Archive for February, 2009

100 Years of Automotive Color

Sunday, February 8th, 2009
1970 Plymouth Color Chips

1970 Plymouth Color Chips

A look at 100 years of automotive color history can be seen at Auto Color Library. The website has over 125,000 original paint chips that can be browsed by the make and year of the car.

I took a look at the Plymouth library over the years to see how color palettes have changed with the times.

Reflecting the war years, colors had names like ‘Aviator Blue’, ‘Artillery Green’ and ‘Gunmetal’. With with the hiatus in automobile production during the war, Plymouth didn’t introduce a new colors until 1949 but car colors were still mostly dark greens, blues, browns, grays and burgundies. Yellow was the only lighter color to be had.

It wasn’t until the mid 50’s, when two-tone paint jobs became fashionable that palettes expanded. A look a the 1955 color chart reveals the softer pastel colors that are ubiquitous with the decade. Names included ‘Pompano Beach’, ‘Santa Rosa Coral’, and ‘Tampa Turquoise’

In 1970 at the height of the muscle car era, Cudas, GTX’s and Road Runners could be ordered with Hemi engines and outrageous bold colors that included ‘Lime Light’, ‘Vitamin C’, and ‘Tor-Red’.

1974 shows a green, gold and yellow palette. ‘Yellow Blaze’, ‘Golden Fawn’ and ‘Avocado Gold’ were popular colors for cars and kitchens alike.

If you need to order paint for your classic car project or just want to research color chips from the past Auto Color Library is a great resource.

Ernie Banks- Hall of Famer and Plymouth Salesman

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

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Ernie Banks is my all time favorite baseball player. I truly believe that he may be the happiest man on the face of the earth. His eternal optimism and perpetual smile to anyone who has never followed him would at first probably seem like an act. But for someone who has followed him for 40 years I can tell you that Ernie’s happiness is sincere.

Ernie played in an era where ballplayers would work during the off season to pick up a few extra bucks. Some guys worked construction, others dug graves, anything to make some money. Ernie Banks sold Plymouths and I bet he was good at it. With Ernie’s charm, I could see him turning a Valiant looker into a Fury buyer in no time.

The pictures here were taken on November 4th 1959. Ernie was working that day when he found out he was named the National League MVP for the second straight year. You can see Ernie sitting in a Valiant reading the press release about his MVP award. I’ll bet Ernie sold a few Furys that day!

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Sign of the Times- The End of “Z” Frank Chevrolet

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

When I was growing up in Chicago in the 60’s and 70’s it seemed like there were only two Chevrolet dealerships in town. You either bought your Chevy at “Z” Frank or Nickey. My dad bought several Impala and Kingswoood wagons there before dropping the family wagon for a Monte Carlo.

Zollie Frank founded ‘Z’ Frank in 1939 and originally sold Chryslers and Plymouths. He also founded the a leasing company Wheels Inc., becoming the first person to ever lease a car to a customer. Even though Zollie’s Chrysler/Plymouth dealership was highly successful, he saw a better opportunity with Chevrolet and so in the early 50’s he made the switch.

Zollie was known for adorning customers with gifts of ice cream pies, cuff links or silver dollars as part of his savvy marketing techniques.

Zollie died in 1990 but his sons continued to operate the dealership until it was acquired by Mike Anderson Chevrolet in late 2008.

The huge neon sign that beaconed car buyers driving up Western Avenue will probably be gone soon, too big for a collector to have and not practical for the new property owner to keep. A sign of the times.

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The 1958 Bel Air Impala- “Lower and Longer, Wider and Stronger… Deep Down New”!

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

In 1958 David Ekman was a young Swedish citizen living in Chicago.  The U.S. was in a recession and import car sales were booming, accounting for 10% of U.S. car sales that year.  Being a practical Swede,  David could have chosen a Volkswagen or a Renault to buy but David chose the flashy all new Bel Air Impala Sport Coupe.  David walked into “Z” Frank Chevrolet in February 1958 and walked out with a brand new Silver Blue Impala.  David’s Swedish practicality did come through in his engine choice by going with the more fuel efficient and $107 cheaper 6 cylinder engine.

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Pictures Copyright David Ekman

Buddy Holly’s 1958 Impala

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

It was 50 years ago today that Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and J.P. Richardson, known as “The Big Bopper” died tragically in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly only owned one car in his life, a 1958 Impala that he had his friend and agent Norman Petty purchase on December 18, 1957 from Meadors-Stewart Chevrolet in Clovis, New Mexico. Holly purchased the car so he could have safe transportation for the 100 mile commute between Holly’s home in Lubbock,Texas and the recording studio in Clovis. The car cost a total of $2627.51. It was in Clovis where Holly reportedly tossed his keys to a fellow musician telling him he could use the car until he returned from his tour.

Here is the story of Holly’s Impala that resurfaced several years ago: