A Strange Low-Speed Car Chase Is A Grim Reminder Of The State Of Car Colors In America

Earlier this month, there was an LA-area car chase involving a Mercedes, a bunch of traffic, and some crazy low-speed maneuvering. But I don’t want to talk about the car chase itself; I want to talk about what it revealed. That chase was a sobering look at the chromatic state of the car fleet of America.


While I was watching a video of the chase, the thing I most noticed was something that wasn’t there: color. Look at these screenshots I grabbed at random intervals: it’s a gravel-like sea of white, black, and gray.

Sure, there’s a sprinkling of a few blues, a couple dark reds, and, thanks to a fellow yellow classic Beetle driver (that one looks like a ‘72) and a bright red Miata, a little bit of actual color. In this context, that Miata looks like that little girl in red from Schindler’s List.


It wasn’t always like this! Look at this bit of freeway footage from the mid 1970s:

We weren’t always so afraid of color. Look at all that green! Green is almost gone from the roads today, with just a few holdouts (like all of the real vivid car colors) on either low-end econoboxes, supercars, or the occasional muscle car.


That little clip has some great cars in it: there’s an E-Type, a GTO, several candy-colored Beetles and some Ghias, at the beginning I think I spy a Fiat Gamine? Is that what that little white roadster is? There’s a butter-cream yellow 240z and a navy blue Jag, and an olive Dart and a minty F-100s. It’s fantastic.


Take a random few seconds of video today and you may as well shoot in black-and-white. Color still thrives in certain niche cars: retro inspired vehicles (Mini, Fiat 500, Camaro/Mustang, Beetle), super-cheap cars (Mirage, Fiesta), and supercars (Lambos, Ferraris, Porsche, etc) but, really, that’s about it.

I’ve read all the reports and reasons why this is the case – people think the car will resell easier in a neutral color, people don’t want to be stuck with a color that’s no longer in style, some even say they’re afraid of clashing with their outfits—but in the end, I just don’t care.


I’m sick of every parking lot being filled with an inoffensive miasma of silver, black, and white. These are non-colors chosen based on timidity; fear of not being able to resell, fear of changing tastes, whatever.

Sure, some cars work great in silver or white or black – those colors absolutely have their place. But the dominance of these colors is absurd. White, black, grey, and silver combined make up 74 percent of the car colors in North America.


Enough already. I’m pleading with anyone who will listen, consumers, carmakers, auto designers, whoever, that we need to open our eyes and hearts and wallets and pretty much any orifice to the idea of color again.


Cars look great in real colors. Bright, deep, pastel, dark, earth tones, artificial, subtle or shrieking, anything. I just want to see the dominance of the monochrome masters come to an end. Let’s at least try to bump the Grayscale Gang down to 50 percent of the cars on the road, why not?

I won’t even mind how much harder it will be to spot my yellow car in a parking lot. I’m willing to make that sacrifice for the good that will come with a fully chromatic carscape.


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About the author

Jason Torchinsky

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus • Not-so-running: 1973 Reliant Scimitar, 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!)