Today, I spoke with Bill Griffin once again, the Turner Motorsport sponsored SpecE46 driver with whom I have become good friends over the past year as I have covered some of his races. He is planning big changes to his race livery this year that I can’t wait to complete for the world to see. Right now, there are a few options he is considering to make the final cut. This conversation got me thinking about what the history of the racing livery was, so that’s what we are going to explore today at ECS Tuning.
If you are a Top Gear (UK) fan (who isn’t), then you may remember an episode in which the trio recounted the history of British Racing Green and its somewhat coincidental place as the iconic racing color for the country. They did touch on some other history, but I had never connected the color to the rolling billboards we watch regularly circle tracks here in 2019.
That disconnect is more than likely a result of how accustomed we are to sponsored liveries adorning every competitive racing car ever. The reality is, in fact, that only the last 50 years of racing have been dominated by brightly colored sponsor liveries. Since racing’s inception, though, there has always been something of the sort.
In the earliest races, competing teams were required to choose an identifying national color, which would be painted on their car and make them recognizable. Germany was white, America was red, and France was blue, for instance. Being the three colors found on the British flag, they were forced to pick something different. For the first race attended by a British team, they chose a deep shamrock green as a sign of respect to Ireland, the host country in which the race took place. From then on, British cars sported a variation of that color, while other teams traded colors. Germany ran white, then silver, then back to white. Italy took red from the USA, which they continue to use to this day as well.
After all those colors became a perfectly confusing palate of paint schemes, the spring of 1968 brought sponsorship liveries to the greater racing world. While the Americans had been using sponsored liveries on their cars for a few years before, 1968 marked the first year sponsors were offered the chance to take right turns. As it happened, Team Gunston from South Africa was the first team in Formula One to paint their cars with a sponsor’s livery when they placed Gunston cigarette’s colors on the car for the 1968 South African Grand Prix. Lotus followed suit, also keeping the color scheme British Racing Green.
We still see traditional colors used today by many automakers and teams who focus on heritage and tradition, which is absolutely wonderful. To keep those old designs alive is incredible, but more importantly, gives nerds like myself a reason to question how those colors happened to get there in the first place. The new livery on Bill’s E46 raises further speculation, however, as to how the Turner Motorsport blue and yellow came to be. We’ll leave that answer for another day, however. In the meantime, go check out some of these articles on Bill Griffin and his exploits in SpecE46 rocking a seriously cool Turner Motorsport livery.