Automotive/Truck/Fleet Paint Notes
Automotive Manufacturing Paint Codes (the short and long code): Ford, GM and Chrysler have two basic codes for each year's paint offerings. One is a two or three digit/letter code which is valid for a few years for a particular model used to differentiate and place in order the few paint options each year. It is this short code that appears on the door data tag and can be used to order touch up paint if the code is combined with the year and model of the car. The other code is a manufacturing paint code which does not change over the years. This code is a 4 digit/letter code preceded by a one or two letters specific to the manufacturer and sometimes ends in a standard letter for the type of paint. GM uses WA and WE, Ford M and WA, Chrysler DT for prefixes and suffixes usually indicate interior/exterior/engine paints. In many cases it is better to find the 4 digit/letter manufacturing code of a paint since there are more duplicate use of the short code.|
GM Paint Codes (WA or WE paint codes): GM uses a four digit (4 numbers or 3 numbers followed by a letter) preceded by a WA or WE for all paint formulations starting since the 1950's. These codes (sometimes called Fisher paint codes) are almost always on the build sheets, normally found under the carpeting on older cars, but more recently on a sticker in the glove box or trunk area. WA codes are typically used for standard manufacturing colors while the WE codes are reserved for special order or fleet colors. Almost all the WE codes we have found to date are in the 5000 range and there are very few WA paint codes in the 5000 range, so there appears to be no overlap in the 4 digit code that follows. In many cases the WE paint formulations came from other automotive manufacturers.
Ford Paint Codes (M or WT or MX paint codes): Ford uses a four digit number preceded by an "M" and followed in most cases by an "A" for all exterior production paints since the 1950's (in the 1940's, preceded by a M1, by 1950 the 1 was dropped). These codes are almost always on the build sheets, normally found under the carpeting on older cars; otherwise, you have to look them up in a database that cross references the short year/model paint code with this longer 4 digit manufacturing code. M codes are typically used for standard manufacturing colors while the WT codes are reserved for special order or fleet colors. There is some reuse of the 4 digit code which follows the M or WT, so care must be taken if you only get a 4 digit code. The special WT codes are divided up as follows: WT0000s for whites, WT1000s for off whites, WT2000s for gray, WT3000s for brown and gold, WT4000s for red, WT5000s for orange, WT6000s for yellow, WT7000s for green, WT8000s for blue and the WT9000 for purple maroon and pink. The metallic paints are in the 500 to 999 range in each set. The special use of reserved WT color codes is still being used today by Ford. Before the 1960's and the use of WT codes, Ford used MX codes (originally called "126 Ford Fleet Colors") for special order paints which in many cases came from other automotive manufacturers. MX codes start with an "MX" and end in a 6 to 7 digit number. Since then most of the MX codes have been mapped to WT or M codes by Ford. We have seen some documentation from Ford stating that for the most common 6 digit MX codes starting in a "70", the color maps to a WT or M code by dropping the first 70 and using the last 4 digits.
Chrysler Paint Codes (DT and AC paint codes): Chrysler has been using a four digit number preceded by a "DT" from the 1960s to 1999 to specify some of its special or fleet paint. Unlike Ford or GM, we have yet to find a standard production code for Chrysler paints other than the short code used on door data tags which are year and model specific. The "DT" codes are organized by color: white for DT1000s, yellow for DT2000s, red pink and purple for the DT3000s, black for the DT4000s, and oranges for DT5000s, tans and browns for the DT6000s, greens for the DT7000s, blue for the DT8000s, and special colors for the DT9000s. "DT" stands for Dodge Truck. From the mid 1980s through the mid 1990's Chrysler paint codes included codes beginning with the letters "AC" and ending in a 5 digit number. They seemed to be sequentially assigned starting with AC10000. Interior and trim colors of the same time have AH AX and AY prefixes, but the characters which follow are a often a combination of letters and numbers.
International Harvester Paint Codes (IH paint codes): International Harvester has been using a four digit number preceded by a "IH" since the mid 1970s and are divided into IH1000s for beige brown buff cream tan, IH2000s for maroon red pink, IH3000s for orange, IH4000s for yellow, IH5000s for green, IH6000s for blue, IH7000s possibility for violet, IH8000s for gray, and IH9000s for white.
Honda Paint Codes: Honda and Acura have been using paint codes which start with a letter standing for the generic color (B = blue, G = green, BG = blue greeen, GY = green yellow, NH = white silver gray and black, PB = pale blue, R = red, RP = reddish colors like purple and maroon, Y = yellow, YR = yellow variations like gold orange and brown), followed by a 2 or 3 digit number, and end in the manufacturing plant code. The plant code is also the 11th digit of the VIN. There are slight differences between the paint used at each manufacturing plant; therefore, it is important to use them as well to specify the correct OEM paint formulation. (1 or C = Japan Sayama, 2 or S = Japan Suzuka, 3 or A = US Marysville, 4 or H or R = Canada, 5 or L = US East Liberty, 6 or T = Japan Toghigi, 15 or G = Mexico El Salto, U = England Swindon)
Toyota Paint Codes: Since 1972, Toyota has grouped common paint shades by its three digit color code (most recently including a letter in the second digit/position). 0xx for white, 1xx for silver, 2xx for black, 3xx for red, 4xx for brown and gold, 5xx for yellows, 6xx for green, 7xx and 8xx for blue, and 9xx for purple or very dark colors. This is a good way to check that you have the correct code.
Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche Paint Codes: These paint codes namely start with the letter "L" and have a unique 2 to 3 digit/letter code which follows. As of at least 1989, Porsche dropped the "L" prefix. These codes are a great way to track paint formulations through-out the years.
some incredible 1928-1935 paint chips
Where do we get these codes? We have invested tens of thousands of dollars in original, vintage paint chip pages; special order paint books; and sales brochures. After posting these pages, we spend a lot of time entering the information into our databases and double checking with reuse of the paint. We use the databases daily to perform research on paint, so we are constantly updating and adding information.
OEM, Touchup and Repaint Manufacturer Paint Codes: There are many companies providing OEM, touchup or complete repainting formulations. They included PPG, Dupont, Sherwin Williams, R-M, etc. Each of these companies have data bases which contain formulations of automotive/truck/fleet paints by manufacturer/make, year, and model. These databases use both the short door data tag code as well as the longer 4 digit/letter manufacturing code. In most cases these paint manufacturers have their own paint codes which are unique to a specific color formulation. Getting a hold of these paint manufacturing codes can be useful to track paint formulations over the years as well as between automotive manufacturers.
PPG Paint Codes: Pittsburgh Plate Glass has been providing automotive paints since 1924 (originally Ditzler Color Company subsidiary acquired in 1928) and its paint codes have evolved over the years but has held stable enough to be used as a good cross-reference between automotive manufacturers. Occasionally PPG comes out with a cross-reference table of its paints to show the codes of the newer formulations of its older colors. In many cases, tracking the PPG codes changes with respect to automotive manufacturing codes is useful. PPG as well as all the major manufacturers of paint keeps lists of paint formulations used by all fleet owners such as Coke, McDonalds, American Airlines, John Deere, Snap-on, and etc. Lists of these formulations allow for correct paint usage during restoration of collectable products.
DuPont Paint Codes: DuPont (now Axalta) has been providing automotive paints since 1921 (originally marketed under the Viscolac name). DuPont Duco was a lacquer dating from 1923 which held its gloss longer and dried faster but was more expensive. DuPont Dulux was an enamel introduced in 1926 which was cheaper and less resistant to chipping but longer to dry. Dupont paint has traditionally been heavily used by GM. Dupont has changed its codes significantly over the years but is still useful as a cross-reference between uses of a paint across manufacturers. Dupont stopped assigning its own paint codes to new paints in about 2004, but Axalta who owns the Dupont automotive paints now has been assigning its own 6-digit formula numbers. Stay tuned as we start to collect those numbers.
Sherwin Williams Paint Codes (Acme and Martin-Senour Paint Codes): Sherwin Williams bought the Martin-Senour Company, of Chicago in 1917 and the Acme Quality Paint Company, of Detroit three years later. Martin-Senour paint is offered by NAPA and we are unaware of what happened to the Acme Quality Paint line. Paint codes for these paints have recently changed to a unique 7 number value depending on the color and paint type. The older 4 digit codes still work for many paints but care must be taken to assure it is still the same color. Many older paints have different 4 digit codes for lacquer and enamel paints. We have tried to reference the most common 4 digit code which is still referenced by the Sherwin Williams / Martin-Senour paint database. Although today Sherwin Williams prefers a longer, unique paint code which not only specifies the color but also the finish and particular brand of paint. We do not show this longer code but you can use the Sherwin Williams database with the codes we have to look it up.
RM-BASF Paint Codes: Rinshed-Mason, now part of BASF has been providing automotive paint since 1948 which became part of BASF in the 1960's. Most of the RM-BASF codes in the 1950s through the 1970's are 4 digits in length with a prefix representing the type of finish (A = Acrylic, blank = Lacquer, E = Enamel) and sometimes followed by a letter describing other properties (R = bleeding or fading for many reds, M for special reds also). Newer RM-BASF paint codes are 5 to 6 digits in length and are manufacturer specific. If the same paint is used by multiple manufacturers, the RM-BASF paint code will be different.
Glasurit Paint Codes: Glasurit has been providing paint since 1898. In 1965, Glasurit became part of BASF and provides paint across Europe. Glasurit paint codes come in two parts. The first is a shortened version of the manufacturer or make (GM, FUD, CUS, HON, etc) followed by a unique code. For GM and Ford this unique code is the longer paint manufacturing code if one exists. For most other manufacturers this code is the shorter 2 or 3 digit/letter year/make paint code. If the those manufacturing codes are not unique or do not make sense, then the Glasurit paint code is sequentially assigned. If the same paint is used by multiple manufacturers, the Glasurit paint code will be different.
Autocolor Paint Codes: AutoColor has been providing paint since 1883, and was part of the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) in Britain. PPG bought them out in 1999, and changed their name to Nexa Autocolor in 2002. We don't have a lot of paint codes to from AutoColor, so it is difficult to determine any standards or trends at this time.
Arco Paint Codes: Arco Chemical Company had an Automotive Refinish Department which was owned by the Mobil Chemical Company based in Cleveland Ohio. Most of our paint codes are from the 1960's and 70's.
Other paint information in our paint chip pages come from: Andrew Brown, Bexolin, Briggs, FED-STD-595C, Kansai (OEM in Japan), Akzo Nobel, Ocotral (Valspar in Europe), Rogers(merged with Acme?), Standox, and Valspar.
Below are some Special Order / Fleet Paint books they provide a good history of colors available by specific manufacturers as well as contain up-to-date paint codes; which in many cases, cross several paint manufacturers.
GMC Truck Fleet Special Colors, around 1970. This is a special order paint chip book created by GM showing about 304 special order exterior paint colors available in the 1970's. Quoted from the inside: This paint chip book contains special paint colors, which can be supplied by GM. The book is arranged so that each chip can be exposed in order that the best color match can be made on an existing paint surface. Each chip is identified on the reverse side with the General Motors Corporation paint code number. The paint code numbers have been supplied to all national refinish paint supply companies for matching. Refinish paint materials to match the colors are available from any of these companies. All painted colors, other than standard, must be matched from the chips. The use of these colors will provide faster delivery and better color matches for all paint refinish work. The colors have been carefully selected to match your customer's requirements.
We have part of this chip book entered into our database
NAPA, Martin Senour Paints, Truck/Fleet Color Selection Guide, A2485, Section 4, Rev 6/86, 1986. This is a typical chip book of GM special order paints. The above GM book referenced that "The paint code numbers have been supplied to all national refinish paint supply companies for matching". This is a sort of color matching book for Martin Senour Paints which supply all NAPA stores.
Ditzco Enamel, Ditzler Color Division, around 1950. Unlike many special order paint books, this one was printed by PPG Ditzler and covered many car and truck manufacturers. Quoted from the inside: This book contains 123 chips of the more popular Fleet colors in a wide range of shades and has been prepared to make it easier for you to select suitable colors for your fleet or for the trucks of your customers.
Click here to see all the paint chips in the Ditzco PPG Ditzler special paint book.
Ford Special Order Paint Selector Fleet Colors, Vol. No. 72-GM-9LZ, 1972. This is a special order paint book published by Ford which later on dealerships had to pay for. This is an update to the 1968 red book of the same name. Quoted from the inside: This Special Order Paint Selector book was developed to provide better service and faster vehicle delivery to our customers. Copies of these books have been supplied to every dealership and additional supplies are maintained for reorder so that sales representatives can discuss specific color requirements with new car and truck account buyers when product specifications are taken for the order. The 375 color chip selection was make on the basis of historical usage by major fleet accounts, volume paint gallonage, as well as a broad spectrum color range to meet any reasonable need. Inventories of these colors are maintained at the Company's sourced paint plants so that immediate shipment can be made to assembly plants for production use. Inventories of many of the volume special colors are also maintained at assembly plants for immediate use on special paint production vehicle orders...
Click here to see growing list of paint chips in the 1972 Ford Special Order Paint Selector
Ford Special Order Paint Selector Fleet Colors, Vol. No. 84-SP-RSM, 1984. This is a special order paint book published by Ford which dealerships had to pay for. This book has 330 paint chips. It also has a great paint code cross-reference in the back between Acme-Rogers, Ditzler, DuPont, Martin Senour, and Sherwin Williams. An interesting quote in this book says, All special paint instructions will be reviewed annually to determine whether sheet metal changes require corresponding paint configuration changes
Click here to see growing list of paint chips in the 1984 Ford Special Order Paint Selector
Ford Special Order Paint Selector Fleet Colors, Vol. No. 88-SP-JLT, 1988.
Ford Dealer Special Order Paint Chip Book, Vol. No. 92-SP-JLT, 1992.
Ford Fleet internet page. This page currently shows the Special Order Fleet paints from Ford. Here is this list in our database.