Are chrome bumpers making a comeback?

BY Scott C. Benjamin / POSTED March 8, 2013
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There's lots of chrome on the front end of this 1960 Ford Thunderbird. (Photo by Scott C. Benjamin) There’s lots of chrome on the front end of this 1960 Ford Thunderbird. (Photo by Scott C. Benjamin)

I was walking around a used car lot earlier this week (one that’s filled with plenty of old Detroit iron, by the way) and I started thinking about all of the shiny chrome bumpers and hood ornaments on display in front of me. I had to wonder why chrome just simply isn’t a big part of automotive styling anymore. And no, a thin strip of chrome trim around the windows doesn’t count. I’m talking about full, edge-to-edge chrome bumpers on modern luxury cars, sedans, sports cars and compact cars. Those old cars on the lot were practically wrapped in chrome. And now it’s gone. Almost completely gone (with the exception of a few new pickup trucks).

It sure seems like it was a long time ago when new cars — at least cars manufactured here in the U.S. — were equipped with chrome bumpers straight from the factory. (Or even metal bumpers of any kind, now that I think about it.) I wonder why they eventually went extinct. Was chrome just another automotive trend that’s never going to return? Does it have to do entirely with safety standards? Is it driven by modern exterior design? Would new car buyers choose chrome bumpers if given the opportunity, and if the styling of the car in question lends itself to that kind of look?

I think that most classic cars look fantastic with lots of body chrome (I’m not a big fan of chrome wheels), but I can’t really imagine chrome bumpers looking good on new cars like the Subaru BRZ or the 2013 Ford Fiesta. It just isn’t the right fit.

Maybe someday car designers will bring back the old-school chrome bumper look — but only if the exterior design is a good match. I think that the throwback designs of the “new” Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro would have been a perfect place for the auto manufacturers to start. And while there are a few aftermarket chrome accent kits available, there’s nothing available from the factory. Not yet, anyway.

So what are your thoughts? Will chrome bumpers ever return in a big way? Will they ever be quite as popular as they once were in the 1950s and 1960s? Let us know what you think!

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