By on August 3, 2012

Looking at this picture, carefully digitally massaged by my brother, it’s a bit hard to recall why I didn’t dig the 991. What a rich, full colour, shimmering and gleaming like the dowry bangles of an upper-caste Indian bride; love among the marigolds.

Trust me, in person this thing looked like a flicked booger. Put it another way: if the canary turns this colour, get the hell out of the mineshaft. But then, that’s just my opinion – and it sets me to wondering. As we writers are wont to praise or condemn based on the emotional intangibles of a car, how much of the review was due to the hue?

Ahh…that’s better, and for all kinds of reasons. This very low-mileage C4S (Turbo in look only) was spotted street-side and I snapped a quick iPhone pic. I’m not sure if you can tell from the shot, but this machine is bedecked in a custom-ordered Pastel Yellow, not the Speed Yellow of the fabled RUF.

Next to the 991’s Lime Gold – which, by the way, sounds like a brand of cheap, tasteless lager – the 993 is truly a more mellow yellow. While I’d prefer it in Polar Silver, the air-cooled car has the poise and the pedigree to pull off any number of shades that would look silly on the modern car.

And then there are those colours that make the unacceptable delightful.

Let’s get this out of the way at once: the Panamera is as ugly as a baboon’s ass. Clearly, the only correct thing to do in the circumstances is quit messing around and paint the the Porker in the palate of primate posterior.

The last time I saw a Panamera in white, it was being pursued by a one-legged man who brandished a harpoon and shouted, “Thar she blows!” as the Pano hit boost. Shading the gargantuan GTS in red has the same effect as Cristo wrapping the Reichstag.

Driving a Panamera always feels like you’ve got Ferry’s desecrated corpse strapped to the hood. Driving a big red Panamera feels like you’ve stopped apologizing for being s’damn gauche, and – I imagine – it loomed large in the rearview of that dark grey Ferrari like a giant middle finger. Fun stuff.

But the Rote Sau Effect was, I believe, a bit of an accident. Ordinarily, the PR wings of the manufacturers seem most concerned with how a car is going to look in photographs, which is why we end up with brown Jetta TDIs (browngate!), eggplant Scion iQs and the aforementioned garish Porsches.

What people actually buy is neutral colours; when in the airport recently, I happened to walk past a W.H. Smith’s, and imagine my surprise to see that they were selling Audi brochures! It’s true, they had a whole stack of them. Said right on the cover: “Forty Shades of Grey.”

Actually, white is currently at the forefront of automotive purchases these days, with something like a quarter of all cars in North America being the colour of the Beatles’ ninth album. Obviously on some cars this colour doesn’t work (call me Ishmael…) but in most cases, it’s a nice safe bet.

White is the colour of a blender, or a microwave or – before stainless steel became de rigueur – a refrigerator. It’s an appliance’s colour; in the UK, the domestic machinery of a modern home is actually referred to as “white goods”. The inferential leap that sits out there tantalizingly, begging to be made, is that our colour choices are yet another barometer showing the car’s dwindling importance as a fashion statement, an emotional purchase, a vehicle not just for our persons but for our personalities.

I’m not sure that’s quite the case. It’s nothing more than a gut feeling, but I get the sense that people still want colour in their lives. While they’ll happily forego an analog, enthusiast-titillating driving feel for comfort and improved fuel economy, they’re not quite ready yet to give up at least some modicum of individuality.

And then there’s the issue of choice and availability.

I don’t drive a car that’s the colour I originally wanted. When I was on the hunt for the ‘Roo, I was looking at World Rally Blue pretty much exclusively. However, supply was tight, and I found a silver car that had half the mileage and none of the abuse. It wasn’t my first choice, but it would do.

I know a guy who’s trying to buy a new All-Road in Moonlight Blue. He’d like something with a few options on it, but guess what? Factory order. No dealer ordered the shade, but would he take black, white or grey?

Folks don’t like to be told that they’re going to have to wait. Dealers stock in what they think they’re going to sell the most of. If it’s not quite what you wanted, but it’s inoffensive…

And the bland plays on.

Even so, a visit to any Kia lot will give you a modicum of hope for the palate of the future. THe Koreans are at the forefront of edgy styling, and their offerings seem to be brighter in hue as well. I see more interesting-coloured Kias than I do Hondas.

As for myself, I try not to let my thoughts be coloured too much by… er, colour. For instance, I had really hoped that the machine I’m currently writing up would have been any other shade than the bright yellow it turned up in.

Immaterial, as you shall soon see, because this thing was bananas.

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45 Comments on “In Living Colour...”

  • avatar

    With the phrase “flicked booger” in the article, I’m getting a good laugh on a Friday morning! A booger reference is always welcome, but that’s as risque’ as I will go.

    The car? I couldn’t care less, as I am not a Porsche fan no matter what color it may be, as they are nothing more than a hopped-up VW…I don’t like those, either.

    As to color in general, I like more bright color options too. I doubt Goldwood Yellow, as my 1964 Chevy Impala SS convertible was, wouldn’t look as good on my 2012 Impala LTZ! Ashen Gray looks richly beautiful, though…

    • 0 avatar

      >> the Panamera is as ugly as a baboon’s ass.

      And that makes the vehicle attractive only to other baboons! :)

    • 0 avatar

      “…as they are nothing more than a hopped-up VW”

      Well if that’s the case please tell me which VW model I can buy that is the 911 is “hopped-up” from. I’d love a cheaper version w/out that “porsche stigma.”

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    For 3 years I have been saying, “maybe next year” when it comes to the automobiles I have considered buying new. Every single time it has come down to a dispute over the provided color chart and the automaker’s refusal to paint a preordered vehicle with a hue not on the list for that particular vehicle.

    I don’t ask for any color chits used by another manufacturer. I only request a color from the official booklets for that particular year. I offer to purchase the required number of gallons myself and personally deliver them to the plant where the body shell is prepared. I let them know I won’t even argue on sticker, special offers or holdbacks if I can just have the car I want painted in a color they offer: a color that is not boring, bland, invisible, redundant, lease-friendly or resale-safe.

  • avatar

    Mustard Yellow is a south German color, almost a regional tradation. My Subaru is red, which was the only bright color out there for car choices through the 90s and 00s. That’s changing thank goodness, but some of those Korean blues look a little on the radioactive side.

    • 0 avatar

      Oh my gosh yes. As much as I hate fifty shades of grey, a mustard yellow MB is an assault to the eyes. But at least that’s a step up from the olive green and orange MBs I saw in the late 80s.

  • avatar

    After buying 4 grey/silver vehicles in a row, I had enough. I had been buying them for the vehicle itself, not the colour. My F-150 is “Blue Flame Metallic”. I get compliments on it all the time. For my Veloster, I got a white one. I wanted red or metallic orange to put the grey streak to a true end, but I didn’t want to wait 6 weeks to order it from the factory. I think the white works well on that car. It stands out from the grey and silver ones that I see on the road around here.

    • 0 avatar

      Ditto – My last 2 cars have been silver, never again. Hopefully, my next car will be a color, preferably orange. Silver is great at hiding dirt, road salt, and scratches but it is boring and not rewarding to detail.

  • avatar

    Ahem…it’s actually spelled “Coulououoiure”

  • avatar


    It’s a sign of the times. In recessions, the paint colors are more conservative. When the economy is booming, the paint colors are more vibrant.

  • avatar

    Of course – lots of different cars suit different colours. When I bought my r33 skyline, I thought white looked fantastic. And when I bought a Subaru? blue naturally.

    It seems strange to me that people ordering a new car wouldn’t wait for exactly what they want. Are most people really so adverse to delaying delivery by 6 weeks? Here is Germany a 6-week delivery time on a popular new car is very optimistic. Factory ordering is normal and waiting times can really stretch out (but you do get exactly what you want!).

  • avatar

    I always thought that Porsche reached the pinnacle of color (sorry, US spelling)from 1995 – 1998. We had Riviera Blue, Lime Green, Signal Orange etc. Porsche even made an ad comparing 993s to jelly beans!

  • avatar

    I don’t know why but I usually only buy white or black cars, unless the situation compels me to buy without regard to color.

  • avatar

    Ahh yes, automobile color lore.

    The one (I can’t say color in singular in this case) I have never witnessed, save for photos, was the poly chromatic iridescent Mustang (I think a “Cobra model) from somewhere around ten years ago.

    White is good for sunny summer climates. If I lived in Alaska, Dark colors might make sense.

    I recently found an article that documented that the USA car market sells the most varied colors for vehicles on a percentage basis.

    It is puzzling that saturated red endures year to year, available on a wide range of models, while no such blue, yellow or green equivalent is offered for more than a year on a few scattered models. What is it about red?

    I have heard that silver is the stealthiest color visually.

    • 0 avatar

      Yup, America is the world’s auto color melting pot:

      Brendan notes that Hyundai-Kia offer the most interesting colors in the US market, but Korea itself is one of the least color-diverse markets in the world. Which might explain why Hyundai-Kia paid for the research in the linked story.

  • avatar

    If a vehicle doesn’t have a colour/colour scheme that catches my eye, I don’t buy it.

    Bonus points if it has an interior colour that isn’t grey or black.

  • avatar

    As a card carrying car dork, I prefer cars that match the racing color of their country of origin. Alas, that usually means white cars for me. Hopefully, someday, it will be silver or red.

    (although red tends to fade)

  • avatar

    I hate the 40 shades of grey/silver that rule the marketplace… and as proof I’ve owned a wide range of real COLORS:
    A red Civic (’85), a yellow Prelude (’89), a green Eclipse (’96), a blue Passat (’00) and an orange/copper 350Z (’03).

    My wife currently owns a Cosmic pearl white Volvo with a Java brown factory skirt kit which is oddly attractive, but a b!tch to keep clean. She wanted Passion Red, but the C30 is so rare is hard enough to get one, much less in the color of your choice. Which is shame since it came in a host of insane colors: Seriously: Gecko Green, Orinoco Blue, Chameleon Blue? WOW!

    I broke my own rules and bought a silver Dakota (’02) because grey looks the same unwashed or newly waxed. Since it my tow vehicle I knew I was not going to waste too much time keeping it super shiny. As a result after 10 years it looks the same as day one: boring grey. I had a black Ranger (’96) and it was a nightmare in Florida: way too hot and always showing swirl marks or water spots.

    I’m partial to blues as you can find a range from light sky blue to a deep ocean/navy blue. In fact the only other color I would accept for my Z was Daytona Blue, but LeMans Sunset is just so awesome I had to have it. Even my brother joked if I bought any other color he would never speak to me again. I did flirt with Brickyard Red (which looks more like purple) because it was so rare.

  • avatar

    My favorites:
    synergy green Camaro
    green with envy Challenger

  • avatar

    I think Subaru offers a pretty good palette of color choices. Of course- Fiat completely blows everyone else out of the water with theirs.

    Honda/Acura are the worst offender of that ’40 shades of grey’ sin.

  • avatar

    Not a fan of the current generation of pearl colours, but I think it has something to do with regulations involving paint solvents. However, I do rather like the taffeta white’s, they’re something about them that’s a little more crisp than white’s from the 80’s and 90’s.

    Also a vote for the classic (pre-964) 911 turbo in piano black. If you ever find one, the light just drapes all over it in all kinds of awesome.

  • avatar

    I bought my ’92 Jetta and ’09 VFR in white and thought that both vehicles were complemented by the colour. I did refer to the porky bike as my white whale (and the Jetta as the White Wonder as an ironic nod to no one considering that car wonderful in 2002).

    In pictures at least, I like that shade on the 911.

  • avatar

    I’m constantly disappointed by black, white, gray, a different kind of gray, silver, a darker gray, and a very muted red as my only choices from the latest offerings. It’s particularly bad in the luxury marques. There are certainly exceptions to the rule (lime green Fiestas, Grabber Blue mustangs, Volcano Scions), but I think US dealers make it a self-fulfilling prophesy by insisting that colorful cars don’t sell so they don’t order them so eventually the manufacturers stop offering them.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m in agreement with you, especially about the muted reds. How hard is it to offer Bright Red as an option? I understand lime green, a metallic brown, or purple, but when silver is the best looking color in the line up something is wrong.

  • avatar

    Favourite colours on any car:
    –> cream-pearl whites
    –> rich deep reds
    –> metallic deep greys

    –> black
    –> silver

  • avatar

    Seven years ago, I took a black CRX to Maaco.

    A few weeks later I came home with the brightest green Sherwin-Williams had.

    Since then, it has inspired dozens of imitators in my city. I hadn’t seen a bright green car in town before, and now they’re everywhere.

    I’m guessing Synergy Green isn’t a tribute to my car, but since the cheap paint job is seven years old now, it’s probably time to repaint, and I thank General Motors for putting an excellent bright green on their car so I can just have my car painted that color.

  • avatar

    One reason why greys, silvers and pewters are so popular is that car designers think those colors show off contours the best. To be honest, the exterior color palette hasn’t been nearly so limited as the interior color choices. Now almost everything is in a shade of grey. Go to a car show with cars from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and you’ll see bright, vibrant interior colors. Hell, even in the ’80s you could get red interiors.

    Now that the Brown Car Appreciation Society has succeeded in breaking the color barier on the outside, it’s time that blue, green, red and yellow interiors returned.

    • 0 avatar
      Felis Concolor

      That seems to be the biggest problem these days: the shape of the sheet metal has become king, and noone is willing to question the design’s suitability for supporting a wide palette of colors or, in my case, supporting multiple colors. I’d love to see bi- and tricolor-friendly designs with clear break lines and exterior trim which provides the necessary transition points for a vibrant, multicolor palette. Yes, I still wander the neighborhood looking for creatively painted (permanent upkeep) Victorian and Edwardian houses.

      And your observation regarding interior color choices is spot-on; black and grey may be safe but they are definitely not fun, and offering a variety of real colors for fabric or leather seats will always earn my continued attention, even if I’m holding out for a different model. Fiat’s combination of contrasting leather interior options plus vibrant exterior color combinations has put their forthcoming 500L on my short list for next year’s potential purchase decision.

      Augh, now I’m seeing a particularly boxy D4 variant painted yellow with a black roof cap and fitted with a green leather interior. If I could specify a combination like that, I’d be hard pressed to ever have a bad day driving in such a colorful coach.

  • avatar

    I guess it’s just me but I can’t figure out why so many people choose grey/silver and all of its lighter/darker variations.

    Here’s a link to some colorful Bimmers.

    I’ll take the orange, blue, or green over black, white, or silver any day of the week…and twice on Sunday!

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Another thing with a gray car. At some point in the day your car and the asphalt will be the same color.

  • avatar

    Here is my list of favorite colors:
    1) Bright Red (Simple, loud, and classic.)
    2) Bright to dark Blues short of Navy (Blue Subarus with gold wheels are to blame for this one.)
    3) Dark metallic green with gold flake. (I saw a Corvette with dark green paint with gold flake in the paint and gold wheels, and the green looked black except where the sun hit it with the gold flakes making it look even better. It was amazing, and it’s the only paint job I’ve ever been amazed by.)
    4) Metallic Browns (It’s funky, and it screams, “I don’t care about resale value!” :) )
    5) Black (It doesn’t matter what the styling of the car looks like if it’s black.)

    Least favorite:
    1) White (I like it on Type-R Hondas, but on everything else it’s unimaginative.)
    2) Any red that’s not bright red
    3) Pastels
    4) Non-metallic tans
    5) Yellow

  • avatar

    “Actually, white is currently at the forefront of automotive purchases these days, with something like a quarter of all cars in North America being the colour of the Beatles’ ninth album.”

    It probably doesn’t hurt that 99.5% of all full-size vans and low-option pickups in dealer stock are white. I saw a brand new blue GMC Savanna sitting on a lot a few weeks ago and I nearly had a stroke.

  • avatar

    When I ordered my Honda, I was torn between white and blue. White won out because I could get beige interior which is SO much more pleasant on my butt when it’s 100 degrees outside.

    Then not long after I got my Accord, it was announced that Belize blue was discontinued for 2012 models due to shortage of pigment that comes from Japan (tsunami-related). I’ve wished I had gotten blue ever since.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    For the past 3 years, I have considered purchasing a new automobile, only to have negotiations break down when it comes to the subject of color. I can’t stand the limited pallette forced upon vehicles which aren’t sports cars or $#!+boxes. I don’t demand a hue from another manufacturer’s pallette. I always ask for a shade from the manufacturer’s current offerings. I am willing to wait for an out of sequence pass to be made when the body is sprayed in the color I choose. I even offer to purchase the required number of gallons from PPG and deliver them to the factory myself. I don’t ask for much: only a car painted a color that is not bland, boring, inoffensive, redundant, lease-friendly or resale-safe. I can usually find a shade I prefer from the manufacturer’s color brochure for that year and I refuse to be limited by the unimaginative choices provided by the color selection team.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      You know, it’s perfectly okay to buy a car and have it repainted at a body shop the same day.

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        If I’m going to repaint it, I’m going to repaint it right, and that means the dealer had damned well better lop off an additional $6K to cover for all the time and trouble involved in removing the interior and exterior bits and separating the body shell from the powertrain prior to a full respray and reassembly.

        There really is only one time to get the paint right on a new car, and some of us aren’t willing to settle for a half-fast mask and respray job.

  • avatar

    I put up with a Seattle Silver 1992 Accord for years…its maroon interior saved the day.My wife’s new (well, 2009) silver Accord has a black interior, which at least is not gray. I’m very nostalgic for our 1958 Plymouth convertible, Toreador red (vermilion, just a shade less orange than Mustang Poppy Red), with red and black interior and a white top. The 09 Accord looks kind of like a toad, and I can’t imagine what it would look like in any bright color.

  • avatar

    I bought a dark blue TDI Jetta wagon last year BC I loved the dark blue, now if VW would give me more than two interior choices ( black and Beige) I would be really happy. Saw a dark forest Camary and loved the look of it. Silver is great for hiding dirt and I had several but darker hues look much better. Have to give props to minis as well great ext choices – love the robin blue as well.

  • avatar

    I’ve always been a fan of intense colors. Bright red, orange, yellow, “Petty Blue”, etc. My first car was a ’71 Cutlass in an ok, not great, medium blue. Next was a bright red Cutlass (sadly with a white vinyl top, I never understood the appeal of them). Next was a “silver frost metallic” with red stripes ’74 Roadrunner that I ordered when the dealer mistakenly told me the color I wanted wasn’t available. Next was the yellow and black ’77 “Macho Power Wagon”. Then it was a bright red Trans Am, a maroon Iroc, a silver and blue Caravan, a bright red ’88 S-10 Blazer, a silver Jeep GC, a bright red GC, a black GMC Sierra, a maroon Ram, a black Charger R/T, and finally a hemi orange Challenger. I want black/dark grey inside, always, I hate tan/red interiors. I don’t want two tone, I want one color, with a stripe, maybe. I was sad when I went past the dealer down the street yesterday, and saw that there were no new Challengers in any decent colors at all in stock. Silver, white, black…..boring. The used lot is another story.

  • avatar

    Porsche offers custom paint- submit any color swatch and it will paint your car that color for $5000 up charge. Porsche in fact offers many custom build options. Dealer contacts the factory for prices on these changes.

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