James Garner - Hollywood star and off road racer
James Garner (born 1928 and died 2014) was famous American movie and TV actor and racing driver. During his long and successful on screen career spanning six decades and starring in over 50 movies and TV shows he become one of America’s favorite actors.
After the “Grand Prix” Garner become hooked on racing
But in 1966, Garner had starred in one movie that changed his life and turned him to racing scene. That movie was “Grand Prix“, an story of F1 driver named Pete Aron. During the filming of this title, Garner did not used a stunt man and did all of driving by himself discovering that he had some talent. After the movie, he entered the world of motorsport as a co owner of AIR (American International Racing) team which campaigned and raced blue Chevrolet Corvettes L88 in endurance races such as Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring. Garner was involved in AIR from 1967 until 1969 in which period he did some of the driving but without much success.
He developed interest in off road racing
However, during the late sixties, Garner become increasingly interested in off road racing in America, just like his friend and colleague, Steve McQueen. In 1969 he managed to sign a contract with American Motors Company (AMC) and prepare ten 1969 AMC SC/Ramblers for notorious Baja 500 off road race, with three of his cars finishing in the top five of their class despite hard competition and harsh conditions. During that period, Garner also raced an interesting and very capable Oldsmobile 442 off road racer. In the 1969 Mexican 1000, Garner drove the Oldsmobile to a second-place finish, and the outcome may have been different had Garner not punctured a tire and, later, nearly run the car out of oil. That was his best result but he continued racing in various off road events until 1973. After that, Garner never again participated in serious motorsport event but did appeared as pace car driver at the famous Indianopolis track in 1975, 1977 and 1985 which is a great honor.
James Garner was a great actor but he never achieve his full potential as a racing driver. In his prime racing years (1969-1973) he was one of Hollywood’s busiest actors and his work schedule didn’t left him much time to race. That is such a shame because he had talent and stamina to drive fast for a long period of time. That is why he started in endurance racing and moved to long off road races which demand strength and concentration.