High-impact colors: When hot muscle cars got some crazy paint
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, American automakers began offering suitably psychedelic and wild exterior paint colors for their muscle cars—a perfect match for the era.
Commonly referred to as “high-impact colors,” these shades appeared in the spring of 1969, when Chrysler’s Dodge and Plymouth divisions introduced one of the first and rarest high-impact colors. For Dodge it was known as Bright Green and for Plymouth it was Rallye Green; each division had its own name for the same color. Additional colors were orange—Go Mango for Dodge and Vitamin C for Plymouth—and a yellow that Dodge called Butterscotch and that Plymouth named Bahama Yellow.
Chrysler’s color palette expanded for the period from 1970 to 1971. One of the most desirable hues was a purple known as Plum Crazy for the Dodge products and In-Violet for Plymouth. Other color names included Lemon Twist/Top Banana, Tor-Red/Hemi Orange, Moulin Rouge/Panther Pink, and Sassy Grass/Green Go, to name a few. These high-impact colors lasted until 1974.
Not to be left behind, other Detroit automakers got in on the trend. From 1969 to 1970, American Motors offered Big Bad Blue and Big Bad Green; its most popular color was Big Bad Orange. At General Motors, in 1969, Pontiac introduced Carousel Red, which was a popular color for the GTO Judge. In 1970, Pontiac also offered Orbit Orange, again exclusive for the GTO Judge model; Chevrolet called the color Hugger Orange. The Buick division had Saturn Yellow and, for one year, a conservative Apollo White color for its GSX model. Oldsmobile had a special 1970 Cutlass Rallye 350 model in a vibrant Sebring Yellow hue with color-keyed yellow bumpers. Last but not least, Ford had its bright Grabber Blue, Grabber Orange, Grabber Green, and Grabber Yellow in 1971.
In 1969, the AMC Hurst SC/Rambler was a special model with a red, white, and blue patriotic paint scheme. An option for a toned-down paint job was available as well. The SC/Rambler featured a conservatively rated 315-hp, 390-cubic-inch V-8 (AMC’s largest engine in 1969) and a Hurst four-speed manual shifter. The following year, AMC featured a special 390-cubic-inch, 340-hp V-8 engine in the Rebel Machine. It had a special red, white, and blue stripe on a white body and an option to paint it in any AMC color that was offered in the Rebel.
The high-impact colors added more excitement and flash to the muscle car era; combined with a dual-exhaust rumble and neck-snapping acceleration, the paints made these cars truly stand out among other vehicles of the period.
High-Impact Colors is one of 20 classes to be featured at the 2023 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, on June 2-4, 2023. Download the 2023 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance event program to learn more about Sunday’s other featured classes, Saturday’s Concours de Sport, our judges, sponsors, non-profit partners, 2022 winners and more!