In the racing world, many liveries come and go or appear for just one racing weekend. But few are truly iconic and timeless. These are some of the best all-time race car liveries, in no particular order.
The blue and orange Gulf livery became legendary back in the 1960s. In 1966, the vice president of Gulf Oil, Grady Davis, purchased a Ford GT40 and joined forces with racing engineer and team manager John Wyer. The next nine years included three world championships, three Le Mans victories, and Steve McQueen’s movie Le Mans.
The Martini livery is probably one of the most timeless race car liveries in the history of motor racing, with light blue, dark blue, and red stripes placed around a race car’s body lines. Variants of the Martini colors have appeared at Le Mans, in Formula 1, and on rally cars, touring cars, and even powerboats.
John Player Special
Simple yet classic. The John Player Special black and gold Lotus in Formula 1 appeared in 1972. The JPS sponsorship lasted off and on for more than a decade. In 1985, Ayrton Senna won his first F1 Grand Prix in a JPS Lotus at Portugal—the race for which he scored his first pole position.
Bright red. Yellow logos, lines, and numbers. The Momo livery graced prototype cars in the IMSA GT Championship. Gianpiero Moretti founded the company was founded in 1964. Moretti hired a local craftsman to manufacture a custom steering wheel for his race car. The steering wheel caught the attention of other drivers, including John Surtees, who put one in his F1 Ferrari. Moretti then began manufacturing the steering wheels under the Momo name (short for Moretti Monza).
Italy’s Alitalia Airlines colors are best known for appearing on the Lancia Stratos. The A-shaped green, white, and red lines were paired with yellow wheels, making the Stratos’s paint scheme one of the most memorable in rally racing.
Gold Leaf Team Lotus
From another lucrative sponsorship from a tobacco brand (of the same company that produced John Player Specials), the Gold Leaf Team Lotus colors were a classic combination. The red, gold, and cream debuted in 1968, making Lotus the first F1 team to receive commercial support.
Marlboro sponsored F1’s BRM team in 1972 and the Frank Williams Racing Cars team the following year. However, in 1974, the cigarette brand began its most famous sponsorship with McLaren—the same year Emerson Fittipaldi won the Driver’s Championship and the team’s first Constructors’ Championship.
The Benetton Formula team was owned by the family that ran a worldwide clothing store chain of the same name. Benetton’s F1 cars were colorful to say the least, sporting green, blue, yellow, and red. In 1994, other teams accused Benetton was utilizing electronic aids such as traction and launch controls, therefore violating the FIA’s ban on the assists. The FIA found that the Benetton cars (along with other teams’ cars) had launch control software, but there was no evidence that the software was ever used. The teams received no punishment.
Renown’s colors are best known on the Mazda 787B, with the green, orange, and white dashed lines. Johnny Herbert took the lead during the 1991 24 Hours of Le Mans in the 700-plus-hp rotary-engined race car with three hours left in the race after battling against Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar. He didn’t give up the lead and won the race, making Mazda the first and only Japanese carmaker to win the event.
The Sunoco racing liveries were fairly simple, with yellow lettering and stripes on dark blue. In 1968 and 1969, Penske’s Sunoco-sponsored Chevrolet Camaros won the Trans-Am Series Championship. Sunoco also sponsored Penske’s Can-Am and IndyCar entries. Later, NASCAR team owner Billy Hagan acquired support from the fuel brand in 1989.