x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

The Air Bag: Arresting black alloys? Call the fashion police

Cars, like practically anything else you care to mention, are viewed as fashion statements; status symbols that show the world you're hip and with it. Or not.

Anyone that spends any time in my company is able to tell that I'm not a fashion victim. My wardrobe is almost entirely made up of clothes that (I think, at least) will still look okay in another five years' time, my hair isn't spiky or ruffled and I only shave when I think I've reached the stage where I look like a homeless person. I have no idea what pop music is currently making waves with the kids but I'm not averse to discovering new bands and sounds. I only recently bought a flat-screen television, I don't own a PlayStation and I have no tattoos, piercings or jewellery of any kind. But I do know what I like. And, more importantly, I know what I don't like.

Cars, like practically anything else you care to mention, are viewed as fashion statements; status symbols that show the world you're hip and with it. Or not. Styling fads come and they go, usually after not very long, and black alloy wheels are evidently the current equivalent of haute couture. Fashion faux pas more like. I hate them with a passion that borders on the insane and I cannot wait for the day when owners wake up, forget what's fashionable and return to good, old-fashioned alloys that actually look like they're forged from alloy, rather than treacle.

Car designers spend huge amounts of time and money developing new styles of wheel. They don't simply thumb through some car accessories catalogue, find a wheel design they like and order 20,000 of them at a time. They're an intrinsic part of a car's looks and you know how shallow I am when it comes to a car's appearance. For the life of me I can't figure out why painting them black benefits appearance.

Take the Jaguar XKR on mo3. It had a ridiculous colour "wrap" applied (yet another current fad) which did the intended job of turning heads, but the beautiful alloy wheels, which could possibly have saved the day, were rendered invisible because of their stupid black paint. The red brake calipers nestling behind leapt out like a couple of boils but the wheels were nowhere to be seen.

As far as I'm concerned, the only wheels that should be black are the ones manufactured from pressed steel. They're always covered by silver-coloured plastic wheel trims that do their best to mimic their vastly more expensive alloy counterparts. And seeing a Lamborghini, Ferrari or any other luxury car with black wheels just makes me think they've lost a wheel trim. Just today I saw a photograph of a new Ferrari FF - a startling-looking car under normal circumstances but this one was painted black. With black wheels. What was its owner thinking when sat in the dealership speccing up his new pride and joy? Utter madness.

Think about it. If you had a thing for dark brown and felt the need to decorate your home accordingly, you might make a feature of one or two walls coloured that way. Even, at a push, all four walls. But would you also paint the ceiling the same colour and fit a carpet in the same muddy hue? If you did, it's unlikely any visitors would be returning until you'd come to your senses. And it's no different when it comes to a car. There's nothing wrong with a bit of contrast.

Porsche used to fit black-painted "Fuchs" alloys to its 911s and 944s in the 1980s but at least they had polished alloy rims to provide some visual relief between wheel and tyre. They looked great. As things stand now, though, black wheels are ruining the looks of some cars and, as a dedicated un-follower of fashion, I just don't get it.