DATSUN ROADSTER YEARS
By 1967 Bob Bondurant had carved out a racing career the envy of many drivers. His feats had already included the following:-
Winner of the GT category at Le Mans, 1964, driving the Pete Brock designed Ford Cobra Daytona Coupe, with Dan Gurney.
Winner of the World Manufacturers' Championship for Ford in 1965, beating Ferrari for the first time.
Formula 1 drives for the Ferrari factory team, the Dan Gurney All American Racers Team and a privately owned BRM.
Works drives in long distance European races for Ferrari, Porsche and Shelby Ford Cobra.
However, in 1967, Bob suffered a horrific accident at Watkins Glen, New York, when a steering arm in his McLaren Can-Am snapped at 150mph. Bob shattered both legs and suffered serious internal injuries. Whilst in hospital, resigned to the fact he would probably never race again, Bob came up with the idea of running his own driving school.
Bob approached Porsche for backing - Porsche, unsure of what benefits they would derive from the partnership, declined to assist and Bob, still wheelchair bound, approached Datsun. Mayfield Marshall, Datsun's Marketing Director at that time, approached Nissan's US President, Yutaka Katayama. Mr K immediately agreed to support Bob's plans.
The school opened on February 14th 1968 at Orange County International Raceway, at Irvine California.with two Datsun Roadsters, a Datsun 510, a Lola T70 and a Formula Vee.
ln 1970, Datsun declined to assist with further support - apparently through an oversight - Porsche, seeing how the partnership had helped build Datsun's profile, stepped in with a couple of 911S's and two 914-6s. The School, now at Ontario Motor Speedway, went from strength to strength, and Bob regained Datsun sponsorship in 1972 with the 240Z. In 1976, however, Yutaka Katayama failed to obtain the agreement of Mr Majima, the new President of Nissan Motor Corporation, to support Bob with the loan of a further ten cars. Mr Majima offered only one car, and Bob turned to Ford who gladly stepped in. Ford have sponsored Bob and his School ever since that time. The School relocated to Sears Point, California in the late 1970s, and now resides in Phoenix Arizona, adjacent to the Ford factory.
To the year 2000, Bob's school had taught over 70,000 students - famous names include Al Unser Junior, Mark Martin, Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon. Bob has also taught James Garner for the film Grand Prix, Robert Wagner, and Paul Newman for his role in the film Winning.
Bob has not forgotton his involvement with Datsun - when he met up again with Mr Katayama in 1995 he stated, 'What I am today I owe entirely to Mr Katayama'.
Bob with Mr Katayama and James Garner
The Roadsters donated to the school by Datsun comprised a 2000 and a 1600, both 1968 spec. The 2000, California licence number VJY012, was the 135hp Hitachi carb version. Bob had the windshield removed from this car, and this was replaced by a plexiglass item. The 1600, licence number VJY010, retained it's factory windshield.
Little was done to upgrade the performance, as Bob believed the output for trainee race-drivers to be adequate. The outlet manifolds were replaced by race headers, and the exhaust pipes on both cars exited before the rear drivers side wheel.
Externally, the bumpers were removed from both cars, and the roadsters were given a blue racing stripe. (The colour scheme was changed for 1969 to Ford Boss 309 orange with a satin black hood). The steel wheels on both cars were replaced by spoked alloy Empi items.
Both benefited from obligatory safety items such as roll bars and full race harnesses. The 2000's stock steering wheel was replaced with a Momo item, although the 1600 retained the factory wheel.
Unfortunately, neither car survives, although Les Cannaday, of Classic Datsun Motorsports, has restored a 1968 2000 to the original spec, in the white and blue colour scheme, for Bob Bondurant himself.
Many thanks go out to Bob Bondurant, and to Greg Fresquez, of the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, for his support, including the loan of some of the rare photographs you see on these pages. Replica photographs provided by Dennis Currington and Alan Poindexter.
THE BOB BONDURANT DATSUN GALLERY
Click on the thumbnails for larger images
|A student of the school manoeuvres the 1600 whilst Bob watches over in the 2000.|
|Bob (squatting) monitors a student's progress in the 2000 whilst other students look on.|
|Bob at trackside again.|
|The 1600 is put through it's paces (note the 1969 colour scheme).|
|Bob teaching the LAPD the art of 'Hot Pursuit' at Ontario Speedway|
|Bob's Garage and line-up of cars at Ontario Speedway, Los Angeles, 1971|
FROM THE ARCHIVE
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