The History Of British Racing Green

by Amanda Lundquist

Despite being well-known in the classic car community, British Racing Green has a bit of an air of mystery to it. It’s immediately recognizable, and yet many colors bear its name, from the lighter GN. 25 to the deep, almost black tones seen on Jagaurs. There are often jokes on forums wishing people luck on the “search for British Racing Green”. Why does BRG encompass such a wide range of colors, why do enthusiasts have to hunt down the correct paint code for their restoration, and what does a color have to do with racing?

Here at Moss, we decided to do some digging. We scoured the online databases, turned over a few books, and even called a friend to see if we could make some sense of this famous color.

British Racing Green has long been associated with fast cars. The story is in 1903 when world powers like Britain, Germany, and France were looking to prove their engineering prowess, the United Kingdom was set to host that year’s Gordon Bennet Motor Cup. In years prior, Count Eliot Zborowski had suggested that each nation choose a color to represent themselves, making it easier for onlookers. With Germany taking white, France blue, and America red, Britain had chosen green as its national racing color. In fact, the winning Napier of the 1902 Cup had been painted olive.

Since they had won the previous year, the 1903 Cup was to be held in England, except that the English parliament had passed a law capping the speed limit to a crawling 12 mph with no exceptions. The UK decided to host the race in Ireland instead, where the law didn’t apply. To honor their new hosts, the UK team painted their cars in a bright shamrock or emerald green.

1907 Napier 60hp T21 from Louwman museum in the Netherlands.
One of the earliest examples of British Racing Green.

Although British cars had been painted green in the past, it was this race that is credited for kicking off the tradition of British Racing Green.

As the years went on, deeper colors gained recognition and popularity. In 1929, British racecar driver William Grover-Williams won the inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in his green-painted Bugatti. While the Bennet Cup had tested a country’s engineering, the Grand Prix tested a driver’s skill, allowing drivers to race any car of their choosing. National racing colors became quite useful as racers drove cars that weren’t always manufactured in their countries. This win by Grover-Williams set the tone for some of the deeper shades of British Racing Green, with Bentleys and Jaguar cars following suit.

The lack of an official national shade allowed for a wide range of green to be used over the years, on the race track and outside of it. According to the article “The Color in Racing” from Road and Track’s 1960 issue, “British racing green, to dispel some of the arguments, is not any particular shade of green,  but Napier green is preferred. Stirling Moss drove a light sea-green BRM in the 1959 French Grand Prix. This was quite contrary to the accepted general opinion of what constitutes “British Racing Green” but was, nevertheless, acceptable.” British manufacturers like MG, Healey, and Jaguar began to paint their cars in BRG. Since these companies participated in motorsports and often won famous races like Silverstone and Le Mans, it was a natural move to add the color to their offerings.

National racing colors were phased out in 1969, when Formula One relaxed their sponsorship regulations and allowed for race cars to sport their sponsors’ logos instead. By then, this tradition had been cemented in the minds of the public and street cars had been painted in British Racing Green for several decades; but again, since one official color of BRG was never picked – there was a lot of variety among manufacturers.

This is why get we such a wide range of colors, why MG had GN.25 and GN. 29. While a certain shade comes to mind, there are in reality many shades of BRG and they differ amongst makes and models.

There is another layer of complexity for the preservationists. Folks are right to narrow it down based on the year, make, and model of their vehicle but manufacturers, like MG, got paint from wherever they could, not a singular reliable source. As with many things with these cars, the word to use is “typically”, not “always” or “never”. Despite print advertisements and paint codes, colors were constantly fluctuating and could change mid-year if the factory happened to find a different or cheaper supplier.

There is one story that we heard, supposedly originating from a friend of Donald Healey, that one day, when the factory had run out of paint, they simply paid a visit to their local paint store, mixed up a batch as that was close enough to the original color, and used that to keep the line moving.

It was at this point in our research that we decided to reach out to a professional, Justin Jurgens at British Sports Cars in San Luis Obispo, to get his perspective on the matter. Having serviced and restored so many British classics, we figured he would have some insight.

Mr. Jurgens pointed out that it was simply a different mindset back then. Austin Healey had been known to use up old bonnets on their newer models to make sure the parts didn’t go to waste. Even back in the day, when Jaguar changed their name from Swallow Sidecar Company after World War 2, they didn’t bother recasting the engine blocks bearing the old company logo –but put them right into the production line along with the new ones. “They used what they could,” Justin said.

Bringing up his time judging at the Monterey Concours, he said that some folks come at British Cars with expectations that don’t always align with the “cheap and quick production” that they came from. Porche might have a certificate of authenticity from its methodical German manufacturers but with British cars, even with unrestored all-originals, “You see cars with parts from all over.” As he pointed out, even Ferrari Red was more standardized than British Racing Green.

So how would he define BRG? “Anything green,” Justin said, “typically a dark green with a bit of cream to it.”

The best way to get it “right”, according to him, was to color-match a sample of an original color. His go-to spots were under the dash or behind door cards, where the paint was protected from the sun, was more likely to survive previous restorations, and wasn’t subject to the heat and stress of the engine. Most places need a 3-inch square sample to color match properly. Even then the paint might have faded over time or oxidized, so he said he would usually swatch two shades darker and two shades lighter to give his customers a better idea of their options in case one suited the car or the vision better.

At the end of the day, he concluded, personal preference matters most.

Color-matching original preserved paint will give you one of the many shades that was called British Race Green but if that level of precision isn’t something you can manage – don’t be disheartened.

Many in the community have put together resources to help folks find the right color for their car. Looking at modern materials and paint systems, they have come up with very close approximations of original color codes for the different marques, models, and years.  

After doing some research, we found these codes that we feel we can recommend:

MGB, British Racing Green Light:


Original Code: GN-25

PPG/Ditzler: 43342

Dupont: 8193

Sherwin Williams:9858

MGB, British Racing Green Dark:


Original Code: GN-25

PPG/Ditzler: 43342

Dupont: 8193

Sherwin Williams: 9858



Original code: 555023

PPG/Ditzler: 42487

Dupont: 83734

Martin Senour: 25099

Jaguar Early:


Original codes: ICI 2539, 5038

PPG/Ditzler: 43907

Dupont : 27265, 8542

Sherwin Williams : 8542, 6871

Jaguar Late:


Original codes: 8461, 254

PPG/Ditzler: 44524

Dupont: 32500

Sherwin Williams: 4131


For a more modern take, try Miata’s interpretation of BRG –
formulated in honor of British Roadsters and their legacy.


Original code: HU

PPG/Ditzler: 47037

Dupont: L9563

RM/BASF: 20600

Glasurit: MAZ-648, MAZ648

Sufficed to say, from the start British Racing Green was more of an art than a science. The color started as a loose tradition to mark the country of origin, which created a legacy associated with speed and engineering prowess. As it went into production, it continued to morph over the years, changing from vehicle to vehicle. Now, despite being so recognizable, it still remains a bit elusive. Variety and variability have always been key components of BRG.

So, whether you color-match an original piece, hunt down a historical code, or simply go with the shade you like best, one could argue you are participating in and continuing on the rich tradition of British Racing Green.

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