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Hooniverse Asks about beigeness

Alan Cesar August 17, 2017 Hooniverse Asks 35 Comments

Beige cars get a bad rap. It’s not always about being actually beige: Beigeness is an aesthetic, a design philosophy. It stands for mass-market appeal to an extreme. Boring. Lacking any character. Grocery-store brand unsweetened Cheerios.

But their blandness can also be of benefit. You might not get noticed going 30-over on the interstate, whereas you’d get ticketed instantaneously for 5-over in your lime-green boy-racer with the stupid wing and neon underglow. In fact, even the lamest sedans are capable of ludicrous speeds these days. Grandpa in his V6 Camry will obliterate a BRZ to 60 mph and in the standing quarter, and he’ll cruise much more quietly and comfortably home from the strip.

Which brings us to ask: Could an offensively bland car have a place in your driveway?

  • Jofes2

    I could dig something in the style of a Marrakech taxi.

    http://i.imgur.com/bAUyjUR.jpg

    • I’d say those were formerly running in (Western) Germany, where the color “Hellelfenbein” (“light tusk”, an exact color code) was (or still is?) mandatory for taxis.

      • Vairship

        Wouldn’t the *literal* translation be “bright bone of an elf”? Maybe another of their colors should have been named “dark dragon’s skin” or something. 😉

        • There is a geographical shift for the meaning of “Bein” from ‘bone’ (south, the northern folks would prefer “Knochen”) to ‘leg’ (north). So what is the color of Light Elves’ Legs exactly?

          A 9yo would rather go for “Bright Eleven A Bone”, but I would never say that in public.

          Unfortunately(?), etymology says that no elves were harmed when the word “Elfenbein” was invented. Wiki claims it’s a stub of “Elefantenbein” – ‘elephant’s bone’. Which is funny, since ivory is rather made from tusks than regular bones.

          Language is a fun toy: it’s cheap and readily available!

          Since there is no last call, also some trivia on German taxis here, right from Wiki’s mouth:
          The color is defined as RAL1015. The RAL institute was founded as an institution for standardization in 1925, and still exists. Their color definitions are sparse in comparison to today’s Pantone range, but as a Nation, you only need so many colors I guess. (Signs are using “traffic green” and “traffic red” and the like).
          RAL1015 was mandatory for all Taxis in W-Germany from 1971 on, before that they had to be black. Today, about 1/3 of the German states don’t mandate a specific color anymore, you’ll recognize them on their illuminated sign saying “Taxi”.
          Those taxi-dedicated W123s, a staple in 1980’s German movies, were painted in RAL1015 ex works, and had bigger batteries and beefed up suspension (the last a fat +1 on other continents). The driver bought it, and ran with it as far as it made sense – I’ve sat in examples with more than 500kmls myself, the owners tried to evade the W124 I guess.
          Today’s taxis are usually leased, regular cars (not predominantly MB anymore) that are returned after one or few years. So they get an easy-to-sell color (silver) with a beige wrap if required, that’s easier to turn around than a car that was obviously (ab)used as a taxi.

    • Krautwursten

      It may be beige, but I don’t think it’ll blend in with traffic anymore. Also German taxi yellow is a rather unusual shade of beige to foreign eyes.

    • Kiefmo

      That’s about the color of my Benzo.

  • Andrew_the S2kBore

    No. Buy cars for what they do better than others. If you want a comfortable cruiser, buy the most revoltingly opulent land yacht you can find. If you want straight line speed, buy the biggest V8 your budget will stretch to. The only reason to buy beige is if you don’t know or care about cars, nor wish to, and want something that will barely register in your conscious thought processes, even while driving.
    Unfortunately, humans have a long history of willful obliviousness, so it’s likely that Camry sales will continue unabated.
    (This topic is timely; I’ve been stuck with a rental Kia Optima for weeks now and it fills every fiber of my being with deepest loathing for its offensive blandness)

    • Kiefmo

      Sometimes what you need is a good all-arounder, and sometimes even the best all-arounder that you can afford is beige.

      Would I rather have a Mercedes G-wagen? Yeah, but we only had used Pilot money.

      • Andrew_theS2kBore

        Fair point, although given the requirements set you list below, I’d posit that you needed a six-seat vehicle of moderate offroad ability, rather than the more general all-rounder, and that is a very small range of choices: beige (Pilot, 4runner, Tahoe) or uncomfortable and cripplingly expensive (G-wagen, H1)

        • Kiefmo

          And we have the Pilot. Mostly because it’s my wife’s DD and she feels most comfortable with Hondas.

  • I have a car in my driveway that was built over a million times (beige factor +1) with a modest 2L Diesel (beige +1), they’re mostly in commercial leasing fleets (beige factor +1) and impress with their inconspicuousness despite their size (another +1).
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0c/OPEL-VAUX-VIVARO-A.jpg

    • P161911

      You have the European version of my 2011 Chevrolet Silverado Work Truck. Millions made, modest 4.3L V-6, mostly commercial/fleet sales, completely innocuous. The only thing different about mine is that I got a black one, so that the poverty spec black bumpers and grill would sort of look like the high end color match bumpers and grill.

  • Kiefmo

    Eh, we have a grey Pilot, so yeah — beige has a place in my driveway.

    We wanted reliability/longevity, three rows of seating, the ability to tow a camper, and 4WD so we can hit some rougher dirt roads that might have stopped the Odyssey that was the Pilot’s predecessor. We’ve already managed one of those dirt roads outside of Ouray, Colorado during the spring snow melt. The ground was slick with mud in some places and icy in others, and the Pilot wears all season Michelins, but never missed a beat. The VTM-4 system works, and works well. How many other crossover systems allow the rear axle to be fully locked?

  • Alff

    There are presently a mid-aughts Taurus and Stratus in the fleet, so clearly I’m willing to embrace the beige. These are the kids’ cars but I have no problem grabbing the keys, especially when I want the anonymity and comfortable driving dynamics not afforded by some of my other vehicles.

  • crank_case

    Bland cars have a place, you get to a point in life where it’s nice to have a car in your driveway that takes zero mental energy / time or unexpected expense. I sort of learned that lesson after having to replace our faultless early 00s Accord (UK version) with a cheap Volvo S80. To be honest, if I’d time, I might have been able to sort it out (at multiples of the purchase price in parts alone), but I realized I didn’t have time or inclination to be fixing up a car my wife needed daily and still devote any attention whatsoever to my Eunos Roadster (Miata). Hence we bought ourselves an ex-demo Mazda 2 and never regretted it.

    At least the 2 has some character though, I don’t quite get people dropping lots of cash new on a middling saloon though, it’s not fun (even if pokey), it’s not even particularly useful like an MPV/Minivan that you can shove people and home appliances into.

    • wunno sev

      this is what really gets me. there’s good, reliable cars out there that aren’t bland and beige. if there’s one thing i can’t stand it’s indifference; why anyone would buy a Camry instead of an Accord is beyond me.

      or would have bought, a few years ago. there are now different reasons for buying an Accord instead of a Camry.

  • Sjalabais

    In my mind, beige = silver. Our two cars are extremely beige in that sense, an actual Camry and a Honda that looks like a silver egg trying not to be seen. Yet, they’re only beige on the surface, being very rare cars in my neck of the woods, they actually make car guys react. But nobody else does. So it might be stealth beige in another sense than above? In any case, I bought them for low running cost and trouble free ownership while we have small kids. The trouble-o-meter is thus constantly pegged by something else than cars. Beige it is.

  • Smaglik

    I have a beige X3. I wanted a manual. Choices were limited in the used market. History and maintenance is more important then color to me. Hence, beige.

    They call it Platinum Bronze Metallic, but, it’s beige

    • I have a car in humble “Light Bronze”, but ask any athlete, it’s “Actually Gold”. The title says “Brown” since they don’t distinguish metallic tones.

  • caltemus

    I just bought a bland Mitsubishi Lancer because it’s way newer and more reliable than my ‘interesting’ cars. I don’t love the thing but the anonymity and lack of having to worry about stupid little things breaking has been nice

  • Papa Van Twee

    I have a 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer ES. It is bone stock. It is in white. Take the badges off this thing, and nobody will be able to guess what it is. I don’t think you can get more beige than a nondescript white car.

    • Sjalabais

      I almost bought an ’06 wagon a couple of years ago. They were way cheaper than anything else used in its class, bar Lada, Fiat and Seat.
      http://www.carfolio.com/images/dbimages/zgas/models/id/12100/2005_evo_wagon_2.jpg
      I’m also a huge fan of its straight looks.

      • Papa Van Twee

        I could have bought other cars, but in my price range (<$2800 in this case) most were fixer uppers. This one wound up being in the best shape, with lower miles. Not to mention I've had good history with Mitsubishi ('83 Plymouth Sapporo and '94 Dodge Colt). I've had more boring cars ('06 Aveo, also in white). But this has to be the best boring car I've ever owned.

  • Fred Talmadge

    I had a Mitsubishi Mighty Max truck in Fargo brown. Living on a dirt road it was always dirty, but I never noticed it until the day I washed it.

  • tonyola

    I drove a 1994 Buick LeSabre for a number of years after Mom gave it to me in 2008 several months before her passing. The car was new-looking and had only 25K on the odometer. It was going to be my only wheels after my 1990 Civic had worn out with 250K+ miles. After 25 years of zooming around in stickshift Hondas, I expected to hate the Buick. You know what? I learned to like it. It was smooth, quiet, and cloud-like on the interstate. I got surprisingly good fuel economy – 30 mpg at a steady 60. It was fairly reliable and parts were pretty easy to find. While the suspension was quite soft and the car didn’t really like being pushed hard, it would stick to the road in the corners. Not to mention it was all but invisible to cops. All in all, a roomy, comfortable, old-skool-type cruiser. Here in Miami I had quite a few younger males asking about it. Sadly, the Buick had to go a couple of years back because the transmission and engine computer needed replacing and I couldn’t afford it. I could learn to live with another blandmobile like a Toyota Avalon – after all, I’m approaching the right age group. 🙂

    Although the pictured car is not mine, it’s pretty much identical except my car had whitewalls and the delightfully cheesy fake wire wheel covers. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7af299a76389669981b2c6f00de8ae3e48595457ef04f1fa70d6da324c313094.jpg

    • hwyengr

      Same. I got my grandmother’s ’97 Grand Marquis with 46 kilomiles on it at the same time my commute went from public transit to a 60-mile round trip. I love that thing.
      http://i.imgur.com/vvnjB65l.jpg

    • Papa Van Twee

      I had not one, but two Olds 88s (both ’94s). Ran great, actually got good mileage for the size, blended into the background like nobody’s business. Stereos were good. Handling was great for the highway.

      I crashed the first one because I was following a little close on the highway, but also that the brakes were not all that great. The bumper also submarined the guy in front of me. The second got sideswiped while sitting in a parking lot, damaging the rear fender. Which was connected to the roof, so not easily replaced.

    • Rover 1

      I read an article in an old Car & Driver magazine on getting away with speeding. Briefly stated, a beige or silver plain model sedan, of the type favoured by old people would fly right past watching patrols who would be watching for sporty cars. A truism that had left Corvettes and Ferraris being ‘sad but amusing moving chicanes’.

      • tonyola

        Some years ago a co-worker used to speed around in an old Chevy Nova sedan kind of like the pictured car. He never got a second look from the police. Then he bought a new bright red Mazda RX7. His bombing around in the same way as the old car resulting in an impressive collection of speeding tickets. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6d625b83bacbb49fa3de4230e6cff6a6f453b4d24f07d5e6ea78241b8f424e1f.jpg

        • Rover 1

          I was once racing a Mazda RX3 in my Rover P6,( slightly modified of course). We passed a cop who chased after us, ignored me and pulled over the orange RX3. My current stealth car of choice is a faded silver painted W124 300E-24

  • discontinuuity

    I had an ’04 KIA Spectra for a couple years, and it was the very definition of a vehicular appliance. It got decent mileage, was comfortable, reliable, and practical. But the chassis dynamics left much to be desired, the engine was reluctant to rev above 4k rpm, the body and paint started to degrade with dents and rust rather quickly, and the dashboard started to crack apart after only about 120k miles. The best part of it was a surprisingly precise shifter mechanism on the manual transmission.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b6/Kia_Spectra_–_07-09-2009.jpg/1920px-Kia_Spectra_–_07-09-2009.jpg

    • Sjalabais

      After having crashed her third Twingo, my mom got a new Kia Shuma exactly like this:
      https://naijadriva.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/kia_shuma_ii_rear.jpg
      It was an ok car, pretty good on the road actually, but at the time I convinced three fathers of good friends and of my girl-friend to buy Volvos. Whenever I borrowed a V40, the then lowly, half-Mitsubishi-Volvo frowned upon by hardcore fans, going back to the Kia felt like operating agricultural equipment. Just the noise level was ridiculous. When my mother passed away, I had a ’77 Volvo 242 that felt superior and despite being ready for the scrapper, it was worth more than the Kia. Really bad to hold its value, we basically gave it away to a dealer who didn’t want to have it.

  • Zentropy

    Given your example as a case in point, I’d much rather drive the BRZ than a V6 Camry, even if I lose every stoplight sprint. No real driver prioritizes magazine 0-60 times over actual driving dynamics. Speed is relative. Feedback is everything. I’ve never judged my ride against anything but the total sum of its performance, with “connection to the driver” ranking before everything else. Even if it is beige.

  • SlowJoeCrow

    Beige as a color is fine on the right car but I don’t like “beige” as an aesthetic. You can build interesting cars that are still reliable and economical, this the whole difference between a Mazda and a Toyota. Our recently departed Saturn SL2 was an edge case with it’s transportation appliance design and near beige color relieved by decent handling and acceleration so it was actually fun to drive.
    The current fleet sits at opposite extremes with a Soul Red Mazda CX-5 that is the least “beige” vehicle in its market segment, and a white 2003 Buick Le Sabre my son just bought.

  • cap’n fast

    So, yeah. blend in. shaped like a large pumpkin seed like all the cars around you. bland, unintrusive color like what? White? that works. automatic everything in it. plush but supportive seats front and rear. OK. cheap? trade used motorcycle for it. check. make such modifications to air suspension to make it liveable, fluids changed, truetrack diff, 3.73 gear set, four wheel alignment. getting there. very good Kenwood deck to replace ancient JBL unit and new speakers. next is a new headliner. ’98 Mark VIII. cheap insurance and plates, I call it “Sluggo”.