Yesterday I told you about the late great Hugh Hefner and the Playmate Pink cars.
Today I’m going to tell you about one of America’s greatest racing drivers and his orange cars. trust me you’ll like this one.
99-01 Mustang GT prepared for Bondurant Racing School^
The Legend is Bob Bondurant, but ill be talking about many famous people today. Paul Newman, Carroll Shelby, Robert Wagner, James Garner, Dan Gurney, and lastly Bob Bondurant. A quick bio on Bondurant to bring you up to speed, he was born in 1933, and is still alive. Like most of the male generation then speed and searching for speed was at its peak after WW2 in America with huge names like Vic Edelbrock setting up shop and teens and 20 somethings everywhere, Bondurant included, searching for ways to push the boundaries of fast. In 1951, Bob Bondurant found himself racing Indian motorcycles around dirt oval tracks in Los Angeles, at the age of 18. From there his interests fell on 4 wheels and by 1959 he had won the West Coast “B” Production Championship and the Corvette Driver of the Year Award. Before I can go on I have to tell you about another American pushing the envelope of speed but coming from a very different background.
Bondurant’s early years on his indian and in is C1 Corvette^
Carroll Shelby, a now household name, but most people cant say why. Shelby born in 1923, in Leesburg, Texas… Google it. Google “Leesburg, Texas” the information is SERIOUSLY limited. Growing up my mom would always tell anyone with ears where she was from she would always say,” I am from Okemah, Oklahoma. We didn’t even have a stoplight!” Ok sure mom, you were from a small town but atleast it was a town! Leesburg, Texas isn’t even a incorporated town. Shelby was born with a heart valve leakage, but that didn’t stop him from joining the Army Aircorp at age 18, and served during WW2 as a test pilot and instructor. While stationed at what is now Lackland Air Force Base, Shelby got married and had 2 children, after reaching the rank of staff sergeant pilot he was honorably discharged. Bouncing around jobs from 1947 til 1952, Shelby would try his hand at a few things, first being a Oil field roughneck, and later a Chicken farmer, Carroll couldn’t quite find his life’s calling. That was until one day when his friend Ed Wilkins invited him to take a trip to a road race in Norman, Oklahoma. They both took the 3 hour drive with a MG-TC racecar in tow. Shelby, now 29 had never raced anything much less a British sports car. Shelby was out armed, most of the field being Jaguars and other high end high powered cars, but he won. twice. Soon he was driving Jaguars and racing as much as his wallet would allow. Then he was noticed and a team owned by John Wyer put him in their Aston Martin DB3S racecar at the 12 Hours of Sebring, a HUGE break for Carroll. Although he lost that race at Sebring, his signature look of wearing farmers overalls and being a great on track driver solidified his racing career and opened up a HUGE window of opportunity, he would go on to drive the hottest and most iconic sports cars of all time, Jaguars, Cadillacs, Allards, and Maserati Birdcages as well as Ferrari 375 GP roadster. But the biggest accomplishment of Carroll’s life was yet to come. the reason Shelby is a household name came in 1959, he won the biggest race in the world, the 24 hours of LeMans. Shortly after the race and after many nitroglycerine pills, Shelby hung up the driving suit and retired from racing.
But he wasn’t gone yet.
The MG that Carroll Shelby drove to a win in Norman, OK^
Carroll Shelby in a early Maserati racecar^
Carroll behind the wheel of the DBR1 car as he wins the 24hours of LeMans^
Shelby, Wyer and team celebrating their win at LeMans^
Photo that Shelby signed, of him in the winners circle of LeMans^
Wyer and Shelby
Shelby in his normal chicken farmer attire^
In action photo of Shelby behind the wheel of the DBR1^
Early photo of Carroll
Shelby knew that he had shocked the world, and he knew that the American public wanted to celebrate with him and maybe even a few American drivers. So he got to work. Shelby wanted to beat the corvette in the SCCA championships. He found a company in England named AC, and struck a deal with ford to have them supply the new 260c.i. V8 and voila he had a winner. But he knew he needed drivers if he was going to take it further, in 1963 Carroll had convinced Bob Bondurant to come race for him.
They won everything. Shelby and Shelby American was unstoppable, in 1964 and 1965 dan gurney and Bob Bondurant behind the wheel of a 289 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe won their class at LeMans, beating out all of the Ferrari 250 GTO cars. THIS was huge. *1964 was also the first year of the Ford GT, but was not yet refined by Shelby.
Early AC Bristol^
AC Bristol Coupe^
late Shelby Cobra, this particular one has a 427 Ford in it^
After winning LeMans, Shelby rubbed elbows with all of the Hollywood elite including Steve McQueen as seen here^
Bob Bondurant behind the wheel of this Shelby Daytona Coupe^
Shelby Daytona Coupe racing at the 24Hours of LeMans
Daytona Coupe blasting around the LeMans race track^
Bob Bondurant being coached up by Carroll Shelby^
American pride was beaming and Shelby with the help of his racers was at the height of his game. in1965 Ford was upset that their GT40s had not even finished the race at LeMans and handed the reigns over to Shelby, would Shelby have enough time in the 4 months to fix all that was needed to get a overall win at the BIGGEST RACE IN THE WORLD? sadly no. Carroll had changed a few things, like the powerplant to a 289. and put Bob Bondurant behind the wheel but even that wasnt enough as the cars overheated and did not finish. now not only was Ford upset, Shelby was too. and in 1966 everything would change.
Bondurant on in the paddock at LeMans ina GT40 MKI^
GT40 and Ferrari P2 on track^
Bob Bondurant and a GT40 Spyder, as well as some of the testing done on the car^
Bob Bondurant wasn’t sure if the Ford crowd would figure it out, and he wanted to win, I’m sure he was persuaded by many teams but Ferrari ultimately pinned him down. was it a bad choice or the right choice for him? its hard to say what history might have looked like today. But Shelby DID figure it out and 1966 was the most historically significant LeMans race since its beginning. Ford brought out 3 Ford GT40s each powered by a 7.0 liter, 427 cubic inch MONSTER. Shelby and his cars won 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Bondurant’s Ferrari didn’t even finish. Ford went on to win the race for the next 3 years.
Bob Bondurant being coached up by Legend Enzo Ferrari^
Bondurant behind the wheel of a Ferari 330 P2
Bob Bondurant in his prime^
Bob Bondurant and Shelby American teammates
the Ferrari Bob drove at the 24 hours of LeMans^
Bob Bondurant took it as a sign to find other avenues to show his love of racing and later that year found a job as a driving instructor on a movie set, Gran Prix, starring James Garner. Bob went back to LeMans in 1967 in a corvette, but yet did not finish. Still thirsty for a victory he entered into a Can-Am series driving a McLaren. This didn’t fare well for Bob as we broke a steering arm at 150MHP and the car went into a flip, some 8 times. Suffering from ribs, legs, feet, and back injuries, doctors said he would never walk again but he overcame the injuries. If leaving Shelby and not finishing LeMans twice wasn’t enough of a sign to stop racing a crippling 150mpg wreck certainly was.
Bob on the scene of Gran Prix^
James Garner in Gran Prix^
McLaren Can-AM racecar^
Bondurants 150MPH wreck^
With no career behind the wheel left, what was he going to do? in a time where he couldn’t retire to be a racing commentator, especially for a sport unpopular in america he was forced to find another means of bringing in the money. He thought back to when he was a instructor for that racing movie, Gran Prix, and thought if he could teach James Garner he could teach anyone how to drive. And so he started the Bondurant Racing School, his first 2 students being Robert Wagner and Paul Newman, who needed to learn to drive for their upcoming movie “Winning”. This was the first spark in Paul Newman’s LeMans destined racing career.
Bob’s first year in business at the racing school^
Bob Bondurant and Paul Newman chatting at racing and cars in general^
Bob moved his track a few times in the 70s and 80s but in 1983 Ford Motor Company signed on to sponsor his school and later in 1990 Bob built his own facility in Arizona.
In the early 90s Ford began supplying a few safety race prepared mustangs and other offbeat quirky cars to the school. V8 fox body mustangs, SN95 V8 powered cars, Later overhead cam models of the mustang including the elusive Cobra DOHC powered cars. all with similar modifications, They were painted orange, received a panhard bar and torque arm from Roush, a window safety net, a race seat on the drivers side, a fire suppression system, a 6 point roll cage, a seat harness, 2 piston cobra 13 inch rotor brakes, Monroe GP shocks and struts, Eibach springs, a 8 quart oil pan, and upgraded cooling system. Even the 99-01 cobras which came with independent rear suspension from Ford got the straight axle with panhard and torque arm treatment.
Former Bondurant race school car sent to Saleen for even further modification^
SN95 Bondurant racing school car prepared by Roush and finished in orange^
New Edge Bondurant racing school car prepped by Roush and finished in orange^
Sometime after 01 Ford withdrew their sponsorship of the school. I and others think this was because ford instructed the school to crush all the mustangs used at the school as none were sold to the school and none had any paperwork, besides the obvious reason that if sold to consumers they would eventually end up on the street. Despite Fords demands to crush the retired cars the school did sell them. all of them.
How much was a Bondurant race prepared car? Cheap. Just today a owner of one told me he paid $10000 for a 1998 cobra with a clean log book, meaning low miles and no accidents or over abuse. I didn’t ask him when he bought it but I have to assume in 2000 or so as they had to make room for the newer New Edge body style cars. unfortunately these cars have gone up considerably in value and some owners have even found legal routes to make the cars street legal and acquired titles and even insure them as daily drivers.
Bondurant 01 Cobra engine bay^
Bondurant 01 Cobra interior^
Bondurant 01 Cobra prepared by Roush^
Many stories have been told to me about some quirky ford experimental cars that ended up at the school and wow there are some WAY out there examples.
like this Mercury Marauder, which in itself its already a weird car, using a 320hp Cobra C head DOHC v8, traditionally using a 4 speed automatic. This Bondurant car found using a 5 or 6 speed manual and a Cobra intake manifold as well as a harness bar and R compound tires. although i can not find any other pictures I’ve heard of a Mercury Sable SVT, and flying laps in Ford 16 passenger vans full of students at the school.
One thing is for sure, these racing legends have left their mark, weather it be a coiled cobra or a traffic cone colored car they will be remembered.
Shelby team next to Daytona Coupe^
Team Shelby American in their prime^