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I have a car and a van, both white. White isn’t quite as deathly boring as hearing-aid-beige, but it’s close. The only reason we have two white vehicles is because

1) we live in Texas where the sunshine can raise the interior temperature of a car so high that you can fire pottery, and

2) they were cheap, and the idea of spending extra on metallic paint with the words “college loan” looming was just too much.

Despite my pratical color selection, I look at both cars in the morning and tell myself I’ll never have a white car again. As I drive to work I get misty eyed at the sight of other colors, green, black, silver, but especially red. Red is the color cars were made for (or perhaps it was the other way round?). It’s been that way since manufacturers used up their all-purpose thick black buggy-wagon stuff. The right shade of red glows on a car. You can see the shape, the suble changes in lighting and reflection are emphasised. I don’t think there is a car made that doesn’t look better in red. Of all the colors other than white, there is one I just couldn’t choose.


Yellow is horrible. Organically (unless you’re a flower) it’s associated with bad things, and the only shades that aren’t garish look even more like those bad organic things. Whatever shade of yellow you choose, it screams and shouts. In fact, the shades higher up the spectrum scream, stamp their feet as well. And the only thing that really muted, almost white shades of yellow generate is the question “did it fade?” Which is a horrible question, because what do you say? Yes, it used to require sunglasses to look at? Or no, and go on to admit that you really did choose that color, on purpose.

Thing is, cars still get painted yellow. Makers of cheap cars use it to make their cars stand out, and it works, they stand out all right, but only in a negative way. Concept car makers use it at cars shows, at least the ones that don’t have a concept and throw their concept together at the last moment do. Take the Daewoo No 1and the Dodge Neon Expresso (some might say “please” at this point). If they had chosen anything but yellow these crimes against motoring humanity could have been raised to merely stupid and ugly, their failings would have slipped through the net of human memory and be gone, like nature healing a car shaped rip in the space-time contnium.

There is a website devoted to yellow cars at As brave as these people are in defending their favorite color, even they admit the enormity of the task in their manifesto, where they quote the site is

For people who drive cars that are the greatest color, YELLOW! Or as membership is lax, people who have ridden in your yellow car. As you all know, painting your car yellow not only makes it go faster, it improves fuel efficiency and reduces engine wear.

I like their humor  on the “reduces engine wear” bit, but that’s probably because people are too embarrassed to take them out of their garage.

There are some cars where yellow doesn’t look too bad, not good, but not too bad, Ferraris and Corvettes, for example. Yellow is popular on Lamborginis as well, but not Maseratis. Then there is the Mini and Fiat 500, better in red of course, but not so bad in yellow.

So how come some cars can just about get away with yellow? I have a simple theory based on two rules.

1) If the car is a lemon, don’t paint it yellow. None of the above cars is a lemon, and if forced into a yellow jacket they all survive with their dignity intact.

But what about, say, a BMW Z4? It’s not a lemon, but but they look like %$#!& when painted yellow. This brings us to rule 2,

2) If a car isn’t barking mad to start with, don’t paint it yellow. Lambos are all mad, so they can cope with yellow. The Fiat and the Mini? Well, they’re nutty that a squirels breakfast. Ferraris and Corvettes are pretty mad, but the Maserati? No, not mad, and not good in yellow.

What about the Z4, you say? No, no BMW could ever really be said to be mad. Engineered to the limit, built to perfection or blinged out beyond belief, yes, but mad? No. So don’t go taking a five gallon pot of yellow to your new Bimmer.

So there you go, a quick (opinionated) guide to car color that just might stop you making a fool of yourself with your next car purchase. Unless you already have a yellow car, in which case you can tell me all about it and set me straight on my car color bais.



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