Henry Ford with a 1921 Model T. Photo: Ford
Henry Ford had some very forward-thinking ideas about cars and manufacturing. His company started building the Model T in 1908, and the assembly line used at the plant in Detroit, Michigan revolutionized the industry.
The automaker claims the Model T “was the first low-priced, mass- produced car with standard interchangeable parts.”
What Mr. Ford didn’t care much about was colour. He’s famous for the line “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” But wait — did these cars really only come in one shade?
“It is indeed incorrect to say that all Ford Model T cars were black… but most of them were,” said Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at Ford in an email. “When the T was introduced in October 1908, the cars were available in red, green and grey depending on the body style.” He added that all of the cars were painted dark green staring in 1909, and then dark blue starting in 1911, but that the dark colours could appear black in black and white photography.
For 11 years Ford had a black-only policy to streamline the assembly process, but brought back colour in 1926 due to plummeting sales. “All told, 11.5 million Model Ts were black, out of the 15 million produced overall,” says Anderson.
The Lotus Exige Sport 350 comes in a rainbow colours and is lighter and faster than ever. Photo: Lotus
Myth: Boring Colours Have Higher Resale Value
Many car buyers stick with basic colours due to their higher resale value. Does that reasoning hold up? Nope.
“Popular colours such as black, white and grey show depreciation similar to the average car,” according to a survey of of 1.6 million cars by iSeeCars.com. The survey found that the cars with lowest depreciation over three years were orange and yellow in colour.
“One of the main contributing factors is supply and demand,” explained Phong Ly, CEO of iSeeCars.com in a release. “The more unusual colours such as orange, yellow, and green are not as readily available, yet they are popular with enough car buyers to create a demand that directly affects their resale value.”
The 2016 Chevrolet Spark is available in lime, electric blue and salsa. Photo: General Motors
Myth: Fashionable colours area tough sell on the resale market
While sports cars have their own niche, ordinary cars may fare better in ordinary colours.
“It depends on the vehicle,” says Brian Murphy, Vice President - Editorial and Research at Canadian Black Book Inc. He explained that while orange might be fine on a Jeep Wrangler or a MINI Cooper, it may make it tough to sell an average vehicle in five or six years. Bright green, orange, purple, neon blue and even matte paint finishes could be a liability.
“They may be popular now… but when the car hits the market as a used vehicle a few years down the road if they are no longer in fashion this could really hurt a car, and it is very expensive to repaint a car, and a repaint in itself is bad for value,” says Murphy.
2016 Ford Mustang GT: it won’t cost extra to insure a red one — but it might just be more fun. Photo: Ford
Myth: Red cars cost more to insure
This is a myth that just won’t go away, even though it’s completely false.
“The myth that the colour of your car will have an effect on your insurance rates is certainly one we deal with everyday,” says David J. Mayer, a Personal Insurance Advisor with Shop Insurance Canada.
“Our customers purchasing red or yellow cars always ask us if they should consider a more muted colour before making their final decision. In reality, the colour of your vehicle has absolutely nothing to do with how insurance rates are calculated,” says Mayer.
Mayer explains that your driving record, location and the make and model of your car are all considered when determining your insurance rate. Colour may not matter, but the cost of parts and repairs, safety features and theft rates are all factored into the equation.
“So while colour is not a factor in determining insurance rates, the actual vehicle you drive will certainly have an impact,” says Mayer.
Fire truck in New York. Photo: David Farquhar/Flikr
Myth: Bright cars are safer
It’s great that insurance companies won’t make you pay a premium for flashy colour, but it won’t get you a safe driver discount either.
“Unfortunately we don’t track variables such as colour when it comes to ticketing or collisions,” says Randy Fincham, of the Vancouver Police Department. “Anecdotally, I would say that red is a safer, more visible colour, versus black, grey or white. Hence the reason when many emergency services vehicles choose that colour for their fleet.”
The Porsche 911 Turbo S has a top speed of 330 km/h and starts at $214,800 in Canada. Photo: Porsche
Myth: Flashy colours attract speeding tickets
Verdict: It depends
Police departments don’t track the colour of cars involved in collisions, but if flashy colours are safer because they’re more visible, then they may also be more likely to catch the eye of traffic police. Especially if they’re used on a car that can hit 100 km/h in under 3 seconds.