The Strangest Ever F1 Sponsors

Having your brand appear on one of the fastest, most prestigious motorsports in the world is a sure-fire way to bring in a wealth of extra customers and profits to your business.

Over the years, there have been hundreds of different logos plastered onto Formula 1 cars. They have ranged from the ever-present cigarette brands to technology corporations. Even some more obscure sectors such as household appliances and airline companies have sponsored big teams in the paddock.

Every now and then, some particularly unique sponsors have caught the eyes for rather unusual reasons. Here are four of the strangest ever Formula One sponsors.

1. National Organs – Surtees TS16

dave-morgan-surtees-ts164_43372146015_o_840 | The "forgotten" drivers of F1
Photo by Tim Marshall

National Organs adorned the sidepods of Dave Morgan’s Surtees at a single race in the 1975 season, being the British GP at Silverstone.

The company name was actually Southern Organs, and their area of expertise was the manufacture of church organs. You’d think that the high-paced, adrenaline-fuelled nature of F1 would not fit into the agendas of such a serene, religious firm. Nevertheless, Southern Organs managed to get over 100 benefactors to finance various organs across the country.

However, the agreements that were signed were completely fake. Southern Organs’ founders Jim Miller and John Bellord kept all the money to themselves.

When their scheme was uncovered, they hid on a tiny island off the coast of Scotland for near enough a year before finally getting caught whilst on a supply run on the mainland. They were both given jail sentences of six years. So not only was the sponsor weird to begin with, the fate of the business was also just as strange.

2. ABBA – ATS D5

Auge=mit, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Swedish pilot Slim Borgudd was driving for ATS in their 1981 effort, the D5 (known then as the HGS1). Borgudd has the unique distinction of having excelled in a musical career before taking part in racing. He was an occasional drummer for none other than Swedish pop band ABBA!

He and his fellow band members (along with the team’s approval) agreed to put the name of the band on the side of the car in an effort to garner extra media attention for both the band and ATS. The latter had a dire need for cash at the time.

This remains the only time that a musician or band has sponsored a team in the history of Formula 1.

3. Durex – Surtees TS19

File:Surtees TS19 Mallory Park.JPG
TOM at Picassa., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1976 F1 season was perhaps one of the most exciting, with the on and off-track tussle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda capturing the attention of many.

But fans in the United Kingdom were cruelly denied viewing of most of the races on television in ’76 because of one peculiar logo emblazoned all over the Surtees vehicles.

Durex, a manufacturer of male contraceptive equipment, decided to fund John Surtees‘ outfit for the entire year. This did not go down so well with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). In fact, the BBC were so concerned with maintaining a family-friendly seal on their channels that they refused to show any races which the “Durex car” competed in.

They even asked the British team to paint over the logos at the British Grand Prix, but the team declined. All the cameramen and the rest of the crew were forced to pack their belongings early.

4. Penthouse – Hesketh 308E

File:Hesketh 308E at Silverstone Classic 2011.jpg
David Merrett from Daventry, England, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Although not fast by any means whatsoever, the Hesketh 308E managed to turn heads everywhere it went. Penthouse were masters at drawing the curiosity of adult males with their “lad magazines”.

Considering most F1 fans in the seventies were men, it made perfect sense to simply cover the whole car in drawings of semi-clothed women. In fact, Penthouse continued to sponsor the UK team for three years until Hesketh folded in 1978.

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