In this edition of Cars and Stars, we remember a genuine car guy and a genuine human being, James Garner.
Most every auto enthusiast knows that actor James Garner, who passed away at his Brentwood, California home Saturday, was a devoted car guy and a serious racer. What’s surprising, perhaps, is how many people in the automotive community were personally touched by Garner, it turns out. Or maybe that’s not so surprising at all.
In his travels throughout the motorsports world—operating his own race teams, or in his countless appearances at racing events, including the Indy 500, where he served as pace car driver three times—Garner was unfailingly humble and gracious. “Hi, I’m Jim Garner, ” he’d say, and offer his right hand. “Nice to meet you.” He was that easy to know, that easy to like. In remembering his passing, everyone in the car world seems to have a fond memory of encountering Garner for the first time. He was that generous about his company, with a talent for putting people at ease.
Garner’s formal introduction to racing came when he starred as driver Pete Aron in the 1966 film Grand Prix. The character, equal parts hero and everyman, was not totally unlike his familiar role as private detective Jim Rockford in the beloved 1974-1980 television series, The Rockford Files. Rockford knew how to handle a Pontiac Firebird, and he knew how to handle himself. That was Jim Garner, too. Gallery below.