Essay: On the Ode to Liveries
(2018) There are tired drivers departing France today to return to normal life. Over the weekend the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the ultimate automobile endurance event concluded with Fernando Alonso and his team taking the top step of the podium. He has made his intentions clear he wants to add Indianapolis to his list of victories. Victories that include the Formula One championship, Monaco, and now the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He also publicizes his frequent bike rides in his native Spain.
While the Toyota hybrid team circled the track and the clock, their black, white, and red livery was fairly standard. Decades before advertisements entered racing cars were assigned colors based on countries. American cars were white, British cars were green, Italian cars were red, French cars were blue, and German cars were silver. The silver theme for German cars continues in modern times with nearly every Mercedes being that color.
Along with advertisements came company colors, or liveries. Some liveries were of the design of the team with a sponsor decal applied over the colors. Eventually cars became the artwork of company colors. Now they tend to be giant canvases on which to apply company colors. Here at creakybottombracket.com we celebrate one of the most recognizable liveries in motorsports: the Gulf colors of powder blue, orange, navy, and white.
While there are other famous racecar colors, the Gulf livery has always been an eye-catching display. The colors have been draped over the most famous of Le Mans entries. Steve McQueen raced his Porsche 917 in the Gulf sponsorship. The recognizable Ford GT40 had a Gulf color scheme. The ensemble is so recognizable it’s not unheard of for car enthusiasts to emulate the Gulf advertisements on private cars.
Recently road bikes have taken on Gulf colors. Ritte released a special edition Gulf bike a few years back. Baum has released a few frames with nods to endurance motorsports colors. Other companies have embraced the colors scheme without putting the Gulf emblem somewhere on the frame. A few years back a Spectrum Cycles tandem came into the shop with the Gulf colors and a massive disc brake, possibly to slow the team down after the Mulsanne Straight. We were behind a Ridley this spring that had the identifiable orange and blue on it. Even the lines were quite close to the motorsports colors.
While the modest budget at creakybottombracket.com cannot procure any of these frames, socks and kits are always possible. To celebrate the finish of the trip around the clock in France I reached for the Castelli Formula jersey (one of our first ever reviews on here) and the matching Handlebar Mustache Crossbar socks. These socks were just released; we reviewed them shortly after they came out. What better way to celebrate an endurance motor event in France than donning colors from a bygone era of horsepower and brutish stubbornness?
Now that one endurance event in France has concluded, the cycling world will take center stage for their 21-day tour of the French countryside. I haven’t thought about what sort of commemoration would be proper to highlight the Tour de France, but that’s ok. I still have some time to worry about it.