Many people consider green cars cursed. How can an entire color–a popular one at that–be unlucky? Superstitions predating the automobile combined with some high-profile crashes early in automotive racing history and led to this widespread myth.
Historic superstitions around the color green
Humans are superstitious. It’s one of the many ways that we self-aware monkeys try to control the terrifying unknown. With all the dangers surrounding driving, car superstitions are especially common.
All animals seek out things that have proven beneficial or “lucky” in the past. They also avoid things that have been unlucky. Humans take this a step further, by teaching one another what to avoid. In this way groups, or entire societies can share a superstition.
The fact-checkers at Snopes reveal that many sub-groups in the United Kingdom and the United States have historically avoided wearing the color green. For example, many actors consider wearing green costumes–or even using green props–to be very unlucky. Others say that getting married in a green wedding dress brings bad luck.
Famous crashes in green race cars
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The odd superstition against wearing green clothing may never have crossed over into the automotive world–if not for a couple of high-profile crashes. But a couple of especially grizzly early racing crashes sparked this myth.
On September 17th, 1911, Lee Oldfield was racing in Syracuse New York in a green Knox brand race car. Oldfield blew a tire, went off the track, and tore through the infield. The Knox Automobile Company car smashed into over 20 people. In total, 11 fans died and 10 were injured. Oldfield’s crash remains one of the worst in automobile racing history, but not the only Knox fatality.
Then, on November 25th, 1920 the racing world experienced another green car crash. Gaston Chevrolet was running a green Frontenac at the Beverly Hills Board Track. He ended up losing control and smashing into another car, killing both its driver and ride-along mechanic. The crash claimed Chevrolet’s life as well.
Who thinks green cars are unlucky?
Race car drivers are notorious for avoiding green vehicles. For example, Joe Weatherly (1962-63 NASCAR champion) supposedly wore green socks to a race, got his feet wet in the rain, noticed they had turned green and tore them off. He decided racing with no socks was better than green ones. Mario Andretti even refuses to use green ink to sign autographs.
This superstition has spilled off the track as well. Many auto racing fans say green cars are unlucky on public roads as well.
You might not be surprised to know that there is no hard data connecting green cars with a higher rate of car crashes. In fact, green is actually the British national race car color: Bentley and Rolls Royce painted their Grand Prix cars green for decades.
For every racer or driver scared of green vehicles, some owner drives a green car without any issues. I actually daily drive a green car and have had no issues…yet.
Next, watch the Discovery channel explore the cursed car that killed James Dean in the video below: