Yes, Cars Used To Be Much Worse But Not When It Came To Interior Color Selection

Illustration for article titled Yes, Cars Used To Be Much Worse But Not When It Came To Interior Color Selection
Graphic: Plymouth

I don’t think anyone is really arguing that the Plymouth Volaré wasn’t a towering pantload of crap. Nobody misses the egg-sliding-on-a-frying-pan handling, the bulky yet anemic 5.2-liter V8s wheezing out 145 horsepower, or the local carnival-grade approach to build quality, but I think maybe some of us might miss the shocking spectrum of available interior colors you could get on these things. Just look at that.

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In the late ‘70s, you could get a Volaré equipped with eight entirely different interior design schemes, comprising five separate color families (saffron yellow, sea-foam green, intense menstrual cycle red, sex-dungeon black, and cornflower blue) along with two variations each for the yellow, blue, and red varietals.

These weren’t just trim inserts that could be quickly swapped out, either: these were incredibly comprehensive interior refits. Look at those pictures up there: there’s totally different carpet, seat material, pattern, design, even shapes, the actual dashboard plastic casts, and most of the controls, including the steering wheel (and steering column cover, even), door cards, armrests, and on and on.

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You could specify bench seats (in what looks like at least two versions, fabric or vinyl), or a split bench (I think it looks like there are multiple versions of those, two, some with full splits and armrests, and one that looks like just the backs are split? Maybe for access to the rear in a coupé?) and there were even some sort-of bucket options, like those glossy black ones or those much trimmer red plaid fellas up there.

Also, I do love that serpentine floor shifter on the top right option.

I’m just astounded how many options there were. Modern cars do seem to finally be freeing themselves from the seas of black seats on black carpets behind black dashboards that have dominated interior color design since the 1990s (okay, gray is common, too), but I can’t think of a modern car (except for crazy high-end stuff like Rolls-Royce that allows such comprehensive interior re-workings as this.

Illustration for article titled Yes, Cars Used To Be Much Worse But Not When It Came To Interior Color Selection
Photo: Ford

It wasn’t just Chrysler doing this, though— it was pretty much across the board for American carmakers of the era. Here are some options for a 1978 Ford Thunderbird, and you can see all the seat shape options, color options, pattern options, and, like the Plymouth, these changes extend into the steering wheel and dashboard, too.

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You’d think modern manufacturing advances would have made such comprehensive interior options even better, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Maybe some bold automakers will bring back this degree of variety in their interiors.

I hope they do. With the differentiators between mainstream cars and SUVs in design and quality and performance becoming more and more granular, options like these could help to let some particular model really stand out.

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If any automaker wants inspiration, I have stacks and stacks of old car brochures here, so just let me know.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

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DISCUSSION

Margatroid
Margatroid

In places where new cars are made to order (like Europe and Japan) there are a lot more interior colour/trim options on the whole, and people do choose the one they want when they order the car.

Jason wrote about the ridiculous options on the Honda N-Box Slash some years ago:

https://jalopnik.com/honda-is-doing-a-great-job-at-making-cars-i-want-that-i-1666113792

I understand that in the US most new cars are built and sent to a dealer before going on sale these days - was it different in the ‘70s?