[Editor: This article is reprinted from the 356 Registry magazine, Vol. 21 No. 3 Sep / Oct 1997]
There is probably nothing more subjective than the color of your Porsche. Our purpose here is not to recount the emotional feelings about colors, but rather to note some facts about colors and their effect on the value of your car.
Do certain colors hurt the value of my 356?
The color which universally seems to hurt is Togo Brown. I have seen some gorgeous Togo Brown 356's sit for months unsold, even when priced way below similar cars in any other color. No other color has quite the same negative effect on value.
Should I change from the Kardex color?
In general, the answer is no. You will usually maximize the value of your car by painting it the original color (except for brown). However, the new PCA restoration rules have defined an entire concours class where the Kardex is not viewed, so a new attitude about picking a color different from the Kardex may be developing.
What color to repaint my car?
If you do decide to change the color, it should be an original 356 color for the year of your car. The new PCA concours class does judge the correctness of the car and engine against the available options in the year of production. If you paint the car a color not available in the year of production, you will almost always lose value. The colors for your year are listed in the back of Brett Johnson's book and Stoddard has color charts for some B's and C's. Note however, that these rules do not apply to race cars, which can be painted almost any color.
Do any original colors enhance the value of my 356?
Well, two colors seem to have a special value to some 356 buyers: silver and black. I have often seen these colors bring a premium.
Which colors were used the most?
Exact data are hard to find, but the best guesses are the shades of Ivory / Light Ivory and both the later reds, Signal and Ruby. These are colors which do not seem to have any particular value effect, either positive or negative. In other words, most people find these good colors for the 356. The reason these colors were used the most is unclear. One theory is that many 356's were built for dealer stock, and dealers found either Ivory or Red to be easiest to sell off the showroom floor.
Why are some of the colors so rare?
Since we don't have full color data, we aren't certain. However, today 911's are built in color batches, so it makes sense that 356's were also. If you wanted one of the unusual colors, say, Royal Blue (T-5 B), then you had to wait until the factory had collected enough Royal Blue orders to change the paint shop to that color for a run of several bodies. The wait required to have an unusual color built may have been an additional impediment to ordering one of these colors, making them even more unusual.
Which colors were available the longest?
In the early years of 1950-1956, there was a large color selection with many unusual colors, such as Moor Green, Fish Silver Gray, Strawberry Red, Penicillin White, Terra Cotta, and so on. These were used for a single period and then generally not repeated (the seven "color periods" are: 50-53; 54-55; 56; 5759; 60-61; 62-63; 64-65).This got streamlined in 1957, with a selection of 7 standard and 4 special colors per period.
In looking at these more standardized years, a few patterns are clear. First, black is the only color available from 1950 to 1965 as either a regular or special color. The next most frequently seen colors are Silver and Ivory, available in 5 of the seven color periods. Note however that both black and silver are believed to be rare colors, regardless of their long runs in the color chart. Both Signal Red and Ruby Red appear 4 times each, while Slate Gray appears 3 times. All other colors appear in no more that two periods. The Meissen Blue / Aetna Blue / Sky Blue nonmetallic light blues each appeared in one color period, for a total of three periods.
Should I change the color of the interior?
It is easier and less costly to change the color of an interior when compared to expense and difficulty of changing the exterior color. Therefore, it appears not to hurt the value much, if at all.
Are certain colors important for certain periods?
Yes, some years are identifiable by their colors. Look at the color chart for a 50's American car, and you will see up to half the available colors in various shades of green. Call on a 930 Turbo and you'll find many in basic black. How about the bright orange, yellow or gold cars of the early 911 series? These colors were promoted by Porsche after their tests of active automotive safety showed that a brightly colored car had a better chance of avoiding an accident. All of these colors represent trends at the time and can be important as symbols and reminders of the period.
In the 356 world, the color combination of blue (say Aetna Blue or Bali Blue) with a red interior at one time was shunned. Today, however, there seems to be a new appreciation for this distinct and unusual combination. Look around at concours today and you will see the latest combinations getting attention.
How important is color when I sell my car?
I recently attended a meeting of the National Automobile Dealers Association where results froma nationwide study of consumer attitudes about buying cars were released. These results found that lack of the proper color was the most important reason for not making a new car sale. To many people, color is a very important part of their new or used car. Be careful what color you select.
Personally, I am very moved by color. Next to the condition of the car, for me, it is the most important thing. If you feel that way too, know that you are not alone and that the color of your 356 can have a big effect on its value.