Journal: Are Racing Numbers The Hidden Gems Of Historic Motorsport?

Are Racing Numbers The Hidden Gems Of Historic Motorsport?

By Shayan Bokaie
September 2, 2016

We. Love. Liveries.

How can you not? They’re iconic and tell a story. Gulf, Martini, and Marlboro are widely revered and obvious standouts with hundreds of other memorable designs as well.

Image Credits

It’s interesting to think that the fundamental purpose of these liveries is marketing (Formula 1 and Nascars, most notably, were intended to look like 200 mph cigarette boxes). Yet, this is totally kosher among most race fans. So much so that they’ve become a driving factor of the whole nostalgia behind vintage racing.

It’s beautiful, it’s genius, and I’ll get back to this thought in a moment.

Long Walks in The Paddock

Monterey Car Week came and went a few weeks ago. As a lot of you know, it’s an extremely hectic buffet of shows, races, rallies, auctions, press events, dinners, parties, advil, etc. It is genuinely tough (especially for those attending for business) to take a step back and appreciate the whole thing.

This year, I wasn’t going to let that happen. I got in a few days early and decided to hit Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Thursday during the final shakedown sessions before the race weekend. The entire facility is almost completely uninhabited, except for race personnel. Great for parking, and great for your soul.


With a few hours to spare, I turned off my cell phone and started meandering the paddock watching mechanics make final preparations, and listening to them to tune their engines. BMW was the celebrating its 100 year anniversary, so this romantic scene was set to the soundtrack of the McLaren F1 GTR running some practice sessions.

This was the absolute jewel of week for me.

Liveries are memorable, numbers are pure

Since the paddock was empty, I was able to get up close to a lot of the cars and started observing the liveries more closely. I had this revelation (which I am sure many of you have also had, but I arrived at it ‘independently’, as they say) that the actual race numbers could be considered a purer sign of the times than the liveries themselves. Where a livery shines is its color and period design, but they’re polluted with logos of all the companies who couldn’t afford to buy the entire livery color.

Race numbers, however, don’t have this problem. Some of the typographies represent truly great design, rightfully represent the period and bravado of the team, and transcend outdated logos.

I’m fully aware that not all of these cars wear period-correct or original numbers (or liveries, for that matter), but I merely think there’s something to be said for the often overlooked number.

A fun game?

We thought we’d make this post a bit interesting. Below are a bunch of race numbers from my joyful afternoon in the paddock during the Monterey Historics, can you match the number to the car? Submit your answers in the comments!

Some are more obvious than others, but should be a good time. Cheat sheet is at the bottom, and if you help us fill in the blanks we’ll add your name as thanks!


3 – 1971 Tyrrell 002

4 – 1950 Allard J-2 Le Mans

5 – 1976 Lotus 77

7 – 1968? Lola T70 MkIII Spyder

10 – 1962 Ferrari Lusso 250 GT/L Berlinetta Competizione

11 – 1959 Ferrari 250 GT TdF

15 – 1971 Ferrari 312 PB

17 – 1974 Shadow DN3 (believed to be)

18 – 1986 March 86G BMW

19 (F1) – Shadow

19 (gold) – Cobra

20 – 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO

22 – 1987 BMW Alpina M3

28 – 1967 Porsche 910

30 – 1966 Lola T70 Spyder

31 – 1932 Alfa Romeo Monza

31 – 1974 Tyrrell 007

33 – 1952 Jaguar XK120

37 – 1967 Porsche 910

39 – 1927 Bugatti T37A

50 – 1971 Lola T212

57 – 1936 Bugatti Type 57

58 – 1971 Porsche 914/6

59 – 1975 BMW CSL

62 – 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA Corsa

73 – Alfa Romeo GTV

74 – 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB

77T – 1968 Porsche 911S

82 – 1974 Brabham BT44

87 – 1971 Ferrari 312 PB

91 – 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing

93 – 1978 Porsche 930 Turbo

121 – 1980 Ferrari 312 T5

102 – Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA 

112 – 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO

159 – Ferrari TdF 


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5 years ago

An old post I know, but perhaps someone could pitch in. In the 60s were roundels stickers or paint? Were the numbers ON the roundels stickers or paint?

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