The Coolest Cars and Stars Ever to Drive at Bondurant
We look back on the raddest celebrities and sheet metal to take part in Bondurant's driving school legacy.
Upon hearing about the Bondurant Racing School filing for bankruptcy this week, thoughts immediately turn to the institution's stellar 50-year history of cool cars and famous megastars. From instructing illustrious actors and musicians while piloting bonafide muscle machines to teaching the next generation of hardcore drivers in open-wheel Formula racers, Bondurant was/is a do-it-all program for those that just wanted to go fast.
Here, we've compiled a list of the most undeniably neat cars and stars to ever participate in the world's first race driving school.
Paul Newman was arguably the most notable gearhead celebrity of all time. While some may vouch for Steve McQueen of Le Mans fame, Newman played in various car-inspired flicks and actually went on to become a race driver and team owner. His on-track know-how can be cited to the famous Bondurant program where he got his wits about him in the 1970s.
The Mission Impossible actor has played starring roles in countless films, but for car nerds, Days of Thunder has to take the cake in Tom Cruise's repertoire. The undoubtedly-'90s movie focused on fictional stock car racer Cole Trickle, played by Cruise, and his rivalry with Rowdy Burns, played by Michael Rooker. The climax of the movie comes when the two race at the famed Daytona 500 for all the marbles, but before shooting the final heated scene, Cruise learned to drive under the wing of Bob Bondurant himself.
Clint Eastwood is a Hollywood legend with blue-collar roots and a list of accolades to reassure his worth in the A-list circle. Gran Torino stands as the favorite for many auto enthusiasts, though it's impossible to discount the other blockbusters that have earned him such fame over the years. When not mounted atop a horse, Eastwood spent a lot of his time on the silver screen behind the wheel of fast cars, and that action-packed skill can be attributed to his time learning at—you guessed it—Bondurant.
In recent years, Bondurant has been involved in a major partnership with Dodge and its performance-minded SRT sub-brand. Thanks to that, the highest horsepower models from Detroit have been finding their way to the racing school for ultimate lessons in autocross, road courses, and in the case of the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon—drag racing. This badass machine is the king of straight-line speed, and it's available for you to drive if you sign up for the course with Bondurant.
In a time when the Chevrolet Camaro was watered-down and not much of a performance car, Bondurant opted for Ford and its Mustang SVT Cobra. It certainly fit the bill of V8 bruiser with its 351 cubic-inch powerplant and driver-focused five-speed manual gearbox. A progression from the Foxbody 'Stang of yesteryear, the SN95 generation grew to be well-regarded in the performance driving scene during the late '90s.
While the first two options are fun-having, road-going muscle cars, the Formula Mazda is a thoroughbred race machine with emphasis on driving skill. Though not especially powerful, the rotary open-wheel racer is a stepping-stone on the ladder to faster cars included in the Road to Indy driver development program. The Pro Mazda Series actually holds a shootout race event at Bondurant each year along with the school's Advanced Formula Mazda classes held in Arizona, just south of Phoenix.