Gear: Color Inspiration: Green

Color Inspiration: Green

By Jonathan WC Mills
March 16, 2015

“I wanted to win in a green car…” Stirling Moss, Amelia Island, Florida, 2015

I am writing these words soon after hearing legendary racing driver Sir Stirling Moss utter them. At the time, they rang as both a strong nod to his own patriotism as well as a call to action in appreciation of a fantastic color: green. As it happens, green has always been my favorite hue. As a child, I was drawn into its depths. I felt the pull of the dark green jungles in the books I read; Babar, for example, and later in movies that portrayed the deep emerald of exotic jurassic forests. In fact, I never associated the color with cars at all. It was a siren call to my eyes, a beacon to journeys not yet made. In my home, the man-made Los Angeles, I often notice its absence. In nature, green is fecundity and growth.

On cars, it reminds most people of Britain. Very few colors stir the same nationalistic pride as does British Racing Green—which is, as it turns out, more of an Irish color than British one. In the days when each country painted its racing cars an assigned color, the car maker Napier used olive green for the 1902 Gordon Bennett Cup. In 1903, the event was to be held in Ireland, and as motor racing was illegal in Great Britain at the time, Napier updated their livery out of respect to their Irish hosts, using shamrock green for the first time. It is this green (and variations of) that has since been adopted as the color we now call British Racing Green.

Green’s earliest and most vivid use by humans was with the Egyptians, who mined the mineral malachite, then ground it into a powder as part of a process to create the color. Later, Romans made the aquamarine hue verdigris by soaking copper plates in wine. If you’re wondering what verdigris looks like, just picture the Statue of Liberty: the natural oxidization of copper gives the same hue.

Other than its use by a Roman team on their chariot, its use on vehicles has been sparse since. On cars, the exception has always been the few colored British Racing Green…until things changed. The ‘70s ushered in a host of new factory paint palettes, and at once green was modernized into hues as diverse as Lime Green and Banana Yellow—which to my eye, was green with another name.

Green was cool, and, for once, it was no longer forced to replicate the beauty of nature. On concept cars so painted—including on the 1968 Alfa Romeo Carabo Concept, it could even provide a glimpse of a future yet unrealized.

Hearing Sir Stirling Moss’ statement about his desire to win in a British Green car only a decade after the Second World War is a powerful reminder that patriotism and tradition are powerful forces. On the lawn at the Amelia Island, Florida, I couldn’t think of a more inspiring color.

Interested in reading more about the color green? Check out “A Colorful History of Racing Hues: British Racing Green.”

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5 months ago

Als archivaris vind ik immense vreugde in het ontwarren van de draden van de geschiedenis die bewaard zijn gebleven in stoffige manuscripten en oude documenten. In een verrukkelijke wending ben ik gestuit op een creatieve uitlaatklep die niet alleen aansluit bij mijn archiefwerk, maar ook dient als een boeiende reis in de wereld van kleurplaten. Deze recensie is een uitnodiging voor beginnende kunstenaars en mede-archivarissen om de educatieve en cultureel rijke dimensies van kleurplaten te verkennen, met de diverse erfgoed van de Europese Unie als leidraad.

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Motiel Karama
8 months ago

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