The color of success: Painting the Petersen in papaya orange

Petersen Automotive Museum

The color of success: Painting the Petersen in papaya orange


The color of success: Painting the Petersen in papaya orange


Now open at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles (and staying on in the Charles Nearburg Family Gallery through April 9, 2023), “The Color of Success”—Team McLaren’s papaya orange livery.

Fledgling racer Bruce McLaren emigrated from New Zealand to racing’s Mecca, Great Britain, to found Bruce McLaren Motor Racing in 1963. The following year, the fledgling company built the first McLaren race car—the M1A. Its successor, the M1B, debuted in the then-new SCCA Can-Am championship—a series the team would utterly dominate from 1966 through 1971, notching a total of 43 victories.

In 1965 the first McLaren Formula 1 car, the M2B, raced in the Monaco Grand Prix. McLaren then moved into American open-wheel racing, first entering the Indianapolis 500 in 1970.

The marque quickly established a name for itself in auto racing, but it took considerably more time for the team to establish a distinctive identity. The cars sported many different liveries until the 1967 Can-Am season, during which McLaren debuted the color it would become synonymous with—papaya orange.

The company later used that distinctive hue on successful cars in a wide variety of series, including Can-Am, Champ/Indy car, F1, F2 and F5000. But despite its iconic status, the eye-catching color was only used for a short period, soon lost to the demands of major sponsorship, and decades would pass before its reappearance.

McLaren’s return to papaya orange for the 2018 F1 season came appropriately on the 50th anniversary of its original introduction, thrilling fans worldwide. The new Color of Success exhibit celebrates that bright orange hue, forever linked to a popular New Zealnder and the successful race cars that bear his name. Featured are McLarens representing multiple racing disciplines, all sporting the familiar papaya livery and marking key moments in the team’s 60-year history.

For more information on the Petersen and its current displays, click HERE.

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