In 1987 a new driver arrived on the grid to compete in SCCA Showroom Stock competition, His name was Tom Cruise and against all the odds, he took 4 wins from 16 starts in his first season.
The car you see here is the Nissan 300ZX that Cruise was driving in 1987, it was lost to history before being rediscovered in a junkyard and restored with the racing livery it carried when it was driven by the up-and-coming movie star.
Fast Facts – The “Tom Cruise” Nissan 300ZX
- When Tom Cruise and Paul Newman got to know each other on the set of “The Color of Money” in 1986 no one could have guessed that Newman’s love of racing would rub off on the younger star.
- Just a year later in 1987 Cruise was lining up on the grid for his first SCCA race in a Nissan 300ZX prepared by none other than the Newman/Sharp Racing Team.
- In his first full season Cruise would win 4 of his 16 races, impressing his mentor, the mechanics, and the spectators.
- In 1990 Cruise would appear in the cult classic film “Days of Thunder,” a film about a confident young racing driver seeking to make his mark on the world.
Tom Cruise, Paul Newman, And The Color of Money
In 1986 the film “The Color of Money” was released. It starred Paul Newman and Tom Cruise, and it was directed by Martin Scorsese. The film would be well-received by critics and audiences alike, and it would win Newman a Best Actor Oscar.
Original Video Caption: In 1988, Tom Cruise, was part of the racing team owned by fellow actor Paul Newman and Bob Sharp racing Nissan 200SX in the GT-3. A 300ZX would be in GT-2. He’s racing in the Sports Car Club of America event at Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. Cruise didn’t win but he hung in there. It was good experience he could use when filming the racing film, “Days of Thunder.”
In between takes the two men chatted and became friends, Newman was already a successful racing driver by this time with several national championships as a driver in Sports Car Club of America road racing under his belt and a class win at Le Mans.
It seems that all this talk of racing got Cruise’s attention, as within a year he would be suiting up and racing for the Newman/Sharp Racing Team in a specially prepared Nissan 300ZX. In his first season he would claim four wins and he became popular with the team’s mechanics and his fellow drivers.
“Cruise is a good guy,” said one mechanic. “None of the Hollywood crap there.” – Washington Post
For the 1988 season Cruise would step up into the GT-3 class racing faster and more powerful machinery, though still not quite as fast as the F-14s he was in for Top Gun.
Original Video Caption: Actor Tom Cruise driving a Nissan 300 ZX won the pole position for the Newman Sharp Nissan Team in the GT-3 race. Before the race he talks about the team effort. He’d use what he learned in his role as a NASCAR driver in “Days of Thunder.” Cruise said his racing experience was a “good way to see America.”
Many years after Cruise had hung up his racing boots for the last time he went to England to appear on the world renowned TV show Top Gear starring Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond.
During the show he took part in the “Stars in a Reasonably Priced Car” segment where he got the car up onto two wheels during his lap.
“He’s young and eager and tends to get in over his head,” said a top driver who has run with him in private race sessions.
“Cruise spun in a high-speed corner directly in front of me, and I nearly T-boned him,” he recalls. “I could visualize a dozen Hollywood film moguls committing suicide if I had nailed him.” – Washington Post
If you’d like to read more about the Newman/Cruise racing story you can visit the wonderful article by Brock Yates here in The Washington Post, it was written in 1987 right as the two men were starting to make waves in SCCA competition.
Original Video Caption: Paul Newman and Bob Sharp teamed up to create Newman Sharp Racing. Their car of choice was Nissan. In 1988, they invited Tom Cruise to come racing with them.
The “Tom Cruise” Nissan 300ZX Race Car Shown Here
This car is a little more special than most examples of the Nissan 300ZX, as mentioned above this car was prepared by Newman/Sharp Racing Team for Tom Cruise to take part in the 1987 SCCA Super Stock class.
Cruise showed great promise as a racing driver, regularly beating his much more experienced fellow drivers and claiming at least four wins.
It’s unknown what became of this car after this time, all we know is was that it was rediscovered in a junkyard in exceedingly rough condition. After the car’s true identity was uncovered it was carefully rebuilt back to the same condition it was in when it was raced by Cruise back in the mid-1980s.
The car is powered by a 3.0 liter V6 modified with Jim Wolf Technologies camshafts, a pair of MSA headers and an MSA throttle body, and an HKS exhaust and ignition system. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission, and the car rides on Tokico springs and shock absorbers.
As you can see the car is also finished in its period-correct livery, including the paint scheme and sponsor’s decals it carried back in 1987.
This unusual piece of Hollywood and motorsport history is now being sold on Bring A Trailer out of Hanover, New Hampshire. If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Bring A Trailer
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
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