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You are here: Home Tech Articles & Tutorials Interior / Electrical Ford Color and Upholstery Books
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Ford Color and Upholstery Books

by Jim Crabtree

Fig. 01

These are officially called "Color and Upholstery" books or albums. Every auto maker published them for exclusive use of their authorized dealers. They sometimes have notations indicating the PRINTING company but the 'publisher' (never indicated) was always the manufacture.

Page counts don't really mean much when it comes to C&U books because they were actually seen as demonstration books. They opened in multiple directions with pages and segments that were intended to fold over on themselves to show a customer all the many color & upholstery options that were available.

To understand a C&U book you need to understand how dealers worked in the '40s to the '60s. At that time, small dealers were the norm. Most dealers only ever had a maximum of maybe 10 vehicles on their lot, divided by trucks, cars, 2-doors and wagons and it was unlikely they had the exact car you wanted on the lot. Your new car would need to be ordered. But in what colors?

For 1956 Lincoln offered 14 DIFFERENT combinations of interiors (all leather) for just their convertible!! Closed Lincolns came in all cloth, cloth and leather and all leather. Many times each type of fabric had it own shade. (and different textures of course). Then when considering exterior colors Lincoln offered TWO different 'corals' and TWO different 'purples/violets'!!!

To ensure that the customer received the exact car they desired, the C&U book had samples of EACH fabric in each color (cut from actual samples) and samples of EACH color. To help visualize how a real car might look in that shade, a C&U book has little transparent pictures of each type of car that can be laid over the color chip and the little car becomes that color! (Pretty neat actually). There are transparencies and mechanisms that can be used to create/simulate tu-tones and even the TRI-tone combinations that were offered on some makes in the '50s & '60s.

C&U books were PURCHASED by the dealers from the manufactures for hefty charges so they generally bought only one. Then after the model year the book was obsolete and was to be discarded. Because of their design and use of actual fabric samples they are heavy and bulky and difficult to save, so most all were discarded. Between 1965 and 1978(?) Ford used the same binder and dealers had to only purchase the pages (cheaper for them), but loose pages are impossible to save so they certainly went into the garbage. (However, I do have some page sets that survived because they are in the shipping BOX for the next years' pages.)

C&U books are impossible to reproduce. Because of the need to have color chips and actual fabric samples only surviving originals exist. As you can guess they can get expensive to buy. '57-'58 Chevrolet/Buick/Pontiac books trade in the $500 range. The only '56 Lincoln book I ever say sold on E-bay for $850 and there is a 1950 Mercury C&U book on E-bay now for $1800! (It is a dealer and he has not sold it for that, but it is the only '50 Merc book I have ever seen.)

The color and upholstery selections that were available on trucks were not as critical as cars until the Bumpside years, when the Ranger and other packages began to make trucks more car-like, so the fact that you could or could not order some colors together would be of interest to FORDification readers.

Pictured below is a complete C&U book so that you can see how it works.

Fig. 02

Fig. 03

Fig. 04

These pictures show the 1971 Ford book...closed (Fig. 02) and opened to the truck pages (Fig. 04). You can see how when it is opened the top page shows the upholstery pattern as it appears in drawings of the seat, while the lower page has the actual upholstery samples.

On the car pages there is an actual swatch of EACH color and type of fabric. On the truck page there is one actual swatch; the other samples are just pictures of the upholstery material (they apparently didn't think truck buyers needed an actual sample of each).

In Fig. 04, on the right is the color page opened to the truck samples. For trucks all the samples were on just one page. Automobile samples were large individual 'chips'.

As an FYI, when you see the scans of the pages themselves in the Factory Literature Library (links at bottom of the page), you notice the book lists the appropriate codes to order a truck in "prime". Unpainted Primer would have been a finish available only on trucks.

Fig. 05

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Fig. 08

As discussed before, these books functioned to work with transparencies to allow a buyer to visualize a car in that color. I photographed a 1969 LTD and a Mustang in colors that were not offered on those cars so you can understand how a C&U book was to have been used. (The red was a Maverick color, while the lilac was an exclusive Thunderbird color.) No transparencies were created for trucks. I guess they figured truck buyers could imagine their new vehicle without one.

Fig. 09

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Fig. 12

On a related note, you might also occasionally run across upholstery sample books that were printed/created by the upholstery industry. They were intended for upholstery shops who are fixing 2-7 year old cars and would help them indicate/order the correct fabric for a repair. They are good references and they survive in much higher numbers than a factory sample book, but they do not come with the all important COMBINATIONS that available. Could you order a red car with a blue interior? (sometimes yes!) Did they offer a green and yellow two-tone? (In '54-'56 this was a popular combination.)

Ford Color and Trim Albums
While these books contain information on all Ford cars and light trucks for the applicable year, only the pages which directly pertain to the light-duty trucks were scanned from the following albums. Clicking on a link will take you to the appropriate section of the Factory Literature Library:
 1969 Ford Color and Trim Selection album


 1971 Ford Color and Trim Selection album
 1972 Ford Color and Trim Selection album

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