Automakers from Rolls-Royce to Ram have offered blacked-out versions of all manner of vehicles over the past several years. It seems like you can’t visit a new car showroom without having some sort of special edition model targeting those that despise chrome. Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and Ram have “Night Edition” models, Chevrolet and Nissan offer models with the slightly more specific “Midnight Edition,” and Honda gets right to the point with its “Black Edition” Ridgeline. For Black Friday, we wanted to look back to find our favorite blacked-out vehicle options that paved the way for the current trends—love them or hate them—that we’re witnessing today.
Ford Model T
A mirror-flat and deep black paint job requires a flawless surface. It’s the bane of automotive detailers but not exactly what Henry Ford had in mind when he was planning on cranking out Model Ts in huge quantities more than 100 years ago. He infamously said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” Mr. Ford was just trying to keep costs down and keep an assembly line humming, so starting in 1914, every Tin Lizzie built for the next nine years was offered only in black.
1982–84 Pontiac Trans Am
The third-gen F-body brought a lighter curb weight and improved handling over its predecessor, ditching the rear leaf springs for a torque-arm design and adding struts up front. The 1982 Firebird’s design, with its integrated bumpers and pop-up headlights, made it easy to have paint cover nearly every surface and the 1982–84 Trans Am’s black wheel covers made the monochrome look complete. Of course, other colors were available, but why pick any other color than K.I.T.T.-approved black?
Buick Grand National
Buick’s turbocharged transformation of the stodgy G-body Regal into the sinister Grand National became complete in 1984 when it received its signature blacked-out look. The tunability of the turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6, already more powerful than just about anything on the market in the mid-’80s, made them a formidable opponent on the drag strip and a favorite for collectors, especially the limited-production GNX.
1990–93 Chevrolet 454SS
The original ‘90s sport truck was only available in black with a black grille and black bumpers when it launched. Its 230-hp (and eventual 255-hp) 454 big-block was soon rendered all but obsolete by the Vortec 350’s improved output, but there’s no arguing that the truck didn’t look good. Later models were available in red and white, but it’s the original all-black version that comes to mind when most picture the torquey pickup.
2003–04 Mercury Marauder
Ford’s Panther cars were the last full-size, body-on-frame sedan available in the U.S. Their long production run and popularity in fleet service meant they were a frequent sight, but most of them offered only ho-hum performance from their 200-215-hp SOHC 4.6-liter V-8s. The Police Interceptor Ford Crown Victoria spiced things up a bit with heavy-duty suspension and brakes along with up to 250 hp, but Mercury gave buyers an even better option. The top Mercury expression of the Panther platform came with all of the goodies from the Crown Vic Police Interceptor but with a 305-hp four-valve, DOHC 4.6-liter V-8. It was only available for two years and three-quarters of the 11,000 examples produced were black.
1994–96 Chevrolet Impala SS
We can’t mention the Marauder without its bowtie-wearing inspiration, the Impala SS. Introduced in 1994, the Impala SS was powered by a 260-hp version of the LT1 V-8 found in Camaros, Firebirds, Buick Roadmasters, and the Corvette. Two exterior colors were added in 1995, a dark red and dark grey-green, but that debut year of 1994 it only came in black. Like the Marauder, the Impala SS used plenty of cop-car parts to make for a heavy hauler that even handled pretty well.
1991–92 Ford F-150 Nite
Before the F-150 Lightning debuted in 1993 with its monotone look, Ford gave us a preview with the F-150 Nite package that brought a black grille and bright aluminum wheels along with a stripe graphic and “Nite” lettering on the bed. Check out that ’90s font!
Initially only available on regular-cab, short-bed pickups, the Nite package was expanded to include the Bronco and extended-cab F-150s for 1992. While most of the previous blacked-out car options came along with performance models, the Nite edition F-150 was purely aesthetic, hinting at the myriad special appearance packages that we see in showrooms today.