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My First Car: Bob Bondurant
By Jim Prueter

In 1967 at Watkins Glen, Bob Bondurant was racing in the Can-Am Series behind the wheel of a McLaren Mark II. A mechanical failure caused the vehicle to spin out of control at 150 miles per hour and flip eight times, breaking both of Bondurant’s legs and crushing his hands and feet. His successful career as a world-champion racecar driver cut short, he began teaching his skills to others. His renowned school of high-performance driving has now been in operation for 40 years. I recently sat down with Bob in his Phoenix racing school office to talk about his first car.

Bob grew up in Westwood Village, Calif., and says his first vehicle wasn’t a car at all.  “I bought a Whizzer motor bike when I was about 15 years old. That got me interested in racing and soon thereafter, I bought a James two-stroke bike and started racing it. I moved up to a 1937 Indian 101 Scout and raced it on flat tracks.”

He laughs, recalling “It didn’t have any brakes so I had to downshift the gears to slow the bike down. I wore a steel shoe on my left foot that I dragged on the ground as a break.

“I was 16 years old at the time and my mother didn’t want me to have a car. I think she was afraid I would hurt myself in an accident. She did agree to let me buy my first car, a 1932 Chevrolet, because it didn’t run. I didn’t know much about cars and, towing it home, both rear wheels fell off so I had to stop and bolt them back on. 

“After getting the car home, I raised the hood and found that it only needed an exhaust and intake manifolds. Once I put those on, the car ran perfectly. It was a full-fendered Chevy with a rumble seat, but it didn’t take me long to take the fenders off and build it into a hot rod. I kept that car for about three years.

“My favorite car was a ’36 Ford five-window coupe.  I remember it had a huge trunk with enough room that I could sleep in it.

“I’ve had many cars over the years and raced just about all of them.  I’m currently driving a new Cadillac STS V with a 469-horsepower V-8.  It’s black with black interior and handles fantastically. It really is a great car.

“My dream car is the new Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano F1. It’s an all-aluminum two-seat coupe with a V-12 engine and sells for $275,000. I recently drove one and just fell in love with it.”

Photo courtesy of Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving

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