5 September 2013

The 10 hottest graphics packages ever

Attention-grabbing graphics are nothing new in the auto industry, sometimes borne out of marketing’s desire to celebrate an event and sometimes utilized to perform CPR on a model whose sales graph is flat lining. The following includes some schemes that are heavy on humor, some that are light on taste, and some that are tough on the eyes, but all are memorable.  

  • Datsun B210 Honey Bee: Datsun could claim the highest MPG rating in the USA in 1975 with its B210, and the Honey Bee was the optionless stripper model that had an unpretentious looking bee with a carefree expression buzzing along its flanks, typically over yellow paint. 
  • 1977-80 Chevrolet Monza Spyder: Originally designed for a Wankel-type rotary engine, the Monza was introduced in 1975 with a range of engines that included a 70hp four and a 5.7 V-8. In 1977 the Monza Spyder was introduced with graphics featuring a spider on the hood that appeared ready to pounce upon pedestrians that got too close to the cars’ front flank. 
  •  1976 Triumph TR7 Victory Edition: Introduced with truck-like “Spoker” wheels, vinyl roof and contrasting stripe package, the Victory Edition celebrated TR7 wins in SCCA competition. As successful as the car was on the track, those of us who lived with these cars on the road on a daily basis saw some irony in TR7 and victory being spoken in the same breath.
  •  Porsche 911 with Safety Paint: From 1973-1975, Porsche offered an option for the 911 called “safety paint,” consisting of three stripes running down the hood that terminated with 9-1-1 at the end by the front bumper. This tri-stripe design was loud enough to ensure rarity today; few cars were ordered with it new, and even fewer retain it after restoration.  
  • 1973 BMW 2002 Turbo: BMW added a KKK Turbocharger to the 2002 in 1973 to create the wonderful 2002 Turbo. This 170hp screamer displayed the now-famous M-type blue/blue/orange motorsport stripes and, in a mild display of Swabian arrogance, “2002 Turbo” spelled in reverse on the front spoiler making it legible in the rearview mirror of the motorist ahead. Upon gazing in his rearview and seeing it fill rapidly with the image of this speedy Bavarian, he could then accept the inevitability of being passed by this exotic BMW and just move over without protest. As presumptuous as this may have been, it was nonetheless often how an encounter with a 2002 Turbo would end.
  • 1978 Corvette Indy Pace Car Replica: The 1978 model year ushered in a new greenhouse-type rear window for the Corvette as well as two limited editions. The more colorful of the two was the Indy Pace Car replica with two-tone black and silver paint scheme separated horizontally at the beltline by a red pinstripe. Just over 6,500 Corvettes were delivered with this striking package that included a set of decals that allowed, depending on the owner’s desire for attention, exact replication of the car used to pace the Indy 500.
  • 1979 Lotus Esprit S2 World Championship Commemorative Edition: Lotus dominated the 1978 Formula One season, winning both Constructor and Driver’s titles with the revolutionary and beautiful black and gold John Player Special sponsored Type 79 F-1 cars. The following year they celebrated this achievement with an Esprit S2 resplendent in black with gold stripes along the length of the car with “World Champion” embedded in the stripe’s door portion to announce just what caliber of patron was arriving at the discotheque in this 44-inch high wedge. Interestingly, Lotus didn’t call this car a “John Player Special,” or JPS Esprit as they did with the previous black/gold JPS Europa, because by the time these Esprits were produced in 1979 the F-1 team had already moved on to Martini and Rossi sponsorship. A scant 26 of these came to the U.S. [Video: 1978 Lotus Esprit S2 Travels 900 Miles]
  •  1979 Porsche 924 Sebring Edition: Sales of the 924 by 1979 were slowing sufficiently for Porsche to send 1,292 red 924’s to the U.S. with “Sebring 1979” on the fender and brilliantly contrasting yellow and white stripes running along the car’s flanks. The attack on the eyes continued inside with an interior that had bright red plaid inserts inset into black vinyl seats.  These cars celebrated Porsche’s victory at Sebring that year — with a 935.
  • 1978-79 Dodge Lil’ Red Express: This beast was based on Dodge’s half-ton short wheelbase pickup platform and announced its arrival with bright red paint, real wood accents on its rear panels, and large “Lil’ Red Express” graphics in gold on the doors. This combination, along with its vertical tractor trailer-type exhaust behind the cabin, made for an amusing visual treat — until it left you staring at its tailgate from your 928 or Z28 as it pulled away from you. A non-catalyst police-spec E58 360 motor ensured the best 0-60 sprint of any car in the U.S. in 1978 at 6.6 seconds.
  • 1973-1981 Pontiac Trans Am: Being No. 1 on this list is a foregone conclusion here, and once GM VP Bill Mitchell was convinced that a huge bird on the hood of the Trans Am could be a winner, almost all 2nd generation T/A’s left the factory so equipped for the better part of a decade until the car’s makeover in 1982. The Phoenix graphic on a Trans Am has now transcended its automotive origins into popular culture, and has cycled by each turn of the decade from cool, to joke, to retro, back to cool.

The benefit of hindsight may allow us to laugh at a few of the cars above, but they were each a reflection of the times in which they were created while (usually) fulfilling their mission to generate attention and sales. In this context, these cars must be deemed successful since they hit the target for the PR exec as well as the floor salesman, all the while providing plenty of fodder for the automotive historians amongst us.

31 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Joe New York September 8, 2013 at 18:18
    What?! No Hurst Rambler?!!!! Known as the Scrambler, it was the gaudiest paint scheme ever!
  • 2
    Kelley Maddox Fayetteville, GA September 8, 2013 at 18:29
    what about the 1978 Mustang King Cobra?
  • 3
    Stephen Mers United States September 9, 2013 at 15:15
    1978 GMC Diablo Caballero
  • 4
    Thomas Car Mecca California September 11, 2013 at 13:32
    Wow, interesting list here... I guess I would have been more appreciatel if some research had been done for the article. In the original musclecar wars, there were a ton of cars that had amazing graphics. Here are the ones that come to mind in NO specific order. 1. GTO Judge... 2. 71 Hemicuda with Billboards ... 70 Hemicuda with Hockey Stripe.... 70 Shelby Mustang.... 67-9 Z/28 70 - 77 Z/28 with Cowl Hood and stripes...68 - 72 Chevelle with SS Stripes or Heavy Chevy, Anything put out by a dealer, Yenko, Dana, Baldwin-Motion, Nickey, Mr. Norm... 69 Daytona... 70 Superbird... Any Shelby 65 - 70, Road Runner (that beep beep was cool)... And then there is just the hoods, Shaker (Ford & Chrysler), 6 Pack, 69/70 Shelby (5 hood scoops), GTO with hood mounted tach, 67 Vette with Stinger hood, Cowl Induction (Camaro & Chevelle) and the list goes on... I'm SHOCKED that a good company like hagerty would put out a poorly written article like this...
  • 5
    Paul Windish Tinley Park, IL September 11, 2013 at 13:49
    In 1975, I bought a new 75 Monza 2 + 2 coupe with a 262 c.i. V-8. I don't think the 350 was ever offered in the Monza, though it would have been the same outward dimensions as the 262.
  • 6
    EdWillimas Nashvilleq September 11, 2013 at 14:37
    Boss302
  • 7
    Karl Newark, NJ September 11, 2013 at 14:42
    The Datsun and the Chevy, what can I say?? Put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig!
  • 8
    Joe Russo new jersey September 11, 2013 at 15:54
    what about the 79 Z/28 graphics.
  • 9
    Eric Clarkston, MI September 11, 2013 at 16:03
    1978 Mustang King Cobra. Ford answers the T/A's "screaming chicken" with a psychedelic snake.
  • 10
    DMcG North Fork, CA September 11, 2013 at 16:26
    The 1970 American Motors "Machine," with its red, white and blue livery, surely counts. As should the 1978 Mustang II Cobra II, which, besides being a stupid name, was a really awful graphics package, particularly in the extra-loud King Cobra version. The 1971 Plymouth 'Cuda, with the entire rear fender blacked out and highlighted with the engine designation, was over the top.
  • 11
    ben bowden shrewsbury mass September 11, 2013 at 18:17
    I second the 1978 ford mustang II King cobra, problem is most people have never seen one , even back in 1978 therywere a rare sight
  • 12
    Chris Massachusetts September 11, 2013 at 18:27
    77-78 Mazda RX-3 SP is a great one.
  • 13
    Dave somewhere in New Mexico September 11, 2013 at 19:04
    GTO Judge??? Here come de judge.
  • 14
    George T Indiana September 11, 2013 at 19:24
    @Paul Windish The '75 Monza in California was available with the 5.7 V8. My guess is the 262 could not pass California emissions so they tossed in the heavily detuned 350. If I recall, it put out less HP than the 262 used in the other 49 states and was more on par with the 3.8 V6 used outside of California. I had a '78 5.0 and when I pulled the original carpet out, I found brand new 5.7 V8 fender badges on the floor...must have been left by a factory worker. I loved that car with its 305 and lost track of how many tires I vaporized. Bought in the late 80s during my senior year and regret selling it in the mid 90s. I can't wait for the day that I find a nice low mileage survivor. Today, most are rotted beyond repair or hacked up into dragsters.
  • 15
    Dan Cedar falls, ia September 11, 2013 at 20:23
    Gotta love that Trans Am graphic package! 1977 and 1978 is Hands down the coolest look out of them all..!
  • 16
    Michael Kentucky September 11, 2013 at 22:33
    1976 Buick Century Pace Car Replica
  • 17
    Michael Kentucky September 11, 2013 at 22:34
    1976BuickCenturyPaceCarReplica
  • 18
    Jeff WestChesterPa September 11, 2013 at 11:36
    You forgot the Buick Night Hawk with its glow in the dark graphics.
  • 19
    NovaResource Cyberspace September 11, 2013 at 12:37
    Dont forget about the 1974 Nova SS. It had HUGE "Nova SS" decals on the fenders and a double stripe on the sides of the hood. Or the 1973 Spirit Of America Nova (Impals and Vega too)
  • 20
    Randy Klinski caledonia, mn September 11, 2013 at 12:48
    Surprised the first ever graphics car "The Rebel Machine" is not on the list!
  • 21
    Kevin Walker Michigan September 12, 2013 at 13:39
    How can you not mention any year Hurst/Olds?
  • 22
    rico utica mi. September 12, 2013 at 07:27
    everyone has their favorite but, your list is DREADFUL !!!!!
  • 23
    R.L. Elliott Atlanta, GA September 12, 2013 at 07:58
    A disappointing article. I was expecting to SEE pictures of the graphics. Just reading about the Porsche "Safety Paint" etc. without the visuals was a letdown. Also, it would have helped those who didn't live through the era REALLY get an idea of what the cars looked like! (C:
  • 24
    Randall Pedersen Salina, Kansas September 12, 2013 at 08:49
    Got to agree with many of the others if you are going to title an article "The 10 hottest Graphics Packages Ever", and want your article to at least seem a bit credible, maybe just maybe you should do some research. The first one that jumps to mind for me was driving by my local Ford dealer in 1970 and see a Vermilion Ranchero GT with the lazer stripe package, blacked out hood and black vinyl top. Along with to many to mention muscle cars that had better graphics than nearly all those you listed.
  • 25
    Thomas Hofstad sf bay area September 12, 2013 at 08:54
    I had a 350 monza ... a towne coupe in orange w/ black vinyl top- it sat new and !unsold for 2 yrs
  • 26
    Mike Boulka minneapolis, mn September 12, 2013 at 10:27
    People-People! Look over this list again. With the exception of the BMW, (and possibly '73-'74 Trans Am with the SD 455), all of the cars listed are cars that are not exactly desirable or collectable! Not even the Pace Car Corvette!!!
  • 27
    Roy Stough Sioux Falls SD September 12, 2013 at 12:57
    I thought your article was great. You could write a book on the many diffrent Graphics Packages. I enjoyed your choices they brought back some old memorys.Thank you!
  • 28
    Jimmie Oregon September 13, 2013 at 10:33
    I would like to see a re-do on this article with better pictures of the artwork!
  • 29
    Mike NorthCarolina September 25, 2013 at 16:54
    I agree with all what has been said what about the 1974 Ford Pinto, Maverick and Mustang with the Spirit of America?
  • 30
    Pete Johnson esquire Rochester Hills Mi. October 9, 2013 at 20:43
    The Boss Mustang was the best, changes color and glows at night, WOW, Wild On Woodward , night time is the right time
  • 31
    Ben Michigan November 22, 2013 at 17:42
    I could live with you selections since they cover a broad section of the enthusiast market. No could ever agree on any list given varying tastes. As for me, I would add the Porsche 924 Carrera GT with the large Carrera script on the fender. I also would have to add the JPS Lotus Europa since it was the first (as far as I can remember) to use the black and gold livery.

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