The 10 most beautiful IndyCar liveries of all time
We have taken a vote in the Motorsport Retro office and these are our Top 10 favourite IndyCar liveries of all time. Have we got it right?
American hero Danny Sullivan had given the Miller beer brand endless column inches with his spin-and-win performance at Indy in 1985 with the red-and-white Penske-run March, but better – in terms of visual appeal – was to come in 1988 when Penske’s own chassis, the PC17, ran in gold Miller livery. That Sullivan won the title probably added to the appeal.
The bright, bold and clean yellow-and-red colours of oil giant Pennzoil looked superb on the muscly, angular, John Barnard-designed Chaparral 2K of Johnny Rutherford. More so when the Texan (with a cool Lone Star helmet design to match) won the Indy 500 and IndyCar title in 1980 in this car.
The famous Phillip Morris tobacco colours were synonymous with Formula 1 powerhouses Ferrari and McLaren in Europe but also adorned the cars of US racing super-team Penske. The red-and-white cars were hugely successful during the 15-year tie-up, with names such as de Ferran, Fittipaldi, Mears, Tracy and Unser taking numerous race wins and titles.
Quaker State March-Porsche
German giant Porsche and oil firm Quaker State made a low-key, one-off appearance in America’s premier open-wheel series in 1987, with Al Unser at Laguna Seca, but a full campaign began in ’88 with ex-F1 racer Teo Fabi running a Porsche-engined March in a lurid green paintwork. Some strong results were built on for ’89, with a maiden win coming at Mid-Ohio.
An IndyCar that never was, the Ferrari 637 – no livery required! – was aired in 1986 with the intention of quenching Enzo Ferrari’s thirst for Indianapolis 500 success, although some felt it was merely an F1-regulations bargaining tool. Whatever, it did run – with favourite son Michele Alboreto at the wheel – and it was luscious. Imagine the scarlet, 2.65-litre turbo V8 machine screaming around the Brickyard…
Colin Chapman’s revolutionary Lotus 38 – one of only eight built – was immortalised when Jim Clark triumphed in the 1965 Indy 500, beating the front-engined roadsters – the mainstay of the Brickyard for decades – at their own game. That simple green-and-yellow livery, extending all the way back through the exhausts, with Clark and his trademark black lid onboard doing the business, is unbeatable.
STP Paxton Turbine
Designed by Ken Wallis, a relative of world war 2 Dambusters bouncing-bomb guru Barnes Wallis, the ‘Scientifically Treated Petroleum’-sponsored Paxton Turbine first appeared in 1966 although overheating problems prevented an historic Indy 500 debut. A year on, Parnelli Jones led the race only to retire in the closing stages. A wacky concept, complemented perfectly by its STP pyjama-clad crew!
British Fans were turned on to US single-seater racing in a big way in 1993 when F1 champion Nigel Mansell crossed the atlantic to race for Newman-Hass in the CART series. The K-Mart/Texaco Havoline Lola came to define a generation, with Mansell defeating old hands Fittipaldi, Andretti, Rahal and Unser Jr first time out. If you’re a Mansell fan of a certain age, this one keeps on resonating.
Johnny Lightning Colt
With a name like that and a garish, retro-style lightning-fork livery, model-car brand Johnny Lightning was always going to look good on a racing car. And so it proved on the Ford-powered, Parnelli Jones-run Colt of Al Unser. The ‘Johnny Lightning Special’ carried Unser to back-to-back Indy 500 wins in 1970 and ’71 and sales of the diecast toys rocketed. Deservedly so.
It didn’t matter what the blue-and-yellow colours of oil giant Sunoco appeared on – Trans-Am Camaro, Can-Am Porsche or IndyCar McLaren – it just looked mega. The Penske-run M16B took The Captain’s and the British manufacturer’s maiden Indy 500 success with Mark Donohue in 1972, inspiring a model, poster and sticker collectors on a huge scale.
By Henry Hope-Frost