HomeCar Culture"Days of Thunder" Race Cars Found Rotting In Forest

“Days of Thunder” Race Cars Found Rotting In Forest


A pair of cars allegedly used in the 1990 NASCAR film “Days of Thunder” have been unearthed.

First spotted by Motor1, the YouTube channel Coors Bandit recently published a video documenting the recovery of the cars from two separate locations in Florida. Both had been sitting outside in the woods and are in poor condition. Importantly, they both feature liveries recognizable from the movie.

“Days of Thunder” starred Tom Cruise as Cole Trickle, an underfunded racing driver who switches from open-wheel racing to NASCAR because he thinks he’ll have a better chance of winning. Trickle is quickly schooled by crew chief Harry Hogge, played by Robert Duvall, and rival-turned-friend Rowdy Burns, played by Michael Rooker, in the ways of stock car racing. The movie inspired cheesy spoofs and even a tie-in video game.

One car shown in the video wears the Hardee’s livery of Russ Wheeler, played by Cary Elwes, who fills in for Trickle after a crash but later becomes his main opponent on the track. The other car wears the Mello Yello livery and number 51 used for the car driven by Trickle in the movie’s climactic scene.

While the cars are no longer rotting in a forest, the damage appears to be done. The new owner of both cars claims they aren’t restorable, but he does plan to preserve them in some way.

According to the video, both cars were used as stunt vehicles, which may explain why they were dumped.

A 2020 documentary on the making of Days of Thunder mentioned that some actual NASCAR Cup Cars were also built by Hendrick Motorsports for the movie, equipped with cameras, and entered into real races to get footage. The documentary also mentions a camera car consisting of a 1986 Chevrolet El Camino body mounted on a NASCAR Cup chassis. Maybe that will turn up someday too.

HIGH-RES GALLERY: “Days of Thunder” NASCAR race car (via Coors Bandit on YouTube)

This article was originally published by Motor Authority, an editorial partner of



  1. What a shame those cars weren’t saved after the movie was made. Maybe Tom Cruise could invest a little money to help with whatever form of rescuing each car is able to withstand. If nothing else, I’d think the NASCAR Hall of Fame would be interested in them, as that movie certainly assisted with increasing their fan base. If the Hall of Fame doesn’t want the cars, perhaps Racing’s North Turn Restaurant and Racing Museum, at Ponce Inlet, near Daytona, Florida, would like to find some use for them. Utilize them as a drawing card in some type of building where they could show ‘Days of Thunder’ and other NASCAR related movies, documentaries, highlight reels, etc…

    Just trying to be helpful.

  2. Unfortunaately, it should take more than potentially cloned appearances to prove this interesting theory. How about a ”paper trail::?


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