MICKTHEDIG

Murphy Color Samples

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It would be an interesting thing to get if you can.  They are very difficult to find.  I have a "Murphy Vehicle System" deck of color chips in standard colors and I believe the chips themselves are the actual coating applied to a card.  It's the only set like this I've ever seen.  Regular color samples appear on occasion but the automotive specific stuff is much less common.

 

 

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As I expect you are aware, even color chips change in color. Modern printer's color chips have a life if only a few months. The great tragedy of so many so called restorations is that all traces of original finishes are removed and destroyed in a fashion similar to the Inquisition's destruction of Mayan writing. Why are we so destructive of our own culture? Best wishes in you approach to authenticity. 

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Best way to find the original finish of your Lincoln would be to look in some hidden area of the body that was not exposed to weather or sunlight like the door jambs and polish and wax the paint. This will give you the best color sample, although it may have changed with age (most likely darkened). They have machines today that can analyse the paint and create a duplicate formula.

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I was down at the Color Library shop to order some paint.

The scanned chips on my computer were brighter colors than the actual chips in the books.

The on line chips should only be a reference like they say. I would recommend ordering a sample if there is not a paint code.

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I have been unsuccessful with original paint formulas  - I was told the problem is that for example base white from 1930 is not the same as base white via 2018.   Here is an example:  When I wanted to have the 1932 RR PI paint matched there was a formula on the inside label of the Ditzler can from it's 1972 restoration - it was a starting point in 2017, but really not too close.  They then said, let's just do it from the formula on the paint chip page I had via 1971 Ford truck (which if you held it up to the car it looked dead on) - nope it was not close either.   After an afternoon, I left the piece of trim and they played around for another few hours to get a match.  And, there are shops all over our area that will tell you they struggle with these problems daily. 

 

As to original paint chips - maroons and reds are pretty unstable to being with.  Consider, they spray a chip on a piece of paper without primer and ....

 

I agree - always bet to play detective and find original paint to match. 

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There are a number of problems related to matching color.  If a formula is in-hand from a product line that no longer exists, it's not as simple as substituting the new for old.  The paint companies have to rework and reissue new formulas for the new product, and for a lot of colors / applications they aren't going to invest the time in doing that in a lab if that color isn't in demand, i.e. making new formulas for old colors they aren't likely to sell.  Contrary to popular belief, things like a "Prophet gun" don't create a formula out of thin air.  All it does is access a database of existing colors and find the closest match.  That's why people often suffer disappointment when they think they're going to walk out of the store with an exact match only to find it's five shades different, and that's because that was the next closest match available in the database.

 

If you're confident in the sample you have, the best thing you can do is find a paint store where they have someone that can still match by eye.  They can weigh and keep track of what they use so that you can come back and have more made in the same product line.  Even then, a modern acrylic urethane may match the nitrocellulose lacquer sample you brought in after it is made under fluorescent lights and then you carry it outside and it looks completely different.  That color shift is because of how the differing pigments react to different light sources, in which case you have to decide on a happy compromise.  Color is not simply color.

 

The beauty of what I think Mick wants to do with analysis is that you can have the pigment analyzed to both date it to ensure that what you're looking at existed when the car was new and isn't a later repaint, and you can discover what percentages of what compounds were used so that you can make an educated guess as to how the color looked when new rather than just seeing how an aged sample appears today.  Organic compounds will deteriorate even in the absence of light or, for example, where they are covered by upholstery and chemicals in the upholstery have affected the finish.  This is all scientific level stuff, not anything a paint store can do.  

 

 

Edited by W_Higgins (see edit history)

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I was searching for paint for my "36 Dodge, the Avon Green color. I had old Murphy color samples but was told that the codes no longer meant anything.The modern colors that were said to be a match were too dark with too much metallic. I did have an inner fender with a lot of the original paint and took it to some paint companies, but all they could do, even with the computer,  would be to match it to the closest existing color. I did find a Valspar dealer near Pittsburgh PA that took the time to match it by eye. Took almost a month but his mixture was spot on. I sprayed some right onto the panel along side the original and you can't tell the difference. It is, however, a little darker than I expected, as the original samples on the body and charts looked lighter. Out in direct sunlight though, it looks great, so I wouldn't put a lot of faith in those old color charts. I was glad to find someone who took the time to do the work that most places couldn't. Good hunting! 

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Some great comments here , I agree with John that the paint formulas that may be with the colors on the color charts/samples will not be compatible  with modern systems, interpretations etc. I taught art for over 35 years and have my masters degree in art as well. I am very sensitive to what colors old cars ( ie pre war mostly) are painted, - old cars with modern colors - . I can understand the frustration car owners have who want to return their cars to the exact color of what it was when new. Period colors give the car a period look.

I looked in my library/archives and found two hard cover books issued by the Murphy Varnish Company "manufacturers of Railway, Motor car and Coach varnishes and colors" they were located in Newark, NJ and Chicago ,Ill. and were associated with the Dougall Varnish Co. Ltd of Montreal, Canada. Because the books are hard cover the pages with the sample colors on them remain as they were when printed, were not exposed to light of any source for any length of time like separate color chips or color chip pages may have been. I believe the colors to be about as accurate as you will find. Note that it is a VARNISH company - this is before lacquer was invented/popular to use. the varnish was brush painted on the body then sanded and rubbed out. It took quite some time to have a car painted between the coats of varnish drying. Fenders were usually black and those were most often dipped in vats to get them painted if it was a production car with larger quantities being ordered.  One book says 2nd edition 1921 the other is 4th edition 1924. One book is 81 pages the other 85 pages. In the 1924 book page 53 lists Murphy Purples and shows Heliotrope. The 1921 book says that Purple was created by adding a Purple tint to a Blue base and explains how to do this, again it was all brushed on. No Purple colors are shown in this 1921 book.

 

As mentioned here, fluorescent lights will affect the way a color looks - I had this issue when I was taking oil painting class when in college decades ago, I did the painting in natural light at home, took it to class and under the fluorescent lights the colors changed dramatically.  Trying to locate an original Murphy ( or any other makers) color book will be a very difficult task. The pages can not be removed and if you do have one will the fellow mixing the paint treat the book with respect ? not to get it splattered or damaged with his paint infested fingers?  Perhaps scanning a page is not the greatest way to go, but if you do get someone who will be willing to do this with their copy tell them it is worth the $ cost to go to the best art scanner possible. We are talking about a 95 year old color book here.

 

Someplace I do have other similar color books ,but they were not with the two I mentioned and used as reference. That would require lots of time to search to locate them and right now I am in the middle of 3 or 4 research projects and need to write stories from the information and images I have found so any further time spent devoted looking for color information can not immediately happen. Hope what I have mentioned here puts a better picture into what the colors for motor cars  were in the 1920s.

WG

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As a sidenote to what Walt mentioned:  I ask them take the color match outside too, as you really cannot match by eye inside under florescent lighting (well, you can but you only get like a 95% match).  When I had the RR PI matched too the first words out of everyone's mouth at the paint store was "the scanner hates pastels and so will everyone else's  in town too" and turns out it did.

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This is my Murphy Vehicle System deck of Standard Colors.  My guess is it was a cheaper to produce and easier for a salesman to carry than the sample shown on the AutoColorLibrary.  As hard as this was to find, the bigger books are probably even harder yet as they likely saw abusive service and were only handed out to shops that really needed them.  What you see is all that's there -- no formulas or anything like that.  The amateur study of early finishes is one of my obsessions so I collect this stuff.  

 

Walt, does your Murphy book give the pigment breakdown for the purple and blue or does it just say to mix their proprietary components to achieve the result?  

 

 

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Rusty_OToole, I have to renew the leather straps that stop the doors opening too far. I am sure that the original paint survives behind them.

 

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As stated above, colours change over time. Even in a hard cover book - especially if it is not acid free paper (i.e. archival quality in today's parlance). Anything with a fabric or leather or oil or fuel or fingers or .... touching or near it may have been changed in colour. Surely it depends on the pigments used?

 

You might have guessed, I am skeptical we can ever match a factory colour from 90 years ago, let alone 60 years ago. We might be able to match the colour as it appears now, but not when new.

 

Flourescent lights are rarely full spectrum. They are usually on the yellow side ("warm white"). People don't like "daylight" lights because they appear too blue. There are LED lamps that are full spectrum, even without UV, so excellent for museums and art galleries and other places with textiles etc. that degrade under UV light.

Edited by Spinneyhill (see edit history)

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Spinneyhill I can agree with  you to a certain extent, your point is well taken , but it depends upon the original period item you have to view. If it is in well worn condition I agree that the colors may be faded and the paper may have contributed to this as well; but to make that a blanket statement for every pre war color sample book I can not agree. If the item is in near perfect or perfect condition with no fading to covers, spine etc and when you open it up the colors are bright and pages are crisp with little yellowing etc. then I only have to guess that the item was received, looked at when new and looked at very little since then - yes even over 90 years. I worked as Librarian for the Long Island Automotive Museum back in the 1970s for several years, Austin Clark's library of many many assorted items had conditions of all kinds from broken spines and brittle pages to the first copy of the Horseless Age magazine printed prior to 1900 and that copy had to be in a unlit room and covered by something for untold decades as it looked as bright and good as if it was printed yesterday. I have custom body souvenir salon catalogs in my collection that look like they were picked up at the salon, looked at  and then put on a shelf in storage in a closet. Looks like new. Just because something is 70+ years old or older doesn't mean it can't be in remarkable condition and give a true color of what the item was when new. Sorry , I just do not believe that statement is true, at least for what I have had the opportunity to view over the past 55 years or more.

The 1924 Murphy color sample book I have is about as new a copy condition wise as one could find, I have had archival conservation experience so can make a reasonable judgement on that condition wise. Not everything old is faded or not true to what colors were when new. You can't convince me of that.

 

Mr. Higgins, the color book you have and show photos of mentions enamels for paint, so I am guessing it is possibly late 1930s or even early post WWII. the color samples and color manual ( Murphys description) I have does not mention enamels nor even lacquers but only refers to the colors as varnishes. ( all of which it explicitly states were applied via a brush) It gives step by step instructions on how to apply the varnish - to get the purple shades a layer of one of their blue colors was applied first then the purple glaze applied over that with instructions of what to thin down ( there were color varnishes and pale varnishes) and often lampblack Ground color was applied first then the color varnish then the colored glaze or clear glaze. To much information to really try to retype or even scan and post on this site. But it seems the purple was a three step process ( lamp black ground, color varnish, glaze varnish, with everything thinned down to let it flow). Keep in mind what is being discussed here is looking at color varnish samples that in this current day will be duplicated in lacquer ( nitrocellulose or acrylic or?) to restore and spray on not brush on as the cars were painted prior to the invention of reliable and stable air compressors with a constant feed of air pressure to power the spray gun. The sample colors measure 1/2 inch tall by 2 1/2 inches wide and are varnish, not lacquer, so possibly would not fade or be affected as much as a lacquer sample would be as described by Spinneyhill?

Hope all of this didn't go on to long for all of you , I tried to condense and somewhat simplify what the books I have state.

Walt

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1 hour ago, Walt G said:

Mr. Higgins, the color book you have and show photos of mentions enamels for paint, so I am guessing it is possibly late 1930s or even early post WWII. the color samples and color manual ( Murphys description) I have does not mention enamels nor even lacquers but only refers to the colors as varnishes.

 

 

Thanks for the follow-up.  Murphy began using the product name "Da-cote" at least as early as 1918.  On the label they refer to Da-cote as a "Motor Car Enamel".  A direct quote from one of their ads states, "We know how to make motor car enamels..... Da-cote consists of the finest motor car varnish ground with the best pigments."  On the header of the same ad they display "Murphy Varnish Enamels".  My understanding of the process is that it is referred to as varnish while still clear and when pigment is added to create a color and make it opaque it becomes an enamel.  It was a complicated process with a language all its own. 

 

My thinking on my "M.V.S" samples is that was a name Murphy tried before they came up with their popular brand name "Da-cote".  That is purely speculation on my part and they could be either earlier, later, or have been some other product line that ran concurrent.  The mention of spraying doesn't really date it since air brushes were developed in the 1890's and era texts I have already mention spraying as a recognized process by the teens, though I suspect at that point brushing was still more common.

 

The 1917 book Automobile Painting by F.N. Vanderwalker is another excellent book for anyone interested nitty gritty of the process.   

 

(Edit to add -- I think I see what makes M.V.S different now.  It is a "synthetic" based enamel rather than a varnish based enamel.)

  

Edited by W_Higgins (see edit history)

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Since the one Murphy color book I have is dated 4th edition 1924 I am assuming it means the 4th book i 1924 so possibly was issued in the Fall of that year copyright is 1924. the earlier 1921 book states 2nd edition 1921 but is copyrighted 1920.   No mention of any spraying technique in the 1924 book only brushing, so although spray guns were available as early as the date you state I do not believe they were seriously used in the industry until 1925/26 . By 1928 just about all cars were painted with spray gun systems.  The labor and time involved in brush painting varnish was tremendous , and the time frame /process mentioned in the Murphy books I have is endless. It took days to paint a car as the varnish had to dry. Lacquer of course "flashed off" and dried much faster.

I am really enjoying this exchange  and hope the readers of the forum are as well. Lets get the facts and information out there that is based on period accounts and material from the suppliers; there always seems to be an current  "expert" who tells all and sees all but it is only an opinion on what they are guessing at as to what really happened.

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