Why Are McLarens Always Orange?

Jason Siu
by Jason Siu

McLaren’s love for orange goes back 50 years, but why is this color so significant to the British automaker?

The iconic orange livery will make a return on the McLaren MCL32 Formula 1 car this year, and to celebrate, McLaren has shared details on how orange came to be its signature color. In 1967, the McLaren M6A sported Papaya Orange after team manager Teddy Mayer had long been unhappy with the team’s liveries. Mayer claimed Papaya Orange would make the cars “show up like beacons on TV.” Not only did the M6A stand out on the track, but it dominated the 1967 Can-Am season, winning five out of six races.

The following year, McLaren decided to paint its Formula 1 machines orange with the M7A securing the company’s first Formula 1 victory at the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in June 1968. The color then made an appearance when McLaren decided to take on the Indianapolis 500 in 1970 with the McLaren M15.

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More than two decades later in 1995, McLaren decided to celebrate its Le Mans 24 Hours victory by building five road-going units of the F1 GTR that won the race. Three of the five units were painted Papaya Orange. Two years later, the McLaren MP4/12 made its debut at the automaker’s factory in Woking, finished in trademark Papaya Orange.

Later in 2009, when McLaren announced its first new road car in nearly two decades, it was only natural that Papaya Orange be brought up to date. And that’s how Volcano Orange was born, which is still available to order on Sports Series models.

This year, the orange livery returns to McLaren’s Formula 1 race car, the McLaren-Honda MCL32. The recently debuted McLaren 720S can be ordered in three different shades of orange: McLaren Orange, Papaya Spark, and the darker Azores used on the 720S seen above. All three shades owe their existence to the original Papaya Orange of the 1960s.

Discuss this story on our McLaren Forum

Jason Siu
Jason Siu

Jason Siu began his career in automotive journalism in 2003 with Modified Magazine, a property previously held by VerticalScope. As the West Coast Editor, he played a pivotal role while also extending his expertise to Modified Luxury & Exotics and Modified Mustangs. Beyond his editorial work, Jason authored two notable Cartech books. His tenure at AutoGuide.com saw him immersed in the daily news cycle, yet his passion for hands-on evaluation led him to focus on testing and product reviews, offering well-rounded recommendations to AutoGuide readers. Currently, as the Content Director for VerticalScope, Jason spearheads the content strategy for an array of online publications, a role that has him at the helm of ensuring quality and consistency across the board.

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  • Noe Japan Noe Japan on Mar 31, 2017

    The volcano orange ( as shown ) i don't particular like ....... the true McLaren orange is the solid colour papaya and which was found on the majority of their original race cars As mentioned the can am-series cars, which were/are on display in the McLaren 'walk' inside the woking HQ look particularly good The solid papaya orange is not to everyones tastes though but a vividly mclaren colour