British Racing Green – so what is the correct shade?

1 Nov

A good question and the short answer is…. there isn’t currently one! But fear not, here’s an article on the various Green shades you may find useful in helping you find a shade for you. (Colour examples are included in this article).

My quest started 40 years ago whilst building the mighty Airfix 1:12 Bentley 4 ½ litre kit, the Green colour was quoted as Mid Brunswick Green, surely should this be British Racing Green, I wondered?

MG Q Type replica 1934 in ‘Brooklands Green’.

Recently I was preparing a project built on a Y type bare chassis and decided to go for a green paint. The project car was to be styled on an MG Q type and the plan is to do the whole car in one shade of Green. This led to me considering a number of green shades.

Not only that, but paint base types; I wanted to brush the chassis paint and spray the body panels which might present problems with some paint types. Although the car above looks a mid-green, it is in sunlight and looks darker in neutral light.

MG over the years has a confusing range of paint shades, with the same colour having different names across many years. ‘Racing Green‘ is the factory’s MG TA colour, also known as Dublin Green, EmGee Green or Apple Green.

Racing Green looks quite acceptable as a ‘British Racing Green’ colour if you want a standard MG shade without having to have something mixed to pattern.

Paint Ranges

You might come across colours with RAL or BS4800 codes. RAL is a German system devised in the 1930’s and the RAL codes are derived from the numerical Red, Green and Blue (RGB) values of the final colour code – RAL6010 for example is a Grass Green.

Essentially this ‘standard’ means any paint mixer should be able to produce a tin of paint exactly to the colour made up of the Red, Green and Blue composition information of the RAL code.

RAL was produced for transport signage originally, but has grown to many hundreds of colour shades, some with descriptive names as well as the code number. RAL6010 Grass Green for example, is often used in restoring lawnmowers and is near to Atco Green.

The BS4800 British Standard shades range was originally produced for transport related non-vehicle applications but now covers many vehicle colours too.

UN Paint codes on containers – a quick guide – This is most important to know!

A tin of paint may have a UN code on it, such as UN1263, the UN code is a unified coding system for transporters, so that they know what is in a can before it is loaded for shipment. This is particularly useful in case of a fire or spillage, so that it is known how to deal with it and any potential dangers. However, it is not always straightforward with paints.

UN1263 – is usually a brushable paint, often called ‘Transport Enamel’, Semi-Synthetic paint, Synthetic Cellulose, or Alkyd Resin paint. It can be thinned for spraying.

When purchasing, always buy the recognised ‘pack’ of primer, thinner and top coat wherever possible from the same source, so that you lessen the possibility of paint reaction or failure during use. Not all UN1263 code paint products work with each other!

Some brands of UN1263 paint such as Kramp or Vapormatic are quite heat resistant and are used on Tractor engines as well as vehicle parts which do not get so hot. Kramp has around 800 colours in their range. You can buy these on-line.

Brushed or sprayed 1263 semi paint takes around 8 hours to dry off.

Cellulose can be applied over UN1263 if sprayed in light build up coats, but as always do a test piece first to see that there is no reaction. Cellulose confusingly has a UN1263 code too! Generally, they are best kept as separate paints for separate applications. If you do have a lot of spraying experience then you’ll probably be ok in this case.

Proper Cellulose dries off very quickly, it is often touch dry in 10 minutes, it does take time to fully harden, a week or more.

UN1950 – This covers Acrylic paints and 2k paints which are Acrylic. UN1950 is available in aerosols, it is thinner in this instance for spraying, it is also available as a paint in a tin for mixing for spraying. Cellulose can be applied over Acrylic primer if done carefully. I have done this on guitar bodies using UN1950 filler primer from an aerosol and then cellulose top coats. Acrylic over Humbrol enamel or some Oil based paints reacts!

Modern Acrylics in litre tins for spraying are usually water-based and flat finish, they need a top clear lacquer coat to give you the shine, you will need that on a water-based paint.1 part and 2K Acrylic also needs a lacquer over metallic paints without exception.

2k Acrylic used to be an Isocyanate compound paint but this is now changing to a less toxic paint recipe. 2k is a paint base which you mix up with an activator (hardener catalyst) compound. Normally this paint system is used professionally, but you can buy a clean air fed mask system so you can use it with the right set up at home. Do not use 2K without an air fed mask under any circumstances, it can cause organ failure and death.

Paint type advantages and disadvantages:

UN1263 Brushing semi paint – Dries slowly, takes about 8 hours to dry. Good ‘enamel’ finish (glossy not ‘hammered’ enamel look!) good protection from weather, will age over time from dirt, rain etc. flexible to an extent when dried, so good for chassis parts. Used widely on Tractor restorations for example.

UN1263 Cellulose – Dries quickly, takes a week or longer to harden off, dries to a nice deep ‘vintage’ sheen, ages nicely on an older car or restoration, can be cut back by hand with Farecla G3 rubbing compound if ‘orange peel’ finish occurs during spraying, does find edges of filler (often when heavy coats applied), liable to ‘sink’ where surface imperfections occur, not widely available as it is only allowed for vintage vehicle use.

Also, liable to sink or ‘search’ into grain of wood if a filler or sealing primer is not used over wood. Likely due to the thinners composition, certainly seems more stringent when you get it on your skin. Recommended for the vintage look.

UN1950 Acrylic – Smelling of ‘Pears’ thanks to the Acetone in some Acrylics, available in aerosols pre-mixed or in litre and larger sized tins which can be thinned out for spraying. Dries fairly quickly, can be prone to chipping. Aerosols useful for smaller items where mixing up a gun of paint is costly, many shades off the shelf available in Halfords etc. Useful for MG TC centre console panel type applications.

Sprayed Acrylic from a hand mixed batch is tougher than from a 400ml Aerosol; it is likely to be a water- based paint nowadays so will require a clear lacquer coat for a shine. Tougher when clear coated. Most modern cars are sprayed in this type of paint.

UN1950 2K Acrylic – Mixed from a paint base with a catalysing activator liquid compound. 2K paints dry in 20 minutes and goes very hard, very quickly. The sprayed paint reacts with the air in the spray shop and the activator in the paint to ‘set’ the paint quickly by chemical reaction.

Will go rock hard if left in a spray gun to dry out and renders it useless – be warned, wash your spray gun out as soon as you have finished. 2K can be left liquid in a spray gun for around 30 minutes max. before it starts to go off.

Highly dangerous to spray if you don’t have an air fed mask system, often only sold for professional use. Finish is often very ‘glassy’ and looks a bit ‘hard’ when compared to Cellulose. Often used on ‘chocolate box’ car restorations and along with oven heating to help cure the paint off.

Paint types – Here’s how they define these paints

1k or single pack = A Paint base + Thinners.

2K of twin pack = A Paint base + Activator + Thinners

Paint matching advice. You may need to be aware of the following…

Optical matching – A Dulux type colour centre has a device called a Spectrometer which can analyse the RGB (Red, Blue and Green) values (composition) of the paint colour when scanned. Armed with these values, you can go to an automotive paint shop and hopefully get the same shade as analysed. RAL uses RGB Values.

Paint names – One man’s Almond Green may not be another’s. – On a TA or TB the Green colour shade names don’t always cross refer to the correct shade for the car.

Model changes may have a ‘new’ shade of Almond Green that is noticeably, but only slightly different to the previous model. A move often done in the industry as part of making ‘changes’ to avoid comments of this car being just a model name change over the previous car.

A good example of name and shade changes is the British Leyland ‘Brooklands Green.’ This is a fairly mid to dark green from BL days and a nice BRG style colour, but be aware that Land Rover also used the name in recent years and their shade is much darker, almost a black / green. So be aware that old or historical names can be misinterpreted, superseded and sometimes just incorrect.

This happened to me with this colour! The Land Rover darker shade was supplied, not the old BL shade. Paint suppliers only supply what is asked they don’t question, so ensure that if there is any chance of ambiguity, it is clear what you are ordering!

Original paint – Some caveats to be aware of here – firstly, some vehicle producers bought paint from the cheapest supplier on the day, or bought job lots that were either ‘close to’ or ‘adjusted’ in their own paint shop to the correct colours of their products. Different pigment origins can also affect the end colour too.

Secondly, paints can fade with UV light exposure. Green isn’t too bad in this respect, but Blue and Red shades really do oxidise and ‘weather’ badly. (Often a good rub with T-Cut does get back to a good example of the original colour by cutting down to sounder paint layers below).

If you can find a part like the inside of a glove box lid, that’s likely to be the closest you’ll get to an ‘original’ shade, as it has likely had less UV exposure to fade it.

However… be aware that the paint on the top of the car may have been refinished to a close shade at some stage after and the inside parts weren’t, so do some detective work to ascertain if you can see evidence of a refinish that may differ from the shade you are looking to achieve.

Also, a previous owner may say ‘they painted it in ‘xxx Green’ when the shop may have just used a paint they had near to that, so again, do your research because it’s too late when it’s on the car!

Colour chip cards with the original paint colour on are available from some paint suppliers.

Computer monitors can give various different ‘versions’ of what a paint shade actually is from monitor to monitor, according to how they are either calibrated, or handle the colour or how the video card displays colours.

The golden rule really, here is to ideally have the colour in your hand. It’s too late once you open the tin, or start spraying! (or order it and find it is way off the shade).

Thorough mixing – Some paints may have been on the shelf for up to a year or more and the pigments and solids have settled, really stir the paint up well to avoid thin paint without proper ‘body’ which can affect the end colour.

Test paint colour on a sample piece before you go anywhere near your car with it, see the paint dry and decide if this is the correct shade.

How will your car look in this shade? Sometimes a colour might look good on the chip card but on the car, it doesn’t quite look right. Have a range of colours to try.

Two tone colour schemes – Lay colour chip cards over each other so that you can see how both shades work together – or don’t. The paint sprayer often only will spray what you specify. Once they start spraying, they are usually committed! So, avoid undue expense by not getting it wrong at this late stage!

RGB to RAL conversion– You can visit a site with a conversion process where you put in the RGB colour values and can in many cases, get a direct or close RAL code equivalent.

Some paint shops don’t use the RAL system. So, take an actual paint sample they can match to, or take a Spectrometer reading from.

PRE-1960 paints safety – Many if not all Pre-1960 paints contain Lead, take care when removing old Pre-1960 paint, it sticks and lasts a long time to things because of the Lead!

Ok, let’s go Green…

Here we’ll look at some Greens in the range to give you an idea. These are ‘on-screen’ colours so do ensure you have an actual paint sample to compare for the final decision before you buy. Always look at a spread of colours before making your final choice!

Shades of Green – Blue and Green makes Yellow as we all know, but in our consideration of dark green colours the Blue or Yellow tone can affect the ‘warmth’ of the colour.

Shades like Atlantic Green, used on a 1947 YA I owned had a lot of ‘blue’ tonation, much like a Norwegian christmas tree type of shade, what I would call a ‘cold green’ look.

A ‘Castrol’ type Green has more yellow in and so is a ‘warmer green.’ I prefer warmer green shades personally.

EXAMPLES OF COLOURS ON CARS

MG C type in a Light Brunswick style shade
MG PA in light Brunswick
MG PA Special in Mid Brunswick Green
MG TA/Q in a very Dark Green with ‘Blueness’
MG TA/Q in a Green with blue hint similar to YA Atlantic Green

Above left: MG TA in a Racing Green shade right: MG TD in a darker Green perhaps Woodland?

MG TA Tickford in Westminster Green and an Opaline style shade
MG Q Type replica in Brooklands Green

I hope that you have found this article useful, if any members have enquiries regarding paint for restorations then contact me by email on fender57red(at)yahoo.co.uk  [Please substitute @ for (at)] or call 01544 350320.

Ed’s note: Thank you Matt Sanders for a most informative article. I hope it will be particularly helpful to those who have reached the painting stage on their restoration, or those who are contemplating a respray.



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One Response to “British Racing Green – so what is the correct shade?”

  1. Bruce Cunha 19. Nov, 2019 at 1:00 am #

    Very good information. I am finishing the restoration of my 1950 MGTD and found that the car was originally a dark green. I found original paint under the inner dash on the bottom of the scuttle.

    One issue is that the formula’s done in the UK do not correspond to the US paint code system. I did find an Almond Green formula here in the States, and tried a dab nex to the original. It was much lighter. My best match is Woodland Green, A color that is said was not available on the 1950 TD.
    (original colors and when they came out is a whole other topic)

    One other item I see. In the States, a two pack paint is normally a acrylic with a clear top coat.

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