Even if you’re not a real car guy, you probably harbour fond memories of freedom thanks to the automobile – whether it was a piece of junk “first car” or a “daddy’s BMW” car, four wheels and an engine meant doing whatever the hell you wanted… away from your doorstep.
If you’re a car guy like me, you’ll have loads of fond memories from your early days of motoring, whether you got all oily under the hood or you lived your days out on mad road trips. I’ve loved all of my cars but there is the “one” I wished I’d kept, much like Gas Monkey Garage’s first car pictured above and below.
Gas Monkey Garage 1952 Chevrolet Fleetline
The ratrod 1952 Chevrolet Fleetline was the first car that bought Fast N’ Loud’s Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman together. In one episode, Rawlings finds out the car is up for sale, and despite setting him back $50K, he manages to reunite her with Gas Monkey Garage.
1978 MGB GT
My first car was an orange 1978 MGB GT, and although I spun it in the rain on my first day of legal driving, crunching the rear wing, if I knew then what I know now, I’d have kept her and fixed her up. What I ended up doing was selling her on and buying a 1983 Ford Mustang, much to my mother’s distain.
As I learnt to drive in a tiny 1.0-L Rover Metro, the MG’s rebored 1.8-L engine sounded amazing. The low cockpit was an entirely different world to that of the modern car I learned in – the big steering wheel, leather seats, cool dials and increase in power left me shaking with excitement. She smelt of petrol, oil and leather, and going too fast around corners meant immediate correction, something I hadn’t learnt in my time with the instructor.
My time with her was short, but I wish I’d kept her, and the more I think about those exciting days, the more I want to buy another MGB GT.
Midlife crisis? Who cares…
What’s the one car you still wished you washed every Sunday morning?
As this is Gargling Gas, here’s Richard Rawling’s sweetheart doing a burnout.
The Cannonball Run 1980 Lamborghini Countach LP400S
Also known as the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, the 2813-mile NYC to L.A. Speed Race has inspired movies and books, stories Gargling Gas finds most appetising and inspirational. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know the score, if you haven’t, here’s a brief history and current record holders.
1915 Erwin “Cannon Ball” Baker and his Stutz Bearcat
Cannonball Run History
The race as we now know it is a mere celebration and the recognition of a guy called Erwin G. “Cannon Ball” Baker. Although he set his first coast to coast record in 1914 on an Indian motorcycle, a year later saw Baker drive a Stutz from L.A. to NYC in 11 days, 7 hours and fifteen minutes. In 1916, “Cannon Ball” piloted a Cadillac 8 Roadster in a staggering seven days, eleven hours and fifty-two minutes – despite the modern era Cannonball Run taking longer than a whole day on the road, it’s a sprint in comparison.
Google maps states that New York City to Los Angeles should take you around 45 hours of driving. The current record is a staggering 28 hours and 50 minutes. That’s an average of 98-mph!
So what does it take to get near that benchmark time? Many have tried, many have fallen, few have succeeded. And vitally, what car would you need to keep the average speed high, reliability issues nil, and remaining as inconspicuous as a Cannonballers’ personality dares?
The route starts at NYC’s Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street, crossing many state lines, finishing at the Portofino Inn at Redondo Beach, California. No real rules, only a gentlemen’s agreement that the vehicle entered had to be driven the entire route, i.e. no identical sister vehicles waiting on standby. If you were caught speeding and fined, the ticket was the driver’s responsibility and the time taken to receive the citation counted on top of the overall time.
The route has seen minor changes over the years, which has ultimately led to a few discussions and debates on times vs mileage. The calculators have come out a few times to establish if times were legit in claiming the record.
Brock Yates and Dan Gurney and the 1971 Record Ferrari 365 GTB 4
In 1971, automotive journalists, Brock Yates and F1/Le Mans winner, Dan Gurney set a real precedence when they managed to smash 40 hours in a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 “Daytona”. They took the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash AKA the Cannonball Run in 35 hours and 54 minutes.
As the originator of the Cannonball Run, Yates doesn’t acknowledge any new records due to his concern that “somebody was going to get killed”.
Richard Rawlings & Dennis Collins With The 1979 Winning Jaguar XJ-S
Although the 1979 record stood for some time, I couldn’t find much image-wise as far as the car and drivers were concerned. However, I did find a few of the car discovered by the pair who eventually beat the record (see pic below).
1979 entrants, Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough shattered the old record with their Jaguar XJ-S. It was the last official Cannonball Rally and they set an amazing time of 32 hours and 51 minutes, at an average speed of 87 miles per hour (140 kph).
Richard Rawlings, Dennis Collins & Ferrari F550
Famed for their TV appearances in Discovery’s Fast N’ Loud programme, Richard Rawlings, owner of Gas Monkey Garage and his best friend, Dennis Collins, previously made a name for themselves when they broke the long-standing 1979 record in 2007 with a time of 31 hours and 59 minutes at an average speed of 87.6-mph.
The pair are also two-time winners of both the Bullrun and the Gumball Rally. The record car was a black Ferrari F550 with modified fuel cells to lower the amount of times needed to stop.
When you consider the modern technology and car used compared to the Jaguar XJ-S, although the Cannonball and Gumball veterans beat the record, it just highlighted the amazing achievement set 28 years earlier.
Taking technology to another level, Alexander Roy went to great lengths to minimise potential stoppages, including a “spotter” helicopter. No stranger to the Gumball and Bullrun rallies, Roy and his co-driver David Maher eventually beat the record in 2006. They managed 2800 miles in 31 hours and 4 minutes, at an average of 90.1-mph.
Richard Rawlings and Dennis Collins claimed, although Roy beat their previous record, he did not “stick to the route” of the original Cannonball Run. Roy counter-claimed that the route changed and varied slightly every year, and that the only rule was total A-B time. As the 31:04 was nearly an hour faster than the previous record, it was agreed it was also a sufficient margin to make up the 11-mile difference.
As you can see in the picture above, Roy likes the interior of his BMW M5 to look like a flight simulator. From GPS to police scanners, Roy uses everything, but rather than make a tedious list, watch the video below and hear about them from the man himself.
Ed Bolian and His Mercedes Benz CL55 AMG
Alexander Roy’s record fell in 2013 to Lamborghini dealer, Ed Bolian. After four years of preparation, including the installation of a second 22-gallon fuel tank to his 115,000-mile Mercedes CL55 AMG, he ate up the 2,813 miles in 28 hours, 50 minutes and 26 seconds. This meant the spare tyre had to share the backseat with his spotter, Dan Huang. The extra fuel tank was also the reason Bolian chose the Mercedes, as the CL55 possessed the suspension to take the extra weight of fuel.
Like Roy, Bolian relied on laser jammers radar detectors and even a rear-light kill switch. Along with two GPS units, all important space and tech had to be considered for smartphone and tablet chargers. Throw in food, drink and bedpan, you start to understand just what is required in remaining in a car for over 24-hours.
Although many records were set before him, Bolian’s inspiration fell at the hands of the legend, none other than Edwin “Cannonball” Baker, the guy who started it all.
This seems like a good place to finish and ask you, the Reader, “what car would you choose to take on the Cannonball Run”?
I’d opt for one of my favourite sleepers, the VW Phaeton W16, complete with extra fuel cells, ABBA on shuffle to inspire a quicker journey to end the suffering, and water-proofed seats for the inevitable accidents.
You may or may not have heard of the term “Sleeper Car” before – to some it probably sounds like a camper van vehicle or caravan – however, a Sleeper Car is the complete opposite of the meaning derived from the word “Sleeper”.
As you’ve most likely guessed from the title, this type of vehicle is a bog standard car hiding and possessing enormous amounts of power under its coat.
Example: How great would it be to embarrass a Porsche at the lights in an old Mitsubishi Galant? How is this done? Mitsubishi are primarily known for their EVO cars, the ultimate turbo tuning machines. Despite this, their Galant VR4 (pretty standard in appearance) comes with 276 bhp stock, so with some tuning and performance upgrades at a relatively low cost, they can be boosted to around 600+ bhp.
Mitsubishi Galant VR4
Depending on your budget, any car can be transformed into a Sleeper car. I recently watched an episode of Fast N’ Loud on Discovery where Richard Rawlings and Aaron Kaufman took an old ’59 Rambler Wagon (pic below), treated and clear coated its weathered body for effect, but installed a massive 4.8L Chevrolet V8 with an Edelbrock Carburettor and MSD direct ignition and disk brakes. From the outside it looked like an old truck, but a blip of the gas and it could shift tectonic plates.
One problem you face boosting horsepower is hiding the upgrades needed to cope with the extra grunt. The main two are exhausts and brake callipers. Unless you purchase black callipers, simply paint them before installation. Exhausts are pretty simple if you can get under the car – ensure they are out of sight but still manage to function properly. Sports exhausts usually offer different styles, either for sound or performance. Try and pick one that offers optimum flow as well as offering a good amount of muffle – a deep rumbling exhaust suggests upgrades.
If you have bottomless pit of money to throw at car, check this Sleeper Car out for scaring pretty much any other potential racer at the lights. This is essentially an F1 powered Alfa 164 Procar. It was built in cooperation with Brabham and possess the only Alfa Romeo V10 ever built. This disguised Alfa produces 605 bhp at 12,000 rpm! – not sure what the insurance premium would be on this one.
Alfa Sleeper F1 Car
The perfect wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Alfa Sleeper Car
My favourite and perhaps the ultimate Sleeper is “Farm Truck” from the TV show Street Outlaws – check out the video below and witness the power that old truck can lay down.
If you are thinking about creating a Sleeper Car with a small budget, aim for a small and light turbo car, something you can add a cold air intake and bigger exhaust to, also one in which an ECU tweak is viable. These three options can add as much as 60-80 bhp to a small turbo car, putting you in the same arena as the bigger sporty saloons.
Anyone who watches Fast N’ Loud almost certainly tunes in every week, as a lot of the cars shown are either rare or unusual. I like how these guys operate – Rawlings throws his beloved cash at A-Ron in the hope the bearded master can incorporate his vision within cash-hungry Rawlings’ budget.
I’ve written about this show before but this episode in particular caused me much excitement, and I had to include them again due to a little piece of British automotive history that is the Lotus Cortina.
Richard Rawlings stumbled across this stunning example and a beaten up but rare Amphicar sitting in a garage together. Forget the latter, as although fairly rare, it was a POS and needed a ton of work.
The Lotus, however, was in great condition under all that dust. It was a real hidden gem, with low miles, good paint and a great interior. Originally purchased in 1967 by a racer called Charlie Barns, it was driven as a road car until 1973. The great part is the fact it was then put into storage with only 18000 miles on the clock.
I adore this car, both as a classic, but also because it was an early example of a tuner company tinkering with a simple shopping run car. The Ford Cortina has always been a very standard and ordinary car, so when Lotus stamped their mark on it with their 1.6-L 2 Overhead Cam engine and close ratio gearbox, it set the standard of what could be created within the low end of the showroom spectrum cars. It created a modest 105-bhp, but considering the size of the car and it was built 40 years ago, it was a great early performance car.
Richard Rawlings managed to buy this beauty for just $65,000 – a real bargain. I think he advertised it for $115,000. Not bad considering it only needed a few small dents attending to and a thorough service.
This is my favourite view of the car, showing the cool rear cluster, Lotus badge and subtle fin. I also love the paint scheme with the grooved part of the panels filled in with Lotus green.
I’m not too sure how popular the Cortina was in the States in the 60s and 70s or even if it existed at all, but I was really happy to see the Lotus edition received a good amount of recognition when then the Gas Monkeys stumbled across it.
If I had the cash I would have definitely considered it and, after a little fun, keeping it in storage until a museum offered a significant sum in about 20 years time. But I may be buying another car in the not too distant future, but that’s for another time and another post.
I’ve recently decided wagons are cool, and despite owning a WRX wagon, I’ve never really thought about them before. I have fond memories of lifting the rear door so my dogs could easily just hop in and have loads of room to fight whilst I tried to drive. The fact it was a WRX meant it didn’t even feel big; it effectively matches the saloon WRX in performance.
This all came about after I caught up with season 4 of Fast N’ Loud and watched an episode featuring a wagon made especially for NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt Jr. Although fairly rare now, Richard Rawlings found a decent 56 Chevy Nomad for Earnhardt Jr and let his bearded genius, Aaron Kaufman go to town it.
The colours were specifically chosen as a kind of homage to his sponsor Mountain Dew (energy drink). I think it looks fantastic, almost as good as their Sleeper wagon below.
Now this is undoubtedly cool. Gas Monkey Garage did an amazing job of keeping the car’s battle-scarred and weather-worn looks by treating the metal and simply clear-coating it. Stick on some wheels, slam it and insert a big engine and voilà!
Over in Europe, we have our own cool wagons (estates). Take this BMW 325i Touring above, for example. It’s a pretty sought after vehicle now, and back in the day was considered a different breed. Now you could fit a large family and the kitchen sink in the back of your car and still have plenty of performance at your disposal.
This concept obviously worked and other manufacturers caught on. Its success was down to practicality and the ability to maintain a “cool” status like the W124 above.
One of my favourite modern estates would have to be the Audi RS4. Around the turn of the century, this model gave the estate/performance concept a further kick in the pants with a 0-60 time of 4.8 seconds!
Not only that, but it’s a real looker too. If I should happen to have kids (God forbid) and the wife demands a spacious means of transport, it’s this beast above I’ll come home with – I’ll look like the practical husband out shopping for the family, and at the same time I’ll be happy in the knowledge I could out drag a Porsche.
Discovery Channel‘s Fast N’ Loud star Richard Rawlings and his fuzzy sidekick Aaron Kaufman may have “pissed off the purists” by spraying this Ferrari F40 black, but at least they saved it from being sold off as parts.
I personally love what they did with this now rare $1,000,000 Ferrari. Aside from some incredible work done by some specialists they had to hire for the job, what they created was a faster and meaner looking Stallion.
The chassis and frame was so bent out of shape it was boarderline whether they should bother with the project. But they did, and with some imported extras (they broke an F40 windshield $7000!), the guys at Gas Monkey Garage unleashed this black 700HP F40.
Aaron hated the original felt style dash and standard seats, so they upgraded them, the seats proper racing buckets that actually suited the F40 better than the originals. Although there’s nothing really wrong with the standard Ferrari rims, these larger black alternatives really suit and set the black beauty off.
And just to think this gorgeous creation stemmed from this wreck below.