Boomers Influenced Car Colors

Cars exhibited an explosion of color in the1950s, including two-tone and tri-tone paint jobs. In the late 1950s and early ’60s, car companies were looking to show families that “the woman of the house” needed a car of her own. Consequently, they painted cars in colors formerly called “feminine,” like yellow, mint, blue and pink pastels, in an effort to appeal to female car buyers.

As the decade went on, auto manufacturers tamed their color palettes along with their tail fins. The fashion world was erupting with form and bright colors by the mid-60s, yet the car companies decided “tasteful” was the way to go. There were a few exceptions here and there, but generally speaking, the tones were not the look-at-me displays of the decade earlier. As a result, by the end of the decade — 50 years ago in 1969 — family cars were offered in a spectrum of colors considered to evoke stability and calmness, including blues, greens, aquas, grays and siennas, with an occasional burgundy or light yellow mixed into the selections. Additional jewel tones presented a pragmatic, calming look befitting an era filled with strife and discord.

The first family car to break the early ’60s color trend came about with the introduction of the Mercury Montego in 1968. It was the Mercury equivalent of the Ford Torino, an intermediate-sized car available in two-door or four-door models. One of the colors the company offered on the car was called Calypso Coral, a bright red-orange that was sure to advertise the car’s presence blocks before it arrived. Mercury quickly made it available on the sporty Cougar line. The color was a big success, so by 1969, American Motors, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler followed suit and all had a red-orange or orange-red color of their own on select car lines.

Meanwhile, boomers were growing, and the oldest boomers were buying cars of their own. The car companies had a need to cater to this burgeoning market, and did so with high-performance muscle cars from the middle of the 1960s into the early 1970s. Muscle cars presented the auto companies the perfect place to display a splash of color. Plymouth Barracuda, Road Runner (in Barracuda Orange) and Dodge Charger (with a color generally called Charger Red) sported a bright red-orange color, and Ford made Calypso Coral available on Mustangs. Yellows got brighter, greens more Kelly and less Forest, and blues more Sea and less Sky. As 1970 arrived, companies employed even flashier, neon-bright colors for their muscle cars that now embraced descriptions of electric blue, lime green and grape purple. Were they trying to give boomers a bright reminder of eating Trix cereal? Or was it the fashions of the 1960s that changed the palette? Either way, boomers had an influence on the colors that cars were painted.

Mister Boomer’s father had a two-tone car in 1957, followed by a light blue, then a dark blue one. Mister B’s favorite, a turquoise color, came after that in the mid-60s. Since Mister B bought used cars from people his father worked with, his first two cars were white, then a dull brown. His first new car, however, was gold-bronze, followed by green. Brother Boomer went from an older brown color in the early ’60s to baby blue, then moved into a black muscle car that was so shiny it reflected its entire surroundings. Mister B’s sister’s first car was yellow. She followed it with a purple one.

By the mid-70s, car colors were being tamed as they were a decade earlier as consumers opted for darker shades. Today, you can see the color palette has once again shifted to include all types of brighter colors.

What does the future hold for car colors? Prognosticators are predicting that self-driving vehicles, the future of personal transportation on everyone’s mind, will sport lighter colors — at least in their early days. The sensors needed to locate other vehicles react better to lighter colors than darker ones. These predictors are suggesting whites, grays and silvers may be the order of the day for the introduction of self-driving cars. Nonetheless, even though darker colors require more sensors, manufacturer spokespeople are predicting that consumer tastes, as always, will dictate future car colors.

What is the wildest color you ever had on a car you owned, boomers?

Boomers Were All Washed Up

During the boomer years, bar soaps were consumer products that were heavily advertised and promoted. As with toothpaste, hair products and laundry detergent, advertisers knew that boomer families had a history of staying loyal to specific soap brands, and they wanted to do everything in their power to win and keep that loyalty.

From the 1940s, ’50s, and into the ’60s, the advertising emphasis for many of these soaps was mostly about beauty and skin; using these products was going to make your skin smoother and make you look younger. Ads often mentioned lotions or special ingredients that gave their products that little something extra that the others did not have, and often cited scientists or doctors in the process. Surely the ads were not going to mention sweat and body cleansing for women who dusted the house in dresses and high heels? These ads were aimed not at the working class father, but at new boomer mothers. More than a dozen brands were marketed in that manner, including Lux, Camay, Dove and Palmolive, to mention a few. Ivory soap went its own way, sticking with their decades-old slogan of “99 and 44/100 percent pure.” This soap’s appeal played on boomer mothers’ desire for the best products to use on their new babies, but while they were at it, the ads would suggest, the soap was great for mom’s complexion, too.

Another exception to marketing soap as part of a beauty routine was by Dial soap. Dial, introduced in 1948 by Armour & Company (yes, the meat packers), was a true boomer product. By 1953, the company adopted the slogan most boomers will remember, “Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?” Billed as an anti-bacterial soap, their ad marketing path went directly to the heart — or rather, nose — of the problem of daily cleanliness. They did, however, point to special chemical agents called “Super AT-7” that claimed made their anti-bacterial soap more effective than other brands.

The company was sold to Greyhound (yes, the bus company) in 1970 and since then was spun off into a consumer product division of its own. Unfortunately for Dial, the FDA banned some of the ingredients used in the manufacturing of the soap in the 1970s. Researchers were able to reformulate the soap with government-accepted ingredients and it continues to be sold today.

Mister Boomer’s household was loyal to toothpaste, but bar soap was a different story. The family seemed to stick with one brand for a few months, and then went on to another. Mister B thinks it probably had something to do with what was on sale that particular week. Mister B recalls seeing Ivory early on, when his sister was very young, then at one point or another, Lux and Lifebuoy and others. In later years, Irish Spring made an appearance, as did a bar just for his mother’s use: Dove. His father kept a bar of Lava soap in the basement, by the laundry sink, for cleaning up after car or yard work.

Dial soap was an exception for the family in that Mister B’s household did use it for an extended period of time. It mattered what was in the soap dish because the one bar was for the entire family’s use. Mister B recalls the yellow-orange color of the Dial bar that came in the gold wrapper. It was like it was a the precursor to the 1970s Harvest Gold rush. The smell was not to Mister B’s liking, but what his father bought was what the family used. Consequently, Mister B didn’t buy a bar of soap until he moved out.

Were you held captive to using the one family soap, boomers, or did you have your own?