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Interiors: Mousey to Rainbow to Mousey Again

Auto interiors are reverting to the “yoostabees” of the past.

by on Feb.01, 2010

The original Highlander interior trim package.

My eyes were drawn to the model designation on a Toyota’s tailgate in front of me: Highlander.

How Toyota ever came by the name of a popular, colorful Chrysler model of the 1940s, I wondered.  However, it also reminded me of the dullness of current car interiors compared to those of cars a few decades ago.

I once wrote a series of articles that I labeled “yoostabees” – taking off from current auto news to reminisce about cars of the past, how things “used to be.”  It is time for Yoostabees to reappear.

Interior of a restored 1935 Ford Deluxe Trunk Sedan at the Michigan Firehouse Museum.

So, it “yoostabee” that automobile interiors were, well, mousey: fuzzy grey or brown fabric seat covers and interior door panels.  The interior of a restored 1935 Ford Deluxe Trunk Sedan at the Michigan Firehouse Museum in Ypsilanti is typical of the era.  Further, most cars featured stamped metal instrument panels painted brown with striping intended to look like wooden panels.

According to auto historian Jeff Godshall, who before retiring led the interior design team for Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, “Regarding the change from mousy to colorful, certainly one of the first examples was Gordon Buehrig’s masterpiece, the 1936 front-drive-wheel drive Cord 810.

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History!

“Buyers of a grey Westchester sedan with dark blue broadcloth upholstery, for example, received dark blue seats, door trim panels, carpet and headliner. This alone was radically different, but in addition, the piping on the seat cushions and backs was a contrasting light grey, as was the piping accenting the headliner roof bows. The steering wheel and column, as well as the window crank knobs were also light grey. This completely color-coordinated interior fit well with the Cord’s “art moderne” exterior.

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Two-Tone Paint: A Good Idea That Could Catch On

Once all the rage, now a too tepid comeback?

by on Aug.05, 2009

At the peak of the Ike and Mamie good time years...

At the peak of the Ike and Mamie good time years...

Two-tone paint was all the rage in American cars just before we got into World War II, and again in the Fifties. Indeed, it was the hallmark of the celebrated ’55 to ’57 models.

But fads come and go.

Today two-tones could be a route to resurgent demand for Detroit’s cars, a response to what I see as the boring sameness of both domestic and import sedans and the anemic earth tones and somber silver/gray/black paint schemes common to Euro cars and copied by Asians and Americans alike.

Actually, in the last few years two-tone has had an unheralded return of sorts at the edges of the marketplace. A car-knowledgeable PR exec for a Detroit automaker opines that the BMW Mini may have started it.

Tk

The popular BMW Mini may have started the return to two-tone paint.

Two-tone has come and gone in recent years as a $295 option on Mercury Grand Marquis.

Today, in addition to the Mini, Ford’s Flex and F-series trucks, Dodge trucks, Chrysler PT Cruisers and Toyota FJ offer two-tone paint schemes in one way or another-either as a regular production option or as standard on a special model.

1940

1940 Buick Brochure

In the faulty memory of my childhood, I always thought it was the 1940 Buick torpedo sedans that pioneered two-tone, but some cold research showed Chrysler introduced it on some limited-production (fewer than 3,500) “New York Specials” produced on the Imperial chassis in 1938. The following model year, these Specials morphed into the long-lasting New Yorker series.

On the whole, though, my memory was right. Buick’s largest selling model for 1940 was the new Series 50 Super, 95,875 produced, all on the “four-window” torpedo Fisher “C” body design adapted from the pace-setting 1938 Cadillac 60-S Fleetwood sedan.

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