Spannerhead Dot

Enjoy Spannerhead? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook!

The Psychology of Car Colour

February 26, 2014 by Our Sponsors


When it comes to buying a car, the decision-making process is often a lengthy and sometimes convoluted one. For anyone deciding between manufacturers, models and engine specs, the options have a nasty habit of growing in size instead of reducing. Selecting the colour you’d like your vehicle to be can dramatically aid you in your choice of car – particularly if you’re shopping in the used car market. Once one factor is taken care of, you can concentrate on other elements you need your motor to comprise.

The colour of your car might initially seem like the easiest aspect to decide upon, but how much does the colour of your car actually say about you? According to a survey conducted by Trusted Dealers, the psychology behind your choice of car colour can speak a thousand words – and we’re seemingly just as judgemental when it comes to the colour of other people’s cars, too.

Half of us reckon that there’s a relationship between irresponsible driving and car colour, with a fifth of us pegging owners of red cars as the culprits – and apparently, this perceived recklessness only increases with age. Gone are the days where boy racers seek out a red car, as only 15 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds agreed with the idea that drivers of red cars are more careless. Compare this with the statistic that shows a quarter of over 55-year-olds reckon there is a correlation, and you’ve got an interesting show of the generation gap between car owners.

Neil Addley, MD of the used-car site Trusted Dealers has commented on how curious this notion is, saying: “Older people have seen enough trends come and go to develop a stronger association with different car colours, and their response in this survey has given us a fascinating glimpse into the cultural impact that car colour can have on the industry as a whole.”

The poll’s results indicate that the colour pink would be avoided entirely when looking at making a vehicle purchase, even though the association between pink and recklessness is seemingly non-existent.

Black cars took second place on the grid when it comes to association with reckless driving, with 17 per cent of survey respondents making the connection. Addley commented: “There’s no correlation between reckless driving and car colour that we know of, but the fact that people hold these emotional associations shows that there’s a real connection in the way different cars are perceived – whether that’s through the media or elsewhere.”

1 Comment

One More Year:
4th-Gen Mazda Miata to Bow in 2015

February 19, 2014 by Matt

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Concept Rendering White

Autoblog reports enthusiasts pining for a long-overdue fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata will have to stick it out for one more year.

Fortunately, there are three big upsides to such a long wait:

  1. The automaker’s recent product offerings have been roundly praised in top-flight publications, giving the company a fair bit of brand momentum.
  2. The introduction of the Toyota/Subaru 86 twins presents a fresh challenge to the Miata’s market segment. Nothing like a little healthy competition to sharpen the mind and re-focus development.
  3. Mazda’s achingly lovely Kodo design language—as seen on the new CX-5, 6, and 3—has firmly supplanted the old, unlamented smiley-face theme, and the new version of Mazda’s iconic roadster will reap the benefits, eschewing the cartoon-y grin for an altogether more sophisticated look.

Regarding that last one, according to the Autoblog article, a Mazda insider has pegged it as “our best-looking car ever.” Frankly, I really wish they wouldn’t. Not only is that a mighty tall order with a car like Mazda’s nail-bitingly sexy 3rd generation RX-7 in the history books, the automaker should learn from its mistakes and let the car’s looks speak for themselves. To whit: During an initial review of the awkward, fussy (though dynamically excellent) RX-8, Patrick Hong of Road & Track embarrassed himself with a bit of effusive hyperbole by declaring it “perhaps the prettiest looking car to come out of Japan—ever.” Err…no. And on the powerplant front, Mazda was forced to offer to buy back early production cars after independent dyno tests found the Renesis rotary engine producing 12-odd horsepower less than its advertised output. Whoops.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Concept Rendering Blue

The lesson in all of this? Under-promise and over-deliver. Mazda already has with a trifecta of excellent models (the aforementioned CX-5, 6 and 3); here’s hoping the new MX-5 makes it four.

Editor’s note: The images gleaned for this article are concept renderings produced by automotive publications and may or may not reflect Mazda’s actual design.

Image credits:,


2015 Ford Mustang:
The Only Question that Matters

January 15, 2014 by Matt

2015 Ford Mustang GT Red

Is it cool?

No, really. Forget horsepower numbers, quarter mile trap speeds and lap times (especially Nürburgring ones); the only real question Ford’s development team should have concerned themselves with during the car’s gestation should have been: “How can we redesign this car and still keep it cool?”

To their immense credit, it looks like that question was affixed prominently atop the dry erase board in the conference room, because the 2015 ‘Stang exudes coolness in spades.

That’s really been the key to the Mustang’s enduring popularity in spite of periods of abysmal performance, hideous design choices and suspect quality control. Chevy fans scratching their heads, wondering why the often superior on paper Camaro has always nipped at the Mustang’s heels sales-wise have their answer. Young or old, rich or poor, it’s always been nearly impossible to drive a Mustang and appear—or at least feel—uncool. Sure, the Camaro, Firebird or whatever Dodge muscle car happened to be on sale that week may have been cooler to particular subsets of the buying public for limited periods of time, but arguably no automobile has maintained a durable coolness in the eyes of the general public more effectively than the Mustang. With occasional peaks and dips, capturing that intangible year after year amounts to something of a miracle given the average American consumer’s obsession with the new.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Red

I don’t want to minimize the significance of developments like the long-overdue transition to independent rear suspension or the reintroduction of the turbocharged 4-cylinder to the engine lineup (the latter would have been much more contentious if the ’80s SVO hadn’t blazed a trail), but I think we can call the new Mustang a success even before its first road test or lap time. A casual glance at its proportions, detailing and overall image confirms its coolness is intact. Kudos to the powers-that-be at Ford.

Image credits:


On Losing a Car

December 30, 2013 by Matt

BMW E34 540i 540 1995 Gray Grey Arctic Gray Arktisgrau

I sold the BMW a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s what I wrote about it in the immediate aftermath:

I’m gutted, to tell you the truth. I’ve had twinges of regret seeing cars drive away, and I don’t know if this was the worst, but it’s up there. The car was my little piece of home when first started the job out here in Tennessee, and took me over the mountains with absolutely no complaints at least 20 times. That and my familiarity with the E34 platform, watching it drive away was almost like watching that body of knowledge disappear, even though it doesn’t, but that’s something of value, you know?

The idea that I would be able to avail myself of my awareness of the ins and outs of the BMW E34 was a primary reason why the transition from my old 1995 525i to my (now sold) 540i was so relatively painless. Despite the much larger engine of the latter, the two cars’ chassis are 95% similar, and the knowledge I had accrued wouldn’t go to waste. If there’s anything that circumscribes the way I see the world, it’s a sense of purpose, and it causes me a certain amount of cognitive dissonance to possess knowledge and yet but unable to use it. Knowledge for its own sake is fine and good to a certain degree, but its inescapable value is what provokes such an acute sense of loss when a car, an activity, an area, a friendship or any number of things is suddenly gone. It could be argued many car enthusiasts feel this way, and linger around message boards long after they’ve sold their pride and joy as a way of “exercising” that knowledge, as it were. I have a feeling I’m not alone.

Anyway, what did I replace it with? Behold, my new daily driver:

1999 Ford F150 Green

Yep. I’m a Ford truck owner. Sure, it’s a step down in the enthusiast department, but let’s consider the facts:

  1. The roads around Chattanooga are terrible. No, they don’t have car-swallowing potholes like the roads in Michigan, but the BMW still took a beating every day on the way to and from work.
  2. My commute is 25 minutes of stoplights and stop-and-go traffic. The car hated it, as did I. My old commute was 20 minutes of highway mileage where the car at least had an opportunity to stretch its legs. As it was, it felt like the 540i was suffocating.
  3. It was a distraction. My 240Z restoration was languishing and all my thoughts re:car improvements and repairs tended toward the BMW to the exclusion of the Datsun. The truck greatly reduces that temptation. Frankly, I don’t care about it as much. It’s a truck, a workhorse; it’s going to get beat up and I’m fine with that. Done. Next.
  4. I needed some way to get the 240Z here from our old house in North Carolina. The F150 provided that way, and allowed me to transport the rest of our items in storage besides. The Z is presently warm and dry in the garage here in Tennessee.
  5. I bought the truck for less than I sold the BMW for, and the difference was put to good use around the holidays.
  6. The BMW never set my hair on fire. It was an extraordinarily nice car, quick, easy to work and well put-together, but as far as I was concerned it always lacked that special something. It just wasn’t me. If I’m honest, it was a compromise choice at best.
  7. I want to lay a foundation for future car endeavors. With the truck in the driveway, not only do I not have to worry about how I would get a prospective long-distance purchase home (drive the truck and tow it), the logistics of a great number of other matters are simplified. And I don’t have to maintain the same kinds of practical criteria when considering future project cars; the sky’s the limit now that we have another vehicle with a back seat, an automatic transmission and the capacity to haul lots of stuff. It’s liberating.

Considered in light of the above, buying the truck is quite possibly one of the more rational car purchase I’ve made, and I’ve not made many. It’s in very good shape and drives quite well. I really can’t complain.


Supercar + Herbie = Porsche 918?

August 7, 2013 by Matt

Porsche 918 and Herbie Love Bug VW Beetle

So…I’m a little confused.

You’re Porsche. You have a brand-spanking-new supercar stuffed to the gills with the very latest electronic trickery and a bleeding-edge hybrid powertrain. You’re charging the few lucky buyers somewhere north of $800K to drive one home. And…you tart up the unpainted exterior with flame decals and plain round number stickers that look like they belong on your neighbor’s 16-year-old son’s dented Accord?

I don’t get it.

Furthermore: The panel gaps. They’re huge. I could insert my finger in the space between the fender and bumper. I understand your fancy new range-topper is made of carbon fiber and Inconel and other difficult-to-work-with materials, but you’re such a famously exacting, perfectionist automaker and the price of admission is so outrageous that the fact that parts of it look worse than a rebodied Fiero is, well, shocking.

Here’s what your new supercar should have looked like:

Porsche 918 RSR Concept

You drew that, remember? It’s your 918 RSR concept. You penned that tidy, aggressive, cohesive shape, complete with nods to your extensive racing pedigree and a few details that hint at the technological sophistication under the sultry contours of the bodywork. It’s racy, it’s beautiful, it’s…not tacky. It’s one of the best-looking cars you’ve ever envisioned. I wish I could say the same about what actually rolled through the factory doors.

Scratching my head here, Porsche.

Image credits:,,


Styling Misfires:
The BMW 5-Series Gran Turismo

August 5, 2013 by Matt

BMW 5-Series GT Gran Turismo

What on earth, BMW?

So the Mercedes CLS had already established the “4-door coupe” niche in massive fashion a few years before, and BMW’s response was…this? Either the Bavarian automaker’s market research had somehow shown car shoppers were hungry for a quasi-backpack-toting, deformed version of their handsome 5-series sedan, or the “attractive” part of the 4-door coupe equation was totally lost. It seems BMW thought the awkward grafting of a hatchback onto a typically well-proportioned shape would exploit an unexplored corner of the market, but it’s difficult to imagine who would gravitate toward such a stunted shape.

BMW 5-Series GT Gran Turismo

In a way, the 5-Series GT represents the most cynical demonstration yet of its manufacturer trying to coast on brand capital alone. Sure, it might drive well enough, and with the 400-hp, 4.4l twin-turbo V8, the 550i specification can certainly move along at a decent clip, but what about the 5-Series GT, above all else, communicates “Ultimate Driving Machine?” Precious little, and it’s that slogan and mindset that established the BMW brand in the public eye as the premier choice of driving enthusiasts, and by extension those who wanted to convey an impression (real or no) that they appreciate sharp-driving cars. Sadly, with experiments like the 5-Series GT (among others), the focus that made BMW’s reputation is slowly being chipped away. The open question is how long the brand’s luster can remain untarnished with the general buying public after the enthusiast community has moved on to greener pastures.

Image credits:

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series wherein we discuss unsuccessful cars whose styling was their overlooked (or denied) Achilles heel. Read the other installments here:


More Insight Into Mazda’s Prospects

July 30, 2013 by Matt

2014 Mazda 3 Red

In a recent feature, Car and Driver provides some analysis of an issue that provoked some pondering a little over a year ago: Why, in spite of a stellar lineup of cars, does Mazda still struggle to find lasting success compared to its rivals?

In my post, I speculated:

[A] glance at Mazda’s output—the 3, 6, RX-8, MX-5, CX-7, CX-9 and Tribute, among others—reveals vehicles that are almost always a joy to drive, but in terms of mass-market appeal, are a little out-of-step with mainstream tastes. They’re not boring transportation appliances, and as much as we enthusiasts would consider that a selling point, the hard truth is that much of the buying public is looking for the anonymous beige box to tote them around, never breaking down and getting 30 mpg and playing their MP3s via Bluetooth.

And while I’ve no doubt that’s part of the problem, C&D shines light on some additional albatrosses around Mazda’s neck, among them a temporarily favorable yen-to-dollar exchange rate putting the automaker in a precarious position from a pricing standpoint, vehicles that are well-sized for the American market but not ideal from a global perspective and a separation from corporate partner Ford that eliminates economies of scale facilitated by platform engineering.

By my count, between them, the CX-5 and 6 have three C&D comparo wins and the CX-5 notched another victory in the latest issue of Motor Trend. That kind of success in such a short span of time is absolutely unheard of for automakers other than media darlings like BMW and Audi, and contributes to the feeling of mystification among car buffs. We ask ourselves: “If the German performance marques leverage critical success into sales figures, why can’t Mazda?” But as C&D points out, the equation for a downmarket (though no less dynamically excellent) automaker is a bit more…nuanced.

Image credit: