Rollin Sanders, Father of Kawasaki Green, Yellow Yamaha Track Graphic

Molly Sanders isn’t exactly a well known industry name, but if you’re interested in motorcycles or cars, chances are good that you’ve either seen or actually owned the results of Molly’s talent. Molly, real name, Rollin Sanders, was active in both arenas up until his untimely death from cancer a few months ago.

Molly was a hot-rod and custom bike painter working out of Quonset hut in Brea, California, when he was approached by Don Graves and Paul Collins, a couple of guys from Kawasaki. He’d been recommended to them for a proposal on colors and graphics, that would give the struggling brand some distinction and set them apart from the rest of the Japanese, Molly agreed on the condition that they not just look, but also listen to his rationale. They agreed. A month later, Molly made his presentation to then Kawasaki president, George Hamawaki and VP Alan Masek, with a selection of various shades of reds, blues and yellow. When asked if which of these was going to make a difference, his response was “none of them, but I’ll show you what will,” and brought out what would become Kawasaki Green. Every one of the Kawasaki execs shuddered, but after Molly explained the why, they bought into it and for forty years lime-green has been the iconic color of Kawasaki’s racing and off-road machines. He later went on to do other graphic treatments for Kawasaki, including the radical Z1R Turbo in the late ‘70s.
Graves introduced Molly to Yamaha’s Ed Burke and developed the distinctive “Track Graphic” that Kenny Roberts made famous in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Molly again went to work for Yamaha in developing the graphics for their 50th Anniversary motorcycles, and continued to work with the Yamaha race team as they transitioned from Yellow to Blue.
On the automotive front Molly was just as prolific; Molly was responsible for the graphics of the mid-80s, Buick Grand National Turbo, so highly prized among automotive collectors today. He also designed the Lexus logo, as well as annually producing the graphics for the Toyota celebrity cars raced at the Long Beach Grand Prix, and he had a long and productive relationship with Dan Gurney racing, developing graphics for his various race cars and support vehicles.
Aside from being an energetic and creative designer, Molly was just a regular guy, at ease with whomever he happened to be talking with, be it motorcycle or automotive exec, or one of the guys he bumped into on his weekend ride. Though Molly moved from Brea to Costa Mesa, he never lost touch with his roots, he was easy to approach, easy to talk to, and if he could help, he was always willing to extend a hand.
Molly leaves behind a wife, Terry and 9-year old daughter, as well as many industry friends and associates who worked and rode with him.