Chrome Is Classy, Y’all Are Just Trashy

Chrome is still associated with old people, but I don’t care. I like chrome trim!

Decorative chrome trim has been a staple of automotive design since, like, the beginning of time. You might have heard this called “brightwork,” and American cars especially have been known for having a lot of it. These days, most all cars are kind of the same shade of grey or black. I happen to think that’s kind of a shame.

Chrome and brightwork is minimal in 2021’s crop of new cars. Kids call it uncool, I guess. Hell, Nissan and Chevrolet have blackout packages to paint what little brightwork modern cars have, completely black.

Well, I like brightwork. I like looking glitzy and corny. I don’t care that blingy chrome wheels make me look like an 85-year-old – it looks classy, damnit.

Ok, Anecdote alert: In 2012 to 2013, I worked at a Chevrolet dealership in Stow, OH. Stow’s a stone’s throw away from Akron and Cleveland, both decent-sized cities. But it’s also kind of surrounded by smaller towns and the start of rural Ohio. So think young families, generations of people who’ve been there for a long time. Also old people.

These sweet old people didn’t care too much about the internet; they’d regularly come into the dealership just to shoot the shit with the salesmen who had sold them a midsized Chevy sedan for the past thirty years. They’d stop by the service department for washer fluid, and a cup of coffee, even though it was clearly just Maxwell House drip coffee we got from Acme (an actual local grocery store chain, possibly where Wile E. Coyote bought his anvils and whatnot).

Old people tend to have fixed preferences and desires. Most importantly, they have money. They know what they like and what they want, and ten years ago what they wanted was bling. I don’t know, maybe they just liked the way it looked? Even though I was just a lot porter back then, it wasn’t uncommon to hear an elderly client complain about how those “new cars just don’t look classy”, speaking about the Cruze, 2013 and up Malibu, etc. A salesman told me that they couldn’t keep chromed versions of the 2008-2012 Malibu on the lot. Same with upper-level versions of the Equinox that had chrome trims.

Chrome Is Classy, Y’all Are Just Trashy
Shiny shiny shiny. Malibus with this level of brightwork wouldn’t last very long on our lot. – Image: GM

Chrome is still associated with old people, I don’t think that’s changed. You know what, I don’t care. I like chrome trim. I think automakers should make the cars that people want (I’m probably going to eat those words), and the people have spoken. They want chrome.

Let people like what they want, OK? These old people likely worked all their lives, and if driving a Malibu with bright and shiny wheel covers makes them happy, then I say let ’em (and also me) enjoy it.

Kevin Williams

Kevin WilliamsKevin's been into cars his entire life, anything from the tiny kei cars in Japan, to the maybe not-so-good American barges of the 1980s. He's flipped more than 25 cars, only lost money twice, and has known how to make his dollar stretch as far as it can. If he ain't talking about cars, he's probably snacking on something sweet and cakey. Contact the author here.