As a new Smart is unveiled, we look at the greatest rear-engined creations of all time
Choosing the best colour
image © PA Motoring
Pick your car, then select your favourite colour - it should be that easy, but it isn't. `I'll have one in bright yellow please, Mr Salesman', you may say, filled with the enthusiasm of the purchase. The trouble is, your rashness at the showroom may have dire consequences when you come to sell your vehicle. While a bright yellow Ford Focus may have been at the top of your wish list, you can bet that when you come to sell it there's not going to be a queue of buyers eagerly waiting with cash hand. Mind you - if it were a Seat Leon it might be a different story altogether.
image © PA Motoring
The Seat Leon: Looks great in yellow
Certain cars look good in certain colours, and other colours are traditionally associated with brands (yellow is a favourite for sporting Seats), or indeed countries. Back in the days when racing cars were not 200mph billboards, teams painted their cars in the traditional colours. British racers were of course painted in racing green, German cars silver, while for the Italians nothing but red would do. White was the colour of choice for Japanese speedsters and pale blue for the French. Ask anybody what colour a Ferrari should be and the answer is likely to be red. Honda's manic Integra Type-R, when it was first officially imported, was available in just one colour - white. If I were lucky enough to be buying a Bentley or indeed a Jaguar today, it'd have to be green.
The sea of silver
So does this influence our purchasing choices? It's difficult to tell, but it's not beyond the realms of believability. Such was the popularity of silver cars that analysts predicted their second-hand values will drop, as supply exceeds demand. Buyers will be prepared to pay more for cars that are not adorned with the metallic hue. White cars, once a popular choice, are not particularly desirable either at the moment - even the police force is buying cars that are not white to increase their saleability when the time comes.
Is brown the new black?
image © empics
The Lamborghini Murcielago Coupe: But could you see it in brown?
Such is the desire to be different, even that most outrageous of car makers, Lamborghini, decided to offer one of their special edition Diablo's in both gold and, more amazingly brown. As crazy as this may sound, these cars actually looked good when shown at the Geneva Motor Show, surrounded by a sea of silver and red cars.
Whether this signals the comeback of brown as a colour of choice for cars is unlikely - but remember only a few seasons ago it was the `new black' when talking in fashion circles.
Solid, metallic, or pearlescent paint?
image © PA Motoring
Strong metallic colours are the standard safe choice
What's the difference? `Solid' colours are those that are created by `ordinary' paint. Metallic paints have tiny flecks in them that reflect the light, giving the finish extra life and beauty. Pearlescent paints take that a stage further - the flecks reflect the light in different ways depending on the angle it strikes them, giving the painted surfaces an extra sheen. Metallic and pearlescent colours usually have a hard lacquered finish that can make them more resistant to chipping and scratching. However, it's harder to match colours exactly when touching up, which means that when these mishaps do occur they're harder to put right.
As they look better, makers usually charge extra for metallic and pearlescent finishes on new cars. It's often worth paying the difference, however, for a good-looking car that will be easier to sell.
To keep your car looking good, and retaining its value, you'll have to do some work. Colours will inevitably fade over time. If you've ever noticed a car with a door or bodypanel that's a slightly different colour than the rest of it, this is most likely why - that panel has been resprayed and looks like new, while the rest of the car has faded. Road chemicals, dirt, and sunlight, impacted insect, and especially bird detritus will all accelerate this process.
image © empics
Keep that new coat of paint spick and span
So firstly, keep your car clean. Regular washing with a car detergent (not household detergents which strip the protective polishes from paintwork) is the first step. Many people believe it's generally better not to use automatic car wash machines, because the brushes have a tendency to put tiny scratches in the paint surface. This may be barely visible at first but over time will degrade the car's appearance. Secondly, polish the paintwork regularly. This will not only make your pride and joy look better, it will also protect the paintwork against deterioration and eventual rusting, because the polishes contain protective waxy chemicals that are left on the surface after polishing.
What fades fastest?
Though paint manufacturers are improving their technology all the time to address these problems, some inequality in paint performance remains. For example, light metallic colours tend to fade more than the strong ones. And dark solid colours like blacks and blues tend to have a softer finish than other colours so they are more prone to scratching and damage, and are harder to keep looking as good as new.
Used cars - compromise
For those of us that can't stretch to new cars or just want an old car, choice is limited - I personally hate white cars, they're a nightmare to keep clean and don't do the lines of many cars justice. That said I'm on my second one now, a decision made with the head rather than the heart. Given the choice, my next used car would be black, but if you're prepared to pick an unpopular colour, then you can save some money.
image © Reuters
You may have to wait to get the colour you want
But there will be times when it isn't, because the colour you want in the trim you want is out of stock. In that case, you'll often be offered an alternative colour by the dealer for quicker delivery, or maybe the right colour in the wrong trim. Then you have to decide whether you are prepared to wait, and if not whether you want to compromise on colour or trim. Watch out, also for interior colours - sometimes the colours of plastics and upholstery change dependent on the external colour you choose. If you carry small children in your car you might want to avoid pale cream carpets and seats.
Car colours can be a real pain. Buy new and there's too much choice, but still not always the one you want. Opt for a used car and you are stuck with what's around. But whatever the case, remember that strong metallic colours are almost always more popular and easier to keep looking good. If you can, choose a colour that suits the car and that you personally like.
But choosing a car is a complex decision in which lots of factors play a part. Think about colour by all means, but remember it's not critical. If in doubt, pick a popular colour - even if it's not the very most desirable when you come to sell, you'll be in good company. It'll be easy to find and buy the car in first place, and you can guarantee that your buyers will be thinking that way when you come to sell. And at the moment there's one colour that suits virtually everything and is available in abundance - silver.
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