Recently, a red Fiesta was added to the DTW fleet. Is red a Marmite colour?
No actually that’s a very murky brown. I mean of course that red is one of those colours loved by some, usually a red car’s owner, and hated by others, usually their fellow road users. Red lives at the hot end of the spectrum and is seen as the colour that stimulates – the aggressive colour. As such, the red sports car is, to many, a red rag to the bull.
At one time all Formula 1 cars were painted in the colours of the country of the entrant. Red had become the racing colour of Italy following the Peking to Paris race of 1907 but, with the disappearance of Lancia, Maserati, ATS, Serenissima, Tecno and others from the grids, it has become seen as the colour of Ferrari who, despite the use of British Racing Green by Jaguar and the short-lived Lotus Racing was, until Mercedes returned to Formula 1, the only manufacturer that stuck doggedly with its national colours following the advent of sponsorship. The actual red used deviated from Rosso Corsa for quite a while however, both because of the need to overcome the shortcomings of older TV sets that muted reds, and from the need to compromise with the branding of their main sponsors.
As Italian brands born out of racing, red became the default colour for both Alfa Romeo and Ferrari production sports cars, though not really for Maserati, who used a broader selection of hues, or Lamborghini, who never officially raced. Over time, it became the default colour for all sports cars so that, although many sports cars aren’t actually red, there is the underlying feeling that, rather than being blue, green, yellow, etc, the colour they are painted is more ‘Not Red’.
The more affordable Red pigments are notoriously fugitive, a process that is sped up by exposure to bright sunlight. Most Ferraris are kept in garages and, moreover, their manufacturer can afford to spend a bit more on good quality paint, but a 15 year old mass produced car that has lived on the street all its life can look a sad thing – not really pink, yet certainly not really red.
A conclusion might be that red, the colour of fire engines, is one of the more visible colours, thus one of the safest colours to paint a car. Against that, it is probably the most provocative colour so, consciously or unconsciously, the reaction of other road users might be more extreme. So why buy a red car? Generally red is not a colour that makes you feel comfortable, but it does make you feel noticed. Although my choice of cars might belie this, my general desire is not to be any more conspicuous on the road than I need to be. On the other hand, my desire not to stand out personally should not get in the way of my general antipathy to the achromatic. A street of silver, white and black cars is a dour prospect and we should be thankful to those who enliven it with colour. And I once had a red Renault 5, though it wasn’t an eye searing red and, in any case, small red cars are a bit more discreet.
I’m not sure how discreet Chris’s Fiesta is in the metal, but a hot hatch is a different thing from a sports car, and thus avoids being a cliché when delivered in red. So too are very big red cars, which are far rarer, if you discount the deeper, regal burgundy type colours. Notable are Mercedes who offered red options on both the ‘Adenauer’ 300 of the 50s and the mighty 600 of the 60s. These are cars you would notice and, unlike a red MX5 or 488 GTB, so improbable that I rather like them. Indeed, I’ll even admit a soft spot for a Bentley Continental GT. But my favourite unlikely big red car might be this.