Extreme machines call for extreme ornamentation, so it’s hardly surprising that muscle cars and wild graphics schemes have peacefully coexisted for decades. Whether it’s a screaming chicken or a pissed-off bumblebee, the most iconic muscle cars of all time have relied on clever graphics for that extra bit of visual pop. Unfortunately, applying graphics can be a touchy proposition. There’s a fine line between boldness and tastelessness, and one wrong move while walking the tightrope is the difference between gloriously reaching the other side or ending up at the bottom of the cliff. To get a fresh take on modern graphics that pay homage to the past, we consulted with the top automotive designers in the business, and had them sketch some cutting-edge ideas that can be applied to any ride. To make things more interesting, we intentionally selected some less-than-mainstream muscle to use as blank canvasses to further reinforce how profoundly a simple graphics scheme can change the entire personality of a car.

Highlander ’67 Fairlane

Although hot rodded Novas and Chevelles outnumber Fairlanes by a large margin, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be cool. With the right paint and graphics scheme, Tavis Highlander’s take on a modern Pro Touring Fairlane doesn’t play second fiddle to any Chevy. “With some Grabber Blue paint and custom satin black stripes, this Fairlane pops in a way that Fairlanes usually don’t. This is one case where the graphics don’t just add to the look of the car, but completely transform a car’s attitude,” he says. “If you’re looking for paint scheme ideas, always consider your engine as a possible jumping-off point. You can call out the engine with OEM-styled graphics or something totally new. This car has a Kaase Boss ’9 engine in it, so alluding to that with the graphics gives them purpose, which is very important. Try pulling ideas from different models and years within your same make and remember that original graphics don’t have to stay original, either. Manipulate the shapes to make them fit, call out a custom engine, or play with the colors. Just make sure your idea looks good before you go to paint!”

Pfaff ’70 Camaro

It’s easy to get fixated on bright paint colors as a means of achieving visual flair, but that’s the easy way out. With the right accent colors, even plain white paint can get the job done. “White does the best job of showing off the terrific body lines of a car without the reflections of the world showing up in photos of your car. As an added bonus, white is also typically an inexpensive paint color,” Murray Pfaff says. “With this Camaro, simply adding a platinum gray stripe outlined with orange accents changes the look of the car dramatically. Painting the headlight bezels and bumpers results in a nice monochrome effect. As long as it’s done in small doses, the monochromatic look is back. Painting the wheel face gray and adding an orange stripe on the wheel lip ties everything together.”