European cars of the eighties and nineties offered a lot more than anything stateside manufacturers could offer. While we fell into despair during the “malaise era” and the decades following that, the European engineers went crazy developing cars and technology for rally and endurance racing. While racing regulations changed, the production of homologation street cars stayed, creating a new market segment in the process. And while these cars all have fairly significant differences, they all defined a generation of sports cars.
What connects them, however, is what they looked like.
The paint each of these models wore were unconventional choices that piqued our curiosity, whether from the choice itself or from just how well the color suited the car. All those models have their respective colors that people still remember to this day. Whether it’s a Guards Red 930, a Techno Violet M3, or a Cream Yellow 850 T5-R, the colors they wore evoked a response equal to the car itself. But what about the cars of today? Companies, like Porsche, offer a Paint to Sample option allowing the customer to choose any color they want for their car, but that’s a pricey route to go. Look hard enough, and you’ll see that European manufacturers still offer incredible colors that just might be the next generation-defining shade.
The automotive world may be saturated with metallic paints these days, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be interesting. Volvo, while being more of a safety-oriented brand, has had its own world of enthusiast owners since its early days in the rally circuit in the seventies. While not as involved in motorsports as the other manufacturers on this list, they have seen their brand grow from their sensible and reliable reputation. How does that reputation bode for their color options? Not the best these days. Volvo has had a few hits in the past, like Cream Yellow, Flash Green, and Polestar blue, to name a few. Still, Volvo’s recent image shift as a more luxury-oriented brand has seen the fun shades take a backseat. While looking through the color options available, I struggled to find anything I really considered interesting. What I came up with is this.
Bursting Blue Metallic
Photo Courtesy Of: reddit.com/u/PolishMountain
Dark colors have ruled car sales for as long as I’ve been around, especially so on luxury cars. Bursting Blue Metallic is a departure from that for Volvo. A vibrant blue that can appear muted in some lights while deep and bright in others. Heavily dependent on the lighting, as most metallics are, it looks like a more complex and grown-up take on Polestar’s Rebel Blue. Beyond this, the color options reflected Volvo’s image, sensible and grown-up, but maybe a bit boring.
Not having to worry about being sensible for much of their existence, Porsche’s color palette features numerous colors that make their cars stand out from all others. To list them would be akin to writing out Pi, so I find it best to just dive right into what they offer today.
Photo Courtesy Of: https://rennlist.com/forums/members/199284-grperformance.html
A personal belief I hold is that brown and purple are two underutilized and overlooked colors. I find a nice pair of brown shoes to be unbeatable, while purple can be as luxurious as it is crazy, depending on its hue. This Porsche color airs on the former side of that with this uncommon color. In the shade, Amethyst Metallic is nearly black that hints at its true color. In the sunlight, the metallics take over giving off red undertones, while in bright overcast weather, it appears as a deep purple that accentuates the curves of the GT cars that sport it. A color the commands a second look in the dark and metallic world of automotive paints.
Mamba Green Metallic
Ferry Porsche, the son of the man who created the company that bears his name, owned several of the cars that his company has produced. All of which are painted green, a favorite color of his that has become a sort of family color. Look on the roads today, and the number of green cars you’ll find is incredibly small. A favorite color of many, seemingly overlooked by manufacturers. Porsche goes bold with this one, however, appearing as though they stole it from the suits Mase and Puffy wore in the “Feel So Good” music video. "Money Green" is what it should be called.
For a color without metallics in it, the difference in tone Lava Orange puts off depending on lighting conditions is surprising. In pictures, it can be seen as a heavy red-orange, while in sunlight, it’s a much paler and muted color, almost like a salmon. There haven’t been many shades or non-metallic oranges over the years giving Lava Orange, a color that didn’t have trouble standing out, all the more present. Fortune favors the bold, and Lava Orange will be remembered.
The crazy colors of Volkswagen in the sixties and seventies were something to behold. Even as the beetle production carried on, VW kept the bright and fun colors for its quirky little car. These days, VW can be seen as a more sensible and grown-up brand with their colors but is definitely not afraid to let their hair down every so often and offer something akin to their earlier days.
For the 2019 model year, VW has added a special edition of its best car, the GTI. Named the Rabbit Edition, it fits into the middle of the range of GTI. This edition gets the plaid seats, special wheels, and an exclusive paint option in Cornflower Blue. A bright and vibrant blue that reminds me a lot of Polestar’s Rebel Blue. Paired with the black wheels and trim VW gives it, this blue is the best on this list.
Great Falls Green
Photo Courtesy Of: reddit.com/u/MrTopCan
Also a GTI color, Great Falls Green is one of my favorites. Available on any trim level of GTI, other than the Rabbit Edition, this is the color I’d take home my GTI in. In low light, it appears as a dark forest green type color. In bright light, the tone changes completely to reveal a blue heavy green very close to a teal. Although I’m not sure if the GTI does it justice. Something with more curves, like a GT3 or an M-car, would break necks in Great Falls Green.
Kurkuma Yellow Metallic
Though I haven’t owned one and probably never will, I have always enjoyed the way VW’s big sedans have looked. The Phaeton? Fantastic looking thing with supposedly crazy maintenance costs with its W12. The CC? Don’t know much about it, but, again, it’s a good-looking ride. And just like those two that came before it, the Arteon is stunning. The rear is tidy and a bit plain while reminding me of Mercedes’ current generation, while the front is something I found myself staring at. Draped in VW’s Kurkuma Yellow, it continues the lineage of good-looking big VW’s. The yellow can be a little flat in overcast lighting but opens in-depth in the sunlight. Polarizing is the word that I think that best describes it. I can’t see it being a popular color, but it would be in a perfect world.
Unlike many of the names on this list, I’ve found that Audi has had its best colors much more recently. Nonetheless, today they offer a large selection of your standard greys, blacks & whites, and a few more colorful options as well.
Sonoma Green Metallic
Photo Courtesy Of: Auditography
Available as an option on Audi’s RS models, this one is close to Porsche’s Mamba Green Metallic. Where it differs is in low light and overcast situations. There, the metallics take a back seat to the underlying color—a rich dark shade of green like a lighter olive. Only in intense sunlight is the metallic truly seen, bringing out its lighter qualities.
Galaxy Blue Metallic
Photo Courtesy Of: Audi Forum
This is another color I’d like to see on something with more curves. An RS6 Avant, maybe? Offered on Audi’s Q models, this blue contains a green undertone to it. A reverse of VW’s Great Falls Green in that it is close to a teal but is based on blue. Even limited to the Q-models, it remains a stunning choice of color.
Ara Blue Crystal
Photo Courtesy Of: reddit.com/u/LandsOnAnything
Available on Audi’s S, RS, and R8 models, this color should be called “Essence of Sonic.” Lighter than their famous Nogaro blue, Ara takes on a life of its own. While it could be considered a metallic paint, it isn’t exactly that. The crystal effect it has is best described as more sparkly than other metallics. Take a close look at the finish in close up photographs or in person, and you’ll see what I’m on about.
Like Porsche on this list, the range of memorable and recognizable BMW colors is vast. Their 3-series line, traced back to the 2002 roots, features colors like Dakar Yellow, Inka Orange, and Fjord Blue. While the sport sedan line still exists today, the color palette has gone by the wayside to some degree driven by the lack of color imagination the people who buy these cars have. Still, there are a few interesting options left.
Storm Bay Metallic
The only grey on this list, I was surprised by how much it stood out to me. Contrary to their other colors, this metallic isn’t very heavy on the metal flake. A truly welcomed change from the options available today. Seen on the updated 2-series sedan, Storm Bay Metallic is a blue-tinted medium gray color that makes a hardly interesting color just that. With any luck, it’ll become an option for more than what it is currently offered on.
Would you consider this purple or red? Whatever your answer, hopefully, you’ll agree that this is a great choice. Available on the big X models and through BMW Individual, this red is a more understated choice compared the some of the other options on this list, but carries no less weight. It is deep, like a merlot, but gets bright and light under fluorescent lights. It’s a color I’d like to have on a 5-series wagon.
Hear me out here; the only two colors I could find of BMW’s that have always been an option and are offered by them today were Jet Black and Alpine White. Personally I find Alpine white to be one of the most interesting colors because of how simple it is. Its just a white but it looks so good. Any bimmer sporting it looks great. Its simple, and from that simplicity comes presence. It’ll never go out of style, remaining a strong color till the end.
Like BMW’s Alpine White, sometimes simplicity is key. That similar success can be found in a silver Mercedes-Benz. They just look right. Not interested in silver? Maybe you'd rather something a little off the beaten path? Mercedes has you covered. Rather than a set of colors, however, it’s a particular paint finish that Mercedes offers that will have people turning to get a second look.
Debuted on the AMG GTR, the Magno finish offers a different experience to that of the other paints on this list. Described as a “frozen” look by Mercedes, the finish ditches the conventional gloss finish for more of a satin look. Available in green, blue, grey, and silver, this option can be found on AMG’s GT models. For me, the best-looking choice is the Green Hell Magno found on the AMG GT R Coupe.
Whatever your color preference may be, there are plenty of options available today from all the manufacturers that we support. If you pay them enough money, then most of them will let you have whatever color you can come up with. But even so, interesting factory provided options continue to survive in the world of greys and blacks we live in today. Am I completely off base? Did I miss the next generation-defining color? Let me know in the comments below!
Owner of a flat-six swapped Impreza 2.5RS. Currently having dreams of Porsche 914s.