Perfect for vintage racing. By LARRY EDSALL (21:56:19 June 05, 2003) Bob Bondurant was lying in a hospital bed, having just had a doctor tell him he had only a 1 percent chance of walking again after injuries sustained in a Can-Am race at Watkins Glen in 1967. “What am I going to do for a living?” wondered the driver who had helped Carroll Shelby and Ford win the world manufacturers’ championship, who had been part of Ford’s famed assault at Le Mans and who had raced in Formula One. Bondurant had coached James Garner as the actor prepared for his role in the movie Grand Prix, and had instructed at SCCA schools and at Shelby’s school for Cobra drivers. Bondurant decided to start his own driving school, in part for his own rehabilitation for a possible return to racing. Bondurant built his school just as if he were building a racing team, with sponsors providing as many goods and services as possible. He’d saved some money while racing and used much of it to get things started, and then used much more of it to keep things going. A half-hour into a meeting with the president of Nissan’s American distribution arm, Yutaka Katayama, the famed “Mr. K” asked Bondurant what he needed. On Feb. 14, 1968, the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving opened with three Datsuns—a 510 sedan, a 1600 roadster and a 2000 roadster—and a Formula Vee racer. Today, the Bondurant school fleet includes more than 200 cars from Nissan, Ford, Chevrolet, Porsche and Cadillac. But the school’s museum has a 1969 Datsun 2000 roadster that replicates Bondurant’s original instructor car. When the school began, Bondurant put students in the 1600 and followed them around the track in the 2000, filming their lines for later critique sessions. Like Bondurant’s original car, the 2000 has a stock engine, five-speed gearbox and brakes, though the suspension was tweaked for the track and a short, speedster-style windshield was installed, as were Panasport Racing wheels, a roll cage and four-point safety harnesses. There are no windshield wipers. The exhaust exits just ahead of the left-rear wheel. We made arrangements through the school staff to visit with Bondurant a few days before the school’s anniversary celebration, and to do a short drive in the Datsun 2000. We expected to give the car a brief run on the roads within the Firebird International Raceway, where the Bondurant school is based. But with the track empty while the students were on their lunch break, Bondurant decided we should drive on the school’s racing circuit. Helmets on our heads and racing gloves on Bondurant’s hands, we climbed in, Bondurant at the wheel. There was no hesitation about the old car’s ability as he hustled it for several fast laps around the track he knows so well. Even with a full-face helmet, you could see the smile in his eyes and hear the joy in his voice as he talked about the car and the school’s early days. We returned to the pits and he climbed out, offering the driver’s seat with a warning that second gear was slipping and might require some double clutching. The car fires immediately in response to an ignition key located to the left of the steering wheel. The stock engine runs smoothly and strongly. Knowing Bondurant was watching from the pit wall, we took it easy at first, but the car was eager for the exercise and the track was ours, so while never pushing near the edge, we still explored some of its potential. Steering feels a little heavy by today’s standards, and the brakes remind us how much automotive technology has progressed in three decades. But the 2000’s handling is terrific, and it leaves us thinking what a great ride it would make for a vintage race.