By on December 26, 2010

Purveyors of high gloss paint sealants (and high margin up-sells for car dealers) read with horror the story in today’s Wall Street Journal that matte finish is the “new black” for cars. If this trend catches on – and the WSJ says it does – then the sparkling profits will be a goner.

The WSJ is increasingly seeing “production cars from Audi, Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz and others with matte paint that harks back to the 1949 Mercuries and ‘32 Ford highboy roadsters that personify the 1950s and 1960s when young hot-rodders on tight budgets often saved the paint for last. Concentrating on making cars fast before making them good-looking, they drove their ‘rods on the street and the dragstrip covered in primer, which at least kept their bodies from rusting.”

But not to worry, our vibrant aftermarket industry is on the ball. 3M has joined other companies in the matte market and offers VentureShield Paint Protection Matte Finish Film 7710. Marketed as a “sensible alternative to bug shields or vehicle bras,” the product offers ”basic performance and durability at an economical price.”

3M will most likely raise the price and change the advertising copy after reading the WSJ. The Journal suggests “it’s a translucent stick-on film that protects the underlying paint and imparts a matte finish.” Better already, but could use a little added, well, sparkle.

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39 Comments on “Got A Black Car? Lucky You. Sand It Down Now...”

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t trust the car blogs I read for financial advice, and I don’t go to the Wall Street Journal for car news. Have they been under a rock for the past few years? Matte is already in danger of being overplayed. Hey, I must have been ahead of the curve with my old “matte white” (read “never waxed”) 1990 Civic.

    The worst thing about matte is that it’s almost impossible to touch up or respray a small area without it being glaringly obvious, especially in the sun. Not only do you have to match the color, but you also have to match the grain and orientation of the matte finish. That’s the tough part.

    • 0 avatar

      You nailed it tonyola!
      BMW actually makes you sign a contract if you were one of the “lucky” few that got ahold of their “frozen grey” matte grey M3’s. You can’t wax the car, or buff it in any way. What do you do to clean off bird crap that has etched slightly into the finish? Who knows? Who cares? The matte finishes 15 minutes of fame is thankfully, just about up. Want a sinister looking car? Buy an Aston Martin Carbon Black! It may not be the fastest car out there, but it will sure turn heads!

    • 0 avatar

      …and thus is the irony of the trendy matte finish. The WSJ piece, while not appearing to draw any conclusions that mean anything, points out why hot rodders would roll around in primer: because it didn’t matter what your car looked like. Matte paint only makes sense if you don’t mind mismatched panels and bird poop stains.

    • 0 avatar

      If you’ve got Rolls Royce money, you can paint your car whatever color you want. I personally, would never want matte anything.  I’d rather have Silver or Mercedes S550’s “Capri Blue”

    • 0 avatar

      tonyola said: “I wouldn’t trust the car blogs I read for financial advice, and I don’t go to the Wall Street Journal for car news.”
      Well, as a matter of fact I wouldn’t recommend reading the WSJ for financial advice either.  It has been a long, long time since I found any significant pathbreaking reporting in that rag.  WSJ is to the financial world what Motor Trend is to automotive insight.

  • avatar

    a new market seegment for Rolls ? the discriminating,successful rat-rod retiree …

  • avatar

    Why paint a car if all what’s needed is leaving it primered?. And primer comes in different colors too.
    And then, like the M3, there’s an special “treatment” to such “finish”.

    • 0 avatar

      it was once explained to me that primer is generally porous, with the idea that all these nooks and crannies increase the surface area for the top coat to attach to… and if sprayed on a bare metal surface, and not quickly followed up w a proper top coat, the moisture can penetrate to the metal and begin the corrosive process… obviously this would not be the case if a primer top coat was applied ove a sealed surface…

      btw, a year ago in Monaco, there were several of these kinds of cars (I recall a Bently and some AMG or Brabus Merc) parked in the VIP area in front of the Grand Casino…

      In general, I think that the types that can afford these kinds of cars don’t buy them with the concern of a daily driver (just like the types that bought the XJ220 in the early ’90’s), or the expectation that they will be holding on to them long enough to worry about what to do if bird poop stains the surface…

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      it was once explained to me that primer is generally porous, with the idea that all these nooks and crannies increase the surface area for the top coat to attach to…

      Yes it makes the real paint “stick” better and from experience working in Home Depot, pre-primer-ed pieces are dust and dirt magnets.  Paint as soon as possible.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    About four moths ago I saw a benz in the dealership with this stealth black paint.  I truly was not impressed.  Fingerprints showed on it worse than a CSI toolkit.  I’d hate to be the one to get bird droppings off of it.  Any slight rub will change the sheen of the finish.  One good thing, this is likely the only car you could wash with Tide.

    • 0 avatar

      Sadly, that doesn’t happen with just paint. I have several matte stainless steel and “satin nickel” guns and every one of them developed shiny spots almost instantly as soon as they were handled or used at all. I don’t know why anyone would want a car that does the same thing. I had a truck with a matte black hood on it, and I ended up polishing it to get it evened out after a year or so. It had slightly shiny spots all over it, and really shiny spots from my callused fingers rubbing it when I opened and closed it.

  • avatar

    In the Pacific northwest, car guys learn that primer – whether red, gray, or black – is not formulated to have weather resistance. It does keep the steel from rusting…for about a week and a half.

  • avatar

    How to scrap a 300k car and make it look like a dollar-store toy.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Nice to know I was ahead of the curve with my 1982 Chevy with craptastic early 80s paint and clear-coat.  (Although it was two tone brown, not black.)  Matte finish, seriously?  It’s like manufacturers decided paint was too durable so they decided to see if it was possible to take a step backwards.

  • avatar

    this fad will never last…people that don’t take care of their cars will be disgusted with the way the paint ages, stains and looks…those that enjoy caring for their cars will be frustrated that they can’t wax or polish. True car enthusiasts find it quite cathartic to take care of their finish.


  • avatar

    There is some special products you can order through a Mercedes dealership to care for the “Magna Matte” paint. Of course we don’t stock it at ours, and I am yet to see a car with this paint.

  • avatar

    Back in the day, a neighbor used to primer kids’ cars for cheap in his garage. He used an attachment to a vacuum cleaner. Masking was up to the car owner. You could have any color you wanted as long as it was gray, white or rusty red.  ’49 and ’50 Mercs looked especially sinister. If you want yer new Bimmer primed for a very reasonable price, bring ‘er over. Bet I can remember how to do it. 

  • avatar

    So, it is safe to hang onto the stock of the candy-apple red paint company?

  • avatar

    Apologies for the language, but what a bunch of bullshit!  When I buy a new car, I want it to look new with that deep glossy wet finish.  If I want a low-light special, I’ll haunt Craiglist or my paper’s classifieds – not finance it for 60 months.
    I’d like to see how well these cars resell on the lot. “I’ll take that one if you guys discount it enough so I can get it repainted.”

  • avatar

    I like a Satin Black finish, but Flat (Matte) is not at all attractive to me.  I hope people are just confusing the two.

  • avatar

    Does anyone else think of The Car when looking at that picture? Barris must be howling with laughter, somewhere.

  • avatar

    I appreciate when the status quo is challenged, even if I question the practicality. I suppose shiny paint will be around for years due to its most basic physical characteristics: To be practical, exterior paint should be non-porous; to be non-porous, it helps if the finish is smooth; when something smooth is buffed and polished, it tends to become shiny.
    Beyond shiny paint’s ability to resist assaults from nature and mankind, others have noted that matte finishes have various degrees of reflectivity, as well as a variety of patterns and grains. Glossiness varies, but even I (with extremely limited bodywork skills) can use a buffer/polisher to reasonably match a new finish to an old one.
    Personally, I think the day may come when paint is replaced by a layer of an applied plastic film (I’m sure 3M has already tried this). Think of the possibilities: Cadillac could make thousands of “Mary Kay Edition” pink Cadillacs, which could then be returned to a more sell-able color at the end of the lease term by simply peeling off a layer of pink Di-Noc (or some similar material). Today GM has to repaint these cars before they’re placed on the market.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree with your last paragraph. Some interesting advances are being made with vinyl applications and you’re starting to see the price go down and the quality and durability go up. I’ve been seriously thinking about wrapping my race car to cover my amateur paint job for a while now. I think it will look and wear much better for much longer than the shoot and pray spare garage special it has now. Hopefully the car will look good at 10 feet instead of the current required 20. Here’s an interesting link to a guy that did a great job on his E90 for $120 in materials and a weekend.

    • 0 avatar

      Here in the land of cheese, chocolates, army knives and Omega watches, this kind of large surface plastic film skin is already commonly applied to transit busses and smart cars, bearing advertising or company logos and is easily removed when the campaign ends, or the vehicle is returned to the leasing company.

  • avatar
    Ian Anderson

    The only things that look decent in flat/matte black are old S10/Ranger pickups. And the only reason it looks good is because it’s dirt cheap and is easily fixed, like the trucks. JMHO.

  • avatar

    I actually like it matt. But that would be against the saying “shiny new car”.

  • avatar

    That Phantom looks tasteless, which is rather honest of its owner. I respect peoples wealth, but if given a choice I’d give it to someone else.

  • avatar

    I admired the lad who back in the 1980s (or was it the early 1990s) who slathered his entire car with Astroturf.
    Looked good to me.

  • avatar

    I think the only trends older than flat paint are clear taillights, cut springs and an A’pexi N1 muffler.  Nice the see the WSJ has finally discovered 2003.

  • avatar

    A friend of mine in the early mid-70’s bought a brand new Chevy 4WD P/U, style side, short bed Cheyenne. It was the burnt orange with white scheme that was popular then. I noticed the paint wasn’t very shiny. His reason/excuse: It was low-gloss special RV paint. Yeah, right, I think it was just a bad paint job and he didn’t want to admit it.

    Another time, in the months before I entered the service in 1969, another friend of mine and I painted his dad’s ’63 Buick Electra. It was that ubiquitous bronze or whatever you called it. Well, we painted it with lacquer and must not have mixed it correctly for the heat and humidity. He sprayed it on and it almost dried on contact! No matter how much we polished it, it wouldn’t get more than a satin finish to it. Oh, well, we were just learning and his dad was happy despite the less-that-ideal result, but the rust and holes were gone, so I suppose that squared things!

  • avatar

    , There’s no shortage of fads that automotive stylists embrace. While the matte metallic blue cars that Lamborghini has shown are visually impressive, flat paint will eventually joint clear taillight lenses, big gaping maw grilles, LED eyebrows and eyeliners, tail fins, and the other styling fads that have come and gone. I worked in a DuPont automotive paint lab for a long time and one problem with matte finishes is that unlike a high gloss finish which is slippery and sheds a lot of dirt on it’s own, more things will stick to a matte finish, increasing the likelihood that one of those things will permanently mare the finish. How they give those matte finishes any kind of chemical resistance escapes me. Usually adding deglossing agents to the paint degrades it’s durability.

  • avatar

    Life’s too short for ugly cars – period!
    A few colors may pass as possibly looking less than horrid — maybe some blue, green or yellow, but really not black and red and ???

  • avatar

    It’s not matte, it’s “California Suede”.

  • avatar

    I guess I was ahead of the curve. Way back when, in the very early nineties, my business partner and I had a 75 Chev p/u we used as our company delivery vehicle. It had rusted to the point of almost being un-salvageable – we fixed all the gaping holes with aluminum printing plates and sprayfoam insulation, then painted the entire truck in black barbeque paint. As a joke we stenciled “Z71” and “4X4” on the sides of the box!

    Yup, a 2WD with a 6 cyl. and a 3 on the tree. Our very special Z71 truck.

    Everything stuck to that paint. It was never clean.

  • avatar

    Just another sign that the automotive finish industry is bankrupt of ideas.
    The “self-healing” paint touted for the near future seems like a nice idea, but it’s probably an environmental nightmare to apply, and could likely shed nanoparticulates that would make asbestos seem like mother’s milk…

  • avatar

    After reading this I had to check the calendar to make certain that today was not April 1st. A matte paint job would be a low-maintenance finish and would certainly look cheap. Someone key the side of your car? No problem! Just pick up a $5 can of spray paint and voila.
    But if you want to cover up a truly ugly paint job there are other alternatives too. A couple of college lads in Vancouver “re-painted” their P.O.S. Pinto in 1985 by cajoling a local rock radio station into giving them about a thousand 99.3 FM C-FOX radio station window stickers. These were then plastered over every painted, chromed and rusted portion of the car, negating the cost of both paint and bondo.
    Used shag carpeting offers another benefit: it can cover rust holes the size of frizbees. A few gallons of contact cement and a nearby apartment renovation project to raid and you’re good to go.

  • avatar

    YUCK. I hate this matte paint trend. Even on “rat rods” it looks stupid. Glossy, deep, shiny, wet looking paint is the only way to go on cars.

  • avatar
    N Number

    It made my day to see ‘Mercury’ pluralized correctly.

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