The red 300SE is proof that the Germans weren’t always so color neutral.
By Gunnar Heinrich
RED in some cultures is the color of prosperity.
OK, principally it’s the Chinese who adore red and associate the color with the prospect of good fortune and plenty. Accordingly, many surround themselves with bright red belongings.
In the States, we seem to live in opposite land.
The high end of our own automotive market seems to have some unnatural aversion to color. The palates for most mainstream sedans, SUVs, coupes, and convertibles seem to reflect this neutral disposition with a pallid cast of oatmeals and pearl metallics.
As I had mentioned in a recent rant article, if you want a 2010 BMW 750Li, you had better like gray, off-gray, or off-off gray paint. Sad to say that if your alternative was to opt for an Audi A8, the most exciting exterior hue you could order from the factory is something called “Savannah-Beige”.
When exactly in the course of human events did we get so boring?
In West Hartford, Connecticut a suburb of the world’s insurance capital (kind of like what Barrington is to Providence; Scottsdale is to Phoenix; or Indian Hill is to Cincinatti), there’s a monotonous glut of pearlescent Japanese and German luxury cars.
If you were to drive through the town on any given day, were it not for the odd yellow Boxster, the streets would be an unending movement of gray and beige metal.
It’s a sad, painfully unimaginative motorscape.
And it wasn’t always this way.
True, we liked our rusted oranges and browns in the 70s. And in the 80s we even tried neon colors. But in the 1990s, we seemed to get things right. There was a balance of having the standard inoffensive hues but also having the choice of choosing a color that popped.
You could order a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE, for instance, in red on cream. The color combination was rich and it showcased the W126 S-Class in a particularly regal light. Saab’s 900 Convertible was electric in Monte Carlo yellow on black. Even, the Cadillac DeVille came with a fire-engine red option that when set off against chrome rims looked really sharp.
The onset of the year 2000 is plainly to blame. Silver metallics took over the American car spectrum because of their association with technological advancement. Silver, like all things technological, equals cool, washed, aseptic. A decade on and that’s all there seems to be in the mainstream automotive market – cool, washed, aseptic.
As people, we aren’t so uniform. Why should our cars be?