Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mighty white. Looking at the most popular car color of 2012

As I sat quietly, battling a severe case of writer’s block, I called upon my wife to give me an idea on something to write about. “They just announced that white is the most popular car color for 2012,” she said. “You should write something about that.”

And you know, she was definitely on to something. PPG Industries, the folks who manufacture the paint that goes on most of the new cars out there, announced that for the second year in-a-row, white was the most popular choice. That’s not a big surprise. For a daily driver, white is a pretty good pick. It’s easy to take care of, doesn’t show many scratches, and looks pretty clean, even when it’s not. I’ve had a few white cars along the way, and they were always a pleasure to maintain.

Of course, around here, we aren’t really into Toyota Camrys and Honda Odyssey minivans. How does this information translate to Classics, hot rods, and muscle cars? Surely all we care about is “resale red” or sinister black.

But then I started looking through my car show pictures from this year, and I can see that some of my favorite cars are white. Heck, every Corvette built in 1953 was white. ’55 Chevy Cameo Carrier trucks were white too. And there’s a good reason for that. It made those vehicles look upscale, “dreamy,” and just plain luxurious.

My dad has owned a white ’61 Corvette since I was five-years-old. And in that time, you’d be surprised how many people try to guess that it’s a ’53 or ’54 model. I’m sure it’s because of that white paint. Anyway, that car is all original, and after 51 years, the paint is a little worse for wear. If it were red, black, blue, or any other color, it would look a little rough. But that white touches up real easy and still looks fine. You just can’t beat it.

This Duesenberg that we looked at this year at the Art of the Car Concours was originally owned by Ginger Rogers. Now Duesenberg would have happily painted her car any hue she desired. But she chose the elegant simplicity of white. You can just picture the glamorous movie star racing through the Hollywood hills, top down, white scarf blowing in the wind. Nothing but white would have been the same.

Ed Roth, the infamous early hot rodder who designed and built some of the most recognizable cars ever, was known for his wild creations built out of fiberglass. At the time, ‘glass was a radical building material. His first attempt was the Outlaw, which I photographed at the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles earlier this year. The color? Pearl white, of course. It looked great with Larry Watsons faded scallops, but there also could have been a practical reason. I’m sure that bodywork was perfect, but if it wasn’t, white can hide a lot of sins. Plus, since this car was also made into a popular 1/25th-scale model kit, it would have been easy for kids to recreate.

Of course, white has also been a mainstay for industrial applications. Cargo vans are almost always white, because they’re like a blank canvas for whatever business needs to use them, they are easy to maintain, and they are easy to resell. You always know an old Ryder rental truck because that faded out yellow gives it away. This old ’56 Chevy meat wagon was for sale at the Mecum Auction in Kansas City earlier in the season.

There’s right around 500 pictures of white cars that I was able to come up with before my “right click-save” finger got tired. They are all pictures that I personally shot this year at various car shows, museums, and events. And I could have easily quadrupled this album if I had that much endurance. Check them out below, or click this link for an even better version of the slideshow.


  1. Glad to know I'm so fashionable this year... I've always liked white cars. Especially white cars with blue interiors; just look bright and clean and seems to show the designs well. Of course, I might be slightly prejudiced as I was nearly born in a 58 Pontiac in those hues...and possibly conceived in same. ;)

  2. Can't believe white is in. It gets dirty way too fast...and when everyone has a white car, it is so generic! I think old cars look nice in white, with the chrome accents and such, but these new ones better stick to some other color to go w/ the beefed up headlight/taillights.