skip to content
Driving Line Mark Logo

Vintage NASCAR Star: The Stock Car From Days Of Thunder Is for Sale

Darlington recently hosted its now-regular NASCAR nostalgia weekend over Labor Day, where Cup teams show off past paint schemes designed to call to mind old sponsors and iconic liveries. What better time, then, for you to park a historic stock car in your own garage—one that doesn't just tie-in with NASCAR, but also glitters with more than a little Hollywood tinsel.

NASCAR Days of Thunder Cole Trickle

A Piece of Movie History

That's right. The number 51 Mello Yello Chevrolet Lumina, driven by Tom Cruise in that iconic ode to end-of-'80s Simpson/Bruckheimer excess "Days of Thunder," is for sale. According to the seller, this is no promo car that lived an easy life of mall appearances and car show Sundays either. It's an actual race-ready, filmed-at-speed big screen hero that's ready for classic competition.

A little background. The Mello Yello brand has dabbled in racing several times, and in fact, it helped blur the line between on-camera prop and actual on-track reality. Mello Yello's participation in "Days of Thunder" as the main sponsor of character Cole Trickle tied in with an advertising campaign deployed on national television that coincided with the film's release. This product placement transcended fiction the following year when Mello Yello became the actual sponsor for Kyle Petty's NASCAR team for four consecutive seasons. Later, the company, which is owned by Coca-Cola, became the title sponsor for NHRA drag racing.

NASCAR Days of Thunder Film

Cruise became interested in making "Days of Thunder" after getting the chance to drive one of team owner Rick Hendrick's Cup cars, whom he met via his friendship with noted actor-turned-racer Paul Newman. Always obsessed with doing his own stunts, Cruise immediately set about finding backing to make a film about the sport on a level—and with a budget—that had yet to be seen by fans.

Still Race-Ready

Back to the car. This Mello Yello Lumina has been restored by Laughlin Race Cars, which is headquartered out of Spartanburg, South Carolina. The ad mentions that the body is sitting on a chassis that's been set up for road racing, rather than the ovals celebrated in the movie, but that's a plus for anyone considering actually driving this particular vehicle outside of a circle track. It also features a 502 ci Chevrolet V8 tuned to offer 650hp at high rpm, along with a triple-disc clutch, a quick-change rear end and of course, a four-speed Jericho manual transmission.

Hendrick was responsible for building the cars seen in the film, and as we've mentioned before, they weren't just driven by Cruise and his co-stars, but by actual NASCAR drivers, including Greg Sacks, Bobby Hamilton, Hut Stricklin and Tommy Ellis. Filming was done at a number of NASCAR races in both the '89 and '90 seasons (at Phoenix, Darlington and Daytona), which means this car offers the unique chance to own and drive not just a movie car, but one that also shared track time with big names in NASCAR.

NASCAR Days of Thunder Car

Even better is the fact that a $69,983 rig like this can easily serve as your entry to historic racing events across the country. In fact, the Mello Yello Lumina is said to have competed at Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta and Sebring, and is fully legal with Sports Car Vintage Racing Association and Historic Sportscar Racing.

Classic stock cars are becoming increasingly popular on the nostalgia circuit, as their simple mechanicals and easy-to-drive character make them more accessible for weekend warriors without classic Ferrari or formula car budgets. There's no reason why you should let this yellow machine mellow in your garage when it could just as easily be out there tearing up asphalt (and avoiding its nemesis, the Exxon Chevy driven by Rowdy Burns).

Photos courtesy of Ideal Classic Cars.

Days of Thunder was just one of our 8 favorite NASCAR movies.

Return to beginning of article

Recommended For You

Loading ...