Theme: Colour – Flat Blue Is the Colour

Some months ago I photographed a flat blue Nissan QX. Shortly after I deleted the series despite the rarity of the car. Why, Richard, why?

Ford Transit: it wasn't this blue but darker.
Citroen Relay: it wasn’t this blue but darker.

Despite the good lighting I could not get the forms to stand out. Tonal treatment failed as did all the other variables. That says something about that colour which makes you want to ask why Nissan offered such an anonymising shade for an already anonymous vehicle.

Lately I hunted for other flat navy blue cars and only found the Relay. Flat blue has an even more flattening effect than black while lacking black’s gravitas. The blue hue means its cold and being non-metallic means it’s got little reflectivity so the sculpting is submerged. Perhaps only flat dark brown achieves the same effect though its warmth rescues it. One might wonder why flat brown achieved such popularity in the 70s.

1956 Peugeot 203C
1956 Peugeot 203C

Above is a car I saw recently in Basel. Again, the blue is a bit different from the Nissan: redder, brighter. The Peugeot is very sculptural and can withstand the colour. It’s still a rare shade.

Renault Kangoo Mk1
Renault Kangoo Mk1

This Kangoo (in Goslar) has a lot of green and it’s metallic. The car’s forms are still strongly visible.

Ford Focus ST Mk1
Ford Focus ST Mk1

A high gloss and redness lifts this very graphic, architectural design and makes the rear lamps an exciting, vibrant detail.

So, if you’re going to use dark blue it needs a secondary hue and metallic element otherwise it’s the memory bin for the car. Dark blue: use with caution.

[Text amended 11.54 am, July 30, 2016 – the van was a Citroen Relay, not a Ford Transit as originally written.]

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

9 thoughts on “Theme: Colour – Flat Blue Is the Colour”

    1. Coming back to Transits and other utility vehicles: Ford have a blue that has been used from, I think, the MK1 up to and including the current Transit range: (I don’t know how to embed photos here) I can’t say I particularly like it, but it definitely is a trademark colour. Renault also have a Transit-like blue for their R4F4/F6, Express/ Extra/ Rapid and later Kangoos: VW use a lighter blue on their Transporters ( There are other colours that have been used continuously by several manufacturers, but I think only on vans? I quite like this colour continuity throughout the decades.

  1. I overheard the salesman in a Ford garage refer to this shade as ‘death blue’ on the mk 1 Mondeo?

    1. And today I saw a 90s Fiesta in that colour. This has to be the blue people have in mind when imaging a £250 banger Ford. Unlike the Sierra and Mondeo Mk 2 and Mk3, the Mk1 never had a conspicuously lush variant. The ST220 (?) might have been fast, but not lush. And almost all the ordinary Mk1 series 1s looked as spartan as this car. That said, the Vectra and Laguna were equally spare. It’s the chrome/brightwork thing again, isn’t it? Take the brightwork off a C/D class car and you can make it look as Spartan as a B-class. The revised Mondeo fixed some of these shortcoming: did they ever come with black and black leather?

  2. Absolutely- though at the other end of the scale, ghia and SI trim, a far more varied choice was offered including metallic salmon pink and citrine yellow!

    Ps. Love the site!

    1. Thanks – I am glad it’s satisfactory.
      The very first Mondeo Mk1 I saw was pale flat yellow. I might have seen a salmon pink one as well.
      What I never saw was a conspicuously well-trimmed one, even in Ghia spec. Unlike the next Mondeo the Mk1s all looked quite drab. The series 2 cheered up with the chrome grille.

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