So said Henry Ford, when asked what colour choices were available for the Model T Ford. Today, much like supermarket shelves, the choice not just in terms of colour, but with almost every other feature on a car, is mind-blowing. Mr Ford reminds us that it wasn’t always this way.

A brief history of personalisation

In the first days of the motor car Henry Ford really was an innovator, being pretty much the inventor of the assembly line. All other car manufacturers of the time were essentially coach builders who stuck an engine into the vehicle. Coach builders were ‘artisans’ and as such would produce a car pretty much to order, so each car would be different. The limitations of the assembly line meant that Mr Ford could only do black, but he could pump the cars out at a rate and price the coach builders could never match.

As car manufacturing became more automated and more companies copied Henry Ford’s model, the concept of a car built for an individual became something only wealthy people could afford, but there were plenty prepared to pay the price for what was a ‘custom car’.

Car companies also formed alliances with coach builders, who would be responsible for the ‘look’ and body of the car which would go onto the engine and chassis produced by the manufacturers. Ferrari particularly worked with a range of coach builders, such as Pininfarina, Frua and Bertone to produce one off or limited editions of various models.

Enzo Ferrari regarded the addition of the body as something of an afterthought – once asked the question “how much of the cost of car is represented by the engine and how much by the car?”, he famously answered “We spend all the money on the engine, you get the rest of the car for free.”

Italy was and is the true home of the coach builder (sometimes referred to as a ‘style house’), with car manufacturers around the world always wanting to incorporate a bit of Italian style into the design of their vehicles. Hence for example, the tie-up of Ford with Italian coach builders Ghia (for a long time I wondered what ‘Ghia’ stood for…). Vauxhall (Holden) have also teamed up with Italian coach builder Bertone in their time for a convertible model.

Today car manufacturers follow the Japanese style ‘just-in-time’ manufacturing process where cars can be almost infinitely customisable for buyers. Luxury manufacturers like Maserati offer over a million different option combinations, making it unlikely that any one modern vehicle model will be identical to another. Ferrari also offer a personalisation program, although rumour has it the factory is quite picky about the colours it ‘likes’ on its cars, so even though they may not refuse to paint a car a particular colour, they may take you off the mailing list for the next new model. Lamborghini on the other hand, has no such scruples and the more outrageous the colour scheme, the happier the company (probably) is.

An interesting more recent trend, again led by the Italian manufacturers, is teaming up with fashion and other brands to produce unique ‘branded’ models. Go into a Fiat showroom today and you can order a souped up Abarth Tributo Ferrari or Tributio Maserati, based on the little 500 model, or if you’re into your designers, you can order a Fiat 500 Gucci from a mere $23,200.

Whether you’re looking to get your own black Model T Ford, or a Fiat 500 Gucci is more your cup of tea, give us a call to arrange your car finance.