There are all kinds of ways to take in the colorful history of American car culture: museums, photo series, coffee table books, a tour through a decrepit GM factory, the list goes on. Diehard automobile enthusiasts are likely already familiar with the motor vehicle memorabilia known as fordite imagery, a rock-hard material that's made from years' worth of automobile paint that dripped onto racks in the oven of the paint shop. Because of the oven's extremely high temperatures, the layers of paint were baked time and time again (sometimes over the course of up to 100 trips, according to Fordite.com), hardening into rock-like formations. The fordite growths were only removed once they became a nuisance to production.
Uncut fordite (left) and a group of polished specimens (right)
Today, the paint is applied with an electrostatic process in which the color is magnetized to the car bodies, making fordite—also called motor agate—a waste product of the past.
Search the web for the material and you'll find troves of fordite photos, posted by collectors of their finds, next to a ruler to show off the size of their harvest. I spotted one listing on eBay going for $400 titled "Rare Fordite Motor Agate Cabochon Lapidary Rough 398 Grams Real Corvette Paint" (as opposed ot fake Corvette paint). I'd like to meet this person who has their historic car color classifications down to such an art.
Complicating the system even further are the four classifications of fordite formations:
- Separated Colors: Regular grey banding of primer layers between color layers.
- Color on Color: Opaques and metallics. Limited colors. Small parts and special color runs.
- Color on Color: Drippy and/or striped, with multiple color on color layers with metallics, sometimes containing lace and orbital patterns, with occasional surface channeling.
- Color on Color: Opaques and metallics, with bleeding color layers, sometimes containing pitting from air bubbles as the layers formed and hardened.
Vintage automobile enthusiasts have got a bit of competition—it seems jewelry makers are another genre of makers who are after this precious material. Whatever your agenda may be, you can check out more information and photos on fordite here.