To car aficionados, the color red has a special, attractive appeal not only to those who buy red cars, but also to those who see them on the street
It’s Valentine’s Day again. And no other color stands out on this special day more than red. For years, this primary color has symbolized the burning passion, desire, boldness, vibrancy, and confidence of the day of love.
Its predominant use in Valentine’s Day messaging is said to have evolved from our notion that the color represents the blood pumped by our beating hearts. And our hearts are the real reason why we love.
Some say it is the rush of blood which one feels when he or she is attracted to another, hence why we blush or have rosy cheeks when we are in love. And then others in history have also stated that the color red in human evolutionary psychology also means the readiness for sexual life.
For whatever reason we associate the color with on this day, it is not lost to car aficionados that the color red likewise has a special, attractive appeal not only to those who buy red cars, but also to those who see them on the street.
How many times have we heard a passerby claim that a red car, any kind of car that is colored red for that matter, is a “sports car”? “Uy, sports car!” The same thing was said about my first-ever ride, a red 1979 Toyota Corolla SR.
Already 13 years of age when my late father bought it as my first ride in 1992, its freshly washed over Fire Engine Red body still exuded an alluring charm and appeal despite its age. It basically beckoned my dad and I to drive it out of the Philcite used car lot the moment we laid our eyes on it. A sports car the SR was not though, but driving one surely made me feel like a young, hot-blooded stud in college.
The fiery passion that red elicits is not lost on owners who buy these cars. Aside from the reactions they crave from onlookers, red car owners know the shade talks about their own vitality as much as it does their cars’ performance, perceived or real.
Keith Bryan Haw, an award-winning custom car builder and enthusiast has seen the evolution of red in the local car scene. “Red symbolizes a racecar, or something to do with racing,” shares Haw. He adds, “Way back before, the red-orange and the red metallic shades were in trend. But for me, my favorite has always been Ferrari Red.”
Ah yes, the legendary Rosso Corsa, or Racing Red. The specific shade of red the Italian sports car brand has made iconic over the last six decades. To many, no other color represents Ferrari and what it stands for than this particular finish. One cannot imagine seeing any Ferrari not in red. It is said that around 80% of Ferraris sold are in Rosso Corsa. And this despite the marque offering many other vibrant hues to choose from. And while the ability to select a specific color for your Ferrari has significantly cut down customers’ preference for Rosso Corsa, it remains an integral part of the brand’s rich and lustrous identity, as well as it’s DNA.
Ironically, it was another Italian brand that first used Rosso Corsa in its cars, thus inspiring Ferrari to do the same. “It was Alfa Romeo that established the mystique of Rosso Corsa, not Ferrari,” reveals Martin Galan, a motorsports enthusiast and historian. In the 1920s, organizers deemed that racing teams should wear specific colors based on their nationalities, the British were in green, the French cars were painted blue, and the Italians ran red. That is why when Alfo Rome competed in pre-World War II races, they represented Italy with their Rosso Corsa finished cars.
A vision that stuck with a certain Enzo Ferrari whose racing teams would eventually keep red as their sole color. “As they say… There will be no Ferrari if there was no Alfa Romeo,” adds Galan.
But racing red is not the only shade of red that Ferrari uses. Even its Formula One cars ran a near orange-hue from 1996 to 2007, so they would register close to red and not brown as older low resolution television sets of the time would show Rosso Corsa to be.
Locally, many versions of red have come and gone. Back in the 1990s, during the heyday of car customization, various shades and hues of red were much sought after by the tuner crowd.
Formula Red, Fire Engine Red either in metallic or pearl, and even Candy Tone Red all became staple colors in the custom car scene. Perhaps it was the difficulty of getting red to come out right on cars at that time that made shops who actually managed to make them come out as worthy of the money the young ones paid them?
“My favorite is still Candy Tone Red, without the metallic flakes,” shares Vince Chua, owner of Big Berts Auto Detailing. “Red is simply striking, it is the chosen color for celebrations too.”
Now for someone who sees virtually every color of car available in his shop, he does have some concerning insights on owning a red car. “Maintenance-wise, scratches and swirls are more easily seen on red cars. So regular waxing and more attention in using the right procedure for cleaning, such as applying light pressure on the paint and making sure the towels and wash mitts are clean, are essential in maintaining a red-colored car.”
Chua adds, “If your car’s paint is already dull, it is even more obvious when it is red, compared to if it were white or silver.” And after owning a few red cars myself, there is no doubt that keeping a red car shiny and clean can really be a love-hate affair. Today, Mazda’s Soul Red Crystal just elevates the status of red to an even higher plane of emotive existence. No other manufacturer has so far claimed red as an integral part of a car’s design as much as Mazda has with its Kodo: Soul of Motion design language direction.
So if you really want the attention, and the association with vigor, dynamism, fun, and energy. Or if you are of the notion that if your car is swirl mark-free you must really be a stickler for detail, exacting and having a really complex personality to even live with one of the most complex colors for the human eye to comprehend. Then maybe today, Valentine’s Day, is that one special time of the year you can truly appreciate all the love and effort you have thrown in to keep your red car as desirable as it was intended to be.
Go on a drive, take your red car out on a date. Show how much you crave for the passion that this color represents. And maybe, just maybe it will give back with more love and reliable service for years to come.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.