Car colors in the course of time: color theory


Car colors over time
Color theory

VW Polo Harlekin

© press-inform – the press office

Automobiles are an expression of the zeitgeist – this applies above all to the colors. From pure identifying features in racing to the colorful 1970s to the classic 2020s or the gold racers of the athletes – anything is possible.

Company cars are silver, sports cars, especially if they come from Italy and have a jumping horse on the hood, red and black are a classic anyway. Color is an important reason to buy a car, and car makers know this only too well. For this reason, employees of some automobile manufacturers do not have all the available paint finishes available when putting their company cars together.

The color theory of cars started at the beginning of the last century. At first the carriages were basically horse-drawn carriages that were powered by an engine, so the color didn’t really matter. The paint became important with the advent of car racing. The Polish-American count Eliot Morris Zborowski came up with the idea of ​​painting the cars according to a color code assigned to the country of origin of the pilot. This made it easier for viewers to distinguish who was placed where. This color rule was used for the first time on the route from Paris to Lyon at the Gordon Bennett Cup in 1900. The breakdown was as follows: blue was France, white Germany, red the USA and yellow went to Belgium. Incidentally, there were no Italian drivers at the start.

But this division was not yet set in stone. It took a few more years for the colors with which countries or brands are still associated to be assigned. A good example is the cars piloted by English pilots. Initially – in 1902 – the racing cars were painted in a light green, only over the years did the classic rich “British Racing” green develop from them.

The dictation of the monotonous paint did not end until after the Second World War. In the 1960s, young, successful entrepreneurs wanted to remove the post-war muff and optically set an exclamation mark. Ferruccio Lamborghini recognized the signs of the times and opened all the paint cans. It helps the energetic carmaker that the bull brand had no “house color”, as is the case with the big competitor from Maranello.

When the Lamborghini GT series came onto the market in the early 1960s, delicate colors were still in vogue. It was still a long way from shining gold cars with which football stars were supposed to roar from the training ground decades later. The varnishes were Azzurro (light blue), Blu Notte (night blue), Verde Scuro (dark green), Argento (silver) and Biancospino (hawthorn). The highest feelings were special colors, such as Grigio Argento Metallizzato (silver gray metallic).

With the Miura introduced in 1966, this color restraint changed suddenly. Stars and billionaires fought over the sleek sports car. A new era dawned, Woodstock, flower power and slogans “makes love and not war” reflected the increasingly liberal zeitgeist. The choice of paintwork was accordingly offensive. The English model Twiggy, in 1969 chose the color Verde Giallo (yellow-green) for her Miura and additionally garnished the car with a double vertical stripe in red. The Scottish rock bard Rod Stewart chose classic white (Bianco), while the Italo singer Little Tony had his racer painted in Azzurro Mexico (Mexico Blue).

The production data sheets of the 763 Miuras produced reflect the rainbow: a total of 86 different colors were used. This also led to strange occurrences: the Shah of Persia ordered his Miura from 1968 in red. To distinguish it from Ferrari, the paint was practically orange, but again different from the color Arancione (orange) contained in the color palette. In the 1970s, the colorful paints became increasingly fashionable: Porsche Targas rolled through the cities in poison green, the Ford Capri was available in orange or various shades of blue, and the German best car friend VW Golf joined this play of colors.

In the 1980s and 1990s, people wanted more calm colors again: blue, white or red were at the top of the order list for car paints in the 1980s. In the 1990s, it was silver and gray. However, there were also outliers against this trend, such as the VW Polo Harlequin, for which the name was the program. The brightly painted special model got no successor. Silver and gray tones were still popular in the 2000s and 2010s. However, White made a remarkable comeback. Nowadays, whatever you like is allowed: Whether metallic or matt lacquer in black or offensive gold, the color palette is open to everyone. Only large companies such as UPS (brown) or Deutsche Post / DHL (yellow) have to stay true to their color.


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