I like cars. I have liked cars as long as I can remember. So I have owned several. Not just because I needed transportation, but because it was a chance to immerse myself in new experiences. Automotive relationships, you might say.
I also like cars in colors. I understand that my color perception is quite good for a male of my species, so car shopping is always an exciting time when color choice is involved. So . . . how did I end up driving a white car every day?
I think I have had more cars painted white than any other color. I count six of them. In each instance this has not been by choice, but usually by what I have referred to as the “Used Car Equipment Package” – translated as “if it’s a decent car at the right price you take what you get in color and options”.
Perhaps my aversion to white cars comes from my youth. My father liked white cars. During my conscious lifetime I can count the number of his non-white cars on one hand. The white cars would take all of my ten fingers, if not more.
I remember the first one vividly. It was actually a company car he had been issued by his employer – a 1963 Chevrolet station wagon. Naturally, it was white. Dad’s station wagon was right at home in a neighborhood of the kind that was once common at the height of the baby boom, one with plenty of other kids my age who were allowed to roam free until it got dark.
I recall one particular evening. Several neighborhood kids and I were playing and we happened to end up at my house as the sun was getting low. My parents had walked across the street to socialize with the neighbors. As they enjoyed a lazy summer evening of cocktails and conversation, my friends and I decided that a treasure hunt would be the perfect way to close out the evening.
It is not that we had any treasure and we certainly had no idea where any treasure might be. This neighborhood was no older than we were so there was not likely anything to be found below the grass beyond earthworms and maybe the occasional coin from a construction worker’s pocket.
But – we had a shovel. To dig a hole. Digging the hole would be more fun than finding treasure anyway, and who knows – in our six or seven year old minds wasn’t there treasure to be found at the bottom of any hole for those industrious enough to dig?
We decided on an appropriate place for our dig – in our front lawn right near the street, of course. But where was the fun in just digging a hole? What we needed was a treasure map. I (and this was 100% me) had a brilliant idea: there was a green fat-tipped magic marker in the house. The problem was that we lacked a really big piece of paper. Fortunately Dad’s big white Chevrolet would supply us with the perfect blank slate for our map. The rear door on the drivers side was perfect and I drew a rather nice map. Then we followed the dotted line on the car door to the big X which marked the spot for our hole, which we dug until we tired of the project. We did not find any treasure, in case you wondered. By then it was about dark and we all went to our respective homes.
The next morning I arose to a concerned look on my mother’s face. “Daddy is very angry with you.” I went to the front windows to see the Chevrolet’s front end rise up more than normal as my father hit the gas after backing out of the driveway. The green marker was still outside, only ground into the dirt next to the driveway. It was not a good day. That map never really did go completely away. I wonder if that is why Dad’s next white station wagon came with brown wood paneling on the sides.
But I digress. Perhaps due to my youthful trauma I avoided white cars, unless I couldn’t. Price and condition would trump color every time and so white worked its way into my life over and over. At least I changed up on interiors. There was green (59 Plymouth) turquoise (66 Plymouth) red (61 Thunderbird), white (64 Imperial) brown (84 Oldsmobile). But I knew that when I bought a new car it would never, ever be white.
Until we bought one. It was my Mrs. who insisted after an oddity on our chosen model’s availability decreed that to get the tan interior she wanted I would have to take – yup, you guessed it.
Not only is my car white, but it is old fashioned white. Once upon a time they would spray paint a car and then send it out into the cold, hard world. The hapless owner would be forced into a life of regular polishing and waxing in order to keep the thing from turning into the chalky, dull finish most often seen on the aluminum siding that surrounded me as a kid.
By the early 90’s they started spraying clear coats on top of the color finish. Clear coat made life so easy – a quick run through the car wash and your car looked practically new. Unless you parked in the sun for too many years, causing a case of automotive eczema.
Here is my problem: My 2007 model seems to be the only non-clear-coat car made after 1996. Honda still used traditional old-style paint on one (and only one) color when my car was built. Yup. White.
I got started on this topic because I need to go out and wax my car again. Because it is dull and stained by tree stuff (and bird stuff) that has fallen on it over the last year. OK, two years. This is going to involve much work and muscle soreness. And it is still not going to shine the way it should. But the car is too good to throw away. Because in my mind it is still new. And no longer has a rust spot. At least so far.
Perhaps I can suggest that my Mrs wax it this year? She picked that white paint, after all. Then again, there are just some things that simply should not be asked. This is one of them.
Photo credit: Photo of the author (and his kid sister) in front of their father’s 1963 Chevrolet station wagon, taken approximately 1965. All rights reserved.