Simply Red

A rose by any other name is still a rose. Perhaps, but an Alfa in any other colour than red? Keith Faulkner discusses this serious matter in depth. (Published in April 1999 issue of Per Sempre Alfa).

People own Alfas for many reasons. Probably, for most, it is the sheer pleasure of driving a car that has been designed to be driven. However, for others, there is the added benefit that performance comes with a certain amount of style.

Style, I hasten to add, is not the same as fashion. Fashion is transitory while style is timeless. Japanese auto manufacturers focus easily (and, admittedly, profitably) on fashion. European manufacturers, particularly the Germans and Italians, wrote the book on style, albeit totally different editions. The British sort of lost the plot after about 1950 (they were always better at aircraft styling anyway; the Supermarine Spitfire being the pinnacle of aeronautical aesthetics). Americans almost know what style is, but insist it be spelled in capital letters surrounded by flashing lights- (and it must have cupholders in the dashboard).

Colour is often overlooked as a component of style, but there can be no doubt that it plays a major role in automotive development and promotion. The colour range in which a new vehicle is offered can place it in the market. Want to target the 18-25 year olds? Give them lots of bold colours with plenty of graphic decals down the side. Looking a bit more upmarket? Deep Cobalt Blue or Brunswick Green will pull in the middle aged executive. The careful older person may be more happy with a neutral white or cream that is not too radical and promises good resale value.

The problem with these market-driven duco decisions is that, occasionally, the colour choice has a negative impact on style. By this, I mean the physical style of the car does not match the paintwork. Witness the current range of nauseous pastel shades coming from the Korean manufacturers.

To my eye, it seems obvious that certain cars suit certain colours; it is part of their overall stylistic personality. In some instances, colour has become synonymous with a vehicle. Mention British Racing Green and I immediately think of a Mini Cooper S with white stripes down its bonnet. White? How about a 1960s Mercedes Benz? Black brings to mind a Porsche or American limo; silver conjures up a picture of a Daimler or stately Rolls and blue just has to be a Beemer. Red of course is anything Italian, with Ferraris and Alfas top of the list.

Now, while Alfa goes with red like tomato sauce goes with pasta, there are other colours which also seem to suit the marque, or at least specific models. Which brings me (at long last, you think) to the point of this article: my preferred colours for various Alfas. Obviously, colour preference is purely subjective. How subjective it can be is highlighted by considering that two people are likely to see the same colour completely differently. My wife and I, for example, have robust discussions about certain shades of green (or blue, as she would say). Remember, therefore, that my preferences are in no way intended to be a criticism of anyone's taste and if you want to paint your Spider lime green, that's up to you. In fact, I would be quite interested to hear your own preferences.

First, let us consider the Suds. Red of course is good because it doesn't show the rust so easily and white is ok, but my first choice would be the dark blue that I've seen on a few. Teamed with silver wheels and polished chrome, this colour gives the car a decided lift. (Although hardly original, I reckon the Sud would probably look pretty good in British Racing Green too.)

Sprints shape up well in white, especially with the green highlights I've seen on some of their body trim.

Now, with regards to style, I believe 105 coupes to be the best of the "modern" Alfas. I've seen them painted just about every hue imaginable but to my eye (notwithstanding Mark Biagent's superb red masterpiece) silver seems to be their natural colour. Their shape brings to my mind the shiny rocket ships of low budget 1950 sci-fi movies and silver seems to suite this image well. (This is intended to be a compliment, by the way; next to Suds, 105's are my favourite Alfa.)

The old Berlina sedans can get away with silver too, but I think my preference for these would have to be a conservative white or beige. When my wife an I were living at Redcliffe, we often used to see this little old lady zooming around in her very-original white Berlina.

Spiders, on the other hand, just have to be red although cream works quite well. With these, the colour/body-shape combination can be affected by whether the black top is up or down, so I suppose the answer is to own two different-coloured spiders; one for driving with the top up and one for top-down days.

When it comes to Alfetta or Giulietta sedans, I'm afraid that I think the dark brown duco suits their styling best. Not that I'd buy one that colour, mind you, but some people must like it, judging by the number or cars I've seen in that shade. Maybe that's got something to do with it; familiarity breeds acceptance?

Paint colour is of secondary importance to me when discussing the stylistic merits of GTV's. Priority number one is to fit some substantially wider wheels to balance their narrowly-proportioned undercarriage. After that, silver or charcoal paintwork looks a treat. (did I hear someone mutter that canary yellow looks good?)

Now, while I may be prepared to be swayed about my colour preferences on the other models, as far as I'm concerned, the only colour for 75's is Alfa red. No correspondence will be entered into. (Our Social Secretary can breathe a sigh of relief that his chromatic choice has passed such a stringent test.)

And as for the latest (well, as far as Australia is concerned) 164's, can there be any doubt that they look best in metallic charcoal? Mind you, there's not that many on the road to compare, but the other colours seem to make the 164's styling seem cluttered and disjointed.

So, after all this, what colour is our family Alfa? Well, when we were looking around for a 33, our preference was for metallic charcoal paintwork, but we eventually had to settle for red. This was probably the best choice in the end because, as absolutely everybody knows, a red one goes much faster.