British Racing Green. Rosso Scuderia. French Blue. Those were the traditional colors from the days before commercial sponsorship liveries made their way into international motor racing, much unlike American stock car racing of the same period.
While many remember it was Colin Chapman's racing team and John Player's sponsorship that created the first commercial livery Formula 1 grand prix racer, the Gold Leaf Lotus 49 that debuted for the 1968 Monaco, there was another iconic racecar introduced a couple years before.
In 1963, John Wyer, executive vice-president of Gulf Oil at the time was offered the chair as residential manager of Special Vehicles Activity, responsible for the Ford GT40 program. By 1964, three Gulf GT40 racecars entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans but unfortunately, none could finish. The Ferrari 275M took the win and in 1965, Ferrari won again with their 250LM. No matter, it was only a matter of time. The Ford GT40 won the next four consecutive 24 hours of Le Mans, with the last victory in 1969 earned by Jacky Ickx, later known as "Monsieur Le Mans," in the #6 Gulf.
Gulf was no longer just a sponsor, it was an icon. Two years later, Steve McQueen costars with the Gulf Porsche 917 in his movie, "Le Mans." And after another four years, Gulf invested their efforts in the Mirage GR8 (which I'm sure it was), bringing their first LeMans victory not as a sponsor, but as the racing team Gulf Research Racing Co.
Today, Gulf is nothing short of a legend.
|foreground: McLaren M14|
background: Ford GT40
|Aston Martin DBR9|
|Lola-Aston Martin B09/60 LMP1|