A Discussion on Color

by Mike Hanson
One of the most common questions that comes up on every auto modeling forum is about color. Like most modelers, those of us who build cars – and in the case of GPMA, race cars in particular – we can get obsessed about getting the color and hue just right, and as historically accurate as we can make it.

Unfortunately, if we enjoy vintage racing, all we have to go on might be black and white photos. Or if we're lucky, we might find some old or faded color pictures. Neither of these are much help if we're looking for that perfect color for a historic subject.

In the days before sponsorship, cars were typically painted in national racing colors (see the National Racing Colors chart, linked at the bottom of this page). Even these were open to interpretation, though. For example, you would expect British Racing Green to be the traditional dark green made popular by Jaguar, but you might be surprised to learn that other marques such as Aston Martin, BRM, and others used different shades, ranging from very pale, light greens to the well known dark colors.

But there are always certain colors that seem to crop up from time to time on the GPMA forum. Let's examine a few of them.


There are a couple famous marques or cars that were painted in shades of orange. The most common discussions center around two of them.

Jagermeister Orange

Jagermeister has sponsored a number of well-known race cars through the years. Some modelers have even built a whole series of cars that were backed by the company. So, what's the consensus on the right color for a Jagermeister sponsored car?

Gil Mann, back in 2004, had this to say:

The color mandated in kits of Scala 43/Competition 43, who make a large number of Jagermeister subjects, is RAL2004. This is a European or International code that is not used much in the US. A builder whose opinion I respect had his paint shop match it and came up with Mercedes Truck Rhine Orange, Dupont #46259.

Alternatively, Dale King suggests:

I've found that Fruehauf truck orange (a fleet color) seems to be "just right. I've been using this same color for some 20+ years now. When I could no longer get it in automotive lacquer (lacquer has been

basically outlawed in California) I had MCW custom mix it for me from a paint sample I sent to him. I've used this color on everything from 12th to 43rd scale. Maybe he has the formula or at least my color sample still on file.

McLaren Orange

During the 1960's and '70's McLaren was known for its bright-orange Can-Am and Formula 1 cars. They are popular subjects for models, and the question of their proper color comes up quite frequently.

Mike Stucker likes to use Tamiya TS-56 “Brilliant Orange:”

That's the color I've used on all my Marsh McLaren models. You can see what the paint looks like on the finished models if you go to the model section of my web site at: http://www.vintagerpm.com/can-am_models.htm

The different cars were shot in different lighting conditions, so you will see several permutations of what the orange will look like. Its one of the reasons I like the paint for McLaren Orange: it seems to go from orange to yellow in different light just as the paint on the real cars did.

If you can't find a can of the Tamiya spray, Tom Hiett had this suggestion:

Butterfinger orange is really, really close. New wrappers have a couple tints and green leaves that makes it a bit harder. I'm told places that sell auto paint usually have commercial fleet color codes going back to the 20s and somewhere in there is probably a truck color for Butterfinger candy bars. Otherwise, MCW has a McLaren orange.