Racing Car Stripes

December 14, 2018 6:15 am by maryrosh
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Racing Car Stripes

Mustangs have worn a pair of stripes down the middle of the car ever since the days of Carroll Shelby. The look is so well established that Shelby is often incorrectly attributed as the inventor of the stripes, and today, virtually any American muscle or pony car can rightly get away with it.

Racing stripes, also called Le Mans stripes, were applied to racecars to help identify them in the field during races.[1][2]

This car was done right (granted, from the factory, as an option).

Stripes on cars are actually a somewhat controversial topic. They neither make your car faster nor your penis bigger, yet they’re still all tied up with racing heritage and alpha-male bravado. So let’s say you’ve got a sweet car and you wanna spiff up the looks a little bit — what about adding stripes? Well, let’s talk about that.

Stripes on a fender like you see here originated in motorsport, back in the pre-radio days before drivers and pits could communicate with each other. It was a way for the team to identify drivers in otherwise identical cars. Honda roadster tradition does indeed include a stripe, but nothing like the ones on the Honda above. A well-meaning attempt, but still completely wrong.

Even if you do everything right with the stripes, they’re still a reference to high performance and a competitive heritage. I’m not saying you can’t have stripes on your car if you don’t take it to a race track (though that is where they look best). But they’re boastful by their very nature, so first of all, expect a little extra attention from law enforcement, and secondly, it helps to have something to back up the boast. If you’re serious about being taken seriously, check out our list of car mods that’ll actually improve your car’s performance. Honestly, stripes should be among the last things you do.

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Ultimately, it’s up to you to know your car’s heritage; does striping it actually make sense, or are you just putting a stamp on something because you think it looks cool? 

Is your car souped up, or are you just using it for your daily commute?

Does your car have a clearly established pedigree of stripes?

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Here’s the deal: it’s your car, and it’s a free country. Do whatever makes you love your car enough to turn back and look at it after you park, and at the end of the day, you’ll be fine. But that said, you risk broadcasting to the world that you’re a card-carrying member of the car-illiterate class, or worse, a complete poser.

Porsche’s partnership with Martini branding (as in the previous photo) is seemingly prehistoric, while BMW has been using several variations of its blue/purple/red M stripe since the 1970s — they’re both acceptable.

Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He has never, ever had a stripe on a car… yet.

The first road car to implement racing stripes was the 1965 Ford Mustang GT350.[5] From the 1960s, stripes have sometimes been applied to road cars as well as racing cars. Such cars as the Renault 8 Gordini had stripes fitted as standard.[6] They are sometimes referred to as “go-faster stripes” on road cars.[7][8] An alternative style features stripes which wraps around the car sideways instead of running down the center of the vehicle called “bumblebee” stripes. These stripes were featured prominently on the Dodge Charger Daytona race car. Dodge’s “Scat Pack” performance package for 1968-1971 muscle cars featured the bumblebee stripe as a signature.[9] In 1996 a pair of 8-inch wide stripes were used on the Dodge Viper GTS, starting a revival of the fashion.[10] They are sometimes referred to as “Viper Stripes”.[10]

1 Racing cars 2 Road cars and “go-faster stripes” 3 See also 4 References 5 External links

Racing stripes were applied to the Cunningham team’s racecars beginning in 1951. Usually two parallel blue stripes running from front to rear in the centre of the white body, they helped spectators identify the cars during races. These evolved from the traditional FIA registered US Racing colours of a white body and blue chassis which dated from when racing cars had the chassis exposed. The two blue stripes were a symbolic echo of the chassis colours.[2][3] In 1964 the Shelby Daytona Coupe would use the converse blue with white stripes and would compete in the 1964 and 1965 24 hours of Le mans.[4]

The 1965 Mustang GT350 was the first road car to feature racing stripes. Seen here with the original white with blue stripes

See also[edit] List of international auto racing colors References[edit] External links[edit] Cover of Time magazine dated, April 26, 1954 — the links at the bottom of the page lead to various years of production A Costin Lister Jaguar raced by the Briggs Cunningham team in detail and with history — with link to views Full list of Team Cunningham drivers — presented on site along with many other informative pages Road Racing Drivers Club — see deceased members list for the biography Briggs Swift Cunningham II — tribute 2003

The most important takeaway here is that you do not, under any circumstances, put stripes on a Prius. Even if you’re doing it in hipstery, drinking-PBR-ironically sort of way. Just no.


I’ll never forget walking through my high school parking lot one day and stumbling on a Mustang that had Camaro stripes. The poor guy (or girl, I have no idea who owned the car) probably had no idea what he had done wrong, or why the car just didn’t look right. Do you see that extra-thin stripe outlining the two main stripes here? That’s a GM thing. Compare it to the Shelby above and you’ll see the difference.

If you’d rather have a car that’s stunning and a classic throwback, whether you should stripe it depends on the car itself, its heritage, and the style of stripe.

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