The Yellowstep Team By The Yellowstep Team • October 14, 2015

Iconic car graphics

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 TronicaAlfa Romeo SZ Tronica

Porsche 917
Porsche 917

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 colours

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.

In 1975, Alexander Calder turned a BMW into a moving work of art for the first time. The Art Car quickly caused a sensation: the uniquely painted BMW 3.0 CSL was entered for the 24-hour race in Le Mans where it brought its 480 hp onto the track and left the spectators heading directly towards the local BMW garage. 
The artist used bold colours across the paintwork of the BMW 3.0 CSL. Some say the design gives the illusion of motion and flow. Seeing cars look so stunning using a celebration of colour like this makes you wish for less grey, black and white cars on our roads.
Next time you're choosing your new car colour stop and think about this car - tick the bright yellow or red box, it might just make you happier in winter.

In 1976 another Art Car shot around the Le Mans race circuit at over 300 km/h. Despite the high level of anticipation generated in the art world by the first Art Car, the BMW 3.0 CSL by Frank Stella managed to satisfy all expectations.
Frank Stella devised a black and white design resembling oversize graph paper. Cut-out lines all over the bodywork intensify the geometric look of the car. In the artist’s own words: ‘My design is a kind of blueprint applied to the entire body of the car.’
It reminds me of the graphics the prototype cars use while running public laps at the Nurburg Ring using the classic battleship camo. 

It's nice to see how the different graphic systems represent design trends from years gone by. 

The third Art Car is one of the most popular: the BMW 320 Group 5 by Roy Lichtenstein. It harmoniously combines the aerodynamic requirements of the bodywork with the expressive work of this world-famous exponent of pop art.
Lichtenstein’s characteristic comic strip style is also reflected in the paintwork. ‘The painted lines symbolise the road that the car has to follow and the artwork also portrays the surroundings through which the car is being driven,’ Lichtenstein explained.

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.