Modern race car paint jobs can’t hold a candle to the classic, care-free stylings of generations ago. There were classy, subtle schemes, and gaudy, loud, attention-grabbing hues slathered down the sides of cars all across the country and at all different kinds of tracks.
We were talking to a pal recently and got into a good debate over the best looking paint jobs on cars from years past. Here’s our top 11; many came from the dragstrip, but there are several genres of racing represented here.
Top 11 Best Ever Race Car Paint Schemes
11) Smokey Yunick’s Black and Gold 1962 Pontiac Catalina: Sure, all of Smokey’s cars were black and gold, but in our opinion, the large-by-huge Pontiac driven by Fireball Roberts was the best looker in the bunch. The crisp lines of the Poncho body provide just the right dividing line between the black and gold.
10) Bucky Hess’s former King Kuda SS/AH 1968 Barracuda: The king cars of the NHRA Super Stock ranks, these wild, Hemi-powered beasts often have exceptional paint work. The leader in the looks department is the wild scheme on Bucky Hess’s former car. The paint was done by his son Travis who also did the work on his new and improved King Kuda II.
9) Oakley Nitro Funny Cars from the Scotty Cannon and Gary Scelzi eras: There have been some exceptionally lame paint jobs on Funny Cars for the last 10-15 years. Mostly it is sponsor drivel and nothing else, but no team was better looking for a longer time than the one sponsored by Oakley back in the days of Scotty Cannon and later Gary Scelzi. The “Mad Scientist” paint jobs were always the best looking wherever they showed up.
8.) Darrell Waltrip’s chrome #66 from the 2000 NASCAR season: Here’s one that didn’t actually have paint. The body of the car was beaming chrome. We’re not sure if it was a wrap or some other form of fake-out, but none the less, it looked like nothing else on the track. Waltrip only mustered a best finish of 11th at the Brickyard 400 in his final season, but the car drew plenty of attention.
7) Clay Millican’s 2005 Dukes of Hazzard Top Fuel Dragster: The car was painted up as a promo for the release of the Dukes of Hazzard movie. During the race, in true Bo and Luke fashion, the car experienced a 300-mph blow over and was destroyed in magnificent fashion. Millican was unharmed. You can’t make this stuff up.
6) Jungle Jim Liberman’s 1976 season Monza Funny Car: Jungle’s paint schemes were always similar, but that doesn’t mean they were any less cool. With the Jungle guy swinging from a vine, clutching an oil can, it personified the wild dude driving the car.
5) Mike Ashley’s 1967 Mustang Pro Mod: Mike Ashley’s cars have always been the best looking pieces on the race track, but after he hooked up with Mark Brown at Illusions Custom Paint and Body, it was no contest. Following on the “Gotham City” theme of previous cars, this masterpiece was like a rolling comic book, except more detailed. (photo by Roger Richards)
4) Petty Blue and STP red, no matter what year: Petty Blue, as the story goes, was a color created by the boys in the shop when they ran out of paint to cover a new car they were thrashing on. Having enough white and enough blue to mix together to daub a car, they mixed them up and never looked back. It’s almost a reflex at this point to think of Petty when we see something red and blue.
3) Rich Guasco’s Pure Hell AA/FA: Honestly, does it get any more perfect than this? Cool lettering, perfect flames, and then it’s all business from that point on. Less is way more here.
2) Mike “The World’s Fastest Hippie” Mitchell’s 1969 Corvette Funny Car “Revolution”: We’ll start from the front with the hookah painted right there on the hood. Then we’ll move to the asymmetric stripes, slide on down to the lace painted panels on the side and the back, well it’s just as nuts as the rest of the thing. It’s pure period perfection.
1) AMC Factory Race Paint: No matter if it was on the famous Pete’s Patriot AMC on the strip or Mark Donohue’s Matador NASCAR racer, there’s something wonderfully cool about the red white and blue factory race paint from AMC. No wacky graphics, no fancy pin striping, but you could identify what brand of car it was from a plane flying over the track.