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Actor and Former Corvette Racer James Garner Dies at 86

by Keith Cornett on July 21, 2014

[RIP] Movie Legend and Former Corvette Racer James Garner Dies at 86
Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com

Over the weekend we learned that actor James Garner had passed away. Garner was a favorite of ours back in the day with great character roles like Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford. But did you also know that he was a serious race car driver who owned a Corvette racing team?

After filming the moving Grand Prix in 1966, Garner was bit hard by the racing bug and eventually became one of the team owners of “American International Racers” or AIR. Joining Garner in the effort was Dick Guldstrand and Bob Bondurant.

With help from Bob Wingate of Clippinger Chevrolet, Garner purchased the first three 1968 L88 Corvettes off the line via a Central Office Production Order (COPO). Two of the cars were for racing while the third car would serve as a show car or parts donor if needed. The three Corvettes were delivered to Dick Guldstrand shop in Southern California where they were prepped for the 1968 Daytona 24 Hour race.

The two AIR Corvettes didn’t perform that great in the 1968 Daytona 24 with the No.44 Corvette finishing 29th while the No.45 Corvette was a DNF due to an engine failure. The Corvettes were expected to race at Sebring, but AIR decided to move up in class and raced a Lola chassis instead.

The L88 Corvettes were sold and Garner would eventually move on and fulfill his racing bug with other types of racing including off-road baja racing and giving rides in his custom designed 4-seater Indy car.

Here’s a few photos via AIRL88.com with Garner and his L88 Corvettes:

James Garner is greeted by Dick Guldstrand upon arrival at the Culver City shop.  Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com
James Garner is greeted by Dick Guldstrand upon arrival at the Culver City shop.
Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com

The Guldstrand R&D shop was a beehive of activity in preparation for the 1968 Daytona 24 hour race.  Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com
The Guldstrand R&D shop was a beehive of activity in preparation for the 1968 Daytona 24 hour race.
Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com

Enthusiasm was high during the preparation of these cars for Daytona. Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com
Enthusiasm was high during the preparation of these cars for Daytona.
Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com

James Garner and the AIM Crew around Bob Wingate's aluminum head L89 fire breathing street car.  Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com
James Garner and the AIM Crew around Bob Wingate’s aluminum head L89 fire breathing street car.
Photo Credit: www.aiml88.com

James Garner passed away due to natural causes in his California home at the age of 86 on July 19th, 2014.


Source:
www.aiml88.com

Related:
Former Corvette Racing Icon Jim Jeffords Passes Away
[VIDEO] A Tribute to John Fitch
Actor and Corvette Racer Paul Newman Dies at 83

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