VIDEO: Mazda’s History of Red

Even though I own a red car, in most cases I don’t like the color. It’s loud, hides the taillight design, and generally makes it seem as if the car is trying to compensate for something, whether it’s speed or exoticness. Also, as a BASF chemical engineer once told me, there the pigment itself is particularly sensitive to ultraviolet light, which is why most older red cars end up fading into pink. There are exceptions of course, and on the proper car red can look stunning. Mazda has adopted Soul Red as its trademark color and despite everything I wrote above, I kind of dig it. 

That’s because Soul Red is not simply the red in the Crayola 8-pack. It’s deep and has a crystal sheen that reflects hints of blue when under the right light. In fact, from Ceramic to Reflex Blue, Mazda has somehow managed to invent new takes on the traditional automotive palette. That’s not easy to do, especially when these colors have been around for ages.

Of course, the fact that we have red Japanese cars at all is all thanks to Soichiro Honda.

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11 Responses to VIDEO: Mazda’s History of Red

  1. Mike said:

    I would love to read a translation of Soichiro-san’s editorial that lambasted MITI for its ban on red cars. Google did not turn up anything. Anybody have a link? Perhaps someone at JNC can come up with something?

    • MikeRL411 said:

      When I was in Japan in the early 60s, civilian cars were forbidden to be painted White [reserved for police cars], Red [reserved for fire trucks and cars] and Olive Drab [reserved for military vehicles].

  2. Ant said:

    Red is also an incredibly difficult colour to photograph well or reproduce in print. Our eyes seem much better at appreciating it than camera sensors – and the weirdness with reproduction is why Ferrari uses such an orangey shade of red on its Grand Prix cars, so it had the right shade on TV.

    Soul Red has to be one of the best colours available on production cars right now – it’s closer to something you’d see on the custom scene. Might just be pipped by Alfa Romeo’s Rosso Competizione though, which is an even deeper, more liquidy shade. Not sure whether it’s still available (though Alfa does some other stunning colours too), but it’s a pretty special shade.

    • MikeRL411 said:

      I watched a recent NHK International “Samurai Wheels” program centered on Mazda. They went into the Soul Red color. It is actually applied by robotic painters programmed after the technique of their best human painter and is a series of incredibly thin layers. Good luck at matching that at a body shop after an accident!

  3. SHC said:

    I was unable to find any of Mr. Honda-san’s letters to the Ministry, but I found this lengthy article which details the background surrounding his color choice.

    http://world.honda.com/history/challenge/1962autoproduction/page04.html

  4. Randy said:

    That Soul Red is a REALLY sharp shade; a friend has it on her 3. I’d probably still go with the red on that Cosmo… It really depends on the vehicle, and SOMETIMES, on something where you’d think it’s a bad idea – think BRIGHT red on a mid-’70s Cadillac, except that I’ve had 5 cars over the years in SOME shade of red – “Black Cherry Pearl,” a Cranberry shade, “Bright Red” (really a medium red…), “Baron Red,” and some medium red metallic (repaint).

    Soul Red is a tri-coat paint (“3ct”). (I *LOVE* auto color library!)

    New paints seem to all be base/clear; even solid black and solid white.

    For the reds, the upside is that they shouldn’t fade to pink, but the downside for all paints, is that once the clear coat fails, it’s ugly… Dealing with trying to do something with a failed clear on a car right now. (Trying to build up a “replica” clear coat.)

    With the older, single-stage paints – yes, especially red – if it hasn’t started falling off the vehicle, you can get it for less $$$, ’cause “it’s all faded, and will need repainted,” then for less than $100, and a weekend’s worth of work, you can make it pretty sharp again. (Hint: M07 + polish + good wax or sealant, for those that don’t know.)

    What I *THINK* is a tipoff to soon-to-fail clear coat on a given panel, is that waxes/sealants just WILL. NOT. LAST. on them.

  5. j_tso said:

    I always thought it was blue since “Mazda” in the logo is usually that and a lot of their racing cars are.

  6. MikeRL411 said:

    This does not enter into the discussion, but having said that, Medieval stained glass window fabricators [and early rear light glass lens fabricators] discovered that the only red pigment that did not fade was colloidal Gold! Think about that when your rear stop light [especially add ons] fades to weak pink.

    • Randy said:

      That’s actually interesting! See, the internet’s not ALL crap; just MOSTLY! 🙂

      Colloidal gold is supposed to be good for one’s health, too, though I don’t know dosages…

      Now I gotta go look it up…

      So here’s question, then: What’s different about headlight plastic and tail light plastic – other than the tint – that allows the headlight lenses to fog up, whereas tail lights don’t?

  7. speedie said:

    I agree Soul Red is a great color, but my favorite is one of its predecessors Velocity Red Mica, which covers my 2010 RX-8.

    • Randy said:

      Was that that REALLY metal-flakey red? If so, I remember it! I don’t think there are too many vehicles it WOULDN’T look good on.

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