Bob Bondurant, an American automotive racing enthusiast who spent more than 50 years building cars from scratch and coaching racing stars, including actor James Garner, died December 14 in Orlando, Florida. Bondurant died from complications associated with diabetes.
Before the age of 20, Bob Bondurant worked as a dog handler, mason, and rural schoolteacher. It was then that he became obsessed with cars and racing. His love for racing continued even as he reached a relatively late age, and he opened Bondurant & Sons Garage in Florida’s Lake County to teach drivers all manner of skills, from how to learn to drive a stick shift to how to refuel.
During his career, Bondurant trained stars including Johnny Benson, a star of the 1950s racing circuit; Norm Thompson, the former Panoz driver who was part of the high-speed pack; and comedian Dick Stockton, who was a 1970s short-track racing champion. He also coached a young Garner, who won the PPG Indy Car Rookie of the Year award in 1976. Bondurant then went on to coach stock cars for the Houston-based Bowzer team, a group that included Jimmie Johnson, the most successful driver in NASCAR history.
Bondurant continued to learn about cars and racing for years after retiring from Bowzer. In 2006, Bondurant & Sons Garage’s website was finally shut down by the 2004 Hurricane Rita, which caused havoc throughout the South. Bondurant remained retired from auto racing, and eventually retired in 2016.
Bondurant & Sons Garage once had a sprawling operation that included a 110-seat restaurant named “Sage,” where guests could dine while sitting in cars their owners built themselves. The cars were turned into an entertaining exhibit by Bondurant’s students. The Garage’s legacy lives on, and in the Bay area, where it opened a car museum in Florida, it is still the place to go for anyone who wants to learn the basics of racing.
Read the full obituary here.
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