Iconic racing graphics are an important part of today's car industry. The combination of historic design trends, high priced cars, racing success and the echo of 1965 means it is by far one of the car industry's coolest traits. The automotive industry dips in and out of racing retro heritage to use graphics and paint designs that have now been made famous by some of the most sought after cars in the world sporting the iconic colours.
Martini racing stripes
Perhaps the most recognised and used is the classic Martini racing stripes. The white base, dark blue, red and vivid blue create a mix that is just stunning. It depicts a history of success and dominance on the race circuit and in selling desirable cars around the world.
Martini's first sponsorship program happened at the 12 hours of Sebring race in 1962 with an Alfa Romeo SZ Tronica. The graphics system was still quite simple and far from its current iconic design but it was a step in that direction. The 1971 Porsche 917 that won 24 Hours of Le Mans was wearing the iconic stripes that we know and love today. With Lancia, Alfa Romeo and Porsche in its portfolio the Martini graphics were always going to be stamped into petrol heaven and remembered for being as iconic as the cars themselves.
Alfa Romeo SZ Tronica
From 1967 to 1990 an amazing collection of cars wore the iconic design, placing them forever into motoring history. Almost all the cars that wore the Martini graphics had unusually high success on the track. Perhaps due to Martini choosing who to sponsor carefully but either way an impressive history worthy of a celebration or two.
If only the racing stripes could bridge the gap between racing success and car sales as only Porsche has gone on to be a stable and highly successful car company, while Lancia and Alfa Romeo have struggled to stay popular. Maybe it's time to have non alcoholic sponsors!
Gulf are another classic sponsor who have managed to create an iconic design that stretches across many car brands. The retro orange and blue are hard to miss or confuse with other sponsors and some of the most successful and important cars in the last 50 years have been sprayed in the Gulf orange and blue.
Few team liveries throughout history have epitomised greater world class endurance racing success than Gulf Racing's combination of blue and orange.
There is however one manufacture who has broken the rules and quite simply done their own thing with car graphics.
BMW art cars
BMW art cars are truly 'works of art'. High profile designers and artists have been tasked with taking the metal canvas and creating something personal. Being asked to design an official BMW art car is up there for any artist. I have even scribbled a few ideas of my own in the past... Maybe I should look into getting a old 3 Series and go to work on it, not sure how I would explain my plan to the wife though.
It's nice to see how the different graphic systems represent design trends from years gone by.
The design of the 1992 Sandro Chia was intended to reflect the people looking at the car as if they were looking at a mirror. Clearly in a stylistic way, the car is a coveted object in our society. It is intended to reflect the stares of bystanders.
The latest model in the BMW Art Cars series comes from the American artist Jeff Koons. He designed the BMW M3 GT2 with the racing number 79 as a tribute to the BMW M1 designed by Andy Warhol in 1979. Again another example of design reflection and heritage always being brought to the present day.