Why black and red?

Apr 18, 2015
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This might just be my insomnia speaking, but why black and red?

It seems that it doesn't matter if you go to a car show or a bike show, the traditional "ratrod" colors are flat black and red.

But why?
Are they the cheapest paints to buy?
Why not black and white? Why not primer grey and oxide?

Why not blue and green? Or pink and purple?

Where I buy my rattle cans everything costs the same, regardless of brand or color. It's all $2.99 a can.

So why black and red?
 

RustyGold

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In my youth, most of the guys I hung with just primered our cars...so primer grey was the most common, then primer black...and the rare soul with primer red. If someone did get to the paint phase, the common colors were black, John Deere green, or caution yellow...because those three colors were half the price per gallon of the next cheapest colors at NAPA :grin: (farm and logging equipment).

I think the flat black pretty much stems from the same place...black primer was cheap, whitewalls were cool...to make a black and white rig stand out, it needs a splash of color...like red wheels. Then, lots of red and white pin-striping to tie every thing together.

Its a natural, and looks great. You saw a lot of it in the first part of this millennia, too...but to spice it up, it would be a fluorescent green or orange or ? in place of the red.

Jason
 
Jun 27, 2017
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Yeah, modern cars don't look as well done that way, but a '32 Ford coupe with a chopped top, flathead V8 with 3 Strombergs, and wide whitewalls would be awesome in flat black. With or without red wheels.

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Dec 27, 2008
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This might just be my insomnia speaking, but why black and red?

It seems that it doesn't matter if you go to a car show or a bike show, the traditional "ratrod" colors are flat black and red.

But why?
Are they the cheapest paints to buy?
Why not black and white? Why not primer grey and oxide?

Why not blue and green? Or pink and purple?

Where I buy my rattle cans everything costs the same, regardless of brand or color. It's all $2.99 a can.

So why black and red?
Maybe because it looks good?
Fred
 
Oct 5, 2015
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Only a couple of years ago, perhaps part of stimulus spending, there were many 99-cents/dollar stores around where I live and work (since closed). They had paints for ~$1, but some were only 10 and 11 ounces (read labels).
Back in the day, there were paint stores, I can think of only one in my area now. The cheap colors were black, red, ugly aluminum (not silver), navy blue (almost black), baby blue, and a green (for our gremlin bike). Of those colors, the red and black just seemed to be the best choices.
 
Jun 13, 2015
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Flat black is super easy to paint and dries almost instantly, so it's easy to do a decent paint job outside without stuff getting in it and when it gets damaged, it's very easy to touch up and match (the downside is turning gray, but I find any kind of cheap paint protector can renew it for a couple of weeks).

That said, I feel there's a large dearth of creativity in a lot of the custom scene. Some people do some amazing and clever stuff, but for each of them, there's about 50 that are build-by-numbers. I never got why someone would go through so much effort and time to make something their own only to finish it so that it looks like 50% of the customs based on the same car. Flat black, flames, two center stripes over the top (especially on Cobras!—it's like seeing a completely different car on rare occasion I see one without the stripes and I'm a little over an hour from FFR, so I see a lot of them). I get the reasons for the popularity, be it ease (flat black, flames to cover problems) or historical reference (flames, outdated national racing colors), but when there's three of the same at their local Cars & Coffee, why not go with an alternate? Like, I have about five paint schemes in mind for the boat I want to build and even though there are no similar boats to encounter (high beam:length ratio, sliding canopy, tail fins), I'm still staying away from popular color schemes (like Gulf racing colors, even though I like them) or too obvious ones (WW2 aircraft, which I'm guilty of overdoing myself due to this obsession that I was born with). Do a lot of people just have this singular, unalterable vision, I wonder? Sometimes I wish I had that as indecision about options is one of the biggest things that slow me down. I guess the upside is that I'm less discouraged when things don't go according to plan and have to change.
 
Apr 18, 2015
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I guess I just didn't understand the black and red. Why not black and grey, or black and white? Even cream and brown look good together, and inexpensive.

A lot of interesting responses to this subject.
 
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Hmm, yeah, I kind of missed the point of the question being the combo. Probably with black being so easy, but needing something a bright complimentary accent, red is a bright accent with a potentially intimidating aspect through association with demons and like in movies—blood, fire, all that—and it doesn't invite bee remarks like yellow would or require the playing of ska band music like white? A lot of times, I also see black/red/white as a triple color, which is a nice combo, but I would personally never use because of a certain flag that also used those colors.
 
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RustyGold

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There is a lot of members of the various car scenes that are there just to be part of something, not necessarily car guys. I think that is a reason for the abundance of 'me too' schemes...but, I also see it in even big car shows. Look at the cars that obviously have big buck paint jobs...but, tons of orange peel. Most quality paint shops will have you come back in a few weeks to buff or clay the paint to get rid of that, as part of the cost of the paint job. The cars that are hitting the show circuit or cruise night that never get it done, in my opinion, are probably owned by people that were more concerned with their 'ticket into the club' than building their killer dream car. Just an opinion.

If you look back in a lot of the old car mags, you'll see different low buck combos with different colors, scallops, pinstriping, flames and more all done in primers or flats. I think the predominance of black with red/white is just a product of the rat rod movement that gets a little stuck in their own definitions of what is or isn't 'right' in their version of a 'traditional' hot rod.

Jason
 
Apr 18, 2015
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I was curious as to why those colors were chosen. Just wondered if it was something one person did years ago and it took off, or if it just kind of happened.
I figured it was because the colors were cheap, just didn't know why it happened to be those colors.

Once upon a time you could buy a ford in any color you wanted, as long as it was black. So it's obvious that people started building cars way back with a black car. But how/why did the red get introduced, thats all.
 

Captain Awesome

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Big fan of flat black. Big fan of the color red. However, I agree with the combo being played out and in general I don't find them that eye catching of a combo. I like flat's and neon's. Maybe i'm just weird