The 1930’s saw the introduction of the first metallic automotive paints. These new coatings accentuated the lines of the vehicles in a brilliant mother of pearl sheen. However, the world's herring population was not too pleased about this new technology as the paint was made from herring scales. It took an unbelievable 120,000 herring to make a single gallon of metallic paint.
The expensive and fishy process of making the first metallic paints caused them to be incredibly expensive and therefore out of the reach for most of the motoring public. It was not until the innovation of adding aluminum flakes to coatings that this option became affordable for the masses.
The years after the Second World War saw two major innovations in car color. The first was sun resistant chrome coatings that would not fade to yellow over time. The second, and possibly more important, innovation was the creation of advisory panels. These panels went directly to the consumer to ask what they were looking for in car colors. The result was a deluge of creative coatings limited only by the imagination.
The combination of advisory panels, coating innovations and popular culture all came together in the 1950’s and resulted in an explosion of color. From metallic pinks on Cadilliacs to aquamarine on 57 Chevys. By 1958 Ford was offering over 121 different colors for their vehicles.
The late 1950’s and early 1960’s were the height of automotive colors. Since this time consumers have been returning to the grayscale roots of the Model-T. This trend has been mostly driven by the desire for higher resale values. In the past families tended to hang onto their cars for longer rather than trading them in for a new model every several years. With color changing paints starting to make an appearance in the industry perhaps we can keep our colorful cars and our resale values in the future.