As for the color aspects you find interesting, I experience color more intuitively and the blue/ red dynamic only would mean something to me if it was a striking picture.
This is to me a picture I would take but would probably never do anyone with, which I probably have thousands.
The more I look at it, the more I believe it. I believe photographer happened upon a smoky car and thought it cool... setup the shot expecting just an ordinary scene where owner lifts hood of car and solves the problem. Then this happened and he had no choice but to shoot. The owner had already run for his life.
I could be projecting, and I know nothing for sure. But if I happened upon a smoking car, I sure would get my camera out. If it caught while I was watching, I'd shoot film. Heck I've had this happen to one of my cars (almost). But I got there to the carburetor and extinguished the little flame before it ran down the fuel line. I wasn't taking pictures at the time.
I reread the thread and caught more of your drift on color and its power/relationship in a photograph.
Here's my theory on color theory, composition bokeh, etc. My theory is, it makes a great sauce/spice.
If you have me over for dinner and you make me a great steak with a wonderful sauce on it, then say what do you think? Don't you love the sauce?
I'll say yes it was incredible. But the next week you invite me back and make a steak with the same sauce but the steak is hard and tough. Then you say how did you like the sauce. I'll say the steak was tough. And you say but the sauce was great. Wasn't it? And the answer is, it doesn't matter the steak was tough.
So in a photograph you have a scene with great color arrangements and then say, isn't this a great picture? Well was the picture a great picture before the color arrangements? If yes. Great. If not. Who cares about the color.
If you have a photograph of a women's breasts and who doesn't love breasts. And you say look at her breasts, beautifully lit, round, etc etc but they are attached to a 55 year old with the face of a witch. And I say ewwwww. You say what? They are beautiful breasts.
Then you show me another picture of a women's breasts, same thing beautifully lit, etc and she has a gorgeous face with a nice expression. And you say, what do you think. I say, I love it. So you say well whats the difference, they both have beautiful breasts. And my answer is yes but the first one made me throw up in my mouth. I don't care about her breasts.
Take Steve McCurry's Afghan Girl photograph from National Geographic, and you could argue about color theory and how the colors make the picture. And I would say no, the colors spice the picture. The picture would still be impactful in black and white. The haunting eyes are what make the picture.
So to make a short story long, to me, coming across a photograph or scene that has great composition, or color, or a scene that has someone's theory of color, and thinking that it's a great or even good because of that, is a false idea.
To me the picture has to have impact or other elements in it to engage me, and then artsy rules and ideas can then add spice to it, to make it great.
So your car on fire example. For me there is nothing in the picture that the color of the cars adds or detracts that would make it anything more than a mundane car fire. Would I take the picture? Yes. Probably because it's on fire. But the colors of the car are pretty much irrelevant as is the picture.
As for the Brohm picture being 'irrelevant', well, clearly many galleries and publishers disagree.
With some intellectually driven colour photography, subject matter is understood as a mere necessity, a burden even, and used simply as an anchor around which to explore the medium. Which is exactly what Eggleston did, then Shore and Brohm. Steve McCurry on the other hand is a classical humanitarian photographer and so his methodology is about 'embracing' the subject. And definitely, I love the word 'spice' to describe the aesthetics of his pictures, considering the exotic places he makes them. But it doesn't ring as true with Brohm in my mind.