1997 Thunderbird 4.6; seen 04APR24

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This one had a full life. Interesting observations:
  • The door cloth insert repair isn't well color matched, but otherwise fairly well executed
  • The owner apparently didn't like the Thunderbird asymmetrical door switch bezel colors, so he/she painted the passenger side black
  • Oh, and it's another one of those FWD MN12s
 

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Is that an intact instrument cluster bezel?
Also, if you happen to go back, I could use the passenger side hvac vents from that car.
 
Is that an intact instrument cluster bezel?

If it was, you'd see it up for sale by now.

It actually had two large cracks. The cupholder was missing the insert. The radio surround had cracks. Smoker's car. Overall the interior didn't have much to offer unfortunately.
 
I’ve seen people do that to the door bezels before, how can a person be that concerned with color symmetry and not recognize the total utter lack of flow into the dash? Or the textures not matching for that matter???
 
I’ve seen people do that to the door bezels before, how can a person be that concerned with color symmetry and not recognize the total utter lack of flow into the dash? Or the textures not matching for that matter???
Agreed. They should've bought a Cougar instead if that bothered them. :rofl:
 
There's nothing wrong with a black interior in those days. Nowadays though, black interiors just scream cheap to me. Design by lowest common denominator.
 
Cheap has to do with material selection, not color.
 
Cheap has to do with material selection, not color.

Yes and no.

I think it has to do with color, too. A variety of color options, especially options that are well-matched with exterior colors, costs money. Not the color costs more; the variety of options does. Your entire logistics, from production to dealerships, grows far more complex.

Black interiors scream cheap to me because they're the most basic option car manufacturers choose in the absence of other options - black interiors don't offend anyone; they're fine; blah...

Another thing that screams cheap: pseudo color options. A beige interior, yet your dash, carpets, seat belts, door panels are black; only the seats are beige.
 
My problem is very few modern black interiors are black at all, they're just really dark grey and its kind of meh looking. I think it depends on the car too, on the exterior side I think just about the dullest car colors for a modern sedan or SUV is white or silver, but I love my car in white, and there are some classic cars that look stunning in silver(C2 Vettes, second gen Chargers...).

I get disliking dark interiors for ubiquity but taste is subjective, red interiors are uncommon but I still retch when I see one. I was never crazy about grey either, I learned to love it but when I first got my car I thought it looked clinical compared to the tan in the other Cougar I looked at, and not as cool as the black in the 74 I almost got before it.

You'll get no argument from me about the cynical dollars and cents reasoning from manufacturers, as well as the apathetic consumers who refuse to do anything but buy a car from dealer inventory rather than an option sheet. That's largely why cars suck these days as far as personalized transportation.
 
I also miss interesting combinations. Here's a 1997 Daimler Super V8 with a combination of green upper dash, beige interior, and green carpets.

Screenshot_20240404_231612_Gallery.jpgScreenshot_20240404_231619_Gallery.jpgScreenshot_20240404_231624_Gallery.jpg
 
Yes and no.

I think it has to do with color, too. A variety of color options, especially options that are well-matched with exterior colors, costs money. Not the color costs more; the variety of options does. Your entire logistics, from production to dealerships, grows far more complex.

Black interiors scream cheap to me because they're the most basic option car manufacturers choose in the absence of other options - black interiors don't offend anyone; they're fine; blah...

Another thing that screams cheap: pseudo color options. A beige interior, yet your dash, carpets, seat belts, door panels are black; only the seats are beige.
I don't equate cheap with lazy, bland, or unoriginal. The latter three adjectives are what I would equate with a contemporary black or "black" interior in an economy car.

While I wouldn't personally pick black as my color of choice for an automotive interior, as someone with an eye for home interior design, I can make black work really damn well. It's about the material and texture, not the color.

Put a Mercedes-Benz S-Class interior in black and a Tesla interior in any color side-by-side and I guarantee you the Mercedes interior is not the one that's getting called cheap.
 
Again, I don't mean that black interiors look cheap.

I mean that they convey cheapness if, as in many cases today, they represent cost cutting, i.e., the sole choice in the absence of other choices.

If Mercedes offered the S-Class only with black interiors, they would cut a huge amount of cost through reduction of complexity. Ergo, such black interior would be the representation of cheapness in my opinion regardless of material choices. The same would be true for grey if they offered the S-Class only with grey interiors.

It's not the color; it's the absence of choice that I'm calling cheap. It just so happens that in the absence of choice, carmakers default to black interiors nowadays.
 
"Cheap" is a loaded word with negative connotations. I don't consider supply chain optimization to be cheap. I would consider it efficient. However, is a typical consumer going to be able to access the data and metrics to show whether streamlining options has to do with customer preference or deliberate cost-cutting efforts by the manufacturer?

The vast majority of cars are depreciating assets and the average consumer appears to care little for personalization over resale value. Also, as time goes on, the romance and desirability of vehicle ownership has dwindled, thus the desire to have options that the consumer ultimately doesn't care about also wanes in conjunction.

If you want color options, there are enough manufacturers on the higher end of the cost spectrum who are more than willing to accommodate you. That's not the realm in which the average consumer is shopping.
 
The thing with black interiors “screaming cheap” in modern cars is most modern cars are really expensive relative to their highly configurable equivalents of the distant past, even when you factor in inflation. I think what you’re rallying against is the commodification of the automobile, but all black is is a neutral color to allow for it.

Taking the Mercedes analogy further, imagine not neutral black or grey, but something more off the traditional beaten path you prefer, which for the sake of argument we’ll say blue is now the mandatory interior color; what would most people negatively say about it first? “It’s cheap” or “it’s gaudy” ?


(I strongly suspect the latter)
 
"Cheap" is a loaded word with negative connotations. I don't consider supply chain optimization to be cheap. I would consider it efficient. However, is a typical consumer going to be able to access the data and metrics to show whether streamlining options has to do with customer preference or deliberate cost-cutting efforts by the manufacturer?

The vast majority of cars are depreciating assets and the average consumer appears to care little for personalization over resale value. Also, as time goes on, the romance and desirability of vehicle ownership has dwindled, thus the desire to have options that the consumer ultimately doesn't care about also wanes in conjunction.

If you want color options, there are enough manufacturers on the higher end of the cost spectrum who are more than willing to accommodate you. That's not the realm in which the average consumer is shopping.

Unfortunate...but true and well reasoned.
 
The thing with black interiors “screaming cheap” in modern cars is most modern cars are really expensive relative to their highly configurable equivalents of the distant past, even when you factor in inflation. I think what you’re rallying against is the commodification of the automobile, but all black is is a neutral color to allow for it.

Taking the Mercedes analogy further, imagine not neutral black or grey, but something more off the traditional beaten path you prefer, which for the sake of argument we’ll say blue is now the mandatory interior color; what would most people negatively say about it first? “It’s cheap” or “it’s gaudy” ?


(I strongly suspect the latter)

Ha! Maybe I like gaudy.

You're making a good point about the "neutralness" of the color. Which aligns with current trends in exterior colors (white, black, silver, grey).
 
Also, speaking across all industries, I also don't think cost-cutting efforts by a manufacturer are necessarily a bad thing. It depends on the business's financial health. A company that needs to cut excess expenses by narrowing down options that customers aren't choosing isn't being cheap. They're finding a more efficient way to do business and streamlining their operations. They're likely not operating in a luxury space where the clientele can fund bespoke customizations.

The commodification of things has been going on for a long time. It's evident in home interior design as well. For instance, I hate white subway tile. It's ubiquitous and utterly boring, and yet people are actively choosing to remodel kitchens and bathrooms with it. Chalk it up to a lack of individual creativity, resources, or whatever else, but whether these are homeowners or house flippers, the fact that white subway tile is a thing easily explains black automotive interiors as well. I wouldn't necessarily point to a manufacturer being cheap as being the root cause of the absence of choice.
 
Also, speaking across all industries, I also don't think cost-cutting efforts by a manufacturer are necessarily a bad thing. It depends on the business's financial health. A company that needs to cut excess expenses by narrowing down options that customers aren't choosing isn't being cheap. They're finding a more efficient way to do business and streamlining their operations. They're likely not operating in a luxury space where the clientele can fund bespoke customizations.

The commodification of things has been going on for a long time. It's evident in home interior design as well. For instance, I hate white subway tile. It's ubiquitous and utterly boring, and yet people are actively choosing to remodel kitchens and bathrooms with it. Chalk it up to a lack of individual creativity, resources, or whatever else, but whether these are homeowners or house flippers, the fact that white subway tile is a thing easily explains black automotive interiors as well. I wouldn't necessarily point to a manufacturer being cheap as being the root cause of the absence of choice.

Agreed, I don’t really blame the manufacturers, and really we’re talking pigments here, it adds some manufacturing complexity but nothing compared to multiple powertrain combinations. The consumers are the ones to blame, and myself included because I simply don’t buy new cars to give “my vote” when they do do something I like.

I probably have more criticism of the dealership system than anything, trends do change but in the establishment auto industry it’s glacial because dealers preorder inventory based on market surveys, and people overwhelmingly buy what they have on the lot for convenience and it ends up being a feedback loop. The only thing I like about Tesla is threatening that model, but in the end I see a lot of cookie cutter greyscale model Ys on the streets so the consumer really is just that dull. Oh well…

My mom was an interior designer/decorator for a while and she lamented that all her creativity, natural eye for detail and formal education boiled down to just follow the most popular trends to a tee if she wanted to earn money at it: white walls, subway tile, open concept, stainless appliances, kitchen island… rinse/repeat

Ha! Maybe I like gaudy.

You're making a good point about the "neutralness" of the color. Which aligns with current trends in exterior colors (white, black, silver, grey).

And I do too! I hate the lack of non(p)leather fabric varieties and prints, be it houndstooth, tartan, paisley, etc. but I understand why they’re not really much of a thing anymore.
 
My mom was an interior designer/decorator for a while and she lamented that all her creativity, natural eye for detail and formal education boiled down to just follow the most popular trends to a tee if she wanted to earn money at it: white walls, subway tile, open concept, stainless appliances, kitchen island… rinse/repeat

That sounds about right. I recently started looking into home listings every once and a while, any townhome after year 2000 seem exactly the same, and it's not good either. The 70s and 80s townhomes look more like people were exploring different concepts

Theres even some pre-manufactured homes that are charming to me, but I can't imagine them holding their value
 
People say they like a lot of different styles, but when it comes time to pay for them, they're less likely to go for them.

With a house, I have a much larger creative canvas to work with and if I wanted the same experience as everyone else, I'd go visit a neighbor. I trust myself to not do hackjobs and while there is a certain aesthetic to my design efforts, it makes me realize that even if I were buying a pre-owned house, I would still use a bathroom or kitchen that was designed and built well even if it weren't done exactly to my taste. That's because it would still be better than the builder's default template of:

  • Mid-1990s white painted walls, red oak cabinets, Formica/Corian speckled countertops, almond/white/black appliances, polished porcelain backsplash tile, matte porcelain floor tile
  • Mid-2000s beige painted walls, white oak/cherry cabinets, granite countertops, stainless appliances, screen-printed tumbled travertine-style porcelain backsplash tile, overwrought Tuscan theming, red oak to walnut wood floors
  • Mid-2010s gray painted walls, white cabinets, concrete countertops, stainless appliances, glass and polished porcelain backsplash tile, gray or whitewashed wood patterned porcelain floor tile

To be fair, over time, every basic design aesthetic is going to be covered. Some things like stainless kitchen appliances persist out of necessity because it's too hard to color appliances differently than the standard palette of colors and have them sell. If you want customization, use vinyl wrap. The upscale building materials which include most forms of either natural or engineered stone (aside from granite) will remain upscale because large slabs of stone are costly, so if you want to build from that, you've already distinguished your space because most builders won't feature them.

So with car interiors, average consumers will trust that the OEMs get it right, because you'd better know a great upholsterer otherwise. I have musings that I keep to myself in the Lexus GS community regarding interior color, because the common tan and not uncommon gray interiors are both considered dated and boring, while black is the highly desired OEM interior color swap.

Meanwhile, I think it's a stupid waste of time because I can do more with tan than every copycat GS owner who wants to swap in the black interior. However, I also realize that you don't want to let any random person try things because they'll end up with incongruent crap like a black passenger door switch panel to "match" the driver's side in a post-refresh MN12 Thunderbird. Attention to detail matters, which is why Matt's interior looks nicer than any of the OEM post-refresh blue, green, and red interiors which I find all to be horrid despite also not being a fan of black interiors either. Execution matters far more to me than color.
 
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