Vintage Liveries on Modern Cars

Photography Credit: Ken Neher

Story by David S. Wallens • Photography as Credited

How do you make a newer car stand out? Paint it up like an old one. Retro paint jobs may not be anything new, but they still manage to stop us in our tracks. Where can you find inspiration? Hop online, flip through old magazines, or visit some events. 

Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood's Porsche 917K


Photography Courtesy Porsche

The Cayman Interseries is a spec road racing series for the Porsche Cayman, but there’s a twist: All of the cars entered in this HSR-sanctioned series must wear graphics carried by past Porsche race cars. 

The Porsche 917 wore some of the most memorable graphics ever applied to a race car and provides some great inspiration for today. Steve Jenkins’s Cayman is influenced by the 917K that Hans Herrmann and Richard Attwood drove to the 1970 Le Mans win. 

Porsche and Ford Prototypes


Photography Credit: photosbyjuha.com


Photograph Courtesy Ford

Thanks to their Gulf Oil sponsorship, John Wyer Automotive ran one of the world’s most iconic paint jobs on their Porsche and Ford prototypes back in the 1960s and ’70s: light-blue bodies punctuated with an orange center stripe. Gulf has continued to use those colors in motorsports, while fans have applied the look to just about everything, from Porsche 911s to VW Rabbits. Frederick Motorsports shows that the livery works well on the Mustang FR500C, too.

Sunoco and Penske Chevrolet Camaros


Photography Credit: photosbyjuha.com


Photography Credit: Bob Hines

In 1969, Mark Donohue and Ronnie Bucknum practically dominated the SCCA Trans-Am series with a pair of dark-blue Camaros backed by Sunoco and fielded by Roger Penske. The latest Camaro seriously resembles the original. You know where this is going, right? Soon after the new Camaro’s return to the showrooms, Stevenson Motorsports debuted a Camaro done in the classic Penske colors—including the Sunoco sponsorship livery. 

The big kicker was Stevenson’s driver lineup for that first Grand-Am race: David Donohue, son of Mark Donohue, and Jeff Bucknum, son of Ronnie Bucknum.

BRE Dastuns


Photography Credit: Al Merion


Photograph Courtesy BRE Motorsports

Last year’s Mitty celebrated Peter Brock’s achievements in motorsports. He gave shape to the Corvette Sting Ray, turned the Cobra into a Le Mans winner, and earned a string of SCCA titles for Datsun, a new face on the American scene at the time.

The Mitty race weekend includes a round of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, and Mazda presented a special treat: a car done up in BRE Datsun colors for former team driver John Morton.

Dodge Super Bees


Photography Credit: Anthony Neste


Photography Courtesy Barrett-Jackson

No budget? No problem. Over the years, Team Mini Me has brought several retro paint jobs to our $2K Challenges, their latest being a 1988 Dodge Aries sporting the full 1969 Dodge Super Bee look: flat-black hood, functional hood scoop and tail stripes.

Lotus Formula 1 and Indy cars


Photograph Courtesy Lotus


Photograph Courtesy Ford

During the 1960s, Lotus driver Jim Clark was one of the top formula car pilots. He earned two Formula 1 titles plus the 1965 Indy 500 win, the first one for a rear-engined car. To mark the 40th anniversary of his death, in 2008 Lotus released 50 copies of the Lotus Clark Type 25 Elise SC to the European market. Each one featured a color scheme made famous by Clark’s machines, British Racing Green broken by a yellow stripe.

Brumos Porsches


Photography Credit: photosbyjuha.com


Photograph Courtesy Brumos

For more than 40 years, Brumos has fielded one of America’s top Porsche teams. When the team went back to a 911 program for 2011, they reissued the classic red, white and blue livery that Hurley Haywood and Peter Gregg drove to so many victories in the ’70s. Haywood said that 2010 would be his last year, but fortunately for race fans he broke that promise to join the team during the Grand-Am season opener at Daytona.

Design Your Own Look

Of course, you’re free to put together your own retro look, too. For some examples, we asked Rob Ebersol to break out his art supplies and bring some ideas to life. Rob has been racing Miatas for 20 years, and by day he’s a graphic artist whose clients include Georgia-Pacific, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Motorola. Free plug: ebersol.com.

Mazda Miata: I thought about going with the Panasport wheels, but that’s what everybody is doing. The Enkei mesh style isn’t so popular on the Miata—BBS is as close as it gets. This angle asks for some screaming wheels, too, so gold it is. 

I then went with the orange numbers on the meatball and some tint on the directional/parking lights. I removed the passenger seat for looks and to call out the SCCA Production-style roll bar. 

I went with the bolt-on flares and front and rear spoilers for simplicity, then painted out the black rockers to bring the car down and tie the rockers in with the lower front spoiler. I tried painting the windshield frame black, but with all the white add-ons I thought it kept the car from looking too bottom-heavy.

Ford Mustang: I followed some Trans-Am cues: hood pins, flat-black hood, side stripes reminiscent of the Boss, rear wing, smaller-diameter wheels, larger sidewalls, much fatter tires, and a new nose that calls on the original Trans-Am Stang’s front spoiler. 

Wheels are from the era, but not the Panasport/Minilite style since I used them on the Mini. This is more of a Shelby flat face-type wheel, but I think it looks period-correct. I was going to go with a flamboyant primary paint like on the Trans-Am cars, but I really liked the silver and flat black. You could color the body if you wanted to.

MINI: There’s classic Monte Carlo Mini in there along with influence from the ’80s and other rallies. The MINI’s got a slight lift and smaller-diameter wheels with larger-profile tires; wheels are Minilite style. 

I bolted on an early Mini bumper to mount the front lights, then painted the car a satin-finish red in the spirit of the Monte Carlo cars that were nearly always red. I added the ’70s “Starsky & Hutch” stripe to pick up and integrate the front bumper line. The stripe goes to the roof over the side-rear window, which has been screened red and features a Monte Carlo tribute decal. 

The rear spoiler up top is more of a modern-era item—maybe early ’80s. I could do a luggage rack up there—some of the original Minis had them—but it looks out of place on the car, sort of like it’s a safari truck. 

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Comments
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Gearheadotaku
Gearheadotaku UltimaDork
2/12/20 8:45 a.m.

Sometimes it looks good, like the BRE livery on the 350Z.  Gulf on new cars, not so much.

slowbird
slowbird Dork
2/12/20 9:33 a.m.

In reply to Gearheadotaku :

Not that I agree or disagree, but there's an obvious exception to that theory:

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/12/20 9:40 a.m.
slowbird said:

In reply to Gearheadotaku :

Not that I agree or disagree, but there's an obvious exception to that theory:

That's because the car itself is trying to look old. 
 

Liveries today are easy to do with a computer and a vinyl wrap. This means it's tempting to go all Red Bull on it and cover the car in detail. Too often, designers forgo simplicity and geometric strength, which is what makes the old designs work so well. Plus we associate them with certain successes.

The0retical
The0retical UberDork
2/12/20 9:53 a.m.

Martini stripe all the things.

I could be convinced.

I've also always had a soft spot for Momo Livery.

I keep threatening to paint my wife's X-Terra Calsonic Blue.

Carsandbikes
Carsandbikes Reader
2/12/20 10:12 a.m.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  Gulf colors on a Ford GT or Mustang?  Works.  Gulf colors on a battered Pinto...or even a Mustang II?  NO.

But then, I am biased as I have considered doing BRE colors on a Sentra....doesn't really matter which generation after the 2006 model.

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 UberDork
2/12/20 10:45 a.m.

Some retro liveries look great on modern cars. A lot don't.

Modern liveries for the race cars that get a lot of national TV coverage are sterile, bland, or just cool kid Kyle edgy. I can't think of many that make me go "wow that's [insert adjective to describe the artists work here]." The Plaff Porsche GTD is an exception; but, then again it's just buffalo plaid. 

Even the recent BMW art cars have been a bit of a drag. 

frenchyd
frenchyd PowerDork
2/12/20 11:00 a.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I like pre 60's livery where the car is painted the colors of the country.  Absolutely no advertisements.  

wspohn
wspohn Dork
2/12/20 11:19 a.m.

This would go over well down at the local 711....

 

ebonyandivory
ebonyandivory PowerDork
2/12/20 11:53 a.m.

In reply to Gearheadotaku : 

 

Couldnt agree more!

 

Olemiss540
Olemiss540 Reader
2/12/20 11:59 a.m.

If you get paid to drive then put all the sponsors you want on your car.

I dont see the appeal of brand loyalty to a sponsor decal when you are going to slow lap a new gt3 with the PCA at a DE no matter how cool it looked or historic the decal is.

Seems kinda poseur if you ask me. People get sore over putting M or GT badges on non-m or non-gt cars but then walk over to their street car with full racecar livery? PAHLEESE.

Now gulf livery on a ford escort? Yes. That would be approved by the board of Olemiss540 trustees.

slowbird
slowbird Dork
2/12/20 12:16 p.m.

The old Motorcraft stripe design holds up pretty well, actually.

So does the Wood Brothers NASCAR livery.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
2/12/20 12:27 p.m.

Our local dealer spent a considerable amount of money to have these done, including six figures (I heard)  to have the Gulf logo embossed in the headrests.  Sometimes, I think Vaughn has too much dough.

 

https://autofile.ca/en-ca/auto-articles/factory-finished-gulf-liveried-porsche-918s-only-in-canada

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Dork
2/12/20 12:53 p.m.

its easy now to have someone vinyl wrap your car in any logo design you can find , 

Think how many hours it took to do it back in the day !

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/12/20 1:25 p.m.

I know exactly how long it takes! I was partway through masking out the red small stripes to paint coat #3 of 4 of the Martini livery when I realized why everyone goes with Gulf...

G_Body_Man
G_Body_Man UltraDork
2/12/20 4:01 p.m.

Putting Gulf and Martini aside, I think this A90 Supra in classic HKS livery looks absolutely spectacular.

DirtyBird222
DirtyBird222 UberDork
2/12/20 4:35 p.m.
G_Body_Man said:

Putting Gulf and Martini aside, I think this A90 Supra in classic HKS livery looks absolutely spectacular.

quoting because that's one of the few vintage liveries that looks excellent on a modern car. 

Falken liveries always look great too. 

 

_
_ Dork
2/12/20 4:56 p.m.

Yeah gulf, reknown 787b, the pig, and martini are WAY over done and barely looked good in the original cars. They look hideous on anything new. 
the last thing I want to see on a brand new 911 is a pork cutlet. And gulf on anything other than what it originally came on is hysterical. Comical at best. 
 

If you search for original liveries, it's super hard to find any. Too many "control+C, control+V". That's why I use the livery maker in gran turismo. It makes for some very original designs. 

poopshovel again
poopshovel again MegaDork
2/12/20 4:57 p.m.
slowbird said:

The old Motorcraft stripe design holds up pretty well, actually.

So does the Wood Brothers NASCAR livery.


 

Graphics made to compliment body lines are awesome. Translating straight lines to a bubble car, not so much.

Actually the 2nd rustang would look less bad if the lines didn't touch the top of the wheel arch, and the motorcraft logo was spread out a little.

DeadSkunk  (Warren)
DeadSkunk (Warren) PowerDork
2/12/20 5:29 p.m.

I need a livery for a 1972 Corolla. One of you people that are handy with computer graphics programs ought to be able to whip up something stunning. wink

Rons
Rons Reader
2/12/20 6:25 p.m.
_ said:

. And gulf on anything other than what it originally came on is hysterical. Comical at best. 
 

The Gulf colours are actually John Wyer's colours. After the Gt40 they were used on his Porsche 917s and the Mirage cars that JWAE built and won with.

Rons
Rons Reader
2/12/20 6:28 p.m.
frenchyd said:

In reply to David S. Wallens :

I like pre 60's livery where the car is painted the colors of the country.  Absolutely no advertisements.  

Blame Colin Chapman he got the John Player Red Leaf sponsorship for Lotus and it's been downhill ever since.

fatallightning
fatallightning Reader
2/12/20 9:07 p.m.

Javelin
Javelin MegaDork
2/12/20 9:21 p.m.
DirtyBird222 said:
G_Body_Man said:

Putting Gulf and Martini aside, I think this A90 Supra in classic HKS livery looks absolutely spectacular.

quoting because that's one of the few vintage liveries that looks excellent on a modern car. 

Falken liveries always look great too. 

 

Agreed!!

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/13/20 6:30 a.m.

Shameless self promotion...

Dusterbd13-michael
Dusterbd13-michael MegaDork
2/13/20 7:09 a.m.

Somebody find me a red based one that would work on a first gen 4 door neon.....

 

Because other than momo, im striking out. 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ PowerDork
2/13/20 7:10 a.m.

In reply to Dusterbd13-michael :

Box4VIR
Box4VIR New Reader
2/13/20 7:27 a.m.

I'll play along.  I copied a BMW art car, I know I know...from manufacturer

 

 

Wally
Wally MegaDork
2/13/20 7:45 a.m.

In reply to Box4VIR :

That's beautiful, it was my favorite of the Art Cars and works well on the Boxster. 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/13/20 8:35 a.m.
Rons said:
_ said:

. And gulf on anything other than what it originally came on is hysterical. Comical at best. 
 

The Gulf colours are actually John Wyer's colours. After the Gt40 they were used on his Porsche 917s and the Mirage cars that JWAE built and won with.

I think you've got that backwards. JWA used the Gulf colors because they were sponsored by Gulf. https://www.gulfoilltd.com/timeline/sport/

You see Gulf a lot because it's really easy. Doing something that flatters the body lines of a car is a lot harder. Martini liveries - with a few lazy exceptions - were all designed to suit the specific body they were wrapped around.

STM317
STM317 UltraDork
2/13/20 8:47 a.m.
Dusterbd13-michael said:

Somebody find me a red based one that would work on a first gen 4 door neon.....

 

Because other than momo, im striking out. 

Trying to keep it "in the family" somewhat I found the following.

This one seems like an obvious choice, but it's only about half red:

It's been done though:

Probably the easiest to execute, but perhaps not very recognizable on anything that's not a Viper:

This one's not that vintage, or widely recognizable, but I like it:

 

Wally
Wally MegaDork
2/13/20 9:11 a.m.

In reply to Dusterbd13-michael :

Rons
Rons Reader
2/13/20 10:49 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

I may have over stated the relationship - I read it as Wyer brought Gulf sponsorship to his WEC program that covered various chassis, and the colours were the programs, and not the chassis.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
2/13/20 11:06 a.m.

Agreed - the Gulf-sponsored JWE team ran a number of chassis under the same colors.  IIRC JWE didn't run the blue and orange on GT40s until Gulf came on board as a sponsor.

OjaiM5
OjaiM5 Reader
2/13/20 2:51 p.m.

Uuuum JPS!

Justjim75
Justjim75 Dork
2/13/20 3:01 p.m.

In reply to John Welsh :

Build thread?

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
2/13/20 3:06 p.m.
Justjim75 said:

In reply to John Welsh :

Build thread?

Challenge $2016 entry

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia Dork
2/13/20 5:08 p.m.

LouInPA
LouInPA New Reader
2/14/20 7:52 a.m.

Hey GRM, you spelled "BRE Datsuns" wrong.

No one mentioned the great Martini livery on the new 935

docwyte
docwyte UberDork
2/14/20 2:54 p.m.

I like that Martini stripe on the 911.  A local PCA'er here has done a much more extensive Martini livery on his 996 and it looks horrible IMO.  Just the Martini stripe is more subtle.

gutenberg918
gutenberg918
2/15/20 12:20 p.m.

my favorite racecar is Alain Prost's f1. What if Williams Renault made a sports racer, it might look like my Spec Racer Ford Gen3

_
_ Dork
2/15/20 1:21 p.m.
Dusterbd13-michael said:

Somebody find me a red based one that would work on a first gen 4 door neon.....

 

Because other than momo, im striking out. 

Gran turismo 1 is your friend. 

chada75
chada75 Reader
2/15/20 4:17 p.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Dirt Late Models are guilty of this.

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