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30 Greatest Racing Liveries of All Time

Vukasin HerbezDecember 19, 2018

From the early days of motorsports, racing teams have painted their cars in vivid colors with big decals and numbers. That was to make them easily recognizable in the dust and smoke those antique machines produced. As the world of motorsports advanced in the ‘20s and ‘30s, the biggest nations had their own racing colors, so spectators could clearly see where the winning car was from. In fact, France was blue, Italy was red, Germany was silver, America was white and Britain was dark green.

However, in the ‘50s and ‘60s when motorsports became big business and sponsorship money started flooding in, the world of race car liveries changed. There were no more single-color paint jobs or minimalistic looks. Instead, those big companies wanted their logo all over the winning cars. In those days, most of the companies interested in sponsoring racing teams were alcohol and tobacco manufacturers, along with oil companies and motorsport-related businesses.

Today, advertising alcohol or tobacco products at sporting events is strictly forbidden, but some of the greatest, most beautiful race car liveries were directly founded by alcohol or tobacco money. So, read on to learn about the 30 greatest motorsport liveries of all times. Some of those color schemes are so iconic that people know the livery better than the car it appeared on or races it won. Many of those liveries were so influential, they became fashion statements they used on cars for decades to come.

  1. Rothmans Porsche

Rothmans is Tobacco Company which was active in motorsport in the ‘80s. During that period, Rothmans sponsored mostly Porsche cars and had a big contract with the German manufacturer. Its signature blue-gold-red-white livery appeared on many Porsche Le Mans cars and even on the legendary Porsche 959 Rally, which won the Paris-Dakar Rally in 1986.

  1. Renown Mazda

Interestingly, the Renown orange-green livery appeared on few cars, but it earned its place in the hall of fame when it graced the Mazda 787B, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991. The 787B was the first and only race car ever to win the Le Mans with a Wankel rotary engine, making racing history and promoting this livery to its widely recognizable color scheme.

  1. Lancia Stratos Alitalia

In the early ‘70s, Lancia introduced the Stratos, a rally car they constructed with the sole purpose of winning the World Rally Championship. The wedge-shaped two-seater got its power from a Ferrari V6 engine and they immediately put it in competition. The rally team was sponsored by the Italian National Airline. And with its sharp graphics and colors of the Italian flag that perfectly followed the lines of the car, the Stratos was unbeatable.

  1. Gulf Racing

Most car fans believe Gulf Racing livery is possibly the most iconic race car livery of all time. The timeless combination of light blue and orange is so cool and unique. Maybe it is the legendary race cars they chose, like the Ford GT40 or McLaren F1 that wore these colors and won epic races. It could have been just the sight of a light blue race car screaming down the straight, but even the non-car crowd recognizes this iconic livery.

  1. Marlboro F1

Marlboro, one of the world’s biggest tobacco manufacturers was well represented in motorsports. But its claim to fame was the late ‘80s Formula One partnership with the Honda Williams team. In 1988, the legendary Ayrton Senna won the World Championship in a red and white car with the Marlboro logo. And that secured a simple yet effective livery place in motorsports history.

  1. Martini & Rossi

From the early ‘70s until recently, the Martini & Rossi company sponsored dozens of legendary cars. Using Lancias, Porsches and the Formula One, Martin was present in almost all forms of motorsport, as well as also victorious. That is why this white, red and blue combination is so popular among race fans.

  1. Petty Blue

Richard “The King” Petty is one of the biggest legends in NASCAR history. From the mid-60s onwards, his race cars were known for three things. One, they would often cross the finish line first at the end of the race. Two, they had the number “43” on the doors. Three, they painted the cars in a special shade of blue that later became known as “Petty Blue.”

  1. John Player Special

In the early ’70s when paint schemes were wild and colorful, the John Player Special entered the Formula One with a Lotus Team, presenting a perfectly elegant, simple and memorable livery. The combination of a black base and gold lines with the elegant script was so cool, it hasn’t lost any of its magic, even 50 years later.

  1. BMW M Stripes

Nobody expected three simple lines on a white base could look so fantastic. But when BMW introduced its M Motorsport paint scheme on the legendary 3.0 CSL race car, the audience immediately fell in love with it. It was simple but effective and influenced the company to keep it as its signature colors for decades to come.

  1. 555 Subaru

This legendary paint job was the result of the UK-based Tobacco Company sponsoring the Subaru WRC rally team in the ’90s. The big and bold triple 5 number on the doors wasn’t the starting number of the car, but it was the logo of the cigarette brand popular in Asia. This gimmick caught people’s attention, as well as three WRC titles Subaru won from 1995 to 2003. Today, this shade of blue is the signature Subaru color.

  1. Goodwrench Dale Earnhardt

The most iconic NASCAR livery is surprisingly this simple black paint job that appeared on Dale Earnhardt’s cars from 1988 all the way to his death in 2001. Even though it is quite simple with its black base, white lettering and number 3 on the doors, the Goodwrench livery is still recognizable and cool.

  1. Jagermeister

This livery is proof that elegance comes from simplicity. It is just an orange race car with a big logo and script on the doors and the hood. However, the color, as well as its racing success, made it stand out from the rest of the grid. In fact, it is instantly recognizable throughout the racing world.

  1. STP

One of the companies present in motorsports forever is STP. Their orange and blue combination has been on numerous race cars, and not just in NASCAR, but in other racing series, as well. It is even more recognizable since it uses the same colors as the company logo.

  1. Silk Cut Jaguars

If it wasn’t for the legendary Jaguar Le Mans victories in 1988 and 1990, Silk Cut livery would have been forgotten. However, the elegant purple, yellow and white scheme is now well-known among British racing enthusiasts.

  1. DuPont Jeff Gordon

DuPont is a world-famous paint company that also sponsors a race car. So, the car must be colorful, bright and with little help of the talented Jeff Gordon, legendary in its own right. The blue base and big red flames are so American and so cool, even if the Gordon wasn’t a successful driver, the car would still be memorable and recognizable.

  1. Sunoco Peske

The Sunoco paint scheme is brilliantly simple and resembles the company logo with a deep blue base and bright yellow lettering. However, at first look, this isn’t anything special. But, if you put it on cars like the Trans Am-winning Chevrolet Camaro, Can Am-winning Porsche 917/30 or Lola T70, you will get a proper motorsport legend and a color combination that represents victory.

  1. BASF BMW

The BMW M1 Pro Car racing series was a short-lived championship with an all-star driver lineup, but somehow it failed to become a big thing in motorsports. However, one racing livery from that period managed to remain in the collective memory, and that is BASF. It was simple and almost psychedelic with all those circles and the red base. But it looked cool and contrasted with the sharp lines of the M1.

  1. Skoal Bandit

Although cigarettes were often advertised on racing cars, chewing tobacco was also represented in the form of the Skoal Bandit livery. The company sponsored dozens of race cars in North America, from Indy cars to NASCAR stockers. The white and green scheme looked cool, especially with its bandana-wearing outlaw on the hood of the car.

  1. Coors Thunderbird

Coors beer is a well-known brand in America, so it was logical that sooner or later this company would enter the world of motorsports. In the mid-80s, one of the fastest stock cars was Bill Eliot’s Thunderbird. The red and gold paint job made it even more memorable and iconic among NASCAR fans.

  1. Miller Beer

Another brewing company that made an everlasting mark on the world of motorsport is Miller Beer. During the late ’80s, this company was well represented in NASCAR, as well as in the IMSA Championship. The gold and white cars were not only successful but also eye-catching.

  1. Valvoline

Valvoline, an oil and lubricant manufacturer, has been present in motorsports for decades. Their red, white and blue logo is perfect for a race car livery. Even though it uses some ordinary color choices and shapes, it is still elegant and works on any race car.

  1. Pennzoil

The Pennzoil Company is using an old trick. If you want your race car to stand out, paint it in a bright color and make sure you sponsor the right team. That is why the bright orange cars with big black lettering are so recognizable. You can’t help remembering this speeding orange blur when you watch any race.

  1. BMW Art Car

One of the more recent race car liveries that secured a place in automotive history is the Jeff Koons BMW Art Car. They call it the Art Car since BMW hired an American artist to dress up the M3 race car for the AMLS Championship. He did an interesting job painting the BMW into a kaleidoscope of bright colored lines to emphasize the speed and performance of the M3.

  1. Apple Computer Porsche

In the early ’80s, personal computers were just décor in many sci-fi movies, so the newly-founded Apple Computer Company decided to sponsor a Porsche 935 race car. It was a bold move and the legendary Bobby Rahal was the driver of the car. The rainbow scheme with its signature apple logo on a white base became well-known and also promoted the company.

  1. BRE Datsun

Datsun made its name by racing in the Trans-Am championship in the early ’70s. Their partner was a racing team called Brook Racing Enterprise that helped prepare the cars and win races. By using the classic but always effective red, white and blue color scheme, this little 510 become recognizable. Better still, by winning the championship, those little cars became legendary.

  1. Toyota IMSA

Toyota has been involved in racing since the late ’60s with a string of successful race cars in several of motorsports series. However, it didn’t have a signature racing livery until the early ’80s with the IMSA Celica. The paint scheme was simple yet elegant and dynamic with its white base with orange and red stripes. Along with the IMSA Celica success and race wins, this became Toyota’s first and most popular combination.

  1. Pink Pig

The Porsche 917 was a tremendously successful racing car that appeared in several legendary liveries including Gulf Racing. However, this car belongs on this list since it is crazy and highly recognizable. In fact, this Porsche caused a quite the sensation in 1971 when it entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a pink car with butcher’s marks on it. Apparently, designer Anatole Lepine decided to paint the car like that since he thought the car was chubby like a pig with all its aerodynamic enhancements and mechanics.

  1. Tic Tac BMW

The partnership between the manufacturer of mints and a BMW racing team may sound strange, but it produced one of the coolest paint jobs ever on one of the most successful touring cars they ever made. In the early ’90s, Tic Tac sponsored the BMW M3 E30, which dominated the race tracks in Europe. They painted the car in green with dozens and dozens of white patches to symbolize Tic Tac mints.

  1. M&M`s

They used a similar idea on the legendary M&M’s NASCAR cars. The candy manufacturer put their famous product on the car, so there wouldn’t be any confusion as to who was sponsoring the NASCAR stocker. The idea worked and people loved to see their high-speed candy running on those superspeedways.

  1. Javelin Trans Am

Although most people have forgotten it today, the AMC Javelin had an impressive racing career in the early ’70s Trans AM championship. However, people still remember the simple yet patriotic red, white and blue paint combination, which was basically a factory logo they put on the car. The livery was basic, but it looked cool and promoted the car in the right way.

These are the 30 greatest racing liveries of all time. While some are gone, many still remain to this day. So, the next time you watch a race, look for these classics flying around the track.

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