 57Exit Way Out Metal Sign Garage Man Cave Theater Movie Cinema Body Shop Bar RetroVintage Donegal Fire Automobile Insurance Porcelain Advertising Sign Gas Old OilHuge Exit Way Out Metal Sign Home Theater Cinema System Signal Street Mobil RedFord Mustang Emblem Hood Ornament Desk Sign Pony Shelby Boss Truck Mobil TexacoEmbossed Arcade Arrow Sign Carnival Video Games Theater Exit Highway Mobil GamesPorcelain Duesenberg Straight 8 Diecut Eagle Porcelain Dealership Sign Vintage Ww2 Ww1 Us American Legion Veteran License Plate Topper Emblem Auto SignTexaco Gas Can Motor Oil Pump Globe Sinclair Mobil Sign Vintage Style Coin Op Ok Used Cars Authorized Dealer Chevrolet Lighted Sign Led Chevy Gm VintageLarge 20" Ford Oval Emblem Metal Sign Ford Dealership Hot Rod Ford 302 351 V8. "dad's Workshop" Metal Sign.garage, Shop,chevy, Ford,man Cave$5 Charge For Whining Metal Sign Garage Shop Chevy Ford Man CaveEmbossed Chevrolet Sales And Service Sign Garage Chevy Nascar Corvette Truck 59 Plymouth Duster Sign 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 318 340 383 440 426 HemiOfficially Licensed Plymouth Script Embossed 3d Metal Sign Super Bird Petty HemiHuge Exit Way Out Metal Sign Home Theater Cinema System Signal Street Mobil RedNeon Style Historic Route 66 Street Sign Chevy Usa Ford Motorcycle Truck TexacoRare Pontiac V-8 Dealer Dbl Sidded Sign Reflective 68x48Wisconsin 1920's Left Turn Sign Statetrunk Road Traffic Automobile Highway1951 Alaska 2 License Plate Tag Vintage Old Antique Sign Fordy Chevy Dodge Rare Whippet Willys Overland Company Embossed Auto Sign Mca Sign Co.Pepsi Cola Button Cap Metal Sign Drink Soda Man CaveHuge Exit Way Out Metal Sign Home Theater Cinema System Signal Street Mobil RedEmbossed Dad's Garage Sign Ford Chrysler Chevrolet Motorcycle Gas Oil Filter CanEmbossed Union 76 Gasoline Sign Vintage Style Metal Texaco Mobil Oil Gas Can TinWe Use Genuine Chevrolet Metal Sign,garage Shop,gas Station,man Cave Garage!!!My Tool Rules Magnet Sign Gas Oil Man Cave Garage Hot Rod Rat RodNr Mint 1955 Vintage Mopar Parts Old Chrysler Dealer Tin Display Sign & CatalogBeware Of Wife Tin Sign Man Cave Garage Hot Rod Rat Rod NhraPerfect Circle Piston Rings Automobile SignNew Chevrolet Heartbeat Of America Chevy Real Glass Neon Light Beer Bar Sign Pennzoil Safe Lubrication Sign Gas Motor Oil Vintage Style Texaco Mobil SinclairEmbossed Metal Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas Sign Neon Look Man Cave Shop Ford Embossed Authorized Used Ok Cars Dealer Sign Chevrolet Ford Dodge Parts Mobil Vintage Retro Tin Sign Warner Bros. Looney Toons Road Runner Wyle E CoyoteMechanic On Duty Open 24 Hours Tin Sign Man Cave Garage Hot Rod Rat Rod