A Car to Make Van Gogh Proud

A Car to Make Van Gogh Proud

Browse around the Internet for just a few minutes and you can find thousands of articles on the latest design trends.  But this article is different.

By “design”, most articles talk about the new curves, the shape of the edges and the doors and the windows and the lights and the grills. This article is not about car parts.

By “design”, most articles talk about the materials – the various combinations of metals and plastics and glass.  This article is not about car materials.

By “design”, many articles also talk about the latest colors and tones of this year’s models.

Now we are getting interesting.

By “design”, we are talking about the paints that cover most surfaces of your vehicle (except windows and lights and mirrors for obvious reasons, and metal purposefully exposed to add highlights and set off the paint job).   It’s all about the paint job!

When cars first started rolling off the assembly line.  Henry Ford was famous for writing in his autobiography that, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”  But most people don’t know that the first cars, built manually prior to the assembly line, were available in a variety of bright colors.  Black was a color that dried quicker on the assembly line.

Model T Car

With the arrival of new spray paints that spread evenly with thinner coats, drying time for all colors was reduced, and cars drove boldly out of the era of black and white long before televisions.  Different kinds of paints and baking methods for not just drying the paint, but also hardening it, were tried from the 1950s through the 1980s.  The government came along with environmental regulations to reduce VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and the age of green paints was born (“green” meaning eco-friendly – few cars were actually painted green).

Most recent trends in automotive paint jobs

The trend today is to move toward more high-quality paints that will tough out the sand and salt in northern climates and resist the extreme heat of summer in southern climates.

And look really good.

Most recent trends in automotive paint jobs

The most coveted paint jobs these days are not just the most durable factory coatings, not just the latest hues and tints, but also the latest designer textures and luxury coatings.

And these look really, really good.  In fact, even Monet of Van Gogh would be proud of these paints.

There can be no discussion of vehicle surface trends without discussing color.  From one model year to the next, there are definitely distinct trends in the latest colors.  These change not just from year to year, but also over the course of several years, as vehicle models are updated every four or five years.  They are factory-applied, of course, but they also show up in aftermarket paints for touch-ups and for those people who want to upgrade their old vehicles to look more modern, at least in color.

But what is really new in car paint and “design” are the aftermarket touch-ups – the luxury effects that one can now purchase to upgrade the look of a vehicle several years after driving it off the lot.  A great example of this are the Clear Bra paints from 3M that have many car enthusiasts agog. You can now give your car a chrome finish or a matte finish.  Or you could pick a brushed metal finish or a stain texture.  These so-called “wraps” not only give your vehicle a new look, but also a new lease on life.  They protect better than factory paint alone, giving you a better resale value.

Wonder what the future might hold?  Could we have 3D effects embedded into our paint or even into the windows of our cars?  Could holographic paint make our vehicles appear different than they really are, like the police-box Tardis in Doctor Who?  Or how about glow-in-the-dark paint that makes you very visible at night (and you would never lose your car in the parking lot when the big game runs into overtime).  Perhaps we will be showing off our home movies or replaying scenes from the home team’s latest victory through the paint on the outside of our cars.

Nobody knows what comes next, but if it can be imagined, it is a pretty safe bet that somebody is working on it late at night in some basement or industrial laboratory somewhere.

Ban Manley is a design expert who happens to love cars.  When not zooming around in his convertible, he can be found at his desk working on food package designs.

Editorial Team
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