New BFF’s TOM CRUISE and ZAC EFRON get some chopper time together.

High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron, 22,  has forged a friendship with Tom Cruise – not unlike the one Tom had with HIS Color of Money costar, the late Paul Newman.

"Tom and Zac clicked the minute they met," an insider told The ENQUIRER.

"Zac is hungry to make the transition from teenage idol to movie superstar – and he’s using Tom’s career as a template for success."

But Tom’s getting something OUT of the friendship also, "because he’s desperate to connect with a younger audience," said the insider.

Not long after their initial meeting, Tom, 48, invited Zac to his Beverly Hills house, gave him chopper repair tips, and showed him his bike collection – including his famed Triumph motorcycles he rode in Mission: Impossible movies.

Since then, the two stars have talked by phone several times a week, the source said.

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