INTERVIEW: The man behind Holden Motorsport liveries

INTERVIEW: The man behind Holden Motorsport liveries
May 11, 2017 | 7:30 pm | Author: Steven Wright

As part of‘s new feature, which is to shine the spotlight on the people who tend to be behind the scenes and not really recognized for their work in the mainstream media.

The first interview in this series will be done on a top livery designer in Supercars. ‘s lead editor, Steven Wright caught up with a top Holden designer Peter Hughes to talk about what goes into the process of a livery design.

APEX: To our viewers, tell us who you are and what you do in relation to the Supercars Championship.

HUGHES: Born and bred in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, married, two kids 10 and 13.

I joined Holden Design in 1990. Designer on such cars as VT Commodore, VX Commodore and V2 Monaro, Lead Designer on VE Commodore and Design Manager on Chevrolet Camaro 5th generation and VF Commodore. Lead Designer on GM Showcars such as Holden VT Coupe, Holden Utester, Chevrolet YGM1, Elfin MS8 Streamliner and Holden Coupe 60.

Motorsport wise … first worked on sponsor placement for HRT in ’92 on the VP Commodore, first fully designed livery was VS 1997. Did HRT liveries 97-00, 06-16

APEX: I hope I’m right to assume that you’re a fan in motorsport since you were a kid, how did you get into motorsport?

HUGHES: My father was a semi-professional rally car driver thrashing Hillmans around faster than they should really go, so I was around race cars since I could walk. He raced against guys like Bob Watson, Colin Bond and Peter Brock back in the early 70’s in big events like the ’72 and ’73 BP Rally. I remember hanging off the start-finish scaffolding watching the cars head off….loved it.

APEX: As you must be a fan of the Virgin Australia Supercars Series fan, so I have to ask this question. Are you Holden or Ford supporter? and why did you pick that side?

HUGHES: I didn’t really pick a side between red and blue, and was brought up on Alfa Romeos, Lotus, MG’s and the like, so the choice between Holden and Ford came only because I secured a job with Holden Design in 1990.

I had no preference before that, although Peter Brock fascinated me and I kind of followed him. That switched to Colin Bond and Alan Jones when they started running the giant killer Alfa Romeo GTV6’s, {I’m a big Alfa fan}.

Once I started working closely with HRT and other Holden Supercar teams, the passion for Holden Motorsport grew quickly.

APEX: With your designer job at Holden Motorsport. What was your pathway to get that job with Holden and why did you go in that direction?

HUGHES: Mike Simcoe was my boss at the time, the man who designed the VL Walkinshaw Grp A and the VN Group A, along with those famous liveries for the start-up of HRT in 88 and 89, it ran that way for many years.

He just handed the responsibility over to me eventually as we both loved motorsport and gravitated towards it. So from ’97 to ’00 I looked after the HRT cars and a few others….until I handed it over to other designers within Holden Design as well.

That was until 2006 when no one really had the time to take care of the livery for HRT that year, so I took it on again and just did a cleanup and variation on the 2005 car. I stayed on to take the responsibility for 2007 as it was the introduction of the VE Commodore and I had a big part in designing that car, so really wanted to do the livery for the racer as well.

This was also the start of my long association with Simon McNamara from HMS, who also cared how all his Holden Supercars looked as much as I did. We forged a strong bond with common goals. I found the motorsport side of design really enjoyable again, and a nice distraction from the normal day to day dealings.

So over 100 liveries later I can still say I care how our Holden Supercars cars roll out each race weekend.

APEX: I know you been with Holden since the mid-1990s, what was your favourite liveries that you designed and why? 

A common question and a really hard one to answer….it’s funny, that the most popular liveries amongst fans always seem to be the successful cars. Ironically one of my favourites was the 2012 HRT livery, yet the car was a disaster and didn’t win a race.

Another big favourite was Larry’s first Castrol VT. I remember taping that livery up at Moorabbin and Larry watching on curiously as the ‘ wacky stripes’ on the side evolved. They made templates from my line work and hand painted the car…. good times. Hand painted racecars always looked great.

16807650_10155156977786789_180131981505098539_nThe others that would be included but not order:

1997 HRT {and the 2015 Tribute} as it was my first livery for HRT and Brocks last year.

2008 Bathurst….the 3D chrome lion,

All the Anzac cars for what they meant,

2015 HRT Test car (all matte black).

2007 & 2011 HRT.

2007 & 2008 HSVDT

APEX: This year you no longer design the Walkinshaw Racing / Mobil 1 HSV Racing liveries as they switched to Nick Moss. Which Supercars and Super2 teams do you currently design liveries for?

HUGHES: Not as many as I use to !!

With the restructuring of how Holden’s Motorsport operations are run, I’m less involved these days as Holden themselves are less involved with many of the teams. HSV Racing went elsewhere as they wanted to start clean and start fresh, so as disappointing as it was at the time I totally got where they were coming from…I have many mates from Clayton and l had a great inning down there.

So for this year I’ve helped develop the RBHRT factory cars {but it’s not all my say} and the Lowndes’ Vortex car. 888 are fabulous to work with. I still do the BJR Freightliner and help out LDM when I can.

APEX: Designing liveries must be a long process to go through. So once the main sponsor is locked into the team, can you tell us in detail what happens on your side of the process?

HUGHES: It really changes from team to team….there’s really no set pattern.

With the ‘ id’ HRT when Holden sponsored most of the car, I had the major say on how the livery would be, so the process was shorter and to my liking!!! On the flip side of that, if you have two major sponsors banging heads on the one livery and have conflicting requirements, the process can be long and tedious…over a dozen variations of the one theme is not uncommon.

I don’t think I’ve ever done a livery that wasn’t aesthetically compromised by sponsor requirements.

APEX: As you been designing liveries for over 20 years, are there any liveries you wished got onto a car and didn’t, if so what were they?

HUGHES: A few…The first that comes to mind is a lovely chrome livery for Russell Ingalls 200th race at Bathurst that wasn’t used.

A few Vodafone liveries that I thought were good but never used…

The heritage cars for HRT at Sandown last season that fell over, which I was really disappointed about.

I also felt the earlier Star Wars liveries I did were more cohesive, but Disney we very strict with the use of their art…

Some of the early RBHRT liveries for 2017, that I thought had massive potential but were never pursued.

I was always frustrated when the Holden Supercheap cars appearing with yellow lights, when they were supposed to be black. Pet hate.

We would like to thank Peter Hughes spending time answering these questions, so please join his Facebook group where he shares lots of his Holden Supercars artwork and advertises his excellent Holden prints which all are limited edition.