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What, no polka dots? The expected and the unexpected among international racing colors

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Our recent story on the dubious legend of how Germany got its silver auto racing color got us looking for original source materials to see if we could establish timelines for not just Germany’s national racing color but for all designated racing colors. As the stories go, not all of the racing colors were set in stone from the beginning, and it took a few decades of revisions to hammer them all out, by which time corporate logos pretty much rendered the colors moot.

Our research is ongoing and perhaps interminable, but we did get some help in the comments to that story from commenter Nick, who pointed out an article in the October 1928 edition of the Allgemeine Automobil-Zeitung in which the Association Internationale des Automobile Clubs Reconnus laid out not only the formulas for upcoming races but also the agreed-upon racing colors for 23 different countries.

Granted, the list is just for a certain time period and is incomplete — the article itself pointed that out, with color schemes undecided for Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia — but after translating it, we saw that the AIACR went to great lengths to differentiate different countries on the racetrack not only with various colors but also with stripes, number/bubble combinations, and even patterns.

So we took the translated list to Josh Skibbee, one of our graphic artists, to have him take a whack at reproducing the various schemes. We had to go back and forth on some of the details quite a bit. For example, the designations call for Streifen, which translates to stripe, streak, or band; on a modern car, we’d apply those lengthwise along the top of the hood, but our research shows that in the late 1920s stripes were applied transversely across the hood and hood sides, an interpretation that makes more sense when considering that the designation for Ireland specifically calls for a horizontal stripe around the body and hood.

Some of the schemes (like Sweden’s) weren’t exactly clear to us even after some debate, some seem contrary to traditional notions of a country’s colors (why didn’t Switzerland get the scheme assigned to Portugal?), and some (like Lithuania’s) might be questionable to modern observers. But, hey, original sources don’t always tell us exactly what we expect. So, in alphabetical order:

Argentina: blue body, yellow hood, black stripes, red number on white field

Austria: blue body and hood, white stripes, white number on blue field

Belgium: yellow, black number

Bulgaria: green body, white hood, red number on white field

Czechoslovakia: white body, blue and white hood, red stripes, blue number

Egypt: light violet, red number on white field

Estonia: lower body and hood blue, upper body and hood white, black stripes, black number on white field

Finland: black, blue number on white field

France: blue, white number

Germany: white, red number

Great Britain: green, white number

Hungary: body white (fore) and green (aft), red hood, black number

Ireland: green with orange horizontal stripes around the hood and body, white number

Italy: red, white number

Latvia: black body, white hood, black number on white field

Lithuania: yellow and green checkered body and hood, red number

Poland: white body and hood, red stripes, red number

Portugal: red body and hood, white stripes, white number

Romania: marine blue body and hood, red stripes, yellow number

Spain: red body chassis and springs, yellow hood, black number on yellow field

Sweden: lower body and hood blue, upper body and hood yellow, three blue horizontal stripes on the upper part of the hood, white number

Switzerland: red body, white hood, red stripes, blue number

United States: white hood and body, blue stripes, blue number on white field

Also not included in this list are the national racing colors for Latveria (Doom demands an apology for this insult!), Ruritania, and Vulgaria. Wakanda remained unknown to the outside world at the time.