Old car logos: American car companies that went out of business
Looking back at old car logos can be an interesting experience. While the American automotive industry might feel like it’s packed with contenders today, there are plenty of car companies that went out of business long before they had a chance to thrive.
While some old car brands failed due to a lack of funding or opportunity, many still had a significant impact on the automotive industry as we know it today. Looking back at these defunct American car companies, we can get a sense of the cars capable of inspiring new innovators.
Here’s your insight into discontinued car brands and their logos!
Old car logos: What happens to failed car companies?
Since the rise of the personal vehicle in 1886, the car industry has been a significant part of the American landscape. There are plenty of great names worth mentioning, from giants like Ford and General Motors, to Corvette and Mustang.
Like any sector, of course, the automotive industry thrives on experimentation and exploration. Over the decades, many innovators have tried their hand at producing the ultimate American car, and not all of these entrepreneurs have achieved their goal.
Though the old car brands no longer made in America might not have a significant place on the US roads, they’re still an important insight into the industry.
Loved by traditional car collectors and vehicle enthusiasts, and often responsible for introducing new ideas to the industry, discontinued car brands have more value than you might think.
Here are some of the most memorable American car companies that failed, and their old logos.
The best-known discontinued car brands
Let’s start by looking at some of the defunct car brands you may be familiar with, even if you’re not a dedicated car enthusiast…
When it comes to old car brand logos, few companies are better-known than Mercury. Produced by the Ford Motor brand, Mercury actually had a decent run in the automotive space, between the years of 1938 and 2011.
The company was intended to provide a “premium” car option for Ford customers.
The Mercury logo is one of elegance and class, similar to what you might expect from a premium car brand. The lines in the middle of the logo represent the curve of a road, as well as giving the company’s aesthetic a sense of strength and flexibility.
Another extremely well-known example of one of the leading old car brands, Pontiac ran between the years of 1926 and 2010, producing some of the most sought-after luxury vehicles on the market. With a host of famous models like the Trans Am, Pontiac take the American landscape by storm.
For a while, Pontiac stood as one of the greatest car brands in the United States, and its logo is a testament to this. The design features a bold red arrow, designed to look like a shield emblem. The confident sans-serif font beneath the design demonstrates the strength of the brand.
A privately-held and employee-owned firm, Saturn existed within the GM landscape, but separately from the parent brand. The Saturn line was made up primarily of small and mid-sized automobiles which maintained significant popularity, but eventually failed to keep the business afloat.
The Saturn logo is an excellent insight into the use of white space. The slashes of white over the red cube background create the shape of the planet Saturn. Underneath, the unique font with its distinctive connection between the “U” and “R” highlight the creativity of the business.
If you’re familiar with any failed car companies, Hummer is probably among them. In action between the years of 1992 and 2010, Hummer was a company responsible for producing a range of high-performance, bulky cars and pick-up trucks.
Hummer ended up dropping out of business after General Motors failed to sell the brand to a Chinese company.
Hummer’s logo is a testament to the strength of the vehicles the organization was best-known for. The thick, block letters convey a sense of stability and strength, crucial for larger vehicles which need to traverse a variety of terrains.
Easily one of the longest-running failed car companies on this list, Oldsmobile managed to survive for over 100 years before it eventually went out of business.
This GM brand was formed in 1897 as the “Olds Motor Vehicle Company” and was best-known for producing high-performance cars with an exceptional, innovative motor.
Though Oldsmobile eventually stopped being profitable for the GM brand, the logo is still recognizable today. A simple sans-serif wordmark is accompanied by a circular badge in this design, with a strike through the middle, similar to a road.
Established as an entry-level brand for the Chrysler company, Plymouth produced a range of sports vehicles, as well as various other more affordable car models.
Unfortunately, these cars were known for consuming significant amounts of gas, which meant they lost the favor of the public over the years as fuel became more expensive.
Plymouth’s logo was an interesting design, featuring the image of a ship on a black circular background. The logo was often associated with versatility and high-class, though it was an unusual choice for a car company.
Easily one of the better-known American car companies in the world for some time, Studebaker was the oldest car brand in the USA, with roots dating back to the 1850s. The company started by producing wagons for miners and farmers before eventually switching into the automotive market.
Unfortunately, the Studebaker Company shut down in 1967.
Studebaker’s logo was a symbol of patriotism, reflecting the colors of red, white, and blue. The contrasting colors on the emblem, combined with the unique silver “S” defined the brand as forward-thinking, and sophisticated.
Known for producing premium and high-performance cars, Stutz was a market leader in the industry for a while. The company produced one of the first American sportscars (the Bearcat), as well as some of the most innovative engines on the market.
The Stutz old car logo is an excellent example of a traditional American car emblem, with wings placed behind an innovative wordmark design, intended to create a sense of balance on a car bonnet.
The image also featured the location of the company, highlighting the community spirit of the company.
The American Motors Corporation, or AMC, focused heavily on the economy car field to begin with, making it a strong competitor to major brands like Ford.
For a while, this old car brand logo was a common sight on American roads, and the company produced a lot of innovative models.
The AMC car logo was a testament to the patriotic spirit of the company. Simple and eye-catching, the image uses combined geometric shapes in red, white, and blue, with a simple wordmark in sans-serif font underneath.
Duesenberg may have only survived in the American car landscape for 24 years, but it made a significant impact on the market.
The company was responsible for some of the most popular American cars of all time, and collectors are still drawn to historical elements from the cars today.
Duesenberg chose an extremely powerful design for its logo. The emblem logo featured a golden eagle with its wings spread to represent speed and grace. The eagle was a symbol of patriotism, while the “8” was a reference to the “straight-eight” racing engines produced by the company.
Otherwise known as DMC, the DeLorean Motor Company was a brand which might not have gained the critical acclaim it has today if it wasn’t for the impact of Hollywood.
The company produced the DMC-12 from the “Back to the Future” movie franchise, but it still failed to take off in the long-term.
The DMC logo is an elegant and simple one, intended to represent the strength of the company. The design features block, gradient-style letters, which appear to be shining in the light. The “D” and “C” are depicted as though they’re reflections of each other.
Other American car companies that failed
Unfortunately, the list above only scratches the surface of the various Defunct American car companies which rose and fell in the industry over the years.
Let’s take a look at some other meaningful, but perhaps lesser-known brands…
Auburn Automobile was introduced in Indiana during the 1900s, and quickly became one of the largest local manufacturers of elegant, stylish cars. The company introduced the straight eight-cylinder engine commonly used in luxury models of the time.
Though simple, the Auburn old car logo had a sense of authority to it. Placing the wordmark in bold, black letters on a gold background highlighted the luxury of the brand.
The unique design of the “U” characters was also particularly compelling, helping the manufacturer to stand out from a range of other car brands.
An economy car manufacturer launched in Ohio; Kaiser-Frazer produced a unique range of dependable, inexpensive cars for its customers. Unfortunately, the brand only survived for a handful of years, before eventually falling into bankruptcy.
The Kaiser-Frazer car logo was an interesting design, reminiscent of some more modern vehicle logos today. The design featured a set of geometric shapes, with no wordmark, which was unusual for a company at the time.
Founded in 1916, and eventually merging with the Hudson brand, to later disappear in 1954, Nash Cars was a company known for its affordability and innovation. Many leading Nash Motors models were popular for their innovative ventilation systems and unique designs.
Following the common emblem-style design of the time, the Nash Motors logo is an authoritative design with elements of patriotism woven into the color choice. The typeface for the Nash motors wordmark is particularly interesting.
The design leans slightly to the right, depicting forward motion.
A lesser-known failed car company from America, Dual Ghia was only in business for two years, after producing a selection of high-powered, custom-built convertibles. The selling point of the company was its ability to create unique body designs with luxury elements.
The Dual Ghia logo highlights the background origins of the founder, as well as the name of the brand, in simple, golden font. The circular design was a common choice for a lot of automotive companies at the time, as it often looked great on a car bonnet.
Marketed as a sub-brand of the Ford Motor Company between the years of 1956 and 1959, the Edsel brand was intended to give Ford another way of gaining market share in the growing industry.
Unfortunately, people weren’t impressed when the Edsel cars were first introduced.
The logo for Edsel is a simple one, depicting the letter “E” in a large white font on a green circular background. Green is often used to convey ideas of wealth. The silver lines around inner circle may have been a way to depict the perceived growth potential of the company.
Produced by Errett Lobban Cord, a man with strong relationships to both Auburn and Duesenberg, the Cord brand launched in 1929, with a single model, the L-29. The Cord Company focused on offering advanced technology and stunning designs for the luxury market.
Popular with the Hollywood elite, the Cord Company chose a luxurious looking design for its logo. The image featured a family shield-style design, with an Eagle to help form a connection to the American landscape.
The use of gold as a primary color highlighted the elegance of the brand.
One of a handful of discontinued car brands introduced by General Motors, La Salle was a company intended to fill the gap between the market for Cadillac, and more everyday brands like Buick.
Although GM invested significantly into producing cars with stunning designs and technology, the company failed to take off.
Depicted in a bold red circle, the La Salle logo shows just the “La” of the first word, and the “S” of the “Salle”, arranged to look as though the various elements are connected. The design is an elegant and interesting choice, ideal for depicting a forward-thinking company.
A luxury automotive manufacturer, the Packard brand was introduced as a competitor in the high-class, expensive vehicle landscape. Based in Detroit, this company was commonly considered a leader in luxury cars before the second world war.
The Packard emblem was a prestigious badge, featuring a coat of arms placed inside of a silver or gold oval. The design was intended to demonstrate the heritage and authority of the company, as well as the high-quality materials used in its cars.
Hudson was one of the better-known companies in the American market for some time, and there are still some collectors who hold onto versions of the vehicles today. The Hudson Car Company ran for over 40 years before eventually closing its doors.
Hudson chose a traditional and attractive logo as its emblem, featuring a pointed shield in the middle of a red, curved badge. The emblem depicted pieces of a castle and depictions of ships, indicating a strong connection with the armed forces and highlighting the history of the business.
Introduced by Moulton Taylor in the late 1940s, Aerocar International was intended as a way of bringing land and air vehicles together. The initial product produced by the company was a hybrid car/ airplane, capable of accommodating two people.
Sophisticated and elegant, the Aerocar wordmark uses a serif font to demonstrate the authority and grace of the company. The connection between the “A” and the “R” highlights the link to the air and the road produced by the company when building its proprietary model.
Produced with an eye on the future of electric-powered vehicles, Detroit Electric was introduced by the Anderson Electric Car Company and specialized in lightweight electric vehicles. The company produced a total of 13,000 cars during just over 30 years on the market.
The script-style font of the Detroit Electric emblem gave the company a traditional and sophisticated aesthetic, perfect for conveying a sense of luxury. The design also used an all-caps typeface for “Electric” intended to make an instant impact on its audience.
Though Franklin was only in business for a little over 30 years, the company became an important part of American automotive history. Responsible for producing a host of advanced cars with air-cooled engines, Franklin helped to inspire several future companies.
Similar to many car companies of the time, Franklin chose a classic-style logo, with a script-style wordmark placed within a circular border. The underline underneath the wordmark communicates the perceived strength and stability of the business.
One of the earliest automakers to arrive in the United States, the Cole Motor Car Company had a significant impact on the introduction of new vehicles to the country. The company produced classic high-wheeled cars in the USA for over 15 years, before eventually going defunct.
Cole’s logo was a classic design for the time, featuring the eagle often connected to America, with the name of the brand in a script-style font. The use of black, blue, and golden colors was common in Cole logos, showcasing sophistication, luxury, and reliability.
A manufacturer of sports cars in America for a short time, Mosler was established by Warren Mosler, producing a handful of attractive vehicles intended for use on the racing track. The Mosler Organization eventually merged with the Rossion Automotive brand.
The Mossler logo was an eye-catching and modern image, with a bright yellow shield and a bold wordmark in the middle. The letters on the shield were created to fit perfectly within the framing of the bold yellow shield.
Remembering discontinued car brands
Old car brands and old car brand logos are still worth looking back on today. Although the companies above might not have a presence on the roads of America today, they still had a meaningful impact on the way we look at the automotive industry.
Not only does looking back at defunct car brands give us an insight into how the industry evolved over the years, but examining their logos can also highlight the styles and themes used throughout the automotive industry across the decades.
To learn more about some of the world’s top car brands, make sure you check out other Logofile posts on Brand Fabrik.