Liveries, colour schemes, stickers; whatever you call them, the way a race or rally car is painted or stickered plays a deceptively important role in how we approach it, with the best liveries acting as visual identifiers. The best of the best transcend both time and the boundaries of car culture and become ironic in their own right, with a few examples being Martini, Gulf Oil and JPS cigarettes, all of which are now recognisable by even most ardent of non-car folk.
We’re not going to wax lyrical about the aforementioned schemes here though, not today. Because, cool as they doubtless are, we’ve all seen them, we all know they’re great…and because the desire of firms and institutions to use motorsport to to flog us things has created dozens of other, equally beguiling schemes. These are some of our favourites.
1 – Jagermeister
We’ll kick-off with one of the more recognisable liveries on this list, the lurid orange of Jagermeister. Regardless of what you make of the woody, potent spirit (hint – it’s foul), there’s no denying that it made for one heck of a livery in its late ‘70s, early ‘80s heyday. Jager’s distinctive orange graced all manner of cars in a wide variety of disciplines, from Le Mans Porsche 962s to Group 5 BMW E21s, and was even applied to the March 741 F1 car of 1974. We’ll leave it to you to source the Red Bull.
2 – Warsteiner
More German booze, this time of the longer, more refreshing variety. Warsteiner pilsner was flogged from the ‘70s to the ‘90s on a dizzying array of different machines, though we reckon it was at its most striking when paired with bight gold on the Arrows F1 cars of the early ‘80s – though there’s no denying that it worked a treat on the Super Touring era BMW E36.
3 – 7UP/Fuji
This was gets a nod for one car and one car alone, the Jordan 191 of 1991, the perennial underdog’s first ever stab at an F1 car. It hasn’t hurt that the car itself was relatively competitive, nor that it helped launch the F1 career of one Michael Schumacher, but the real reason it sticks in the mind’s eye is its livery. The mix of blue and green really, really worked, as did combined sponsorship from both 7UP and Fuji.
4 – Elf
French petroleum firms have long had a keen eye for a top-notch livery, and it was a toss-up between Elf or Esso – and the former got the nod for one reason and one reason alone, the Renault 5 Turbo. It might just be our obsession with rallying, but the French company’s black and yellow has long been associated with the mid-engined ‘buzz bomb’ of a car, ideally with the incomparable Jean Ragnotti at the wheel.
5 – Repsol
Another rally livery, and one linked very closely with one driver in particular, Carlos Sainz. This makes more sense when you learn that Sainz hails from Madrid, the same city as Repsol, and explains why the latter was the double WRC champion’s official sponsor for a good portion of his career. The pairing was at its most visually striking in 1993, when Repsol sponsored Sainz’s Lancia Delta Intergrale, though the car was decidedly old hat by this point and no match for the likes of the Celica GT-4. Other examples include the Escort Cosworth and Escort WRC respectively, both of which looked hard as the proverbial nails thanks to Sainz’s petro-pesetas.
7 – Silk Cut
Further proof that the bad things in life tend to make cracking liveries, this Silk Cut fag effort will be forever associated with Jaguar’s Group C Sports Car programme of the late ’80s, and the Le Mans winning XJR-9 of 1988. A British racer sponsored by British cigarettes…it wouldn’t happen these days!
7 – Securicor Omega
This gets an inclusion for the firm’s sponsorship of various British Touring Car teams in the mid ’90s, most famously the Volvo 850 estates of 1994. We’ve covered these Tom Walkinshaw built and run cars before and have therefore touched upon their limited success, but let’s face it, few ‘tin tops’ have looked as immense as these comically large Swedish bricks!
8 – Bastos/Belga
Both Belgian cigarette firms, both with very, very similar liveries, both of which spent a good portion of their ad budgets sponsoring rallying in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Patrick Snijers was sponsored by Bastos and spent time behind the wheel of everything from Porsche 911s to Escort WRCs, while his long time sparring partner, Robert Droogmans, could count upon support from Belga.
9 – Cuisine de France
This entry is both obscure and more than a little self-indulgent, but hey, it was a livery beloved by fans of Irish rallying in the late ’90s and early ’00s and made famous by Andrew Nesbitt’s mighty Subaru Impreza. Very much a case of ‘less is more,’ the scheme was debuted on Nesbitt’s Group A car but became most closely associated with the GC8 WRC, a car he used to claim the Irish tarmac championship in 2000 and 2002.
10 – Tomica
Not everything on this list will pickle your liver, wreck your lungs or give the ice caps a duffing-up, hence Tomica, Japan’s answer to Matchbox or Hotwheels. Tomica’s finest hour was probably when the company clubbed together with Nissan to sponsor its Skyline Super Silhouette racer of 1982-1983. The car shared almost nothing with the road-bound versions being sold in Nissan’s dealer network, but that didn’t matter. Not when it looked this good, not when it spat flames so far.
Bonus – Samson Shag Tobacco
This gets an inclusion because it’s so very, very bad, even more so when you recall that prior to this monstrosity, Shadows tended to sport a classy, menacing all black effort. Things were rather different by the time 1978 rolled around however, and with bills to pay and racing to fund, Shadow turned to the Samson ‘shag’ tobacco brand. On the one hand, the deal enabled Shadow to carry on racing. On the other, the DN9 now had to compete with Samson’s logo plastered on its nose, a massive, gurning lion. ‘