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Original opalescent paint color exposed


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I own 2 fairly rare vehicles, a '32 Terraplane coupe and a '33 Terraplane 8 convertible coupe. When I removed the small chrome knobs of each of their gas filler doors (another first?) I discovered each had been originally finished with the first metallic paints used on ordinary low priced passenger cars....  It was like a glimpse into when they were brand new,  and with these finishes they must have been stunning!  The '32 is blue opalescent and the '33 is called Steel Dust.  The '33 will be restored using the original formula paint from the color library in San Diego. See photos!

Screenshot_20200907-123436_Gallery.jpg

Closeup 33.jpg

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13 hours ago, edinmass said:

The metallic isn’t very unusual......the colors are. Interesting post.👍

I don't understand your comment.  He said it was the first use of metallic paints on low-priced cars.

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29 minutes ago, Jim Skelly said:

I don't understand your comment.  He said it was the first use of metallic paints on low-priced cars.

Jim, yes that was my intent. I disagree with edinmass that metallic colors weren't unusual in 1932, on any price autos,let alone low priced autos!

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I agree on popular priced cars it was not common........but metallic options were readily available on many cars.......and standard on some ..........1927 was the first year availability commercially. Studebaker, Packard, Pierce, Cadillac......all had them as standard color options by 1929. Fact is they usually didn’t hold up well.......and dealers were reluctant to deal with them due to customer complaints. (Same as chrome wire wheels.)  Many, many auto show cars were metallic........even if the factory didn’t offer them as special order. The 1931 Auto Salon in New York was approaching 20 percent metallic on the floor cars.......but it was also common to repaint the show cars to a more traditional color after the show......there are numerous examples of this. My guess is a 33 Terraplane was a rare car new......and probably a limited factory production car. Do you have production numbers on the body styles for the year. How about a shot of the entire car? 

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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3 hours ago, Jim Skelly said:

I don't understand your comment.  He said it was the first use of metallic paints on low-priced cars.

The 'opalescent' powder, (presumably fine ground aluminum) is, or at least was not as common as modern postwar metallic paint ingredients.  Unless the selection from paint vendors has gotten better, such as with these 'pearl' paint jobs one sees on many new cars now, that real find-ground metallic power may be a hard match to the original finish.  I remember seeing many cars restored to 'original' in the 1970's through the 1990's, and the metal flake embedded in the paint was always lager in size than the original.

 

Craig

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13 minutes ago, 8E45E said:

The 'opalescent' powder, (presumably fine ground aluminum) is, or at least was not as common as modern postwar metallic paint ingredients.  Unless the selection from paint vendors has gotten better, such as with these 'pearl' paint jobs one sees on many new cars now, that real find-ground metallic power may be a hard match to the original finish.  I remember seeing many cars restored to 'original' in the 1970's through the 1990's, and the metal flake embedded in the paint was always lager in size than the original.

 

Craig

Most of the opalescent paint I have found pre-WWII have super fine gold powder in the paint and virtually none of the paints held up well (aka why a lot of survivor cars are black matched to the live fast die young set going through all the red ones early on)

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Some of those early 1930’s opalescent paints used fish scales from Maine herrings and sardines.  Mearl Corporation was a major supplier. The fish scales didn’t weather well. Ground mica later replaced fish scales. 

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52 minutes ago, 8E45E said:

The 'opalescent' powder, (presumably fine ground aluminum) is, or at least was not as common as modern postwar metallic paint ingredients.  Unless the selection from paint vendors has gotten better, such as with these 'pearl' paint jobs one sees on many new cars now, that real find-ground metallic power may be a hard match to the original finish.  I remember seeing many cars restored to 'original' in the 1970's through the 1990's, and the metal flake embedded in the paint was always lager in size than the original.

 

Craig

As Craig said, the metallic in the finish was ground much smaller then. FYI, Auto Color Library has the correct size flake and obsolete lead based toners to recreate the correct color and sparkle. I am using a base clear finish for longevity! See original pic of the Terraplane and colorized pic below for full effect.

20160928_202512_zpsjaasiyos.jpg

received_1764524443812947_zpsrdzopivz.jpeg

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Any production numbers with body style break outs? It's a very nice car... and in 50 years of going to shows, I have never seen a '33 coupe or convertible...

 

Pierce Arrow made a show car in triple platinum with a blue top and leather interrior, a series 42 Dual Cowl. I have a paint sample, it was very nice while in a envelop wrapped up for 60 years, I removed it and in a matter of months in the bedroom, it turned to a root beer color, then to a turgid black/brown. The early paints definitely were a challenge. The Rolls P1 with the flakes of gold held up well, but it was black.

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This is an interesting topic on a little-known part of automotive history.  I remember my Dad saying how the early maroons didn't hold up well.  He said they were popular and then suddenly disappeared because the color turned brownish, just like Ed mentioned with his paint sample.  Dad thought Nash put the color name on the side of the car for a short time, and walked up to a used brown car that had actually been maroon according to the emblem.  Does this named paint emblem sound familiar to anyone or was Dad thinking of something else?

 

I gave him a 1/18th scale '38 Buick convertible model a while back.  It was painted white, which he said was an uncommon color prior to WWII.   Sure enough, Buick offered 10 colors that year, 5 of which were metallic, but white wasn't one of them!  You'd think the model manufacturer would have used a correct color.     

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Introduced December 10, 1931 Graham Model 57 in Avon Blue pearlescent lacquer, fenders and frame were also pearlescent.  

 

 

image.thumb.png.2eee0e03f7b713d74a0749335ec9781f.png

Graham-Paige offered 4 "pearlescent" colors in 1932

 

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Dealer introduction San Francisco CA Model 57 (on the left) is in pearlescent, Avon Blue

 

New 1932 Graham cars arriving in early April 1932 Oakland California

image.thumb.png.1b6cd9b426d0996701a987ce048d8cc4.png

 

Indianapolis late May 1932 the convertible was in pearlescent Avon Blue, they said you could spot the car anywhere around the track from the sparkling blue color.  Notice the 15 inch rims with balloon tires on the convertible, they were not available to the public till 1933.

 

image.thumb.png.1b307cd6efd62cd6ec46d3c9baba2de2.png

 

 

Unfortunately no Avon Blue examples have survived.

 

image.png

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The Studebaker factory cars in the 1932 Indy 500 were all painted with pearlescent paint.  I have been told that this was a color photograph, not a colorized black&white one.  Three of the five original bodies survive, but they have been repainted many times, so I don't think we can see examples of the original paint.

 

2050274590_wheelcenterfoldcars1600x1200.thumb.jpg.8ce33d5cc6dc44f8be12bcdb42fca9c2.jpg

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There is a wonderful original 1941 Cadillac 60 Special Fleetwood at the Crawford Museum on Cleveland - donated by the Owner of Thompson Products, the Founder of the Museum - I would describe it as Black with a Silver roof - "Silver with the finest of Gold flake powder."  Fish scale probably gave the appearance of more of silver metallic, but obviously did not hold up well.    

 

By the way, Auburn introduced metallic/opalescent paint on their Salon Series cars in I believe 1932.

 

The 1939 LaSalle Bohman & Schwartz bodied car was opalescent silver and when we found the first decent sample upon disassembly (of a part lucky enough to not have been touched by the previous restorer )we were quick to reproduce it in modern materials (which was far from easy).

 

Keep in mind that Pre-WWII paints in Black tend to be the highest survivor.

 

And again, the live fast die young crowd blew through the flashy colors, especially red real early in the game "driven hard and put away wet".  And, many paint companies still have trouble with long term red stability. 

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On 9/7/2020 at 9:28 PM, sftamx1 said:

I own 2 fairly rare vehicles, a '32 Terraplane coupe and a '33 Terraplane 8 convertible coupe. When I removed the small chrome knobs of each of their gas filler doors (another first?) I discovered each had been originally finished with the first metallic paints used on ordinary low priced passenger cars....  It was like a glimpse into when they were brand new,  and with these finishes they must have been stunning!  The '32 is blue opalescent and the '33 is called Steel Dust.  The '33 will be restored using the original formula paint from the color library in San Diego. See photos!

Screenshot_20200907-123436_Gallery.jpg

Closeup 33.jpg

By the way, I would reproduce this paint - your car will be stunning !!!

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I would have described this Packard as Turquoise with Gold metallic flake - it was original paint that survived to 1999 to have the next owner paint it resale red (unfortunate and probably it would not happen today).Scan_Pic0004.thumb.jpg.70fcd9564bd7d42b0a7c659a02ebfd68.jpg.807af9b476e59874260e7c5ef7ea96cb.jpg

 

Interestingly Ed mentioned this Pierce Arrow when restored was not put back to its factory show car color, but upon giving it thought the owner of the Pierce Arrow (who my 1935 Auburn Sedan came from as well) and the owner of the above Packard (a relative) both lived in Dayton, OH and it was recently mentioned they went to high school together and ...

545780730_unnamed(1).jpg.df76fdbcc2b6a4e4c556a64fb0117693.jpg

 

My point:  Unusual colors when well done tend to be real crowd please-ers. 

 

 

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The 35 Pierce was origionally Canary Yellow.....IE -Bright Yellow. It was the auto show car from Chicago. Several were done in that color. The totally incorrect color was a HUGE crowd pleaser. We called the car "our trophy machine". It won everywhere it went. It was a wonderful car and I was sorry to see it go. Notice the ribbon on the windshield....that was St John's, and it won Best use of color...........even though it was totally inappropriate. Go figure!

 

Car color shifts from sunlight to shade, as can be seen in the photo below. 

0CFAB94D-8DBD-459D-8DC4-A6E7556D5736.jpeg

Edited by edinmass (see edit history)
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Red and variations of maroon are very hard colors to match, and under different lighting conditions will change tone and level before your eyes!  I taught art for 40+ years ( Masters Degree + in Art) and have been into pre war cars for nearly 60 years. When in college a professor showed me a book titled something like "Alber's color book" and this was for oil painting. there were overlays in it so you would place one color directly next to the main page of color and it totally changed the main page color before your eyes. Crazy. Try to match a car paint color under fluorescent or incandescent bulb light and you will get the wrong color result - it has to be done as a match by eye under non artificial light conditions. SO many beautifully and skillfully restored cars with the wrong colors for the era in which it was built. I have stated here before - many collectors justify their color choice by with an air of importance to their voice ( to make them sound knowledgeable, appear huffy puffy etc) by stating "for an extra $50 you could have had your car painted any color you wanted"  - then give you a look of "so there you are. Well in the Depression years most people didn't have an extra $50 for a special paint, hey they weren't making $50 per week!

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A wonderful 1939 Cadillac color was Oxblood Maroon (with a lot of brown in it, unusual and beautiful), followed in 1940 by Oxblood Maroon Irisdescent (semi-metallic).  I never painted my black 1939 75 7-p sedan, but was struggling with whether to use the wrong-year iridescent color on it.  "Iridescent" is the generic term for colors which appear to change under varying lighting conditions, as Ed displayed with the 1935 Pierce convertible coupe.  The formulae didn't translate to modern paints, as I have noted with interest many cars which claimed to be repainted Oxblood Maroon / OM Irisdescent which were actually more of a rose' wine color.

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The historically correct colors are awesome...unfortunately recreating them is a best guess.  On top of getting the color correct, I always suggest checking the color in a light booth (it reproduces outdoor lighting conditions) or just go outside to look.  The next problem is the mechanics of actually painting.  Metallic/preadolescent/whatever we call it, are particles suspended in the paint or clear.  How you thin the paint makes a difference, how you spray the paint makes a difference, air pressure make a huge difference even the surface contours of the car make a difference.  What I am trying to say is we will only ever get close to reproducing these colors.  God forbid you try to take one to a judged show, you better have concrete documentation on your color choice or you will be docked.

 

1932 'LUCENTI SPECIAL'  Graham Model 57 Indy car also in pearlescent (they found this color on the bottom of layers of paint).

 

The Graham came in 10th place in the 1934 Indianapolis 500; qualified at 111.7 mph

 

1/24 scale metal racers - automotion

 

https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/18267/lot/635/?category=list

 

The ex-Herb Ardinger,1932 'Lucenti Special' Two-Man Indianapolis Race Car

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You want to see paint change colors?  Try my ChromaFlair paint and ink pigment that I invented back in 1979, patent 4,434,010 and others, no royalties paid to me.  There are lots of variations available on the color change.  You can see the green-gold version on U.S. $10 and $20 bills, lower right corner.  It's made with small flakes consisting of extremely thin layers of aluminum, titanium dioxide, chromium, and silicon dioxide.  The colors won't fade.  It's not really suitable for antique cars but great for street rodders and custom cars.  You can also get shoes and other fashion items made with these pigments.  

 

color-shift-paint_corvette.jpg.be17efe6e0fbd9dcb40e17e0376914d2.jpg

Corvette with ChromaFlair paint.

 

1725553456_TVRwithChromaFlairpaint.jpg.a01e3272ae657ca7996d145e7dcf3976.jpg

TVR with ChromaFlair paint.

 

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Shoes made with ChromaFlair pigments.

 

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39 minutes ago, Gary_Ash said:

You want to see paint change colors?   It's not really suitable for antique cars but great for street rodders and custom cars.  You can also get shoes and other fashion items made with these pigments.  

 

 

1725553456_TVRwithChromaFlairpaint.jpg.a01e3272ae657ca7996d145e7dcf3976.jpg

TVR with ChromaFlair paint.

 

Ford offered Chroma-Flair paint on the Mustang for a time as well.  'Mystic' paint option:

https://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/forum/your-studebaker-forum/general-studebaker-specific-discussion/78983-what-paint-color-for-a-lark/page3

 

Craig

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It’s unlikely that one could reproduce paints using fish scales for opalescence. Mearl Corporation closed their last plant in Maine in 2007.   http://quoddytides.com/mearl1-12-07.html.  Maybe there are some offshore sources, but it’s not logical to try to duplicate those paints.  There are ways to get mica ground to a fine powder that are easier than the process referred to above. A number of modern cars have opalescent paint, mostly cream or white; it should be easy enough to tint those to the desired color.

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Try Auto color library, in San Diego. They have the original paint formulas, obsolete lead based toners and the correct sized metallic. It's as close as I can get! Here's a spray out of the 32 blue and 33 steel dust. As you can see, I'm serious about authenticity! Not sure about fish scales, lol. A spectrum analyzer would help if a nice original sample was available 

Screenshot_20190326-124751_Gallery.jpg

Edited by sftamx1
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20 hours ago, Walt G said:

 Try to match a car paint color under fluorescent or incandescent bulb light and you will get the wrong color result - it has to be done as a match by eye under non artificial light conditions. SO many beautifully and skillfully restored cars with the wrong colors for the era in which it was built. I have stated here before - many collectors justify their color choice by with an air of importance to their voice ( to make them sound knowledgeable, appear huffy puffy etc) by stating "for an extra $50 you could have had your car painted any color you wanted"  - then give you a look of "so there you are. Well in the Depression years most people didn't have an extra $50 for a special paint, hey they weren't making $50 per week!

I know what you mean!  My dad bought a brand new (rather bright) metallic blue full size Dodge in 1968.  It appeared purple under the mercury vapor street lights at night.

 

$50!!!  That's a now a BARGAIN from what the likes of Porsche with their "Paint to Sample" , Aston Martin's "Q-Special", Rolls-Royce "Bespoke", and others charge for special order colors!!   Count on $5K minimum for a special order color!   

 

Craig

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Craig it was the era. A new Plymouth in 1931 was $635 . Used cars in good running condition could be had for $50 .

I have used car value guides from the mid 1930s and it is incredible how little a 3 or 4 year old car was worth. A full course meal was $1.25 to $1.75 

 

Walt

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14 hours ago, sftamx1 said:

Try Auto color library, in San Diego. They have the original paint formulas, obsolete lead based toners and the correct sized metallic. It's as close as I can get! Here's a spray out of the 32 blue and 33 steel dust. As you can see, I'm serious about authenticity! Not sure about fish scales, lol. A spectrum analyzer would help if a nice original sample was available 

Screenshot_20190326-124751_Gallery.jpg

GO FOR IT !!!

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I am impressed how close the colors are.  What I do is take the color sample down to the paint shop and go through the color samples they have.  I have yet to be stumped.  I did a "Fawn" wheel color for my Graham that was extremely close to a Nissan color we did a slight tint and it was perfect.  I keep the computer color slip for future use if needed.

 

If you read the "Finishing Graham Cars" article they describe how it was painted, they lay down 2-3 base color coat, followed by the clear lacquer coat that contains the flakes, then use lacquer thinner to flow out the clear coat.  To get the larger flakes today I would put the flakes in the clear.  This video shows how to build the flakes to get a prefect match.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn1nV3B9LuY  the black panel in the video is almost identical flake size of your original 32 blue sample.

 

Don't get me wrong I think your colors are great, but I think the early "opalescent" colors were over the top.  When you can see sparkle in a black and white photograph, it's over the top.  That might explain why so few original color cars exist.  Only a few Graham's survived with any trace of their original pearl color most were repainted normal colors over the years, apparently just like your Hudson's.

 

image.thumb.png.a3cb71c79e86ab594494608fe2761fad.png

 

This was my friends 1940 Graham he got docked at a show for having pearlescent paint, he did not have the documentation on him for the judges.

1940 Graham Hollywood convertible victoria | Richard Spiegelman | Flickr

Edited by Graham Man (see edit history)
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7 minutes ago, Graham Man said:

This was my friends 1940 Graham he got docked at a show for having percentile paint, he did not have the documentation on him for the judges.

What is percentile paint?  Thanks for your informative comments!

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I Googled Mearl Corporation a little more. They were a major supplier of fish scales for paint. Mearl got sold to Englehard about 1995, in turn sold to BASF about 10 years later. BASF supplies mica-based pigments of many types, including Mearlin, Magnapearl, and Glacier. They own a number of automotive paint brands, including Limco, who offer pearlescent paints. Many shops supplying paints to autobody shops will carry this brand. Maybe the paint supplier can put you in touch with a tech rep who can point you to the right product.  There are enough pigment choices that you shouldn’t have to grind your own to size. 

 

A lesson I learned the hard way is to get a sample of the paint and have your body shop paint a scrap door, hood, or fender so you can how it will really look from all angles on a sunny day, cloudy day, or evening. A small sample on a flat sheet won’t do it. 

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They were the main supplier for non-metallic special effects when we matched plastic to paint.  A coated mica is likely to be the best approximation of fish scales.

One other caution on the match - these colors are both going to use small amounts of phthalo blue pigment.  The amount in the lighter one especially will be a very low concentration.  Have more than necessary for color alone put in, then lightened back to the correct color with titanium dioxide.  Very low concentrations of phthalo blue weather poorly, especially with special effect additives (metallic, pearl) present.

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5 hours ago, Walt G said:

Craig it was the era. A new Plymouth in 1931 was $635 . Used cars in good running condition could be had for $50 .

I have used car value guides from the mid 1930s and it is incredible how little a 3 or 4 year old car was worth. A full course meal was $1.25 to $1.75 

 

Walt

I was going by the Inflation Calculator:  https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

 

That $50 special color option only equates to $852.31 as per that chart; not $5K (or more).    Cadillac even has two optional colors listed here that are NOT "special order", but a regular production option for over $1K: https://www.cadillac.com/suvs/xt6/build-and-price/color  Remember when Cadillac had a clause where customer could order a new one in a previous year's color?  If that is still true, I wonder what the cost adder for one painted Mountain Laurel would be!!

 

Craig

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2 hours ago, Graham Man said:

I am impressed how close the colors are.  What I do is take the color sample down to the paint shop and go through the color samples they have.  I have yet to be stumped.  I did a "Fawn" wheel color for my Graham that was extremely close to a Nissan color we did a slight tint and it was perfect.  I keep the computer color slip for future use if needed.

 

If you read the "Finishing Graham Cars" article they describe how it was painted, they lay down 2-3 base color coat, followed by the clear lacquer coat that contains the flakes, then use lacquer thinner to flow out the clear coat.  To get the larger flakes today I would put the flakes in the clear.  This video shows how to build the flakes to get a prefect match.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sn1nV3B9LuY  the black panel in the video is almost identical flake size of your original 32 blue sample.

 

Don't get me wrong I think your colors are great, but I think the early "opalescent" colors were over the top.  When you can see sparkle in a black and white photograph, it's over the top.  That might explain why so few original color cars exist.  Only a few Graham's survived with any trace of their original pearl color most were repainted normal colors over the years, apparently just like your Hudson's.

 

image.thumb.png.a3cb71c79e86ab594494608fe2761fad.png

 

This was my friends 1940 Graham he got docked at a show for having pearlescent paint, he did not have the documentation on him for the judges.

1940 Graham Hollywood convertible victoria | Richard Spiegelman | Flickr

 

 

Great color match.......and it's great to see cars painted in the correct factory colors. Very flashy and upscale for the time...........the color really makes the car pop.

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