Home » The Audi 50 Is Color, And Color Is The Audi 50: Cold Start

The Audi 50 Is Color, And Color Is The Audi 50: Cold Start

Cs Audi50colors

You may think that I’m showing you this dazzling dozen of colors as a way for me to kvetch yet again about how glorious and open and free automotive colors were in the past and how they’re a muddy grayscale jury duty of mundanity now. But I’m not. I’m going to make another point about color and cars, a much more specific one, and one I’m not really sure I’ve entirely formulated in my head yet. The point is that the Audi 50 needs to be in a notable, distinctive color for it to be an Audi 50, at least to me. Color is a key part of the Audi 50ness to me, and that’s that.

Cs Audi50yellow

Let’s talk about the little Audi 50 a bit here; it’s better known as the Volkswagen Polo Mk1, which it was re-badged as six months after its introduction, but I prefer the slightly more refined Audi version. The design is very much like a smaller Golf, but it feels like that famous ItalDesign Golf has been filtered and distilled down to its absolute fundamental essence, and it works better as a result.

It’s taughter and leaner and crisper than the Golf, and the front end is ever so slightly raked forward, making it more purposeful and active. There’s that funny round air-extraction vent on the C-pillar, the only circular bit save for the headlights and wheels. There’s nothing wasted here. It’s like a greyhound, a sheath of skin stretched over the stuff that makes it go.

And, it just works best in bright colors.

Cs Audi50int

The interior was kind of stylish, too, in its own unfussy way. But my attraction to the 50 isn’t about the inside. It’s one of the few cars I like best at distance, in quantity, scattered about in a variety of colors like a handful of flung, sharp-cornered Skittles. It’s kind of a confusing affection, but aren’t those the best kind, really? The ones that defy explanation, that grip you and hold you and you can’t really express why or how, but you know that if you didn’t feel that peculiar clutch, you’d miss it terribly?

That’s what I think about the Audi 50s and color. So there.

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31 Responses

  1. I dig the weird colors too. Personally, I prefer the VW to the Audi but I agree that on a car like this you need a fun color, I’m partial to any bright yellow.

  2. I miss colors on cars. Dodge is the only one I can think of still doing anything like that color pallet. The Mustang comes close, but they aren’t anywhere near as bright or vivid as Dodge.

    1. You’ll notice that Subaru has some bright colors, and some manufacturers are offering brighter colors on their budget cars to make them more interesting. Chevy has a Mystic Blue on the Spark, and Ford sells a lovely tangerine orange-yellow. I can’t remember the Korean cars with the bright colors. I think it’s a great marketing strategy!

      For all of those people who think their Ferrari should always be red, see the following color options offered in the 70’s and early 80’s.

      They sold all of those colors, as well. I have an image from a Ferrari factory from the 70’s and there were very few reds in the mix of colorful cars!

      Bring back the colors!!!

    2. I miss non-metallic bright colors. 1970’s SAABs and Volvos had some delightful shades available and some lovably bad colors. I believe 90% of all Volvo 240s in New England are either non-metallic baby blue or nude pantyhose beige.

  3. That dash is minimalist perfection. Not “this is a cheap car and this is all you get.” Not a Tesla with a tablet glued onto a featureless slab. This is stylish and artistic.

    1. You beat me to it! Couldn’t agree more.

      And that distinctive Teutonic Bauhaus feel really comes through…if you showed someone on the street (those people Jason is always running up to & sweatily grabbing) just that interior shot, they’d immediately say “German car.”

  4. The interiors of this generation of German luxury cars really make me happy. They have this Corbusier-like understanding that they’re fundamentally machines for driving, as opposed to the Anglo-American ethos of them being basically nice living rooms that happen to be mobile.

    1. Jack, your comment really spoke to me, this would be COTD if I had my choice. I recently picked up a 72 BMW Bavaria (debuted in 68) and a 73 Jag XJ6 (also debuted in 68), both of them non-runing project cars for the moment, both have an inline 6/manual trans/rwd, independent suspension, and 4 wheel disc.

      The jag interior is what I have always expected, very plush and couch-like, with “classic” construction methods, natural materials, and switchgear/gauges that almost looked aeronautic.

      The Bavaria interior tho? It’s just so unexpected. In modern BMWs, they try to coddle you in luxury materials/gadgets/very refined but complex forms, but the Bavaria has absolutely none of that. I couldn’t even really put my finger on how it felt to be sitting in it, other than “this is Bauhaus AF”. Everything is minimal, modern, and instead of natural materials, it’s gleaming stainless steel, heatpressed vinyl, and simplified forms/shapes. Even the font used on the gauges has a bauhaus feel. But you NAILED it with that Corbusier reference, and an aesthetic that is surprisingly absent from current production cars, from any brand, which is a real shame.

      For one brief afternoon, I had both of them in my driveway parked side-by-side, and I thought it was interesting enough that I shot a video about it here: https://youtu.be/G9UqliuIqcc

      Figured you’d appreciate it!

      1. Your video made my afternoon and honestly, I couldn’t choose which one myself if it were up to me…I keep going back and forth. Should TOTALLY be a shitbox showdown battle, as I’ve love to hear the commentariat’s musings about two cars so similar chronologically but different in their respective ethos.

        What I find fascinating is that they both attempt to evoke their country’s version of “sporting” – your aeronautic reference nails it for the Jag, while the BMW evokes mountain roads and precision skiing. They’re like James Hunt and Nikki Lauda in car form.

        BTW thank you for explaining the Jaguar dual gas tank thing. I grew up seeing those twin chromed bumps (just like that engine, around forever) but never knew what they were for. I just figured something pre-war b/c you know, Jaguar.

  5. I wonder if we can return cars to being colorful by some “deep state” sort of machinations revolving around safety and visibility. Like, start small and pay off state university researchers to publish studies on automobile color and driver awareness, then hype those studies in the uncritical popular science blogs, hopefully leading to the local news affiliates latching onto a “Gray cars are maiming and killing your children and family pets!” angle. Then, once everyone was talking about monochromatic deathmobiles, there’d need to be a Ralph Naderesque public official willing to throw away whatever political ambitions they currently have in favor of becoming a paint martyr.

    The thing is, I’m convinced you wouldn’t even have to fudge the science on it. I switched over from driving my yellow 1976 Benz to a gray Subaru beater a few weeks ago, and the number of other drivers who’re now cutting me off out of inattentiveness has increased exponentially in that time, and something tells me that’s a universal phenomenon.

    My only reservation is that the auto industry would have to be held to a certain legislated ratio of colors so that variety increases each cars perceived uniqueness and stands out on the road as determined by research, but if the government has to put its boot down on someone’s neck then certainly there are worse victims than car companies.

    1. This is the government who is trying to raise the hoods on cars for ‘pedestrian safety’, when some trucks are too tall to see pedestrians under that massive sheet of metal!

      They have already made a,b, and c pillars so thick to fit airbags and handle roof-drop tests. I don’t think visibility is a priority. I support the idea if you can make it work.

    2. Am I the only one who drives a black car because the Commonwealth and I have had disagreements about how fast I can drive absolutely safely, and I just need to lie low for a while?

    3. One would hope but I drive a traffic cone orange jeep wrangler 4-door and I get cut off all the time by people that do not see me. People are just worse drivers than we would hope.

  6. We had a bright yellow VW Dasher (or, Passat in Europe) and the minimalist yet fully functional dash was great – as was the yellow color, of course. I also miss the red glow of the instruments, something only Passats/Dashers had?

    1. My parents would buy interesting paint colors whenever they could, which made it easier to feel like that car was “ours”. It was the only one like it in any parking lot!

  7. Well, now that the paid/not paid thing is sorted…..

    I absolutely agree that these cars looked great – and in part because they had great paint colors. They also had great interior colors – not just black or grey.

    Audi in particular would give you light blue, light green, beige, red, copper, or grey interior seats – in cloth that seemed to wear like iron but was super comfortable, especially in winter.

      1. They’re talking about a membership. This was in the “Let’s Chat” article from Friday. Membership would get you extra access to cool stuff, but to my understanding this is NOT becoming a pay site. Articles & comments will remain free. You should read the article.

        1. Slate did this with Slate+. Initially they claimed that it would get you access to additional articles, but would not impact the existing content. Years later it’s all walled off. You can read a few articles a month, but I stopped visiting.

          1. I follow a news site with a similar culture to this one for a different interest and a few years ago they announced they were going paid subscription. This coincided with them being bought by a large media company. They ended up pretty much not changing anything because there would have been riots and their paid sister site went out of business. So I’m not too worried about it given the similarities in culture.

            As an aside: they have a map tool and the app that lets you access the CROWD-SOURCED data went paid (was free for years) which seemed unethical. Absolutely hate when features that are free go paid. Fine with adding paid features though.

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