The Motorola StarTAC Rainbow was a brightly coloured variant of the Startac 70.
It was an idea originally dreamt up by Motorola’s European team who found that as the Motorola Flare
programme was coming to an end there was a lot surplus coloured plastic from the housings and they wanted to try and find use for it. A multi-coloured StarTAC was concieved, but when it was proposed to the Motorola’s headquarters in Chicago they rejected it.
Undeterred, the European team continued with the concept as a “skunk works
” project led by Motorola’s Easter Inch manufacturing site
in Bathgate, Scotland.
Samples of all the surplus coloured plastic from the Motorola Flare were sent to Motorola's plant in Bray, Ireland and trials were conducted with each colour to prove they could be moulded in the StarTAC tools. The samples were then brought back to the Easter Inch plant and several units were built for 'Accelerated Life Testing' to prove the reliability of the mouldings.
The European marketing team selected the final colours for the stack. Only one colour combination was offered due to the complex approval process for the individual parts. This complexity came from the fact that each colour exhibited different characteristics for Motorola’s exacting testing process which including things like drop tests and environmental stability.
The StarTAC Rainbow was built and distributed from the Easter Inch plant and the batteries were made at the Swords factory in Ireland. It is believed that between 70,000 and 125,000 units were manufactured.
All the units were sold during the summer it was produced and the StarTAC Rainbow was considered a success by the European team that conceived and produced it. The majority of sales were in Southern European countries.
The marketing campaign for the StarTAC Rainbow featured the strapline “Not everything in life is black and white”. It featured two zebras standing side-by-side with one of the zebras modified to feature the rainbow colours on the phone.
The colour combination for the StartTAC Rainbow was inspired by Volkswagen’s limited-edition Polo Harlekin which was released in 1995. This had multi-coloured panels in red, yellow, green and blue.
Picture credit: Volkswagen AG
During the development of the StarTAC Rainbow other samples with different colour combinations were made but never shipped. One was painted red and white with Coca-Cola branding and another one, which apparently looked extremely good, was black and white with Guinness branding.
Livingston football club in Scotland, who Motorola sponsored at the time, were given limited edition phones in their club colours of black, white and yellow. A couple of bright gold StarTAC's were also sampled when the gold variant of the Nokia 8800 was released, but the gold-plating played havoc with the phone's radio performance.
Although various StarTAC devices with different colour combinations have subsequently appeared for sale on auction sites such as eBay, these are counterfeits using resprayed elements from standard StarTAC 70 phones.
With thanks to Lonnie Salmon and Frank Robertson for their help with the historic details of this phone.