According to Sven Voelker's book Go Faster, it was American driver Briggs Cunningham who ushered in the era of the "go-faster stripe" when he put two of them on his white Le Mans racer in the fifties. The next year, according to Voelker, stripes were everywhere, and so began the era of wild and memorable race-car liveries that would peak in the 70s and 80s.
The surprise of the book is that the in the days before massive corporate sponsorship, color schemes weren't conjured by graphics departments. Usually, they came from the engineers and grease monkeys who built the cars. It's an observation that helps make sense of some of the luridly hued racers shown in the archival footage. Follow the jump to watch Voelker discuss the book and the war-painted cars within – all the period racing footage makes it worth a look.