Theme : Colour – Beige New World

Fashion’s a funny thing. 

Love at first sight - the colour, not the car - image : buysellcortina.co.uk
Love at first sight – the colour, not the car – image : buysellcortina.co.uk

It’s understandable that haircuts and trouser bottoms and patterns date, and what seemed really smart to you once, now sits embarrassingly at the back of a cupboard because you’re too ashamed even to take it to the charity shop. But it’s odder that something as basic as a colour can date. There aren’t that many colours, or there are infinite colours depending on how you look at it, but either way how can something that seemed so agreeable to you once, suddenly (and it often is sudden) become so jarringly dated?

One explanation is association – maybe you fell in love with the purple colour of Eric Clapton’s loon pants when he was in Cream (no, I didn’t since you ask) so painted your bedroom walls that colour. Your parents have kept it like that ever since you left home 40 odd years ago and they wonder why you stopped visiting them.

Ford Escort Mark 2 - image : kgfclassiccars.co.uk
Ford Escort Mark 2 – image : kgfclassiccars.co.uk

But that doesn’t explain my one-time infatuation with Sahara Beige. To me, Sahara Beige is the colour of the early 1970’s. I first noticed it on a new Ford Cortina Mark III, and it was love at first sight. And this certainly wasn’t association. The Mark III was an execrable car (though I admit to quite liking the look of a red, vinyl roofed GXL for a couple of weeks after launch) and did not showcase a colour positively in my eyes, but there was something about the warm, rich creaminess of Ford Sahara Beige that chimed with my end-of-teens self.

Ford Cortina Mark IV - image : pistonheads.com
Ford Cortina Mark IV – image : pistonheads.com

So much so that, when I bought a knackered, blue Bedford Utilabrake in 1974, I bodged up the rusty wheelarches and sprayed the whole thing …. Sahara Beige. In hindsight I should have spent the money on the engine. But it didn’t just stop there. At college I designed both a standard lamp and an electric toaster and what colour did I paint them? Sahara Beige. I remember a pair of shoes I saw in the window of a Bally shoeshop. They weren’t actually a style I particularly liked, but I bought them because, even if they didn’t have the Ford seal they were, more-or-less, Sahara Beige.

By any other name. A 911 in Bamboo Beige
By any other name. A 911 in Bamboo Beige

In hindsight there were worse colours to champion back then. Brown, for instance. And, if you must move in the world of the Beige, I’d still contend that Sahara Beige is royalty. But, times move on and, by 1976, I was experimenting with other colours. My degree project was painted lime green. I had left Sahara Beige behind me.

1966 Ford Mustang - image : barret-jackson.com
1966 Ford Mustang – image : barret-jackson.com

But as a postscript, although I was unaware at the time, I’d point out that this, to me, quintessentially Seventies colour had its roots firmly in mid Sixties America. Back then it took a while for things to cross the Atlantic so, by the time my eyes were wide in admiration at this grand new hue, in the USA, a 1966 Sahara Beige Mustang was probably looking a bit tired.

3 thoughts on “Theme : Colour – Beige New World”

  1. Sahara Beige causes me no problems and neither does brown. The interior colour matters as well as the car’s size and form. About the only colours I’m unkeen on are the deep blues and dark greens of the mid-90s. Aubergine grey is also on the dispiriting side but perhaps that’s a function of the Corollas it stuck to.

    1. This was a very popular colour when I was growing up – particularly on Fords. In fact one of our family Mark 1 Escorts was this very shade. I can’t say I ever much cared for it, perhaps owing to its ubiquity – after this colour was everywhere in the ’70s.

      On a slightly related note, an R129 Mercedes SL resides locally. An absolutely pristine early example, it looks lovely apart from being painted a very similar shade of beige. It’s striking all right, but a little too Roger Moore I feel.

  2. I was severly bullied in middle school for my parents baby shit brown Mercedes. It was a W123 240D, and it had the color code 476 Goldbraun, special ordered from the Mercedes Sonderlackierungen program. Now, kids can be assholes, especially so when they’re envious. I guess it stood out a little to much from the Joneses Volvos or whatever they were driving. Though I find it immensly ironic the color brown has gotten a renaissance of late, and are now seen as one of the cooler colours there is. We need more brown in our lives, I say. And more beige, and more of any color that isn’t silver….

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