Exploring Lego Colours

There is quite enough gloom ‘n’ doom in the news nowadays so I thought I’d look instead at an obscure aspect of my hobby – Lego – and my interest, nay obsession, with the different colour bricks made available over the years by the Lego Group.  And if this provides a moment’s respite from the tsunami of bad news, job done.

I remember set #3177, Small Car.  It came out in 2010 and it resembles a Smart Car.  Nice build, not expensive so you can buy more than one, and you get some neat little cars to add to your City layout.  Lego liked it so much that they gave Emmet a version to drive in The Lego Movie in 2014, and Batman got one in 2017, courtesy of Toys R Us.

Only thing is, both the standard set and Emmet’s version of the car are in a relatively boring white-with-black livery, so I thought I’d rebuild the set in a different colour.  I started with Bright Red (Lego colour number 21) and rapidly did Bright Blue (23), Bright Yellow (24), Bright Orange (106) and the oddly-named Dark Green (28).

And there it rested for a while.  You can’t get the 1×3 doors in many other colours apart from Black (26) so I was stuck.  Then I thought about using the 1×2 wall piece instead of the doors, and opened the Pandora’s box of modifying the build so that the resulting car looked just like the Lego original but under the bonnet anything could happen.  This meant that I wasn’t restricted to colours where the Bracket 1×2 – 2×2 was available, and the scope for building became a lot wider.  In fact, with the hidden use of Plate 2x2x2/3 with 2 horizontal knobs, and a 2×4 plate on the front, I could replicate the car in most Lego colours.

That was fun for a while and along came cars in Sand Blue (135), Old Grey (02) and Old Dark Grey (27), Brick Yellow (05) and Sand Yellow (138), Earth Blue (140) and Earth Green (141), even Flame Yellowish Orange (191).

Then the collecting instinct got me.  Remember that Radio 4 series, the ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’?  Well, it was like that.  I thought it would be good to make a car not just in lots of Lego colours, but to try to build one in *every* Lego colour.  This led me into researching the full list of colours, both those currently in production and retired colours.  I also found that while Lego have some odd names for colours, there’s a secondary marketplace called Bricklink that has named all the colours and quite often the Bricklink name and number doesn’t match the Lego name and colour number.  And then there are colours where no-one uses either the Lego name (Bright Bluish Green 107) or the Bricklink name (Dark Turquoise) as everyone calls it ‘Teal’.  And a kind friend gave me some parts in Pastel Blue (11) which is also known as Maersk Blue.

Recently Lego bought Bricklink, so we can speculate about whether they will attempt to harmonise the colour names.  I think that would upset many AFoLs[1] – I well remember the fuss when Grey (02) and Dark Grey (27) were replaced with Medium Stone Grey (194) and Dark Stone Grey (199), starting in 2003.  And don’t even start on the Earth Orange 25 (that’s Old Brown) switch to Reddish Brown (192).  My guess is that Lego will leave well alone and we’ll carry on using two or even three names for the same colour for a while longer.

Back to my cars project.  I started looking out for the parts I’d need in the less common colours, and the collection grew and grew.  About this time I got some labels printed and set up a reference board with a sample part in every colour I could lay my hands on (and identify!).  I still have some odd parts in colours I can’t name…

Then I started building cars in the transparent colours:

And after holding out for a long time, I signed up to Bricklink and started ordering parts in the colours I’m missing.

That’s pretty much where I’m up to.  I believe that well over 160 Lego colours have been issued.  If you discount those where they only made parts for their Clikits or Bionicle ranges, which with the best will in the world I can’t make into a car, there are about a hundred possibilities.  Only thing is, the rarer parts start getting more and more expensive.  Try checking the price of Sand Red (153) which hasn’t been in production since 2004…


I’d like to thank Christoph Bartneck, whose book, ‘The Unofficial Lego Color Guide’ made a lot of my research easy.  This and his other books are available at: http://www.minifigure.org

I’d also like to thank my fellow AFoLs who, on hearing about my project, went through their collections to help me complete yet another colour.

And I’d like to thank Lego who have just expanded the scope of the project by issuing the new colours Vibrant Yellow (368), Medium Brown (370), Warm Tan (371) and Transparent Black (375).  I’ve not seen any Medium Brown parts yet, but here’s the Vibrant Yellow car.

[1] AFoL – Adult Fan of Lego

© text & images Jim Walshe 2023