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Why Kawasaki are green and Ducati red?

Planet Biker 25 June, 2019

We talk about…

Whats behind the colors and logos of the most prestigious motorcycle brands.

Each brand has its own identity, a way of understanding and designing bikes that marks its own character. A character marked by human stories and common places that will surprise you.

Why Kawasaki bikes are green?

The Kawasaki green was born as an advertising stunt by its American subsidiary. In 1969, the distributor registered an official team to compete in the prestigious Daytona 200 Milles, at that time the most important race in the United States and a big claim for sales. However, it was not enough: his sales director wanted people to notice his machines on track.

verde-kawasaki-daytona-1969The original Kawasaki lineup for Daytona on the day of its famous lime green premiere.

That is why the team approached Rollin ‘Molly’ Sanders, a young man with a paint workshop for cars and motorcycles in southern California who had been customizing bikes since his years in the secondary school. Molly Sanders proposed to paint the machines with a bold lime green, a color that nobody had used before in racing since it was considered ‘jinxed’. The proposal was a success and the brand did not take long to adapt the color – refined and under the patented name of ‘Kawasaki Racing Green’ – for all its bikes.

From Kenny Roberts’ yellow to the Yamaha Blue

But Molly Sanders’ career did not stop at creating the iconic Kawasaki green, he also worked for Yamaha America, which also commissioned him to look for an aggressive and striking decoration for its racing bikes.

Until then, the Yamaha were white with a central red stripe. With those original colors the brand from Iwata achieved its first championships with talented riders like Phil Real and Bill Ivy. But Sanders went further: this is how the famous yellow Yamaha with a band of white and black stripes were born and that Kenny Roberts made famous thanks to his victories on both sides of the Atlantic.

amarillo-yamaha-usa-kenny-robertsThe yellow of the YZR500 will be forever associated with ‘king’ Kenny Roberts, but Yamaha USA also exhibited these colors in other disciplines, such as dirt track or motocross.

In the 1980s, Yamaha abandoned this decoration, but at the beginning of the century, it re-contracted the services of Sanders to find a new corporate color. An ambitious project that ended up betting on the current dark blue that defines the brand.

Yamaha’s tuning forks

What has not changed at Yamaha are the three tuning forks of his logo. But unlike other brands, its logo incorporates an element of Japanese tradition. Its symbol takes the form of a ‘mon’ (紋), the Japanese equivalent of an European family coat of arms. Obviously, Yamaha being a brand whose origin is the manufacture of pianos, it is normal that its logo has three tuning forks, the metallic tool that serves to refine instruments.

logo-diapasones-yamahaUnlike other brands, the Yamaha logo has undergone few transformations over the years, as demonstrated by this TD2 250 from the early ’70s and with the old official colors.

Currently, there is no Japanese motorcycle brand that uses a ‘mon’, although recently Kawasaki has reintroduced the river mark, a symbol present on the flags of the boats manufactured by Kawasaki at the beginning of the company.

Hamamatsu, birthplace of the Japanese brands

Did you know that Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki were born in the same city? The industrial town of Hamamatsu, halfway between Tokyo and Osaka, was the birthplace of these three large corporations, although currently only Suzuki is still based in Hamamatsu.

The motorcycle division of Yamaha moved to Iwata, a neighboring city on the other side of the Tenryū River. However, the manufacture of Yamaha musical instruments is still performed in Hamamatsu; For this reason and also for the presence of companies such as Roland, Kawai and Tokai, Hamamatsu is known in Japan as ‘the city of music’.

1948-honda-fábrica-hamamatsuThis was the first “factory” of Honda, a shed in one of Hamamatsu’s industrial neighborhoods, in 1948. [/ peu]

This city was also the birthplace of Soichiro Honda. The genius that was going to change the motorcycling forever began manufacturing piston rings for Toyota. After the war he founded the business that bears his name in a shed in his hometown, although with its enormous growth he soon moved his headquarters in Minato, financial heart of Tokyo.

Ducati’s red and the Cavallino Rampante

The origin of the Ducati red has a link with motorsport. And no, it’s not because of Ferrari … or yes, it depends on how you look at it. Ducati adopted red in the late ’70s, a color that has always predominated in Italian sports cars.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the International Automobile Federation obliged manufacturers to paint their cars according to a color code. Each country had a color: red for Italy, dark green for Britain, cyan for France… and that’s why Alfa Romeo or Ferrari are red. From there also springs the legend of the ‘silver arrows’, the Mercedes that the factory made run without painting in white, saving several kilos of weight in paint.

1956-ducati-cavallino-rampante[peu]The 125 Grand Prix was the first Ducati to incorporate red in its graphics, since the Bolognese brand used to use silver. The rampant horse painted on the front of the enclosing fairing deserves special attention.

But back to Ducati. What color did they look before adopting red? Borgo Panigale’s motorcycles were painted silver-gray and came to show off a ‘cavallino rampante’ in his fairing! Again, it is a whim of history. Fabio Taglioni, engineer and creator of the Ducati desmodromic, decided to paint the shield of his city on his motorcycles: Baracca. But a couple of decades earlier, the Count of Baracca had ‘ceded’ the image of the rampant horse to the Scuderia Ferrari. The growing popularity of Italian cars made Ducati stop using the rampant horse to identify their bikes.

And for you, what is the most mythical decoration or the colors that you like most in the history of motorcycling? Leave your opinion in the comments!

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