sat at the stop light. Eleven cars turned left in front of me. With nothing else to think about, I counted the colors: two black, three white, and six some shade or another of grey. Nothing there to brighten a drizzly Northwest day. I thought: automotively--are we really condemned to a such a monochromatic existence?
Well, yes. Apparently we are.
According to PPG, here’s the color breakdown for new cars sold in the most recent year:
· 35% White
· 17% Black
· 12% Silver
· 11% Gray
· 25% Other
Gawd, people, WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?! It doesn’t have to be this way!
Sure, we see a smattering of reds on the roads—those few prismatic rebels. But all these new car buyers from monochromia not only autodrab the present…they also ruin the future by sentencing impending used car shoppers to a life of the dreary. Dull drives on forever.
However, it wasn’t always like this. Ride shotgun with men back to the late 50’s…where there is visual proof that there can be auto life beyond gray. (Note: all colors in the photos in this article reflect what was offered by the manufacturers—not custom upgrades done later)…
If modern America seems like an endless workday, the late 50’s were two weeks paid vacation. Uncle Ike was in the Oval Office. They let Elvis appear on TV (at least the upper half of him). Out in California, Disneyland opened. And, at last, cars commonly came equipped with automatic transmissions…air conditioning…and powered steering, brakes and windows. These were open invitations to let the previously-unthinkable occur—women could be drivers, too. And they preferred color!
Of course, not all the news was rosy back then. The Russians had launched Sputnik…but not to worry, Detroit was also already riding that wave, with cars that imagined exactly what future spaceships would look like--mostly, with tail fins…
The late 50’s was a time when people weren’t afraid of color. If you didn’t have more than one color on your car, that was sort of lame. The more shades on your vehicle—and the more outlandish--the better. When life is a party, you decorate the place…
Well, I’m not demanding that you go out and buy bright. Because that’s hard to do. And besides, that would be hypocritical. I drive two cars. The first is a little one I bought a couple decades ago. It’s black. I hoped it would make me look cooler.
The more recent one is bigger and white. Not because I didn’t want color, but because I thought white would give other drivers the maximum chance to see me at twilight…when increasingly I have more trouble seeing them.
So far, so good.
Finally, I know a lot of people say bright colors just don’t look good on new cars.
Well, this sure works for me…
(Editor’s note: If you live in or plan to visit the Pacific Northwest…and want to see all this come to life…a trip to the American Car Museum in Tacoma, WA is highly recommended.)
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