Paint colors for 1939 Chevy
by Keith Salter and Whitney Haist
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                Stovebolt contributor and good friend Keith Salter, an automotive and industrial paint engineer (Keith works at a major refinish paint manufacturer), has graciously offered to research 1939 paint issues and to field questions from other 1939 truck owners concerning paint. I'm sure Keith wouldn't mind answering general paint questions, as well. Please make your questions as specific as possible and give him as much data as you can to make it easier for him to answer your questions. Also, please remember that Keith is doing this as a favor to all of us and may not be able to answer all of your questions. Like the rest of us around here, we're all in this together! Whitney Haist jumped into the mix too and scope out the original paint truck colors for the 1939 Chevy truck.

                Thanks, Keith and Whitney, for helping us and sharing your knowledge of old paint.


What is the true color Chevrolet used on my 1939 Chevy truck?


                The 1939 Chevy colors are hard to track down. I did find some old color chips from a 1939 sheet of Chevy colors but the colors were so faded out that computer color matching off from them was poor. You were right in going and picking out the best color match for your Brewster Green since anything that a "Professional" color lab would do is about the same thing.

                We would either color match a true original sample of the color (hard to get one that's not been sun bleached or yellow-shifted with age) or match a color master chip sheet (which I had and which is fading fast). Many colors (and the resins they are in) are not stable with time and they shift, redder or yellower or grayer. While we (the refinish paint industry) can guess at the true colors used back in 1939, we can never match them exactly since those colors are gone. Its like trying to make a chicken soup that tastes exactly like one made by a restaurant in 1939. The soup is gone and any left around tastes pretty bad in 1998.

                So we take a 'best guess' and hope we're close enough to keep everyone happy.

                I looked for any modern paint formulas here at work of 1939 Chevy truck colors and there weren't any. We had matched them years ago but in old paint systems that are now gone too. So time marches on and they, too are fading from the records. It sounds like an interesting challenge for me to take on in behalf of 1939 Chevy truck owners. Maybe I can keep looking into it and come out with a list of paint formulas that I feel are accurate. I have some contacts with GM engineers up in Detroit so I'll give it some efforts. Maybe they have some ceramic color tiles (a method used to better preserve the colors better) or some other kind of color masters from back then.

                To wrap it up: I think one can only try to come close to the colors that Chevy put on their 1939 trucks since you must use refinish paints that are not the same as Chevy used and color matches that are themselves only a "best guess." So don't park next to another 1939 of the same color and if you do, just tell them you actually have matched the true Brewster Green color from 1939.

                There's alot more that I could say but sometimes it just gets boring to others not in the industry (i.e., what are fish eyes, how do I get rid of orange peel, why did my paint job go dull the next day, etc.) I would be glad to field questions or suggestion from other Stovebolters if they want to email me.

Take care,
Keith Salter
1939 Chevy 1/2-ton
The SECOND truck on this site!

And this from Whitney Haist:

This paint chip set is provided to give you paint names, codes and a GENERAL idea of what the colors look like -- read Keith's note above about age related color shifts!                Since I acquired my 1939 Chevrolet 1/2-ton pickup in January 2000, I have sought to identify the authentic paint colors available 61 years ago. From the many "experts" out there I received differing data and names for the colors but no true examples.

                Knowing what Fox Mulder knows -- the truth is out there -- I finally uncovered an original Chevrolet technical document listing 11 truck colors for 1939. I'm sharing it here to set the record straight! In case the resolution of the scanned document does not make the color names clear, they are:

* Color chip missing

Whitney Haist
1946 1/2-Ton Chevy Pickup

                Be sure to check out our extensive Forums discussions -- from General Truck talk, Electrical Bay, Big Bolts, Panels and Burbs, Engine and Driveline, Paint and Body, Interiors, Tool Chest -- The Stovebolt Collective can help in your quest and walk you through the mire and magic of working with old iron. ~~ Editor

v. September 2005


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