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Car Paint Improvements

The way cars are painted and the paint used for them has changed significantly over the years. As technology has advanced, everything from the time it takes to paint a car, the colors used, the gloss of the finished product, to the quality and durability has improved.

Below are a few facts on the history of painting cars: 

  • The painting process for the first cars was the same as it was for carriages. The cars would be hand painted and the process could take up to 40 days to complete.
  • Due to a lack of durability with the paint used in the early days of cars, oftentimes the car would have to be painted each year.
  • The Model T was initially available in several colors (gray, green, blue and red), but not black. In 1914 Ford rolled out the policy of only black Model Ts due to the efficiency of application (faster drying), the lower cost, and the durability of the paint.
  • The first production automobile to be spray painted was the 1924 Oakland. The use of paint spray guns shortened the paint process to about a third of what it was previously.
  • Chrome plating of parts began in the 1920s with spray-on chrome starting in the 1930s.
  • In 1955 General Motors started using a new acrylic paint and to help speed up the drying process they would use a large oven to bake the car. This led to a consistent finish to cars but it wasn’t as glossy.
  • In the 1970’s the base/clear coat system was introduced.
  • In the 1980’s urethane and polyurethane paints were used by auto manufacturers. After continued improvement these led to durable and highly glossy finishes.