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The Surprising History of Vehicle Paints & Finishes by Mattis Bailey

Article Author Biography
The Surprising History of Vehicle Paints & Finishes by
Article Posted: 10/19/2016
Article Views: 202
Articles Written: 708
Word Count: 702
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The Surprising History of Vehicle Paints & Finishes

As far as everyday objects go, the automobile is actually a relatively recent invention. It’s hard to imagine life without cars, but as recently as one hundred years ago, they were a rare novelty. Most people have some familiarity with the history of cars. We all know about Henry Ford and the Model T. You might even have a fondness for retro sportscars from the ‘50s, ‘60s, or ‘70s. But what about the history of automotive paint?

The right paint job adds a personal touch to your truck, as well as providing an extra layer of protection. But cars weren’t always treated with today’s high-tech paints and finishes. Vehicle paints have an interesting history, dating back to the earliest days of automotives themselves.

The Early Days of Vehicle Paints

Auto body shops began to appear during the 1910s, when cars were just beginning to gain popularity. At this time, cars were painted with multiple coats of natural shellac, a shiny resin secreted by insects. Shellac acts as a tough natural primer and varnish, but the process of applying it was very labor intensive, and could take days to complete. Shellac isn’t very durable, and it’s prone to damage from UV radiation. After a year or two in the sun, the shellac would literally disintegrate.

The first step forward in auto paint came in the 1920s. In 1923, chemical manufacturer DuPont developed the first nitrocellulose lacquer. This was developed accidentally, as an offshoot of other technologies that DuPont was developing at the time. Exactly which technology, isn’t actually clear. Some people claim that nitrocellulose lacquer was derived from explosives developed for World War I combat, while others believe that DuPont discovered it while manufacturing celluloid film for some of the earliest motion pictures.

Either way, nitrocellulose lacquer was a resin that dried quite quickly and was more UV-resistant than natural shellac. It could also be created in colors other than black, introducing a whole new world of color options to the automotive industry. Applied with a spray gun, it quickly became the industry standard for car paints, and remained in use in some models until as late as 1957.

In the 1930s, alkyd enamel paints were introduced. These paints undergo a chemical reaction when they’re baked at high temperatures after being sprayed onto a vehicle, leaving a very thin but durable film. By incorporating enamel pigments, consumers were presented with an even wider range of color options than ever before. The drawback was that the alkyd enamel paints oxidized very quickly in sunlight. In only a matter of weeks, the color would start to fade.

Into the Modern Era: The 1970s and Beyond

In the late 1970s, we see the advent of the “Basecoat/Clearcoat” finishes we know today. A pigmented enamel basecoat was applied first, followed by a clear enamel finish for extra shine and extra protection. Originally, it was cost prohibitive, and was only used in high-end automobiles. But by the late ‘80s, advancements in material technology had made these finishes more affordable and accessible. Today, almost every vehicle is painted with the Basecoat/Clearcoat system.

Over time, the material technology used to create automotive paints has improved dramatically. Today, automotive paints continue to improve. Recent advancements like ultra-low VOC are reducing the environmental impact of these paints, and moving toward becoming an industry standard. General Motors is developing colored aluminum flakes that reflect ample light, giving car finishes an unprecedented brilliance of color.

What will the future hold for auto paint? It remains to be seen, but if historical trends are any indication, paints and finishes will continue to become more colorful, more durable, and more affordable. At Pacific Truck Colors, we’re always on the cutting edge of the latest auto paint technologies. If your truck or van could use a fresh coat of high quality paint, call us any time.

Author Bio - Kris Asleson is a renowned car accessories designer from Portland. Apart from designing, he is an active columnist and enlightens its readers about the upcoming vehicle graphic designs in Portland.

Related Articles - vehicle, graphic, designs, in, Portland,

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