Thought of the day: 911 colour choice
“You can have it in any colour you like, so long as it’s black,” Henry Ford said magnanimously about his Model T. I wish Henry had been around when I picked up a new Mustang convertible from Alamo Rental at Boston Airport. On the plane, I was excited about seeing it, as I always am when going to test a new car… until I saw it, that is. It was in ‘Gotta Have It Green’ (I kid you not – look it up). Try to imagine day-glo mushy peas, and you might get close.
Some cars look great in one colour and not so good in others. The Mustang, for example, has such confused styling lines that it needs black to hide them. Ferraris should surely only be red, and a classic MGB has to be in British Racing Green. But what about the 911? 911 styling has always been so iconic that colour was never needed either to hide or accentuate features, leaving personal preference as the key factor. The region the car was first registered in, however, did have an impact. American 911s tended to be ordered in louder shades, while we Brits went for the more conservative end of the colour chart. True to form, I personally think you have to go a long way to beat Agate Grey Metallic, but I did see a banana yellow 993 at a dealership recently that would have been ideal for days when I was feeling frivolous.
If you’re in the enviable position of being about to choose the specification of your own 911 or are looking for a used one, you might want to at least consider the impact your colour choice could have when the time comes to selling it. Glass Guide, the trade bible, notes that cars in some shades, particularly metallics, are likely to be worth several thousand pounds more than others one year on. That makes the additional £800 for metallic paint a bit more palatable. Silvers and greys will always re-sell well, as will metallic dark blues and the more restrained reds. Solid, non-metallic colours, on the other hand, can really hit the resale value. This is partly because it suggests that when the car was originally ordered, the options list didn’t get much of a visit, and we all know that a 911 without at least a few of the key options ticked can be a bit of a missed opportunity. Fashion, too, plays a surprisingly important role. White has taken over from black as the in-vogue hue in the showrooms, and matte finishes are being offered to us again. I’m generally no fan of these, but I saw a matte apricot 997 in Florida recently that looked sensational. Bear in mind, though, that while a shirt in yesterday’s shade can be consigned to the bin, a 911 in a no longer fashionable colour might be harder to get rid of.
It’s not just the body colour that is important; seats and trim can make or break the look of a car. I once travelled a long way to see a very reasonably priced 911 after checking it out thoroughly with the dealer on the phone. It had a full main dealer history, and was in striking dark green metallic. Perhaps it was over-excitement that made me forget to ask about the interior in my phone checks, and I was despondent to discover in person that the original owner – who must have been colour blind – had chosen blue leather upholstery and trim. Much as I tried to tell myself what a great deal it was, I knew I would regret buying it every time I saw that seat and bodywork combination, so I walked away. The dealer still had it a couple of months later, and I wasn’t surprised.
I was chatting recently with an independent paint technician, and it seems the paint colour can have a real impact on aesthetic performance. Red, for example, is highly susceptible to fading, as a quick look around your nearest car park will confirm. If a dealer tells you it is no longer a problem with the newer cars, be cautious, because the issues are with the pigments.
Similarly, black paint tends to be softer than other colours, so is more prone to scratching. It is also poor at hiding surface imperfections, unlike white, which will cover up a multitude of bodywork sins. If, heaven forbid, you scrape your Agate Grey door on a Sainsbury’s bollard, remember that some Porsche colours have up to ten minutely different variations, and your re-sprayer is going to have to work out which is the right match for your car. Remember, his time is your money.
At the end of the day, if you’re buying a 911 then it should be an indulgence – an adventure – and not a carefully calculated business model. If it puts a smile on your face each time you see it then you have probably chosen the right colour, even if it is ‘Gotta Have It Green’. And what about me and my brief fling with the Mustang? Well, I’ve taken to wearing dark glasses as I approach her, and once inside I can pretend she’s any colour I like. She’s loud, crude and – compared to my 911 – pitifully slow, but I’m having the most fun I’ve had in a hire car in a long time. I’m due to fly back to the UK soon, and you know what, even in that colour I’m going to miss her.