Friday, August 17, 2012

How To Find Your Classic Car's Original Paint Color

by Andrea L. Algar
Motorheads Performance

Many classic car owners want to keep their car "correct" and as original as possible. But, as in most things, eventually things start to wear, and even the best of paint jobs will eventually need a re-do. Matching a paint color in this instance is pretty straight-forward. A good paint and body shop will be able to duplicate the color easily.

But, what do you do if your paint job is so faded and worn that it is now hard to identify, the car you bought had been repainted (perhaps even several times), or if the project car you bought has already been stripped and is still in primer? There are several ways to research the paint colors that were 1) correct for the year, make, model of your car, and 2) the actual colors that were on your car when it originally came off the production line.  Here's how:

Engine Color Chart
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These days, it can be easy to identify the exact original paint scheme for a 1956 Chevrolet for example, using free information that is readily available on the Internet. You simply need to obtain the paint code located on your vehicle's cowl tag. Automobile tags have detailed, coded information which will be extremely valuable to you, not only in determining paint color information, but also when and when your car was made, the body style, the trim package, as well as tags which have your original engine specs and more!

The cowl tag is a small piece of aluminum which is usually on the firewall of the vehicle. Different manufacturers place the vehicle's tags in different places on the firewall, or they may even be on the fenders, on the door jams, or sometimes in other unusual locations, but all vehicles have them. We recommend that you copy all of the information you find there, or simply take a digital photo which you can enlarge to read easily. Taking the time to find your vehicle tags and recording the information on them can help save you valuable time and energy in locating essential information about your vehicle, help you find parts, assess colors, help appraise the value of your car and so much more.

Ford Mustang Color Chart
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 The information will be essential when you go to various on-line sites which are available to help identify all the manufacturers information about your vehicle. An example of all the great information you can get can be found at this site specifically for 1939-1958 Chevrolet Cars and Trucks. There are sites like this for all different manufacturers, different time periods, and even for specific makes and models of cars. It's usually just a matter of taking some time to search the Internet for accurate and reliable information.

Note that the cowl tags we're referring to are different than the VIN (vehicle identification number) tags usually found at the base of your car or truck's windshield. We'll talk about VIN tags, what information they hold and what you can do if your vehicle's original VIN tag is missing in a future article.

DuPont Historical Color Chip Library
Look Up Color Codes At Paintref
Mopar Fender Tag Decoder
Paint, Trim & Engine Codes for 1939-58 Chevys
TCP Global - Auto Color Library

Classic Car Paints by Glasurit
Eastwood Paints
House of Kolor
Standox Classic Car Paints

Andrea L. Algar is co-owner of a classic car performance and restoration design shop in Leesville, Texas. Motorheads Performance specializes in repairs, maintenance, performance upgrades and restorative work on cars and trucks from the 1920’s through 1970’s. Her husband Guy L. Algar is a Mechanical Engineer with over 25 years experience. He holds 5 ASE Certifications from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence and has been working on old cars and trucks for over 37 years. Together they share their passion for old cars and trucks with other enthusiasts from around the country.