There’s an engrossing history behind this unsophisticated all-type 1926 magazine advertisement for William Durant’s Star Cars

Star Cars automobile advertisement

The Star Car tale begins…

A high school dropout founded General Motors in Flint, Michigan, on September 16, 1908.

William Durant, who made his for­tune build­ing horse-drawn car­riages, spent $2,000 to incor­po­rate Gen­er­al Motors, the com­pa­ny that would become the world’s biggest auto maker.

Durant wasn’t a new­com­er to the fledg­ling world of auto­mo­biles; he was a major investor and gen­er­al man­ag­er of Buick Motor Com­pa­ny. Buick then grew to become one of the best-sell­ing auto­mo­biles in America.

Robert Samuel McLaugh­lin was one of the biggest share­hold­ers in the new hold­ing com­pa­ny that they named Gen­er­al Motors.  He was the son of a car­riage mak­er in Ontario Cana­da. He estab­lished the McLaugh­lin Motor Com­pa­ny in 1907 and, with engines from Durant’s Buick Motors, his com­pa­ny pro­duced the McLaughlin-Buick.

Buick was the base on which Gen­er­al Motors would be built. Durant added Oldsmo­bile soon after incor­po­ra­tion and in 1909 he bought Cadillac. 

William "Billy" Durant. founder of General Motors

Bil­ly Durant,
Pho­to Cred­it: GM Her­itage Center

Durant added more than 30 com­pa­nies to the Gen­er­al Motors sta­ble in those ear­ly days, includ­ing AC Spark Plug, Har­ri­son Radi­a­tor and the Rapid and Reliance truck com­pa­nies. He was deter­mined to be the biggest and best in the auto­mo­tive world.


Not all of his deci­sions were sound: He lost $12 mil­lion on a light bulb patent that turned out to be fraudulent!

GM became gross­ly overex­tend­ed with so many impru­dent acqui­si­tions leav­ing the cor­po­ra­tion with a cash short­age. On top of that, Durant made an $8‑million deal to buy Ford in 1909 but the bankers turned him down and

Durant was forced out of General Motors in 1910.

We’re getting to Star Cars. Please read on…

Durant returned to head GM in 1916

His path back to Gen­er­al Motors began in 1911 when he co-found­ed the Chevro­let Motor Com­pa­ny. It was a huge suc­cess, as the world knows. Durant par­layed that success—together with a stock buy­back cam­paign with the McLaugh­lin and DuPont cor­po­ra­tions, and with oth­er Chevro­let stock holders—to regain con­trol of GM.

As soon as he was back, William Durant start­ed buy­ing again. He brought Chevro­let in as a GM com­pa­ny in 1918. He also bought Del­co, Fish­er Body and Frigidaire, but lost mil­lions on a failed trac­tor company.

But it would be Durant’s deci­sion to launch a new line of cars – the Sheri­dan, to be man­u­fac­tured in a new plant in Muncie, Indi­ana – that would be his undo­ing. The costs exceed­ed expectations.

The shaky financ­ing and a reces­sion also hit Gen­er­al Motors hard. DuPont’s chem­i­cal com­pa­ny res­cued it,

but, in 1920, for the second and final time,
William Durant was out.

Undeterred, Durant bought the rights to the Sheridan
and to the Munchie automotive plant and,
in 1921, he established Durant Motors Inc.

Durant Motors Inc. was a full-line automobile producer of cars branded Durant, Flint and Star

Durant’s had sev­er­al brands includ­ing the five-seater Star Car fea­tured in the adver­tise­ment above. The Star would com­pete with Chevro­let and Ford’s Mod­el T.

And the Sheri­dan?  After the takeover, the enter­prise began to degrade for Sheri­dan, despite a back­log of orders that went unful­filled, and the Sheri­dan ceased to exist by Sep­tem­ber, 1921.

Like oth­er prod­ucts of the Durant Motors Com­pa­ny, the Star was an “assem­bled” car, built from parts sup­plied by var­i­ous out­side com­pa­nies. The wheel­base was 102 inch­es and it had wood­en wheels, igni­tion theft lock, demount­able rims and a spare tire carrier.

Orig­i­nal­ly, Stars were pow­ered by a four-cylin­der engine; in 1926, the line intro­duced a six-cylin­der engine. The adver­tise­ment above from 1926 sells both mod­els. All fac­to­ry-installed engines were built by Con­ti­nen­tal.  A sun visor, rear vision mir­ror and a wind­shield wiper were avail­able on the 6 cylin­der model.

The com­pa­ny enjoyed suc­cess based upon Billy’s track record at Gen­er­al Motors, how­ev­er, when sales failed to meet vol­umes suf­fi­cient to sus­tain Durant Motors hold­ings, the fir­m’s finan­cial foot­ing began to slip. As a result, Durant Motors began los­ing mar­ket share and deal­ers. The final mod­els, pro­duced under the Durant brand, rolled off the assem­bly line in 1931.

William Durant declared per­son­al bank­rupt­cy in 1936. His last ven­ture was a bowl­ing alley. He died in New York City on March 18, 1947, near­ly broke at age 85.

printers devil
Com­pare the Star Cars adver­tise­ment with this adver­tise­ment for the 1925 Chevro­let.