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James May on: yellow cars
So there I was, bowling through some bit of rural Spain, when I came up behind a Hyundai Getz. The old one, before the facelift. Boxy little thing.
I’m sure I must have driven an early Getz. I suspect it was the sort of car I secretly quite liked, for being basic, small and unpretentious. But really, no, I can’t tell you much about it.
But this one was yellow, and that made all the difference. Yellow lent it vigour, purpose and the impression of an event rather than the mere progress of a crap small car. It was like a piece of over-processed and slightly sweaty cheese added to the arid and predominantly beige landscape by a Surrealist. I liked it.
By contrast, our own Seat Ibiza diesel hire car was… do you know, I’m not absolutely sure I can remember. I think it might have been some shade of black. I didn’t much like the Ibiza diesel - I thought it was well dullsville - but it might have been a bit more enjoyable to drive had it been a cheerful colour. Yellow, perhaps?
I find it strange that the yellow car remains such a rare thing, when yellow is such an uplifting and go-ahead sort of colour. Porsche does a good one, and calls it “Speed Yellow”. That just about sums it up. Dark blue is a bit “brake early” by comparison.
And yet the world is full of people driving cars from right across the grey spectrum because they will have a better resale value, or some such nonsense. It’s your car, so why not have it in a nice colour, such as yellow? You might die before you sell it, and then you will have departed this life as someone with a grey car.
I think quite a few things in life can be improved by being yellow. I have a yellow bathroom suite, which is a very inspirational environment in which to take a poo. I have a yellow fridge, too. Had it for centuries. And I never tire of closing the door on the barren white expanse of its interior and leaving the kitchen enlivened with a Mondrian-esque rectangle of yellow, as I head out to the chippy.
Come to think of it, bananas are slightly preferable to apples, because they’re yellow, and can be had with custard, which is also yellow. A quarter-pounder is just a burger, but with cheese it’s better, and that stuff is really yellow. Chips and curry sauce, cold cuts with piccalilli, poached egg on toast. I could go on, but I think you get the drift.
I also have a yellow Ferrari, which is the thing I’m here to defend. A man approached me recently to tell me that he didn’t “approve” of my car, because it should be red, as if I could give a brass fart about the opinion of anyone else, or as if I’d walked into the dealership and said: “I’m not sure what colour to have, but it must be acceptable to a man in action slacks from the back of the Daily Mail whom I’m going to meet in Kent one day.”
Let’s get to the bottom of this. People imagine that red is Ferrari’s colour, but this is not strictly true. Red was Italy’s national racing livery in the pre-sponsorship days, which the Ferrari F1 team largely maintains. Alfas and Maseratis would have been red as well.
But I think Ferrari’s official company colour is actually yellow. When Enzo Ferrari put Baracca’s rampant horse on a shield to make the Scuderia Ferrari badge, he chose a yellow background. I believe there is something significant about the colour yellow to the heraldry of the town of Modena.
Note, also, that the Ferrari legend above the old gateway to the factory is, in fact, yellow, not red. Ferrari itself put that there long ago, and has not seen fit to change it, because it’s correct. And Ferrari would know.
Driving a yellow Ferrari is a good and bad thing. It’s good because it’s visible, which is a safety feature. It’s bad because it’s visible, so people notice it, and I can see them saying: “Look at that knob in the yellow Ferrari.” But when I’ve gone, the backs of their eyeballs will be full of buttery goodness. Having a red one is just so totally square, and that goes for other cars, too.
Incidentally, Valentino Rossi has a 458 as well. It’s yellow. Winners drive yellow. He must have seen mine.