Black Just Doesn’t Work

This is not a post about rayyycism.

Had the Tiguan in for a major (30k) service yesterday, and on the way out of the dealership I drove past the usual couple miles of new VWs waiting to be sold. Then something caught my eye and I made a double U-turn, then repeated the trip.

At a rough estimate, well over half the new cars were black. In North Texas. Where in summer (May 1 to November 15) you can see lizards cooking on the sidewalks, tar melting in the streets, people grilling steaks on the hoods of their cars, and where 100-degree days beget 95-degree nights. Where diving into a swimming pool means not cooling down but just getting wet because the water temperature is so close to blood temperature as makes no difference.

So I ask you all, with tears in my eyes: WTF is it with all these black cars? Don’t people know that black draws in sunlight and makes things hotter? Was everyone asleep in Science class that day when you put a cube of ice on a piece of white paper and an identical cube on a piece of black paper and watched as the latter melted in about half the time in the sunlight as the other?

Take a look at this Escalade:

In North Texas, the inside temperature in that beast is going to reach “broil” in about twenty minutes — and “let’s melt some steel” in another twenty.

When I first arrived in Texas (Austin, to be precise) I rented a car for the first month I was here before buying one for myself. The rental was a black Camaro, and (coming from a guy who’d lived in Africa) I couldn’t get into the thing during the day without first opening the door, reaching inside quickly to start the thing and turn the a/c on (just that simple action raising a torrent of sweat on my face), then scuttling back inside the air-conditioned apartment to wait about ten minutes. By doing that, re-entry into the Camaro would become simply unpleasant as opposed to intolerable. (Also, the 1985 Camaro had that giant rear window which helped turn the thing into a mobile sunroom.)

I’ve never owned a black car since. Even my wine-colored previous Tiguan was lousy in the sun, which is why Tiggy II is snow-white — and all my future cars will be white as well.

I can understand (sorta) why someone who owns a big Mercedes, BMW or similar “executive” car might choose black — some pretensions to class or grandeur, I suppose — but not in Texas. It’s just stupid.


  1. As a former resident of Las Vegas I agree… but… I found the the color of the interior to be even more important. I would rather have a black car with a beige interior than vice versa.

    While living there I picked up the habit of using a windshield shade whenever I was parked outside for long. Still do it.

    1. Las Vegas native here too. Even my white interior (black dash though) white painted Challenger did a good approximation of an oven on the worst days. I had a reflective windshield shade, a carpeted dash-mat, and an early one of those little solar power fans that tried to circulate air through a parked car (too little to matter as it turned out, and in the end the frame warped from the heat and it stopped working).

      But I still yearn for one car I saw years ago; a perfect, pristine triple-black 1969 Chrysler Imperial Le Baron hard top, perfect chrome, mirrorlike paint that was literally spotless…. just elegant. It had obviously been repainted or otherwise cleaned up because no factory paint job looked that good. Black is an amazing color on the right car.


  2. Up here in Canada we have a lot of territory with a ‘Continental’ climate, meaning like Siberia, meaning it sometimes reaches +107F on my deck in the shade and -40F in my driveway 6 months later.

    There is no color of car going to solve those extremes, but the cold is more common than the hot, so I’ve gone dark.

  3. I once owned a car that was chocolate brown with a black vinyl interior. Yeah, I feel your pain. Never again. I had to install a suede steering wheel cover just so I could touch it during the summer months. Two windows open for a few minutes plus the AC made the interior bearable after a short while, but that steering wheel stayed hot for a long time.

  4. Another downside to black cars is that they take much more effort and $$ to keep clean. If it’s damaged in an accident, the bodywork is harder and there is more labor in restoring it, because black shows every mistake.

    And yes, there are several shades of black; I’ve had more than one bodyman tell me he’d rather take a beating than try to match black paint.

  5. Black looks tough.

    Modern “men” want to be seen as tough.

    So they wear operator beards, get operator tattoos and drive drug dealer vehicles.

  6. Because black car paint looks fantastic.

    At first.

    Black shows every damned scratch and swirl, though, so it only looks fantastic if you hand wash it weekly (or more) or if it is brand new.

  7. Midnight Blue is just about as bad.
    Especially the Series 70 Landcruisers with the barely functional AC in the tropics.

  8. Black looks exceptional on certain cars, and if you either know what you’re doing or employ someone who does, isn’t really any more difficult to keep happy than any other color, assuming the paint job isn’t trash to begin with. If you run it through an automatic wash every week and scrub it with towels, yes, it’s going to look like hell rapidly. If you wash it properly with a foam gun and filtered water, with an occasional cut polish, not so much.

    For a daily driver in the south, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s not as though you can’t work around most of the annoyances. Yes, it gets hot. And yes, we have remote start systems with a temperature output, ceramic tint film, and insulation material that isn’t junk.

    The worst color to live with is typically red. Even with really, really good paint, it will fade over time, and is a royal pain in the arse to match once it has if you ever need to do so.

  9. I was at a farm clearing sale this month )Summer here in Oz), and noted the rows and rows of ‘utes’ ( = utility vehicle = small and sensible version of USA ‘pick-up truck’). Nearly everyone was white. A week later, at the seaside resort for city-folk, nearly all the SUVs were dark silver or black (and none had honest dirt on it).
    A metaphor for our society going to hell in a handbasket. The farmers look to function and use common-sense. The metropolitans look to image/form, and have no sense. Trouble is, most of the law-makers and enforcers are metropolitans

  10. We laugh at your “heat” in n Texas. Hell, with all of that humidity, anything over 105 is overkill. Here in w Texas, when it gets into triple digits, you can feel every degree as the mercury climbs.

    I’d say 9 out of 10 trucks are white. Stupid me still has his dark green p/u he brought from CO. And every one has shaded parking for their vehicles. Nothing like walking out into that 113 degree wall of heat and heading out to my studio where I’m melting glass.

    In the summer I switch to working nights.

  11. Automobile colors are another soapbox issue of mine.

    Whatever happened to colors? Look at a typical new car lot, here are your choices: Silver. Gray. Black. White. Maybe – just MAYBE – a maroon thrown in for variety.

    That’s pretty much it. Silver. Gray. Black. White. Those aren’t colors, those are the ABSENCE of color.

    The story I’ve heard is that there are some colors that, for cultural reasons, don’t resonate well in certain countries. So, in order to streamline production and make their vehicles as sell-able in all countries as possible, car manufacturers are going to their current bland palette.

    It’s not that anybody necessarily LIKES silver, gray, black or white, it’s that they don’t DISLIKE those colors enough for it to be a dealbreaker, whereas a vehicle in orange, yellow, green, bright blue, etc, might sit on the lot for months solely because of its color.

    For me, I’m completely with you. Black is an outright deal breaker for me, and for the exact reason you stated. I have my preferences (hunter green being my favorite color) but the only color I will not consider under any circumstances is black (and as far as I’m concerned, dark/navy blue is, for all intents and purposes, black.)

    And like you I’m mystified at the people who live in sunny, desert climates and drive black vehicles with black leather interiors.

    1. Dealerships almost never order vibrant colors for lot stock cars, excluding sports cars that actually sell in said colors. Same deal with manufacturers that offer brightly colored interiors– they are lot poison. If you want a color that’s interesting, and you’re not buying a specialty vehicle, you’ll almost always have to order it.

      Also, for vehicles that often end up in fleets, black/gray/white is all that ever gets bought, so that’s all anyone ever stocks.

  12. Another thing I’ve noticed is how certain models gravitate to certain colors. Try finding a Suburban, for example, that’s not black. I’ll bet there are 5 black Suburbans for every one that’s not black (and of the ones that are not black, 4 will be silver, 2 will be white and one will be maroon.)

    It’s funny to look back at cars of the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s and see what a riotous variety of colors were available. Certainly a far cry from our current silver, gray, black and white fleets now.

  13. I was recently looking at a Super C type motorhome in an insurance company auction. Pinstriping business vehicle. BLACK. Every square inch of a ~40ft F650 cab and body, minus the business logos. Business is located in So TX!

    That would have been an expensive job to paint it a light color. I’m looking for one to travel around the West, primarily NV/AZ. No way could it be black. That would be an oven to live in. Probably need a Reefer to keep it cool! It was an ’01. I wonder how long it was that color?

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