Candy Paint With the White on Top? In the 70s Mercedes-Benz concluded the best car color was...

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If you’re German (structured) enough, the decision of what color car you’ll buy isn’t left up to something as trivial as your emotions, fads, trends or what color Benz Post Malone had in their last music video. No. You do it the right way, the only way, the German way…with research!

Mercedes had your back on this one. See, in the 1970s Mercedes offered an enormous color selection and a lot of those colors were shades of white and yellow. (Scroll WAY down, it’s a long list)

Color Code Paint Name
027 White
131 Pastel White
157 Grey Beige
181 Light Beige
470 Colorado Beige
623 Light Ivory
629 Cream
670 Ivory
681 Manilla Beige
684 Pastel Beige
717 Papyrus White
726 Beige Grey
737 Classic White
Code Paint Name
606 Maple Yellow
618 Mimosa Yellow
624 Yellow
630 Yellow
646 Sun Yellow
673 Sahara Yellow
680 Sun Yellow

There are more but you get the point. The designers at Mercedes had it bad for these two colors. Turns out it went deeper than just expressing appreciation for the color of their beers and the heads of foam on the top. In the 60s and 70s Mercedes-Benz engineer Béla Barényi went safety crazy. It was during this time when MB truly gained its reputation of leadership in safety. Along with crash testing, the collapsible steering column, crumple zones and over 2500 patents originated from him the company was also looking into things of an ocular nature.

The ultimate key to safety was to avoid a crash in the first place and so the company turned its eyes to the visibility of colors. If the vehicle was painted a color that had a high amount of light reflectivity then the conclusion was another driver would have a better chance of seeing yours and avoid slamming into you like the Titanic into the iceberg (you’re the iceberg). The way they went about doing this was by measuring the amount of reflectivity of different shades of paint concluding the less light reflected the darker the color appears, duh.

They went beyond just a measure of light reflectivity of paint but of perceptibility, which included taking into account the world around the car such as, different times of day where the suns hue would vary due to the density of the atmosphere. The backdrop of the cars environment such as asphalt, analyzing which colors would stand out most strongly against it. Even taking into consideration which colors human eyes have a sensitivity towards.

The conclusion?

Paint your car white or yellow to avoid getting plowed in to.

This matched research that was being done in Texas by fire departments in the 70’s and 80’s. It was discovered that fire trucks painted the now familiar lime-yellow color or lime-yellow with white cabs were up to 3 times less likely to be involved in a collision than the traditional red color. When a lime-yellow or lime-yellow-white truck was involved in an accident the severity of the crash was also less than that of a red one. In 2009 a follow up study by the U.S. Fire Administration also reached similar conclusions.

Once again Mercedes R&D was ahead of the curve on safety and owned it. By giving buyers so many variations of the two colors many potential owners most likely suffered from decision paralysis and their lives were saved by keeping them off the road and at the kitchen table where they tried to decide which subtle variation was right for them.

Images: Daimler AG

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