Rare Shades: A Passion for Porsche Colors
Rare Shades: A Passion for Porsche Colors
“When you walk up to a car, if it’s in a color that you’ve never seen before, you’re having a conversation as you walk around it.” For Pete Stout and Alex Palevsky, co-founders of 000 Magazine (pronounced Triple Zero), this is the fundamental premise behind Rare Shades, their show celebrating Porsches painted in unusual, rarely seen colors. Color, they argue, is so fundamental to how we engage with an automobile that it deserves a stand-alone exhibition.
For Porsche enthusiasts, color seems to carry special import. To start with, many of Porsche’s current color offerings trace their lineage to the iconic liveries of the marque’s storied race cars –– none more so than the pastel blue and orange of the Gulf-liveried 917 racers, which live on as Gulf Blue and Gulf Orange.
Beyond the historic appeal of Porsche’s vibrant color palate, the company’s Paint to Sample (PTS) program (see the end of the story for a primer) is an alluring option for determined buyers who wish to differentiate their Porsche from the hundreds of thousands already on the road — and perhaps also signal their sense of taste to like-minded Porsche connoisseurs who appreciate the difference between Racing Yellow (a readily available “standard color” on new 911s) and Signal Yellow (a slightly darker shade originally offered in the ‘60s & ‘70s that is available as a Paint to Sample choice). The options are myriad, and occasionally phantasmagoric.
For Porsche enthusiasts, Stout argues that there isn’t “any single option that you can spec on a Porsche that says more about your interests and predilections than the color … even if it’s gray or black or white.”
Which brings us to Rare Shades …
“It started with a text,” recounted Stout, the editor of 000 Magazine. “We should do a cars–and–coffee that’s themed around Paint-to-Sample (PTS) Porsches,” wrote Palevsky, the magazine’s publisher. It would be a natural foray for a publication focused on exploring Porsche’s history and obscurities with an attention to detail, a commitment to design, and a quality of execution that eclipses many traditional automotive books.
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The two quickly decided that their nascent event should expand beyond just PTS and also include all colors that are “unusual and rarely seen.” Their next call was to Will Lee –– automotive pricing consultant by day and a Porschephile by night –– who has become a leading source for PTS information through his wildly popular Instagram account, @ptsrs, which currently has more than 100,000 followers.
The origins of @ptsrs trace back to 2016 when Lee was finishing senior year at Princeton University. As he slogged through his senior thesis, Lee’s preferred procrastination tool became the Porsche forum Rennlist, which was abuzz at the time with owners of the then–new 991 GT3 RS making increasingly adventurous decisions in how they spec’d their cars. Lee started his account to create a visual record of the different Paint to Sample colors that were being used, and his significant following found him organically. Even Jerry Seinfeld is a fan, writing in an unsolicited, public Instagram post: “@ptsrs. Thought you should have on file. Liquid Chrome Blue Metallic. 1 of one” with a corresponding picture of his 911 GT3 RS wearing the $64,000 paint option.
Today, prospective owners reach out to Lee to ask for advice on how to spec their cars or to share pictures of their latest deliveries in unusual colors. Thanks to social media’s unprecedented reach, Lee is able to collect and share photos, almost in real time, of Porsches being delivered in Johannesburg, Colorado, or Norway. His feed has become a detailed documentation of the cornucopia of colors available from Porsche, and its popularity is a testament to how social media can be used successfully to bring together disparate groups of people with the same niche interest.
Working together, Stout, Palevsky, and Lee wrangled roughly 50 cars for their first Rare Shades at Canepa Motorsports during last year’s Monterey Car Week. While the show came across as effortless, it was an audacious ask to convince owners and enthusiasts to leave behind the automotive pageantry of Monterey Car Week and drive an hour north to attend an unproven event. Their hedge was that Canepa’s first-class museum, restoration/race shop, and showroom in Scotts Valley would provide enough additional attraction to ensure that no one would leave disappointed. Judging by the convivial crowd that spent far more time in the parking lot than the museum, it was a welcome but nonessential addition to a successful event.
Rare Shades’ encore presentation came in Atlanta, thanks to an unprecedented invitation from Porsche North America to host the show at its corporate headquarters and Porsche Experience Center adjacent to the Atlanta airport. A few Instagram and forum posts promoting the show yielded more than 600 attendees.
As Stout, Palevsky, and Lee contemplated their next move, they settled on vibrant South Florida, one of Porsche’s biggest markets and the home of Champion Porsche in Pompano Beach, for many years the company’s highest–volume dealer in the world (only recently eclipsed by a new dealership in Shanghai, China) and one of the very first advertisers and supporters of 000 Magazine.
On a recent Saturday morning in April, 32 Porsches met at Champion for a casual gathering and a choregraphed display. Stout, Palevsky, and Lee spent the previous day studying the entrant list to create an asphalt seating chart, resulting in perfectly gradated rainbow of Porsches new and old. In contrast to the show at Canepa, where orange dominated the field, blue and green proved the most popular at Champion, with 17 examples of the former and 11 of the latter, representing 22 different Porsche colors.
Not only was the spectacle beautiful, but it was big hit with the attendees. Will Lee theorized that for the owners who went to the trouble of spec’ing and procuring such unusually colored cars, Rare Shades is “the best place they can bring their rare–colored car. Otherwise, if they go to other events, it’s just another Porsche … This is the place where they can show their car to a group of people that are super-excited about it.”
For Stout, “It is really a different show every time, (which) helps keep it fresh and interesting… the cars that show up reflect the people who chose them… (and) I think the people behind the cars make the show.”
While the lineup of colors is arresting, Stout, Palevsky, and Lee’s overarching goal is to gather enthusiasts and enjoy the discussion and friendships that blossom. There is no PA system and no awards. “These were things that didn’t interest us,” Stout explained, “We wanted to have conversations with people.”
In an increasingly digital world, where so many of our collective car conversations have migrated to the internet — just look at the robust comment sections on Bring a Trailer’s auction listings — Rare Shades is an intriguing anachronism. Where else in the automotive realm, or in any avocation for that matter, have a high-end print publication and a viral Instagram account teamed up as equals to successfully create, promote, and deliver a highly focused event in three different cities?
Even if Porschephiles’ obsession with color is of little interest, or you prefer your sports cars to be from Italy or Great Britain, Rare Shades is an event worth celebrating. Regardless of how enthusiasts consume media, the show is proof that car people will always want to get together to appreciate and enjoy the cars that they love.
A Paint to Sample Primer
Anyone wanting a Ph.D. level of immersion into the topic of Porsche’s byzantine Paint to Sample (PTS) program would do best to read the lengthy, 100-page-plus forum threads on Rennlist.com, but for those who can do without debates on the merits of paint codes 22B vs Y79 (Brewster Green vs. Irish Green), here is the Cliff Notes version. Porsche currently offers a limited selection of standard colors on their new 911s; however, for a sizable premium ($12,830 on the most recent 911 GT2 RS), Porsche will paint your car in one its approved Paint to Sample colors — and yes, while the company has offered hundreds of individual paint colors over the years, each PTS color must pass through feasibility studies to be factory approved for each new generation of 911 (or Macan, Cayman, etc.).
If only it were as simple as writing a check, though. Porsche, unofficially claiming that these individually painted cars create a headache for assembly-line operations, only opens the PTS order books for a limited time. Even on limited–production models like the 911R that were made available only to Porsche’s best customers, the company allowed the PTS option to be ordered on just ~5% of the production run.
Porsche doesn’t formally release the timing and availability of PTS to the public, so a dedicated group of enthusiasts have used forums and social media to piece together bytes of information gleaned from in-the-know dealers in an effort to aid fellow enthusiasts.
Most of the conversation on the forums centers around what these mythical paint shades actually look like, and therein lies the challenge for prospective owners. Do you go with a more common color you’ve examined in person, or roll the dice and spec your six–figure 911 while relying on a few photographs from the internet? What if you fall in love with the luminous purple of Viola Metallic, only to find out when you take delivery that the shade looks black in all but the brightest of sunlight? And therein lay the opportunity for Rare Shades…
Johnny Miles, Media Director for Collier AutoMedia, is a lifelong classic car enthusiast. He taught 20th Century History at St. Albans School in Washington, DC after college and recently graduated from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.