Most cars are some kind of grey today, a fact we have mourned often here at DTW…
But every now and then, a manufacturer decides to market a model in what I call a ‘signature colour’ – one that is closely linked to a car model. Now this definition is somewhat fuzzy, and subjective, too. But as a hint, think of a colour the car was presented in on press photos, a colour that was only available for a single model, or a model / trim variant that was only available in a single colour. Rather than an in-depth essay, I’d like to present a small colourful gallery with some comments.
Greyscale: (See above) This is ubiquitous now. But nevertheless, there are examples of colourless signature colours. The VW up!  Has often been compared to an appliance (we here at DTW know that it’s at least a very well designed one). So it’s only logical that it’s mostly seen in Appliance White. And of course, white is also the signature colour of every panel van .
If you look for a signature grey, forget silver or any other metallic shade. Fiat does a nice job with non-metallic grey on its 500 Abarth , and so does Skoda with the Octavia RS .
Black is available on virtually every car nowadays. It’s no longer the trademark of official limousines. We have to go back in time to find some cars where this (non-)colour is really iconic .
Blue seems to be the number one choice for any sporty version of a car. Renault choose a very dark, metallic shade for the Clio Williams , complemented by gold coloured wheels. Subaru took this scheme over for the Impreza WRX . Ford jumped on the same bandwagon with the first Focus RS – minus the golden wheels, this time.
But non-metallic blues work just as well. Sportiness is expressed here with bright, almost aggressive tones, as can be seen on the Audi RS2  or any sporty Volvo today, like the V40 T5 .
A different interpretation of blue comes from the South – they seem to be masters at reviving old colours. For the Alfa Romeo 156 , a very light, powdery blue could be ordered. Although it’s typical for this car, it can rarely be seen. When I looked for pictures in Alfa forums, I often read remarks about homosexuality related to this ‘Azzurro Achille’.
Blue is not the only fast colour. The British had green as their sports dress. No wonder that an icon like the Mini Cooper  had to wear this often. But we here in Europe rather associate British cars with understated luxury than with sports. Thus, a similar green takes this connotation when seen on a Range Rover , for example.
Green is also the colour of forests and hunters. What better choice could there be for a Subaru Leone , then?
But back to sports now. In its brightest variation, green is at least as aggressive as a bright blue. That’s why Ford had it on their Focus Mk2 RS .
Finally, green can be fun. Mix in some yellow, call it ‘Bitter Lemon’, and it’s perfect for a small and not too grave people carrier like the Citroën C3 Picasso .
Yellow / Orange:
Like the bright greens above, yellow and orange are perfect signature colours – rarely seen on regular cars and eye-catching enough.
In the early to mid-nineties, plain, ‘yellow’ yellow was quite popular. The Coupé Fiat  was presented and often bought in this colour. They also used it on the Punto – for the faster variants and the convertible.
It’s not often that we see a signature colour on a mid-sized saloon without Nürburgring ambitions. But Volvo presented its 2000 S60  in a warm gold metallic colour. Sadly, most customers weren’t as brave as Volvo’s designers and chose the usual silver.
Ford played the signature colour card very extensively on its sporty Focus models. Not only the RS, also its more civilized brother, the Focus ST got its colour. It was a bit yellower on the Mk3  and really, really orange on the Mk2 .
A warm, sunny colour is also appropriate for a fun little convertible, isn’t it? So Citroën introduced ‘Orange Aérien’ for the C3 Pluriel , and this time, customers took the bait.
Beige / Brown / Red / Purple:
Non-metallic beige or ivory has been a standard throughout the sixties and seventies. Nowadays, that range is nearly extinct. Only a few manufacturers offer this, for example Renault on the Captur. But most prominently it’s marketed on the Lancia Ypsilon , often in combination with dark red or grey.
Brown has been the pariah of car colours for a long time. Some years ago it made a small comeback and was already heralded as ‘The New White’. People bought it in small numbers and it hardly became a part of the automotive landscape, except on a few models like the VW Sharan or, most noticeably, on the BMW X1 , where it was the colour for press photos and, presumably, demonstrators.
Is there a car with a red signature colour besides Ferraris? ‘Rosso Corsa’ or similar shades have been popular for a very long time up into the D-segment. Nowadays a bright metallic red is often the only real colour choice for a car, and every manufacturer has it. Still, Mazda  accomplished the feat of making exactly this colour a trademark for its whole range! I guess that no other mainstream manufacturer sells a share of red cars that comes close to Mazda’s.
Purple is not a popular colour for cars, and I can’t think of many models that were or are even available in it. PSA however made some effort to bring in into the market. Smaller cars like 108, 208 or C3 are or have been available in purple. But only with DS’s ‘Faubourg Addict’ line  (who invents those names, by the way?) purple has become an essential part of the package. If it has the impact of a real signature colour, I can’t tell, because I don’t see any of these cars in any colour.
Another car that I associate with purple is the Opel Kadett Cabriolet . This time, the colour is on the greyish side and changes its looks considerably with lighting conditions. I have come across Calibra’s in the same colour during my search, but apparently it wasn’t available for more serious cars like closed Kadetts or Vectras.
I’m grateful for every manufacturer who offers a bit more than the standard seven greys plus one blue and one red. As we have seen, they often try to tie a colour to a certain car in people’s minds. Success varies, however. Looking at my list, a colour has better chances if it comes with a car that says ‘sports’, ‘leisure’ or ‘fashion’. For saloons or practical vehicles like minivans, customers will buy whatever they consider beneficial for residuals.