When Jeff Gordon gave us those nice, bright colors.
As we covered in my earlier post about Dale Earnhardt's groundbreaking Silver Select car for the 1995 Winston All-Star race, the golden era of NASCAR in the 1990s gave way to an easel-full of different paint schemes and special colors that were featured week-in and out on America's speedways. Some drivers would use their sponsors and connections to their benefit and truly create some beautiful machines, while others would find themselves peddling high-budget movies to gain a few extra bucks. However, I feel that no driver put this new trend to greater use than Jeff Gordon.
In the 1990s, Gordon was the sport's newest wunderkind, a hot-shot driver out of Indiana that was quickly eating up tarmac to victories early in his career, and, soon enough, started taking home championship trophies too. He quickly became one of the sport's most divisive drivers, with old-school fans despising him and their offsprings starting to come to like him. The bright colors of his DuPont-sponsored Monte Carlo, affectionately dubbed the "Rainbow Warrior" by fans, made him a bright and easy target for cheers and jeers alike.
Jeff Gordon's vibrant Rainbow Warrior paint-scheme from 1995-2000.
Being a paint company, DuPont had no qualm about showing off their color-coating prowess on the car, but in the early stages of the special-scheme craze, Gordon wouldn't have much to show outside of advertising for a new DuPont paint finish and a quite infamous Jurassic Park car. In 1998, that would all change, as Gordon would unveil one of the wildest and most striking-looking stock cars onto the Charlotte Motor Speedway pavement for that year's Winston All-Star race.
To put it bluntly, this car was nothing more than a flex by DuPont, showcasing what a paint company could really do if you had their blessing on a car. Designed to coincide with the massive 50th anniversary of NASCAR festivities that year, the car, dubbed "Chromalusion," featured a color-shifting paint job that moved between orange, copper, and red, while sporting a massive amount of metallic flake.
Onlookers were immediately stunned by the car, with its paint almost moving under the lights as if it were still in its liquid state. Although Jeff only managed a 16th place finish that night, the car would immediately be remembered as one of his most iconic rides as the years went on. To this day, I personally don't think any driver has had a single better-looking paintjob on their car, which is why I had to have this 1/24 model by the geniuses at Action. Although I was skeptic at first as to how it would turn out, I'm happy to say that this slightly older model manages to capture the color shifting effect perfectly.
Direct light brings out the dark red accents, while shadows accentuate the orange and copper.
Though the 1998 Chromalusion car would become the most iconic, Gordon would go on to drive two more color-shifting cars later in his career. In the following Winston in 1999, a Superman-themed car would sport purple, blue, and red color-shift, and in the 2001 fall Richmond race, Gordon would pilot a Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes car with a blue, teal, and purple design to a lackluster 36th place finish. I do plan to collect the other two as diecasts, so expect to see a showcase of all three together someday.
I assure you, this is the same car.
While the car never got to see victory lane, its popularity is proof that a good design can do wonders on a race car, no matter who drives it or where it finished. Gordon's DuPont sponsorship would always be remembered for its wild colors, but its peak was undoubtedly with the Chromalusion, a car that deserves a spot in an art museum more than the NASCAR Hall of Fame.