The late ’60s were a time where Hollywood seemed to rediscover auto racing. Movie stars and celebrities like Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Dick Smothers and Peter Fonda were all bitten by the racing bug during this period. In 1966, actor James Garner (who is perhaps best known now for his starring role in the hit TV series, The Rockford Files) was cast to play the role of a down and out American racer in John Frankenheimer’s epic racing movie Grand Prix. Like many of his Hollywood brethren, Garner was hooked on racing – even to the point of doing most of his own driving and stunts in the movie until the studio’s insurance company put a stop to it!
During the filming of Grand Prix, Garner became good friends with a number of the professional racers hired to drive in the film. In particular, Garner formed a close bond with American road racers Bob Bondurant and Dick Guldstrand. According to Guldstrand, “The three of us had such a good time during the filming of Grand Prix, when it was over we looked at each other and said, ‘How can we keep this feeling going?’ The result was that we decided to create a professional race team that we called American International Racing.” AIR, the acronym for the team was incorporated in 1967 by the three friends, along with Irwin Sandin and Donald Rabbitt.