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How Holden’s most iconic livery was born

THE Holden Racing Team livery that Walkinshaw Andretti United’s Commodores sported at the 2022 Adelaide 500 was immortalised by victory at Bathurst 32 years earlier.

WAU donned the black and white ‘helmet and lion’ design one last time in recognition of Holden’s final roar in the Repco Supercars Championship.

WAU’s 2022 Adelaide 500 colours. Pic: Supplied

It was also a farewell from the Walkinshaw team to General Motors ahead of the squad’s switch to Ford Mustangs.

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The HRT livery is one of the sport’s most famous given it was run from 1989 through to the end of 1995 – albeit with some notable variations detailed later in this story.

But who designed the original? And where did the inspiration come from?

The original Holden Special Vehicles helmet and lion logo is credited to English corporate identity group Wolff Olins.

The race car livery though was penned by Australian Mike Simcoe, who had become chief designer at Holden in 1987.

In that role Simcoe designed the red, white and black look that the factory-backed Holdens campaigned in 1988, and the iconic replacement the year after.

In action at Bathurst in 1990. Pic: an1images.com / Graeme Neander

“John Crennan (HSV’s managing director) was very generous with the brief,” Simcoe recalled in HRT: The Cars, 1989-2016.

“I sketched what I thought would work in images and on TV.”

Although the colours debuted on the VL model race car, the original livery had been sketched by Simcoe in 1988 on a VN given that was the latest road car.

“I simply wanted a really strong signature for the Holden race team again, as recognisable as the old Brock HDT cars,” Simcoe added.

“The silhouette lion and helmet was born from a VN race car sketch in blue and white. It was very distinctive on track.

“Black and white was chosen for impact. A simple oversized graphic that allowed other sponsors to stand out.

“The livery seems old now, but it lasted for a long time and has spawned many generations of lion and helmet based race schemes.”

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The livery underwent subtle but significant changes ahead of the 1993 endurance races to better suit then major sponsor Telecom.

The helmet was dropped from the design to create space, the black replaced by blue and the red keyline replaced by orange.

Peter Brock’s HRT Commodore carried a revised version of the original livery in 1994. Pic: an1images.com

Those changes remained for 1994 before the helmet and red keyline returned in 1995 amid the shift from major Telecom to Mobil support.

A wholesale change-up of the design took place for 1996, beginning a period where the team adopted a new livery almost every season.

HRT paid tribute to the 1990 Bathurst livery on its 20th anniversary for the Great Race in 2010.

HRT’s retro throwback at Barthurst in 2010. Pic: an1images.com

WAU also ran a 1994 Brock throwback scheme on its #2 car (renumbered to #02) from Sandown onwards in 2017.

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