My White Car Blues

WhiteCarBlues01

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 newAnd 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.

34 thoughts on “My White Car Blues

    • I admire your steadfastness. I have always swallowed hard and settled when every other box was checked on a used car. And can you even see the exterior color of a modern car when you are driving it? So I accept my fate – and bitch about it. 😁

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  1. A very comforting post. Comforting because it’s nice to know I wasn’t the only kid struck with a really great idea that turned out to be not such a great idea the next day.
    Actually my childhood was full of great ideas like that, such as disassembling my grandfathers alarm clock with a rock because I wanted to see what was inside. Not a good idea, but it made perfect sense at the time.

    My nemesis is the red car. Although my parents never had a red car my red suffering started with the 1962 TR4 project I could never get on the road. Then a string of used cars bought from my father in law the Ford sales associate. Somehow that great deal on a clean trade in was always red. The vehicles I bought in the past two years have been blue, and silver. No red, even if it means passing up on the deal of the century.

    I’ve only had one white car, and that was the RX-7 and it had racing stripes. Racing stripes and a wheel/tire change would have looked good on your fathers 63 Chevy.

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    • Red is not really my happy place either. I have owned two red cars, both reluctantly. And one (my 61 T Bird again) was red when I got it but white when I got rid of it. It had originally been white and I put it back to what it had been. With its bright red interior my choices were limited, I suppose I could have gone with black but that is always a bad bet when you are having body and paint work by a high school vocational school. The other is my Miata – it is hard to avoid red if you are looking at Miatas.

      I cannot imagine that the rock-opened alarm clock went over well with your stern Dutch grandfather.

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  2. White is simply boring. If one is seeking a new automotive experience, choosing white to go with it is like traveling to some exotic locale only to eat at McDonalds.

    Thinking of it, I’ve had two and one-half white vehicles. My poor old Ford van is white. I had an ’86 Crown Victoria in white, but having purchased it for $375 at auction, I suppose I can’t complain. My ’55 Chevrolet 210 was a greenish/gray with a white roof. At least it had something to distract from the white.

    In 2009 I was to get a new car at work. Looking the gift horse in the mouth, I insisted it be something other than white. The color blind fleet manager ordered silver – which while not much better than white, it was a step in the right direction.

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      • That makes two of us. But I’ve never bitched about it – or have I??? 🙂

        In a weird way, that van becoming ever so marginally handy at times, like hauling home a new washing machine in a storm and teaching a youngster how to drive.

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    • Silver is another I have tried to avoid. And have actually been quite successful, never having owned a silver car. How many people can say that in 2019? When I bought my first new car my choices were three: silver, a really obnoxious hot orangy red, and black. Even if I had not liked black, I would have been forced there by the other two choices.

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  3. My current DD is an Escape. It is white. It is accompanied by my black 300C. My last DD was a Dodge Caravan. In white. It was once accompanied by a black Cavalier. The Plymouth Voyager that preceded the Caravan was – white. There have been a beige car, a nightwatch blue car, a sort of burgundy-ish colour, a sky blue car, and a sienna metallic car (Dart Sport). However white has ruled the day in having had at least one white vehicle in my driveway since 1989. Black is the next most popular colour in my world.
    I was at my son’s work yesterday, and I counted 9 black cars (including his) of the twelve in his row. There was not a white one to be found.
    His GF’s car is – white.
    My eldest son has a nice blue Subaru, it was preceded by one in charcoal. His wife’s car is red. I believe they have such a strong aversion to white they will never buy one of that shade.
    As for me, well, like you said, if the price is right….white (or black) it will be!

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    • The one kind of white car that might be rejected no matter how nice the car might otherwise be is one with gobs of matte-finish black plastic stuck all over it. Those are the worst. All of mine have been either all-white (like my current Honda) or white with a decent amount of chrome trim that helps it out a bit.

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  4. My ’77 LeSabre & ’74 Dart were both light blue with white tops, but that is the closest I’ve come.

    When I started looking for a car last month I realised that I actually had enough money and time to be picky about color as well as condition. So I now have a 2004 LeSabre in Crimson Pearl Metallic with a Light Cashmere interior. Translated from Buickese, it’s deep red and buttery tan.

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  5. Car color has never been an issue for me, but I enjoyed your stories about it. I had a white Ford, then a blue Mazda, then a white Honda, and now a gray Toyota. I tend to keep cars for a long time. The last time I needed to get a car loan, the bank said I had no usable credit rating because I hadn’t borrowed money since the last time I bought a car, which had been more than 10 years earlier.

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    • I almost envy you folks who just don’t care what color your car (or maybe anything else) may be. And the modern credit ratings system – don’t get me started on that one.

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  6. I had a friend once who bought a new car every 2-3 years or so, always a full size Chevy, usually an Impala. He would order it, and when the sales guy would ask for the colour of preference, he would always say Green. The last time he ever bought a car, his wife happened to go with him, and when the question came up, she jumped in – “Wait a Minute! You mean we have a choice?! I don’t want another green car.” She mandated a nice deep burgundy colour. When he got that car and drove it to the office for the first time, we were all aghast. Norm – what did you do? Where is your green car?! He definitely felt out of his comfort zone in that car, I think it took him months to get used to it. We kidded him about it as long as we could.

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    • My brothers and I used to bust my father’s chops for his unending stream of white cars. As I think about it his mother had almost nothing but blue cars from the 20s through the 70s.

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  7. I don’t want to make you jealous but my 2006 dark blue Honda still looks shiny new, inside and out. I’ve had two white cars, a two seater Fiero sports car in the 80’s, and a white Sunfire. I drove in a lot of bad winter storms and white out conditions, and white is not good in winter, as you blend right in with the snow.
    Out of some weird familial allegiance I always bought GM, (I had a great uncle who worked in Detroit in the early days of the car production lines in 1914), but once I went Honda I never went back. So much better made. I would trade up to a new one, but every time I’m there for an oil change and look in the showroom, they only come in white, black or gray, and a truly ugly electric blue I wouldn’t want anyone to see me driving. There’s a newer kind of silverish-blue out now that is quite pretty, that I’m contemplating…..

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    • I know, isn’t the limited color selection a downer? Our most recent car ended up gray, only because none of the actual colors looked very good. In fact, I have bought 3 new cars in my life. Black, white and gray. Isn’t that depressing?

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      • It is depressing. I keep hoping Honda will come out with that silverish-blue colour, it’s a light tone, almost like what you would see on a British racing car. I may have to buy a Toyota.

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      • It occurs to me that your van is gray – you need a wrap/decal of the 3 tall swirls from those vintage Toastmaster toasters. One on each side.

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  8. I am fascinated by the passion and detail that you and your commenters have exchanged here. But you do have a knack for forging that link between your younger self—drawing a magic marker map on your dad’s white car—and the present. And DougD’s pursuing his thirst for knowledge with a rock on his grandfather’s alarm clock was equally memorable.

    Your piano piece inspired me to describe a humiliating “freeze” moment from my younger years—coming soon, with a credit to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. There are some cars that, to me, look terrible in white. A ‘63 Chevy wagon is one; a 911 or a Corvette are some others But just about every car we’ve bought in the last twenty years looks good to me in white, but unfortunately only two have actually been white. If/when I ever buy a new pickup, it will be white. After two blue trucks, a brown one and a silver one, I’m going to hold out for the color I’ve always wanted for a pickup, white. Same for vans and SUV’s. By the way your story reminded me of a white Chevy van for sale recently, in our neighborhood. The phone number and other details were just written on the side of the van in black marker. I did the finger test … it was NOT dry erase marker.

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    • I guess it was good I didn’t write “For Sale”. That would have extended my bad day for quite a while.

      My only problem with modern white cars is that 99% of them are tan gray or black inside. Tan is not wonderful, gray is less wonderful yet and black is the worst of all.

      But I hope you find the white pickup that works for you.

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  10. Interesting post. I think I remember hearing my grandpa bitch about white GMC cars. One of which I now own. A quick run-down of the paint jobs of my cars leads to the brown Honda Accord, a black Protege, a silver Elantra, the faded red Miata, the silver avenger, a dark green Jetta (Baltic Green), and the white Impala. Though the paint on the impala has held up, the trim pieces on each pillar are starting to fade, an epidemic that afflicted Avalanches of the same year, I seem to recall. Oh well, probably moving on soon. As an aside, whenever I see an orange new beetle with a turbo tag on the back, I still think it’s my dad coming to surprise me. Funny how colors stick in your memory like that.

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    • I recall reading once that white was the top selling color on Chevrolets for years and years.

      I never knew that your dad’s Beetle was orange. I guess if you are going to drive a New Beetle Turbo convertible, orange makes perfect sense. Go big or go home. 😀

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  11. We literally have a gigantic hole in our backyard because my 9 year old had the same idea you did as a child…. well, actually he’s looking for dinosaur bones. Time to hide the markers….

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  12. I just discovered your blog (and I am really enjoying it) so forgive the lateness of this reply but I have to share our car colors story. When I saw your photo of the 1963 Chevy wagon and neat looking suburban neighborhood it struck a chord in me. I guess you are around the ages of my brother (63) and me (60). Our parents bought their first new house, a modern three bedroom split level with an attached two car garage in a neatly landscaped neighborhood in central NJ in 1963 and our dad bought a new car to go along with our new house. It was a bare bones maroon 1963 Chevy Impala 6 cylinder 2 dr. I think the only options were automatic transmission and power steering. It started my dad’s “maroon car color years”. By 1967, the 1963 Impala looked outdated as hec and mom wanted air conditioning in the next car anyway so dad bought a new maroon 1967 Impala with, I believe, a 327 V8. It had air conditioning. Mom was happy about that. It was definitely a step up from the 1963 but not the most exciting car. It met a sad fate just a year and a half later, in the fall of 1968, in the parking lot of the local Food Fair when a delivery truck slammed into it (no one was in our Chevy at the time). Time for a new car again. My brother and I were very excited about that until my dad announced that he would be buying a new 1969 Impala and he hoped they offered maroon. Another Impala? Another MAROON Impala? My brother and I were fully taken by the TV commercials for “Your Next Car” the 1969 fuselage style Chryslers and the especially the 1969 300 2 door hardtop. We begged my dad to look at the 1969 Chryslers before making a deal on a 1969 Impala. My dad agreed to look at the Chyslers and we were invited to go along with him. To our joy, my dad fell in love with a 1969 Chrysler 300 2 door hardtop on the showroom floor. It was a sort of maroon called dark briar metallic, full black vinyl roof, black interior, air conditioning and most of the other goodies offered that year. I will never forget how he looked at my mom and said “Let’s buy it”. Just like that! My brother and I were over the moon happy. It didn’t matter that it was sort of maroon. It was as sharp as could be. No one in our neighborhood of Impalas and Galaxie 500s and Furys and a couple of big Buick sedans had anything as cool looking as that fuselage styled 1969 300 2 dr hardtop with it’s hidden headlamps and huge V8. My parents drove that 1969 300 until 1976, when they gave it to my brother for his 20th birthday. It was in very good condition and my brother drove it until 1980 when he sold it to a man who owned a slew of various 300s. My parents last new car was a 1976 Mercury Grand Marquis in silver with a very ugly half vinyl roof in maroon. In my opinion, it could not compare to the beauty and coolness of our 1969 300 but my parents were happy with their big, new 76 Merc so I was happy for them. My dad drove that 76 until 1986 when he suddenly passed away. Mom kept it for another few years until my brother and I deemed it unsafe to drive and she bought a new 1990 Ford LTD Crown Victoria. Not maroon. Dark blue. Thus ended the maroon years.

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    • I love your story! I always liked maroon cars, so I would have been content. The 63 Chevy wagon had bright red interior. I think V8, Ps and the Glide were about the only options. I remember my mother didn’t like it because it lacked power brakes.

      The 69s are my faves of the Fuseys.

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