Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club - for Rolls-Royce and Bentley Enthusiasts

Colour Schemes

Rolls-Royce Motor Car Colour Schemes

About twenty years ago I wrote some articles in the Bulletin based on research I had done on Park Wards Finishing Instructions covering the period from the early 1920s to the Second World War. Because I still get asked questions on this topic, I felt it would be worth my while doing a re-hash of them. The number of pictures will be fewer than usual: I do not have that many that show interiors and exterior schemes, but should be able to show some that are both authentic and not.

taylor.jpg (80699 bytes)For those owners with Post WWII cars, an excellent reference work on these is Original Rolls-Royce & Bentley 1946-65 by James Taylor, published by Bay View Books at 24.95, and available from the Club Shop. It does not cover coach-built car colour schemes, for which the customers choice was almost unlimited, but for the standard-bodied cars it indicates the contemporary finishes available, and discusses correct two-tone layouts. Car histories for Post War cars held by the RREC should give the original scheme for later cars. If you wish to change the scheme of your Silver Shadow outer paint without re-upholstering, you could find out what others were made around that time with the same upholstery colour. Unfortunately, I do not have a source for original paint colour charts, but would welcome hearing from those that do.

soutter.jpg (116491 bytes)decampi.jpg (62168 bytes) Because of the availability of data on Post WWII, I am concentrating here on the Pre WWII cars. The rules seem to have changed after the war, but I may touch on them in passing, as occasionally one finds an earlier car re-trimmed using the later criteria. I am concentrating on the work of British coachbuilders: European or U.S. work was not always similar in schemes. A fair amount of data on American cars can be gleaned from Arthur Soutters book The American Rolls-Royce Mowbray 1976, and there are several examples of photographs showing two-tone schemes and interior trim in John Webb de Campis Rolls-Royce in America Dalton Watson 1975.

History. Let me start with some history and a bit of philosophy. Landed gentry in the UK at the beginning of the 20th Century generally had their own coach colour schemes, often featuring their personal heraldic colours in lining and box cloths, and tended to continue these into their motor cars. The aristocracy bought Daimlers Rolls-Royce cars were bought by nouveaux riches or people in trade (this is a wild generalisation, as Park Ward records show a fair number of Lords and Honourables).

In the same way as the landed gentry in the 18th century, who were suddenly very rich from sources like meeting the Industrial Revolutions need for coal or iron ore from their land or by property development in London, the advice of opinion leaders on matters of taste was accepted by those whose own background had not acquired it. There was a thin line holding the boundary between taste and vulgarity that does not seem to exist these days when people are more inclined to follow their own whims.

The records show the consequence of this: some owners specified their cars very closely, or maintained the same scheme over several cars. A proportion of cars was sold for stock or as demonstrators where the coachbuilder or dealer specified the colours, and some of these schemes were relatively striking, especially for show cars. Often customers said Ill have one like that, choosing the same scheme as, say, a Motor Show car, or from pictures and colour samples held by the coachbuilder of recent production.

Fashion and economic conditions did have a say e.g. black and chrome was common in the early 1930s, partly Art Deco influence, but also in the Depression it was not wise to draw attention to oneself: a bourgeois position of safety. Two-tone schemes, common in the 1920s, were seen mainly on Bentleys, not often on R-Rs in the 1930s, and the coachwork style often did not suit two-toning, preferring to use the effect of light on the sculptural qualities of swaging or ribs on the panel-work. I will explain later how you can decide whether the coachwork design allows a two-tone, and determines the colour arrangement.

At the time of writing, motor manufacturers are not producing two-tone colour schemes, the emphasis is on the sculptural nature of the panel-work: after the Second World War two-tones only really flourished in the 1950s, probably as a reaction against the immediate Post War austerity, and influenced by US car schemes. The partial integration of the mudguard line into the body side panels also made two-toning easy. Until recently it was part of the design philosophy of R-R standard bodies to design them to allow a two-tone scheme, but it would be hard or unwise to consider one for such cars as the Camargue, Continental, or Seraph styles.

However, it is all up to the customers choice in the end, and although one hears of R-R resisting some customers requests, it is usually because that customer is bragging that he/she managed to persuade R-R to do what he/she wanted.

Establishing a scheme. So what do you do about establishing a colour scheme your own car? I would suggest you have two options: either try to stay with the original scheme, if you can research it, or put yourself in the position of the customer ordering the car at the time it was made: choose colours that you (or often more importantly, your partner) like, but use them in an authentic scheme for the cars period and body design.

It is often difficult to find your cars original colour scheme beneath decades of re-paints, or if the car has had a bare metal re-spray. What remains can be faded. Even if the coachbuilders records exist, the paint colour descriptions may not mean much, and old car paint sample cards are extremely scarce (if anyone reading this has access to any of these, I would be very interested to know). Very few re-paints have totally eliminated all traces of the original paint, and if you have any data that lead you to want to find the original colours, even after the car had had a bare-metal re-paint, somewhere on the body may still have a scrap of the original colour paint beneath. Look around door shuts, trim and locks, also scuttle ventilator openings and valances. Beware of being misled by the colour of the underside of mudguards behind the stone-guards coachbuilders often just used any paint colour to hand, possibly even using the area to clean out the paint from a spray gun on another job in the shop: it was just anti-corrosion protection. Be careful also in case a guide coat was used to assist rubbing down filler: often black, it would usually have another grey primer layer over it.

Where you have a number of archaeological layers of resprays, use wet-or-dry rubbing-down paper to expose the layer contours. When you have found the original paint layer, rub a fair area of overlaying paint to expose a patch of the original, and then cut and polish it to assess the finish colours. If you have faded original paint, then find a protected area, such as a door shut, to use in matching.

The most difficult situation, and one often inherited from a previous owner, is where the exterior has been repainted in a scheme unsuitable for the interior. Often the upholstery may be in a good state (but possibly different from the original), but an owner has done the outside in a colour scheme they like that is unrelated to the interior e.g. a two-tone blue on a car with green interior. If your partner allowed you to buy the car on the basis of the outside scheme, then sorry, you will have to change the interior, or start negotiating soon!While it is possible to re-colour upholstery, it usually results in a loss of suppleness, and a tendency to show the underlying colour in cracks and seams. If the interior is the original in sound condition, then try if at all possible to choose exterior colours authentic to the period.

Practically, you may not be able to match the original with modern equivalents, especially in the areas of carpet, headlining, leather, and roof materials where they were originally colour matched. However, if you can match all the different materials to a colour shade or lightness slightly different from the original, that scheme will remain authentic in treatment. It will be better than exactly matching one colour to the original, with the others all slightly off in tone.

Some pigments were not available when the car was built, so care has to be taken if you decide on a very saturated colour that might not have been achievable then. Conversely, you may not be able to match some old colours with available modern pigments. Also exercise care in choosing metallic colours: except for silver metallic, which was around earlier, they were available from around 1932, mainly ICI Jewellescence paints, but the metal powder pigment was more finely ground than in many modern two-pack metallics. Most were used in single-colour schemes or in combination of a light metallic with a non-metallic darker shade.

Some early metallic effects were achieved with fish scales (26EX, the prototype Continental Phantom II had this finish, and it has been reproduced in a recent restoration) as used for artificial pearls at the time. Unless you are both a stickler for accuracy and rich, look for a metallic paint closest in fineness of grinding of the powder to the original.

I hope to include, probably in a later "Corner", some very broad statistics on the distribution of colour schemes through the 1920s and 1930s for R-R and Bentley cars based on Park Ward records. If you know of other sources for other coachbuilders, I would be delighted to hear.

Rules. As with good taste (which is very personal), there are no rules for colour schemes. I am using observation of cars and remaining records to indicate a number of ways that the trim and coachwork colours related to each other. Some of my statements will appear dogmatic. However, the older I get, the more exceptions to the rules do I see. Additionally for some schemes, I might need proof from records to be convinced they are authentic. If you find an example in the records of an unusual or unique scheme, beware of choosing it unless that was the scheme of the actual car you own - you might find another researcher has come up with the same.

I discuss schemes below that broadly relate interior and exterior colours, but do go into some detail on the inter-relationship of interior trim material colours. This is because some materials have always had limited colour availability unless the owner was extremely fastidious and demanded specially dyed fabrics.

Interiors. Here I intend to discuss the relation between upholstery colour and the exterior paintwork colours. Upholstery generally refers to the seats, door trim, and carpets. Firstly, I will cover the other parts of the trim that also exist: head-lining and woodwork, as these are more limited in available colour range.

Head-lining colours were limited much as today: fawn, beige, grey, and blue-grey commonly, but brown, green, and dark blue appear in the records. If you are dedicated, then you may need to get some dyed specially. Rare examples of head-linings in leather such as suede pigskin also occurred. The aim with head-linings was usually to tone with, rather than match the upholstery. Saloon Coup, Cabriolet, "All-weather" and Landaulet coachwork had folding hoods ("tops" in U.S. parlance) that were normally lined with head-lining. Tourers and Two-seaters, generally did not have lined hoods.

The linings of door pockets, the glove box, and the elbow box (rear seat arm-rest) usually closely matched the upholstery colour, normally being in a lighter weight and smoother cloth union cloth than the headlining. Both these and head-linings were normally in wool. Union cloth is generally available in a wider colour range than head-lining materials, which helps the matching issue. Leather was sometimes used, but I have not investigated closely enough to find actual examples. If in doubt, match the type of material that remains, and match its colour to the upholstery or the headlining.

Woodwork was chosen to tone with the upholstery or the exterior colour. Walnut was the most common finish, often in different grain effects, with mahogany for red or maroon finishes, and lime or sycamore sometimes dyed to tone with blue or green schemes. Some coachbuilders used wood "stringing" (and sometimes metal) to outline the decorative veneers. The veneers would often be quartered, to give a symmetrical grain pattern across a panel. Any amount of elaboration in veneering could be possible, generally in a similar style to that of other veneered furniture then in vogue. In the 1930s Art Deco period, contrasting veneers in "moderne" shapes and colours, sometimes repeated in the leather door trims, could feature. One body description refers to the woodwork on the door as having "speed dadoes", which I guess featured the sort of artists' stripes to convey motion. Sun-burst motifs were also possible. Ebonised woodwork was occasionally used with black cars (usually relieved with pewter stringing). Some coachbuilders (James Young, notably) also lacquered the wood to match the exterior, but might still include stringing in pewter.

interior2.JPG (24552 bytes)Upholstery and floor coverings. It is helpful to distinguish between owner-driver cars and formal cars (those with a division): generally a formal style of body was differently upholstered in the front and rear. The rear was normally in cloth, usually fawn or beige (but not always: the McAlpine family cars in the mid 1930s had deep purplish red paintwork and had a toning cloth upholstery). The carpet and head-lining would match the cloth, with the carpets edged in matching pasting lace, a textured woven cloth material, although matching leather edging might occasionally be used. Leather in the rear of a formal car was unusual. The drivers compartment was usually finished in leather to match the body side panel colour, with matching carpets, unless a more durable finish was required, in which case black rubberised carpet, ribbed rubber, or linoleum might be used, especially with cars that were open over the drivers compartment, as in sedancas de ville. Open tourers might also use these materials for floor covering, rather than carpets, although all-weather and cabriolet bodies would usually be carpeted. For Pre WWII cars it was virtually universal for the carpets to match the upholstery leather or cloth.

A few exceptionally well specified interiors had needlepoint upholstery or woven silk damask. Velvet was not used as far as I know - a red "Dralon" interior usually means a wedding car or worse.


interior.JPG (30206 bytes) interior4.JPG (31447 bytes)Owner-driver cars without a division between the front and rear normally had upholstery in the same material throughout, usually leather (cars sold in the American market frequently had cloth throughout: more comfortable in climate extremes). For a car with coloured lower body side panels and black "tops" in UK coachbuilder parlance, denoting the roof, top of bonnet and body sides above the waistline, as well as black mudguards and valances, the interior normally would match the body side panel colour, or tone with it.

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The coachbuilder's picture was taken when this 1932 Hooper 20/25 hp GAU16 was its original two-tone grey with green upholstery. The right-hand shot shows it as it is now in two-tone green with the mouldings in the darker shade matching the upholstery. In both cases the scheme is similarly arranged: the metal roof has allowed the lighter shade of colour to be taken over the roof as well as the top of the bonnet and cuttle. The moulding colour integrates with the mudguards and wheel discs.

conclassic.jpg (47134 bytes)The leather used could be motor hide, which was a waterproof dyed surface either in a smooth or grained finish: typical was Connolly Brothers Vaumol of which the textured finish was Crushed grain Vaumol. Connollys also did a leather called Celstra which I guess was a cellulosed finish, as it tends to be specified for cars in strong colours. Connolly's used to manufacture until recently an equivalent to "Vaumol" as the "Classic" range. A relatively recent colour card is shown here. There was also a finish called Niger Grain which was a black dyed crushed grain leather with a coloured finish, essentially colour with dark graining. With the switch from cellulose or equivalent solvent based colours to water based materials, it is likely that the finish will be different. Other makers, such as Bridge of Weir vat-dyed the leather so that the colour was through the depth of the material - later Connolly leather is like this (I understand Connolly's have gone out of business, so that supplies of leathers in the UK are even more restricted, but I have recently heard that one of the Connolly family is back in business). Some closed cars, usually with brown leather, had furniture leather specified. In virtually all cases where leather was used for the upholstery, the carpets would match the leather, and be bound with it.

gillint1.jpg (54951 bytes) 49GYGill.jpg (52292 bytes)A restored  Gill All-Weather Bodies Phantom II  49GY: the carpet is a near match for the upholstery colour, limited by available material. The colour scheme is a modern one, with the exterior in an Old Gold metallic finish contrasting with the upholstery; the moulding is finished in a lighter colour to match the hood colour. I would expect that the body had fine lining in the upholstery colour, but my pictures do not show it.

There was a fashion in the mid 1930s for contrasting piping on the surrounds to the seats; normally the two seat leather colours matched the two-tone of the body paintwork, with the carpets and edgings in the predominant leather colour. The lightest coloured leathers available were beige and fawn: Parchment and Magnolia were not available then, so the impracticality of light coloured matching carpets was not an issue.

In the Post WWII period, schemes changed: the carpets on cars with very light coloured upholstery tended to match the exterior colour, not the leather, and this approach became widespread even with darker upholstery colours. My own taste would require that these carpets are bound in their same colour, rather than in the upholstery colour, but many examples exist with, say, Royal Blue carpets bound in Parchment leather. The use of contrasting piping continued through the 1950s and 60s: a dark blue car might have grey upholstery piped in dark blue with dark blue carpets, for example. Two-toned cars again might have the leather and its piping matching the paint colours.

A detail on some coachbuilt cars was the supply of linen covers for seats and the door trims. Few have survived complete, but one occasionally sees the rows of fasteners on the door trim edges still in position.

Hoods ("tops" in U.S. parlance). Availability of materials limited the range of colours for folding hoods in the 1920s: they were most commonly fawn or black, either a cloth material such as double duck, Paramatta or Wigan, or grained coach hide, which had a painted finish, but was usually black. If a hood or tonneau cover was supplied, it was usually finished in the same material as the hood.

barkertour.jpg (41609 bytes) barkerfabwood.jpg (39656 bytes)Later in the 1920s, leather-cloths, which were textured finish cellulosed materials, were occasionally used for folding hoods.  The 20 hp tourer on the left has a leathercloth hood and shows a typical tourer colour scheme where the whole body is in a single colour apart from black mudguards, valances, chassis and wheels. As a slight digression, leathercloth  was more commonly used for closed cars as a roof covering, and on fabric bodies, notably those of Weymann patent construction. The saloon on the right is a fabric body, unusual in being finished like wood planking. "Grained" finishes to look like wood were seen occasionally in the mid 1920s. On large cars, apart from being lighter than metal, leathercloth had the benefit that you would not need as many seams in the covering of a roof compared with hide, which was limited by the size of animal available. It also did not expand and contract as much with humidity. The earliest form of leather-cloth, patent leather was mainly seen on cars of the early 20th Century either as mudguards or valances between the chassis and running-boards. The shiny finish could be used on a fabric body to simulate painted metal. As with leather, the finish was usually black, but was sometimes finished in colour to match the body paintwork. 

A wider range of stock colours became available with the introduction of mohair hooding materials in the early 1930s. Coach hide continued to be used through the 1930s and up to the present day for the folding part of a landaulette or cabriolet. While open tourers would have no lining to the hood material, so-called "all-weather" tourers, cabriolets and the rear compartments of landaulettes and sedanca drop-head coups would normally be lined with a cloth headlining.

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The Barker foursome coup de ville GYD35 on the extreme left has a mohair hood. The interior of 49GY shows the lining to the folding hood of the All-Weather body. This car has a winding division, so that in all respects it is just like a closed car interior - cloth upholstery was not used because the roof opened fully. See above for a picture of the outside of this car. The right-hand picture is a Salmons "Tickford" cabriolet with hood refinished in mohair; this has the body colour carried up into the waist mouldings and window frames, a common feature of this coachbuilder's cabriolet bodies, but generally unusual.

Paintwork. Coachbuilders paint schemes were in many ways dictated by detailed body design and were modified as body construction evolved. A similar example in modern cars has been the gradual integration of impact resisting bumpers from black rubber-covered lumps of metal to black plastic and at the time of writing to body coloured plastic matching and integrated with the body surface. The shapes of brackets, valances and beadings covering panel joins in the early cars were sufficiently fussy that painting them black or a dark colour was a good way to suppress their visibility. Contrasting colour was limited to the bonnet & scuttle sides and the lower panels of the doors & rear, it also emphasised the length of the car.

Until the mid 1920s, the paint finish was coach paint, involving many layers of slow-drying paint, rubbed down between coats and finished with varnish. Regular rubbing down and re-varnishing was a feature of this finish. Through to the 1920s, some cars made for hot climates had the bonnet unpainted, because paint adhesion was poorer than is now possible and blistering with heat was an issue (see the middle car below). Cellulose paint  was introduced around 1926, and near universal at coachbuilders from 1929.

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In the 1920s, most cars were two-tone; some open cars were painted in one colour of paint (see the right-hand car restored on the basis of paint scrapings) but most had black mudguards and valances.

108py.jpg (56247 bytes) farrarwhc31.jpg (23824 bytes)Single colours for open and closed cars became more common in the 1930s: technology advances in metal shaping and aluminium welding allowed panels to be wrapped round door edges and frames, while metal roof coverings replaced leather or leathercloth. The fine strips of beading used on panel edges and doors to hide metal panel edges and leather roof tack lines were no longer needed. Doors were extended downward to cover and replace the metal valance between the body floor and the running boards. Running boards themselves were gradually integrated into the line of the front mudguards. Car bodies developed a more sculptured shape with swage lines or raised mouldings picking up light reflections, which gave a rich enough effect when painted in a single colour.

For open cars, the choice of body and upholstery colours was aimed for toning or contrast with each other and with the hood material colour. A blue car might have blue-grey upholstery and a black hood, for example. The difference in surface texture of paint and upholstery makes perfect colour matching difficult, but a number of cars were so done (probably by matching the exterior paint to the upholstery colour received from the supplier, even if it had been specified to match a defined colour). Generally carpet colour matches the leather or cloth of the upholstery, although some open cars would have ribbed rubber or black linoleum flooring, and these latter were frequent in open-drive cars like sedancas de ville, where the employed driver was given practicality rather than luxury.

As mentioned, paint schemes used for many closed luxury car exteriors in the 1920s were commonly in two colours, one of which was usually black. Many early 1920s cars did not have a straight continuation of the bonnet side hinge line along the scuttle to the corner of the windscreen: in these, the top of the bonnet and all the scuttle were coloured as the rest of the body sides. Black was used for the roof and windows down to the bottom of the body side mouldings, also for the chassis, mudguards, and wheel discs. The bonnet and the body sides and rear were in a colour that was normally keyed to the upholstery. Note that many repaints, especially where the car has been made more colourful, have had the wheels or wheel discs painted in the body side colour: these almost always were painted to match the mudguards and roof as built.

Later 1920s and 1930s cars generally had the "tops" in UK coachbuilder parlance, denoting the roof, top of bonnet and body sides above the waistline, in the one colour (black frequently) with the roof, especially once the bonnet hinge line and scuttle edge became a continuous line. Some did have coloured bonnet and scuttle tops matching their sides, but the scuttle rear edge would carry a moulding  which usually at its top would turn to the bottom of the windscreen and be linked to the line of the moulding at the door window sills, allowing the black or "tops" colour to run naturally up the screen pillar. If there is no moulding at the base of the screen pillar, it is unlikely that there would have been an edge to the colour achieved simply by masking the paint. In nearly all cases, coachbuilders used a moulding or swage edge to define the edge between paint colours - a masked edge on a flat surface is nearly unknown.

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Some cars featured a traditional coach feature presented on the scuttle sides. This used a beading line to simulate the shape of the front of a "Brougham" style of coach (a horse-drawn Hooper Brougham is shown here as an example). The car on the left is on a 1928 New Phantom Park Ward limousine 52AL, and on the right is a 1929 20hp James Young Weymann saloon.

barker20woodcab.jpg (36236 bytes) ghw66sdv.jpg (33774 bytes)Through the 1920s up to around 1931, the roof of a closed car (saloon or limousine) was either covered in coach hide or a leather-cloth, most commonly in black to go with the remaining black paint on the tops, but was sometimes painted to tone or match the body colour. Cars with an opening roof: a cabriolet, sedanca de ville, or a landaulette would normally use black coach hide for both the folding and fixed part of the roof. Hide continued to be used for these styles for longer. "Sunshine" roofs began to be installed in the late 1920s, and were usually covered in the same material as the rest of the roof, although some retained leathercloth coverings when the rest of the roof had become all metal. The 20 hp Barker cabriolet de ville on the left has a leather roof, and is an example of wood grained finish, including the mudguards and valances. The 1932 Barker sedanca de ville 20/25 hp GHW66 shown at the right has a leather roof and also shows the classic two-tone colour split, but with the bonnet top matching its sides, but with a black hinge extending the moulding line below the windows.


crookall.jpg (54633 bytes) cxy1.jpg (52818 bytes)In the late 1920s and early 1930s, two-colour tones became more frequent, especially in owner-driver cars: two shades of grey, two shades of blue, two shades of green, or fawn and brown were popular. The split between the two colours was often as before, with the tops, wings and wheel discs the darker shade. The upholstery could match either shade. It was not common to have upholstery in a different colour from the two-tone, but not impossible: a two-tone blue car could have had blue-grey upholstery. Once the roof was of metal construction, the potential to colour it and the bonnet top the same as the body sides was greater. Such schemes usually had the mouldings in the darker colour matching the mudguards and wheel discs (see GAU16 above in the upholstery section and GRC25 on the left). The car on the right is, I think, a Park Ward 25/30 hp with a colour split more often seen on Post WWII cars, where the body sides and mudguards have the lighter shade of grey. It was photographed at Finchingfield in Essex in the late 1960s.


rallypw.jpg (51659 bytes) hoopersal25.jpg (60827 bytes)A very few experiments were made with three colours of paint: the Park Ward 20/25 hp GEX76 on the left was (and has now been restored to this scheme) in pale blue with a darker blue moulding. The roof was in silver aluminium paint and the wheel discs in polished alloy, with seats in the darker blue and piping in the pale shade. However, a safe approach is never to have more than three colours for a cars exterior and interior (and that rule includes the hood of an opening body).Hooper's 1932 show 20/25 hp GMU68 moved to polished waist-line mouldings and polished discs, but retained darker mudguards and valances.

gho25.jpg (24779 bytes) barkersdv2.jpg (32343 bytes)From the early 1930s, when car boots (trunks) became part of the bodywork, the separation of two tone schemes at the rear became more complex. In some cases it could be as the traditional scheme, where the boot would be in the body body side colour. However, especially on later cars, either only a narrow strip from the top of the rear mudguard down to the rear might be in this colour, or the waist moulding might be brought down ahead of the rear mudguard so that the colour finished on the rear door as in the 1937 25/30 Thrupp & Maberly saloon GHO25 on the far left and in the slightly earlier Barker sedanca also shown. In either case the boot matches the roof and rear window colour. The way the raised mouldings run is the normal clue to the scheme.

Both of these cars have a raised chrome strip which incorporates the door handle escutcheons, blending the handles into the lines, a feature carried through on bodies after WWII.

gbk36brougham.jpg (31349 bytes) greymoulding.jpg (48306 bytes)In the mid 1930s, the Depression influenced owners of expensive cars to be less ostentatious by using single colours in darker shades: dark blue (blue was the most popular colour for the body sides in the 1920s), dark green, maroon, and black. Black became more common for owner-driver cars, not just on formal limousines. However the waistline moulding was often painted in a contrasting colour, frequently keyed to the upholstery colour, so a dark blue car might have light blue upholstery with a matching moulding, for example. The use of chromium as mouldings, or applied to the moulding, was another way of relieving the monotony. Raised ribs on the top of mudguards, reverse curves, knife-edge styling were other ways of making the look of a single colour car more interesting. The Barker brougham de ville GBK36 shows the use of knife-edge styling and polished mudguard edges, as well as the forward sweeping raised moulding on the scuttle.

The 3 litre Park Ward coup de ville B135EJ shows a very restrained contrasting moulding, which treatment could have been on a black car.

GLP34.jpg (73479 bytes) GLP34qtr.jpg (30013 bytes)On a car originally painted in a single colour, the mouldings may permit two-toning, either because the design could accommodate either, or because it had a number of moulding or swaging lines to add interest to the shape of a dark single coloured body. In later 1930s cars the raised moulding may run down behind the rear doors ahead of the front of the rear mudguards or split to run both horizontally around the car rear and down ahead of the rear mudguards. In the former case the car the contrasting paint tone would be on the bonnet and door panels, but the rear of the car would be in the same colour as the roof and mudguards. In the latter case the boot would be in the contrasting colour. However, many bodies had mouldings that ended on the rear quarter of the body, giving no line for separation of contrasting colours. Several owners of such cars in modern times have made the separation as continuation of the moulding line, or by using the rear shut line of the rear door as the separation. Neither is correct, nor usually looks it.

The example on the extreme left on a Phantom III Barker sedanca 3CP186 uses the door shut in an unrelated way to the chrome moulding (the car was all black when I first knew it); it also would normally have black discs even if two-toning was original. The other picture is of a modern colour scheme on a 25/30hp GLP34 Thrupp & Maberly saloon. This does make use of a swage line, but creates what I feel is not a happy transition between the colours. Wheel discs matching the darker tone may help. The car was originally a single dark colour as shown in the bottom picture on p 223 of "Those Elegant Rolls-Royce".

In one or two sporting designs, as a fore-runner of two-tone treatments that were common post WWII, the front and rear mudguards were different colours, often with the front ones matching the bonnet and body sides, and the rears matching the roof and boot - but not always (a dropping band of colour running back from the bonnet sides could encompass the rear mudguards, leaving the front ones matching the top of the car).


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Fine lining. From coaching days, coachbuilders emphasised features of the bodywork with fine lines on raised mouldings. This continued into motor-cars. Although in the 1930s, contrasting coloured or chromium plated shaped mouldings were introduced, lining was still an option. Normally a single fine line would be placed on the raised moulding just above the point at which the lower edge curves to meet the panel below. Especially where the top of the bonnet and scuttle matched their sides, the line might split at the scuttle and run at top and bottom of the waistline, converging again at the rear, as in the example shown here far left. This could also be done on either side of a chrome strip. The other example shows lining on a single colour car outlining the bonnet and waist moulding, but terminating at the convergence point because the moulding was not continued onto the rear quarter: lining without an associated raised edge was nearly unknown.

law25lines.jpg (52193 bytes)It was very unusual to line on the panel just below the moulding (I do not say "never" because there are examples in the records, but hardly any) except where an archaic scheme allied to the style of horse-drawn coaches was being featured, often associated with "box-lining" on the car bonnet.  An aesthetic reason for not lining on the panels was the presence of the raised beading on the door edges, which look wrong if the line runs over these. Before bonnet side hinges were covered and scuttles had a bead extending the line of the bonnet hinge, the line would start on or just ahead of the front door moulding. The example shown here (with the owner's permission) has lining on the panels more reminiscent of a motor coach. Note also that the wheels have been painted in the body side colour: unlikely to be authentic.

For a chromium moulding on a later car, the line would either run in the conventional position on the lower edge of the body moulding on which the chromium moulding is imposed, or about 3/16 inch (4.5 mm) below and above the chromium moulding on a plain panel, although I would urge restraint in this case.

When refinishing a car, I would suggest not lining it until you have had a chance to review the look without it. The coachbuilders specification may have mentioned lining, but not always the detail of the execution: fine line in ivory on body moulding might be all you have to go on. The lining colour might have been part of a family coach colour scheme and therefore closely defined.

wsearslines.jpg (117948 bytes)Some cars in the later 1930s had multiple lines, usually two, in different colours, one of these was usually near white, the other picking up the upholstery colour. Splitting of the lines could be also used where a chromium moulding was superimposed on the main body moulding, and even, as in the example here on a James Young Wraith, could themselves be multiple.


In addition to the moulding lines, other parts of the car might be lined. 1920s cars with plain discs might carry a line on them (in this case without a raised moulding). The raised rings on wheel discs of 1930s cars were often lined at their highest points although cars with a single colour and contrasting body moulding might simply have the ring in the moulding colour. When the rings became chrome ones, they might carry lines on one or both sides, but only if the body's chrome moulding was similarly treated. Louvres on bonnets were sometimes lined on the extreme edges - a practical feature because the paint tends to get worn off these edges and re-lining is cheaper than re-finishing the bonnet. Lining louvre edges was more common on Bentleys than R-Rs. The raised ribs on the front apron ahead of the radiator were  sometimes lined, especially if the louvres were too.

Choice of lining colour is usually dictated by other car colours: black cars would normally have lining to tone with the upholstery, but if this was a dark shade, often the line would be in off-white, ivory, or cream. It was quite normal to use the same colour as the upholstery, but a lighter or stronger shade to make the line show more strongly. On a car with matching interior and exterior colour, the line was usually a lighter shade of the same. The same approach would be taken on a car two-toned in black and a colour: the line would be on the black body moulding in a shade matching or lighter than the body colour. Red was sometimes used to contrast with another body colour such as blue or green.

Gold leaf was not used, simply because you cannot get a sharp enough edge laying it onto a line of adhesive: there is no ability to burnish or tool the line on a non-resilient surface. Gold paint was not commonly used because the line was too fine for it to register: a golden yellow paint would be preferred.

Lines were normally about 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) wide, applied in an oil-bound paint (making it easier to clean off the cellulose finish if a mistake was made). Modern lining tapes are no substitute, as they always show hard edges.