Ask Cool Daddy Goes Quadrochromic
Dear Cool Daddy: As a kid in the 1950s, I loved those fancy 2-tone, then 3-tone paint jobs…but I’ve always wondered if they ever went to 4-tone? …from Red, in Pantone Village
Dear Red: If you’re talking about 4 different colors of paint, the answer is no, at least not that I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. But then nothing is ever quite that simple, or else I wouldn’t be here, right?
But yeah, it was inevitable that the wild and crazy 2-tone combinations of the early 50s would give rise to the tri-tone look of the mid 50s…usually the way it worked was, 2 colors for the body, and a 3rd for the roof. But there were variations…below left, a 1955 Packard Caribbean, or as we called it, a “Neapolitan,” after the block of ice cream. And right, a 1956 Rambler, with that over-the-top (ha ha) effect. But to give you the whole story on the maybe quad-tones, we must go back to 1958.
That was the year they stopped making Hudsons and Nashes, and AMC…the American Motor Company…came into its own, with the small-sized American, Rambler, and Ambassador lineup. But what many people forget is that the merger between Nash-Kelvinator and Hudson actually took place in 1954…thus for the 1955-56-57 model years, AMC offered 3 different models…a Nash, a Hudson, and a Rambler (as seen above right)…and the Rambler was technically a Nash or a Hudson, depending on which dealership you bought it from. But the Rambler…including the souped-up and arguably first muscle-car Rebel…was the one that sold. The Nashes and Hudsons were bizarre mockeries of 2 once great auto companies…and were seldom seen, then and now.
And about this time, as the glitz and glitter of chrome and tail-fins was reaching a fever pitch, a trim effect became popular utilizing anodized aluminum. Anodization was a process similar to electroplating, and it gave a thin sheet of aluminum an attractive finish, as well as added resistance to corrosion. Below top s a 1958 Ambassador Cross County wagon…bottom a 1958 Plymouth Fury…the large swaths on the sides are of course not chrome but anodized aluminum, which typically came in silver-tone and gold-tone…altho it can be any color, including black.
Put these 2 factors together and you get what we see below…the 1956 Hudson…awkwardly designed front end, festooned with seemingly random do-dads, and the bold 2-tone color scheme augmented by a gold-tone anodized panel along the rear fender. Tri-tone? Certainly has the look, doesn’t it?
And once you’ve gone this far, you might as well make the roof a different color, and get a putative quad-tone, as seen below. One might look back on this treatment as an act of desperation, and perhaps in a way it was, but honestly, I don’t think the look was that outrageous, given what everybody else was doing.
And finally, below is the last model year for the Hudson, 1957…the anodized trim moved to the front fender, and in this case silver-tone. So you make the call? Quad-tone or no? Not according to the man at Sherwin Williams, but as I said, it sure has the look.
But when I just said “finally,” I hope you understood that that was just a figure of speach. Because in all fairness, you really have to factor the old woody wagons into this deal. Below for example is an illustration of a 1946 Buick Estate Wagon. The real wood paneling is ash-framed mahogany, and the black roof is actually covered and slightly padded with a rubberized fabric called Everflex. Now call me crazy, but I see 4 colors on this baby, don’t you?
I guess you must be crazy too, then, and since we’re both headed for the booby-hatch, we might as well ask, did this ever escalate to 5 colors? Below is a picture that has always intrigued me, from the book American Woodys, by David Fetherston, publishing in 1998.
This is a beautiful 1953 Mercury, the last year they used real wood for their woody…and amazingly, added to the black body, white roof, and 2-tone wood panels, is a 5th color…the light tan of the A- thru D-pillars (the parts between the windows, “connecting” body to roof.) Is this paint, even more wood, or some sort of vinyl appliqué like Di-Noc, which became the auto industry’s ubiquitous “fake wood” in succeeding years? The internet won’t yield an instant answer, so I leave it to you as a research question.
As seen above, you could get the roof and body painted the same color…with the 2 cars on the left, the pillars sure seem to have a “grain” effect to them, while on the right, it looks like straight paint. And not for nothing, if you count the chrome strip on top of the wood panels, another Mercury innovation…not to mention the massive chrome tail-lamp piece… you get 6 colors…well, you can, but I won’t. Finis.
That guy yesterday was Martin Agronsky, host of the news panel show Agronsky and Co. from 1969-1987…seen here interviewing Texas Gov. John Connally from his hospital bed 5 days after the Kennedy Assassination. And here’s something cool: remember we were talking about Vanished, the first 2-part made-for-TV movie and maybe-miniseries? Agronsky had a small part in that as…big surprise…a reporter…yup, it’s all connected, man…
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