A good paint job can do a lot for a car. It can highlight design and add presence, accentuate its virtues and hide its flaws. Car companies have been creating interesting, beautiful colors for as long as automobiles have existed. So, to inspire consumers and automakers alike, we’ve assembled a list of perfect factory paint codes. Some are domestic, some foreign; some simple and gorgeous, others vibrant and flamboyant. All are shades of a single color: Perfection.
Originally created to represent Italy in international motorsport, this racy red has since become synonymous with Ferrari. The Prancing Horse has dozens of shades of red on tap, but none of them packs the iconic punch of this crisp crimson.
Few colors ooze class like a nice maroon, the very essence of thin, aristocratic (inbred?) blood. Bentley’s Claret paint does it better than any other—not surprising, really, considering it takes an entire team of people and 12 hours to sand and polish new models.
Back in the golden days of muscle, the Big Three offered a stunning array of jellybean colors—usually paired with quippy names. GM’s offerings had the least-inspired Detroit sobriquets; “Hugger Orange” sounds like a pimp on Starsky & Hutch. But you can’t argue with the beauty.
French Racing Blue
Much as red became Italy’s motorsports color, French racecars often wore a particularly elegant shade of bleu, thanks in large part to Bugatti. As if pulled straight off a Matisse, French Racing Blue has gone on to grace many cars over the years. (It's best recent use, funny enough, was on the British Jaguar XKR-S).
The Chrysler Corporation offered a sexy muscle car palette during the Sixties and Seventies. This purple hue somehow makes violet look mega masculine, which is no easy task. Applied liberally to a Challenger or Charger, modern and vintage, it can turn a hunk American iron into a celebration of power and exuberance—exactly what a car should be.
Inspired by Germany’s racing heritage (see: Mercedes’ Silver Arrows), this liquid metal shade is a handsome thing. And, considering Benz tends to apply a $12k premium to apply it to six-figure AMGs, it’d better be.
Model T Black
Beyond the fact that Henry Ford helped pioneer a simple, asphalt-based enamel, thus bringing down the price and democratizing the automobile? Model T black is just so damn punk rock.
This technicolor dreamcoat was an SVT Mustang-only option during the mid-Nineties and early Naughts. The complex color shifted through a rich array of purples and greens depending on lighting; it was polarizing in more than one sense.
BMW’s racing circuit naming scheme (see: Imola Red, Estoril Blue, etcetera) hit its stride under yellow. Subtle and moody under gray skies, this color springs to creamy buttercup life when the sun hits. While it’ll give any BMW a cheery disposition, Dakar never looks better than on the E36 M3.
Flat out: We love brown cars. Porsche has cranked out impressive umber hues for decades, so choosing a favorite is tough. But the depth of Macadamia—a rich metallic that gives modern Caymans a distinctly Seventies 911 vibe—vaults it above the rest of the coffee-colored crew.