Follmer began his career running a Volkswagen Beetle in Gymkhana competition in parking lots in the San Gabriel Valley of Southern California.
Follmer raced in the USAC Championship Car series in the 1967-1971 and 1974 seasons, with 25 career starts, including the 1969-1971 Indianapolis 500 races. He finished in the top ten 11 times, with his one victory in 1969 at Phoenix International Raceway. His best finish at the Indianapolis 500 was in 1971. He started 29th and finished in the 15th position driving the Grant King Racer’s turbo Offy.
In 1973, Follmer competed in Formula One with Don Nichols’ UOP Shadow team. He took part in his first Grand Prix, in South Africa, at the age of 39 years and 1 month – making him F1’s oldest débutant since the 1950s, a distinction he still holds. In 13 Championship races, his best results were a podium 3rd in Spain and 6th in South Africa, which gave him 13th in the Drivers’ Championship with five points. He also competed in several non-Championship races.
Follmer’s 1968 AMC Javelin
Follmer also had success in other racing series. In 1965, he won the SCCA United States Road Racing Championship. Follmer won two races in the 1970 SCCA Continental Championship for Formula A cars, placing sixth in the standings. He won the Trans-Am championship in 1972, winning four races with an AMC Javelin, and 1976, driving a Porsche 934 Turbo.
In 1972, Follmer was the Can-Am champion, substituting for the injured Mark Donohue in Penske Racing’s Porsche 917/10, causing the racing press to dub Follmer “George Am”. He was vice-champion in 1973 driving for Rinzler and 1974 in a Shadow. He collected 6 wins and 13 podiums in the three-year spell. He is the only driver to win the Can-Am and Trans-Am championship in the same year.
Follmer competed in the NASCAR Winston Cup series in 1974, with appearances in 13 of 30 races. He collected three top 5 finishes and a pole position. In 1974 and 1975, he raced at the International Race of Champions, where he won a race.
In 1977 he returned to the revived Can-Am, resulting 6th in 1977 and 5th in 1978.
After his retirement, he came back to racing for the 1986 24 Hours of Le Mans, obtaining a prestigious third place with a Porsche 956.
Though long-retired from professional motorsports competition, Follmer still competes in vintage races, often driving the very same cars in which he competed during his heyday.
In addition to his racing career, Follmer also owned a Porsche-Audi-Subaru dealership in Pomona, California, later relocated to Montclair, California, from 1977 to 1990.