Visual Density? Bah!

What’s that?

I squint at the car turning left across our path. The paint looks . . . funny, in a way that I can’t quite put a word on. It’s shiny and yet not. It’s . . . milky is the best word I can come up with. It looks as if white had been mixed into the paint.

My memory says that was a few years ago, so it was likely at least five years ago–As many as ten? I don’t think so–and the number of cars with odd paint has gone up. Buoyed by my success at finding out why some semis have a diamond-shaped quilted look on their rear doors, I decide to ask Google Sensei what seems like a trickier question.

Why do some cars have milky paint?

Zing! The line goes taut.

The short answer? Cheaper brands imitate expensive-er ones, and at least one expensive brand recently went back (!) to using milky paint.

“So, chalk is a super famous and popular paint color for Porsche.
It started as things like ‘Pearl Grey’ and ‘Heron Grey’ on 356 Porsches
in the 1950s and ‘60s. Then maybe like 5 years ago or so
[Ed.’s note: article is from 2022], Porsche brought back the color for its modern 911 — and they called it ‘Chalk’ . . .”

There’s lots more here, including a description of these paints as simultaneously appearing matte and glossy, which seems fair, and a diversion into slightly supernatural ramblings, which does not.

The result is faintly but palpably uncanny,
almost as though a computer-rendered object
has somehow infiltrated the real world,
beholden to a slightly different set of physics…
(bolding in original)

Yeah, no. There’s no uncanny new physics here, but the cars with this paint are distinctive, all right. Distinctively bad. Lest you think I exaggerate, here it is directly from the source:

they reflect less light than we’ve become accustomed to seeing over the past several flake-heavy decades, and so they assume a greater visual density than their flaked-out counterparts (bolding in original)

Never mind that bit about “visual density.” Focus on the issue: Milky paints reflect less light than cars with metallic paint. (Well, with metallic paint and really recent visits to a car wash.) And that, my friends, no matter how cool it looks on the road, is a disaster for parking-lot photography. Who the heck approved this?

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4 Responses to Visual Density? Bah!

  1. Once again, you have plumbed the depths of my curiosity over a shift in the scenery that left me puzzled, even disturbed, but not clever enough to have sought answers. Admittedly, I am not out and about among vehicles like an urbanite or a traveller. But I see enough traffic on Highway 7 (the trans-Canada route) to notice a new trend. I, too, have mixed feelings about the results. On the other hand, I find any trend away from black-or-white refreshing.

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    I couldn’t find my car in a Walmart parking lot. I had failed to note the number of the aisle. As I blundered around, a guy offered to help me find my car. “What colour is it?” he asked.
    “White,” I said.
    He looked at a whole lot filled with white cars and walked away.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – It’s easy to do – losing track of your car in a big parking lot at a place you frequently go. My mother used to tie a pink flower to the antenna (remember those?) of her car. When I remember, I’ve taken to stopping when I get up to the door and turning around to look at where I left my car. That helps. Sometimes… I guess I could/should use my phone camera for a practical use.

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