Ever since sponsors started splattering stickers on everything, racecars have been generally hideous, but there are some exceptions. Sometimes there is perfect harmony between art and business, as these ten classic expressions of speed picked by Jalopnik readers demonstrate.
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Photo Credit: Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images
10.) STP Red/Orange
Suggested By: Random Task
Why it's classic: As we begin, let's first say that there are too many amazing paint schemes in the history of racing to squeeze into just ten slots.
A no-brainer for this list is the blue/red of STP oil that really became famous with Richard Petty in the early ‘70s and continued on with him and his career. Stock cars will never look this simple again.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
9.) Flying Lizard Porsches
Suggested By: justinw8383
Why it's classic: It's remarkably easy to screw up the paint on a modern sports racer. Nearly every car in the Porsche Cup looks like it was vomited on by sponsorship decals, for instance. The Flying Lizard Porsches that have been running prominently in the American Le Mans Series for the past few years always look just a bit classier and composed than every other entry. And that's with a reflective lizard head stuck onto the side, so that's something.
Photo Credit: Haaveilla
8.) The Porsche 917 Pink Pig
Suggested By: rawtoast
Why it's classic: Known alternatively as "The Pig," "Fat Berta," and "Truffelhunter," this is one of the stranger liveries in racing history. Porsche tried out a new aerodynamic body for their all-conquering 917 for the 1971 24 Hours of Le Mans. It was wide and ugly and it had no sponsorship, so Porsche designer Anatole Lapine painted it pink and drew the cuts of a pig on it. The car could have won that year, but dropped to fifth due to an accident.
Photo Credit: Tony Hatfield
7.) Cunningham White/Blue Stripes
Suggested By: PanchoVilleneuve, will give a handy for a City Turbo II
Why it's classic: You may have never heard of the Cunningham cars or seen their classic blue-on-white paint scheme. That's a shame because these are America's racing colors, much the same way that the British have Racing Green and nine out of every ten Italian race cars are some shade of red.
To put it simply, these American contenders for overall victory at Le Mans in the early 1950s were the first to be painted with racing stripes. They nearly made history at the great endurance race, but made it with their livery instead.
Photo Credit: bsgalio
6.) Jeff Gordon's Rainbow Warrior
Suggested By: For Sweden
Why it's classic: When Gordon went to Hendrick Motorsports in '92, he became part of one of the most fundamental Nascar paint schemes of all time. The car was painted in a rainbow to go along with their DuPont sponsorship, and the whole team got rainbow gear, too. They became the "Rainbow Warriors" and helped usher in the great era of day-glo Nascar we've been living in ever since.
Photo Credit: David Taylor/Getty Images
5.) BMW Art Cars
Suggested By: Rockchops
Why it's classic: Philadelphia-born Alexander Calder was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. The guy invented the mobile, for chrissakes. He was friends with a French auctioneer and racing driver Herve Poulain, who got Calder to paint his BMW 3.0 CSL for the 1975 24 Hours of Le Mans. Calder drew the car, it was painted, and the BMW art car was born.
Everyone has their favorite, and this bright, stunning car is genesis.
Photo Credit: BMW
4.) Martini Racing stripes
Suggested By: Supersport
Why it's classic: As always, it's either alcohol, oil, or tobacco companies that make the best paint schemes. The perfect thin stripes of Martini flow perfectly along any number of recognizable 1970s Porsches and the fast, fragile Lancia endurance and rally racers like this Lancia LC1 from 1982 and ‘83.
Photo Credit: Lancia
3.) Marlboro Red/White
Suggested By: SennaMP4
Why it's classic: Marlboro may be the most dynamic sponsors in the racing world. Their red/white stripes perfectly set off the hard lines of McLaren's F1 cars starting in 1974. Here's Keke Rosberg in Monza '86.
The contrasting red and white, however, has been all over the place. Works BMW E30 M3s ran in Marlboro colors, as did some amazing Penske Indy cars, and Ferrari was tied with Marlboro from '97 through last year. Even though it never follows the lines of the car it's on, the livery always looks gorgeous.
Photo Credit: Luigi Rosa
2.) John Player Special Black/Gold
Suggested By: StewMM
Why it's classic: The black and gold of John Player Special cigarettes looks good on anything. You could paint a baboon's ass black with gold trim and it would look gorgeous. It started out on Lotus' F1 cars in 1972 and it still makes any car absolutely shine.
Photo Credit: Fr. Dougal McGuire
1.) Gulf Blue/Orange
Suggested By: bugattatra - parallel double-park that muthafucka sideways, everyone else
Why it's classic: John Wyer was in a bind in 1965. After getting played like a pawn by Ford, his GT40 program was taken away and handed over to some Americans. Without the backing of one of the largest car companies in the world, he needed money. That's when he went to Gulf Oil and got them to sponsor his new car, the Mirage M1.
That car evolved into the 1968 GT40, which won Le Mans two years on the trot. By that I mean the exact same car turned up two years in a row and beat every other car in the field. Wyer then got picked up by Porsche, who had him run one of their hugely successful semi-factory 917 teams at Le Mans. With the GT40 and the 917 alone, Wyer sealed the Gulf blue and orange into the minds of the world, and the livery has been synonymous with racing ever since.
It doesn't look good on anything like JPS black and gold, but when it's right, it's right. None looked better than the stunning 1970 Porsche 908/3 that dominated the epic Targa Florio race around Sicily.
Photo Credit: Porsche