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In the current sea of ever-so-bland silver, grey and black modern cars, it always spreads joy when you encounter a bit of colour – be that a yellow 2CV, a bright red Alfa Bertone, or a vivid green longhood 911. But are all colours to be equally celebrated? How do you feel about lilac and purple shades on classic cars?

It’s somewhat controversial that’s for sure. It also doesn’t always work. But it can work – at least in my opinion.

A recent discussion with a close friend of mine had him speaking in less than flattering terms about a purple metallic Porsche 911 he had encountered recently. I too recall seeing an early nineties Audi 80 Convertible somewhere in Germany which was a factory delivery in purple with a white softtop. Apologies should one of our readers own a car precisely like it, but I frankly found it utterly distasteful! But bizarrely, there are other cars which somehow manage to pull it off.

This is where I need to confess to being somewhat biased: I have owned a lilac car. There – I said it! But truth be told, it was a very deliberate choice. I absolutely loved my little 1973 Sunbeam Imp Sport, which was reportedly the only Sport to ever be delivered in Lilac metallic with a Mauve interior. It was… well, different. More than once did someone point out to me, that there was probably a reason why there was only one in those colours. Maybe so, but I also found it hugely charming. In fact, when I restored the little Imp, I had every opportunity to change the colour if I had wanted to, but there wasn’t a second of hesitation when I committed to a fresh coat of Lilac metallic. With Mauve vinyl seats, doorcards and carpets, it all added up to a whole lot of purple. It was just so funky! However, some 12 or 13 years ago I sold my Imp Sport – something I still regret to this day.

My old 1973 Sunbeam Imp Sport – a one-off in Lilac metallic with Mauve interior!

But purple can work on other cars too. I personally love Triumph’s Magenta purple – regardless of whether it’s applied to a TR6, Stag, Spitfire, GT6 or Dolomite. The notion of owning a chrome bumper MGB GT V8 in the rare Aconite purple seems rather appealing to me as well. How about a Lotus Europa Twincam in Roman purple? Or if we’re talking nineties youngtimers, I must confess to being a huge fan of a BMW M3 e36 in Techno Violet. The contemporary BMW M5 e34 actually looked quite stylish in the slightly lighter Daytona Violet. And while we’re in the nineties, didn’t TVR’s colour charts have a couple of violently purple shades among the rather brash colours they had on offer? Yet, the most famous of all purple, violet or lilac shades ever applied to a car as a factory option has simply got to be Plum Crazy Purple. Partially due to the colour looking fabulous of any of those US Mopar muscle cars you could have it on, but no doubt also thanks to its brilliant name. You can always trust the Americans to take it one step further. Oh, and of course we can’t forget the Aussies either. During a seven-month stay in Adelaide some years ago, I feel head over heels for the giant-killing Holden Torana GTR XU-1. Realistically, I have to accept that I’m unlikely to ever own one myself as values have risen sharply, and on top of that I would probably have to add the price and hassle of finding one in Australia and then shipping it to Europe. Nonetheless, the treasured 1:18 model stood in my bookcase is obviously the iconic Plum Dinger purple.

Have I missed out any other cars which were available in a purple shade from factory – and looked stunning in it? I’m sure I must have. Would you classify Ford’s Aubergine as purple? If so, I guess that explains why it would be my colour of choice for a mk2 Cortina 1600E with a black vinyl roof. And how come purple was only really offered by car manufacturers up through the seventies and then again during the nineties? And if both the British, the Germans, the Americans and the Aussies dared include purple shades on their colour charts, then why can’t I think of any Italian, French or Japanese cars which were available in purple?

What say you dear reader – have you perhaps owned a purple car? – Or would you? Or do you feel there should be a ban against manufacturers applying such a vomit-inducing colour to any and all cars? Feel free to share your views…
In the meantime I shall trawl the classifieds for purple classics. I sense it’s time I own a second one!

About The Author

My passion for Bavarian classics is profound. But all classics are charming. My fantasies range from Imps over quirky Panhards to my dream Montreal. But then there’s also my nerdtastic lust for classics from the Country of the Rising Sun… I appreciate originality, but most importantly, regardless of origin, year or value, classics are meant to be driven. My keeper is a 1973 BMW 2002 - the first car I ever bought.

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8 Responses

  1. Ib Erik

    Just no.
    Not on cars, clothing or anything else, exept maybe in some feminine concepts…

    It’s no !

  2. Tony Wawryk

    As the owner of a bright yellow car, I welcome the sight of brightly coloured cars on the roads to leaven the mass of silver, black, white or dark blue – among the least adventurous colour choices – and I say this as someone whose car history includes many silver (including a 3.0 CSi – can I be forgiven for that one?) and dark blue cars. Our two “moderns” in the drive are both blue (of course the 02 gets the garage!). Other than a red Cavalier SRi company car and a burgundy metallic Audi Coupe in the mid-80s, most of my cars have been silver or blue, though there were a couple of what can only be called shit-brown company cars in the early 80s…
    So would I own a purple car? Depends on the shade, and the car – some of those depicted in your piece, Anders, look great – the TR6, the Dolomite, the Europa, the early 70s 911S…all desirable and I’d take any of them. There’s a Manta A Berlinetta for sale on in a deep purple – yes please!
    I guess it depends on the shade – once it moves from deep/mid purple towards pink (and lilac is dangerously close!), I’m less of a fan eg the 911 at the bottom of your piece, Anders, is too pink for me. Of course, your mileage may vary, as they say.

  3. Henrik Kjaer

    No, never dreamt of that!
    But…. it worked for the Lamborghini of which there were many.

  4. Kondrup

    Yes please :-)
    A purple MGB GT V8 to me please or a BMW Z1 the list is very long and gets longer and longer :-)

  5. Dave Leadbetter

    Not enough colour on the roads these days, all black, white or shades of grey. I can never decide if Triumph Magenta is a little too pink but it suits a Dolomite down to the ground. BMW Techno Violet is fabulous but it’s a toss up between that and an Aubergine Cortina 1600E for best car and colour combo at this end of the spectrum. Ford revived the Aubergine name for the boggle eyed Scorpio colour of course but it’s a different shade. Now that was a car that made a statement.

  6. Anders Bilidt

    Judging from the replies, we’re quite clearly divided into two distinct camps here. Is purple the marmite of the classic car scene?
    Still, I’m pleased that there are nay-sayers. Using the old demand-supply rule, that should dictate that I might be able to find my next purple classic at are reduced price due to the colour… ;-)

    I think a deep purple Manta A would look utterly fantastic parked next to your bright yellow 2002. What a garage that would be…

    I had actually totally forgotten about the Z1 being available in Magic Violet. A very suitable colour for the little 80s roadster!

    Not even a lovely coat of purple paint could possibly lure me into the last incarnation of the Scorpio! That I believe is a car which is best forgotten…

  7. Claus Ebberfeld

    The Triumph TR6 is actually not bad in purple – anymore! As I recall it I didn’t like it ten years ago, though. I must have become wiser.

    Of the moderns (that’s what I call everything after 1983) I think only TVR could pull it of. Oh, and the Porsche 911 RS. And OK, a 959 as well – I guess, as I have never seen nor head of one in purple.


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