Is A Giant Red Lobster Really The Most Intimidating Race Car Livery?
I distinctly remember Formula 1 racing drivers that competed against Senna saying how the mere sight of his distinctive yellow helmet in the rear view mirrors could scare them into a mistake. That’s just a helmet: imagine seeing a giant, 720 horsepower red lobster claw its way into your rearview.
Or perhaps my own surprise when discovering the existence of the Red Lobster racing cars thanks to my European upbringing, and I began to imagine the tremendous sight they presented to the competition. Those beady black eyes and huge pincers bearing down on you must have been enough to knock your concentration.
The car in question is the 1983 March IMSA GTP ‘Executone’ 83 G1. Operated and driven by privateers: Kenper Miller and David Cowart. They raced ‘The Red Lobster’ in the Camel GT Series from July 1983 through March 1985. During this span, the car had 11 top five finishes, and 15 times it finished in the top 10. This particular monster crustacean was a 215 mph, 720 horsepower, 2,200-pound, Chevy V8-powered rocket ship that took the race to the mighty Porsche 962s.
How much did fans love it? IMSA leased the car as a PR vehicle, heh, to promote upcoming races in cities across the US. The Red Lobster became as popular with fans as it did drivers—a true example of the emotional attachment great liveries can generate.
The look itself was created by American artist Stephen Bach, at the time he was working on wall-murals for the restaurant chain and upon seeing his paintings, the team asked if he could apply his art work to the car itself—something very close to my heart, and a theme in my work.
One thought when seeing the car was just how well the shape of the car and Lobster matched one another. It genuinely looks as though the iconic tear-drop body work of GT cars we all know and love came from the natural form of a crustacean.
What about if the car gets into an accident? Jack Deren said to IMSA.com that: “I painted that lobster about 16 times. The first time it was done by the Red Lobster artist. They wanted me to take templates of it in case we needed to paint it again. I tried that, but it didn’t work out. After about the second paint job, I did it by hand—masked it off and sprayed it.”
One problem with this type of design is that unless you see the entire car, it can look like a half-complete livery from many angles. Amazingly, however, this livery works without the need to see the entire design as a whole. The legs that fold over the doors act as go-faster stripes down the side and the Lobster’s body fills the car bodywork perfectly side-on to accentuate the classic tear-drop shape.
Then you have those giant pincers arched over the front wheels, holding the car flat to the asphalt. If I was to make just one small change, I would have incorporated some of the tail fin…on the rear fin.
There have of course been other race cars that featured creatures. Red Bull’s current livery is, of course, dominated by the charging bull logo and as much as I like it, one can’t help feel that it could be so much more. Jordan’s wasp-tinged F1 car of 1998-2000 and the shark nose of 2001 are still very memorable designs, thanks in-part to the instant recognition the wasp and shark liveries create. And finally, we have the Samson Lion Shadow F1 car driven by Jan Lammers in 1977. It’s pretty wild, too, though it does encroach on the tacky side of ’70s airbrushed paint jobs.
However, none of these designs offer the simplicity and fun of the Red Lobster. It’s one of those situations that could only have happened within a privateer team, one without a massive committee trying to make final design decisions. It’s with that thought, and having written lots of these articles now, that I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s highly unlikely we’ll ever such creative freedom in the world of racing liveries, of which surprises me again, because all teams desire as much exposure they can possibly muster on our screens and the Red Lobster car generated PR in huge pincer loads!
Here’s an idea: paint a big creature on your next race car…I hear cats are very popular on YouTube…
Image via: bringatrailer.com