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What Car Would You Choose To Take On The Cannonball Run?

Lamborghini Countach LP400S

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

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?

Cannonball Route

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

Brock Yates and Dan Gurney and the 1971 Record Ferrari 365 GTB 4

Cannonball Royalty

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

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 & the Record Ferrari F550

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.

Alexander Roy

Alexander Roy

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. 

Alexander Roy's BMW M5

Alexander Roy’s BMW M5

Alexander Roy published a book on his racing career, The Driver: My Dangerous Pursuit of Speed and Truth, a book I’m halfway through, a book keeping me from my much-need beauty sleep.

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

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”?

VW-Phaeton-6-0-W12-4MOTION

VW-Phaeton-6-0-W12-4MOTION

Me?

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.

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Plymouth Fury Cop Car
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Even The Christine Cop Car Is Bad To The Bone

The California Kid

The California Kid

We all love a good car chase/road movie, especially when the 5-0 get involved. It’s even better when the cops are bad, twisted and corrupt. When the cop’s car is a Plymouth Belvedere, a car very similar to Gargling Gas’ top movie car, Christine, I’m pretty much in police brutality heaven.

The poster above is for a 1974 movie about a psychotic town sheriff who finds his excitement in the desert by forcing speeders to their deaths.

Take Collie Entragian (pictured below), the possessed cop from Stephen King’s Desperation, and team him up with another of King’s creations, the 1958 Plymouth Fury from Christine and you have the foundation onto which The California Kid is built.

Collie Entragian Meets Christine

Collie Entragian Meets Christine

After a few unfortunate hot-rodders meet the maniacal Sheriff Roy Childress’ (Vic Morrow), Martin Sheen and his 1934 Ford make an appearance to try and end the cop’s evil ways.

A simple storyline, yet one made very cool by the choice of characters and cars.

Vic Morrow

Vic Morrow

At first glance, the Plymouth Belvedere looks a little odd wearing the colours of a patrol car, especially with the incongruous red lamp ruining the glorious lines and its overall sleekness. The thought of such a long and heavy car giving chase to a hotrod is rather amusing, too… until you watch it in action.

Plymouth Fury Cop Car

Plymouth Fury Cop Car

Check out the psycho cop and his Plymouth in the clip below and tell me how cool it looks as a cop car. I have also added the entire film below if you enjoy the clip.

Fifty Shades of Grey?

Nah, I think this Plymouth is way more erotic and bad.

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When Cars Were Built To Last Along With Their Style

Modern Cars

If you were to walk through a crammed car park whilst blurring your eyes, you’d be hard pressed to single out brands and models from a distance. The modern automobile – the majority of – has started to take on generic features and angular lines. Manufacturers like their cars to look mean from the front, which usually entails angry and slanted headlights combined with a sporty bumper. Whilst the average grocery-getter looks far better than the grocery-getter of yesteryear, cars have lost their individuality.

Mercedes-Benz 190e

This post stems from the video below and my love of old school German cars. Although I haven’t owned the gorgeous 280, I’ve owned a few Mercedes W124s and a 190E like the one pictured above.

Not only are they unbreakable and a joy to drive, their aesthetic design is simple yet beautiful – no aggressive lines, no day-running lights and LEDs, not in the least ‘messy’.

German car doors slamming with a solid and reassuring “thunk” may be a cliche, but it is very true. All the older Mercs I’ve owned were pushing 25 years old, but all of the electrics, switches and mechanics worked. Take a look at the 280 in the video below and take in the simple lines and gorgeous interior. It’s no powerhouse or sports car, but to me it represents what the average car should look like.

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Dirty, Filthy, Evil, Naughty, Sexy and Bad

Those are just six adjectives I attribute to the noise the Jaguar F-Type R creates when petrol ignites within its eight cylinders. Never mind mpg, reliability, looks (in this case the Jag does just fine), or handling, for when a car sounds this bad (the good kind of “bad”), you only have to drop the windows and hammer and all those niggling problems magically vanish – and as far as I’m concerned, magic and alchemy is exactly what Jaguar have applied to this big cat’s heart.

Should you ever need to unblock your ears, just watch the video below.

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Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: The Sleeper Car

Ford Granada Sleeper ZZZ ZZZ

Ford Granada Sleeper ZZZ ZZZ

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

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.

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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

Alfa Sleeper F1 Car

The perfect wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Alfa Sleeper Car

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.

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Ford GT Swaps 8 Cylinders For 6

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Think Ford GT and you automatically picture Le Mans and the 60s GT-40s bringing the fight to Ferrari. As well as the teal and orange GULF livery colours, you’ll also most likely imagine the twin white racing stripes traversing the deep blue sea of low angles and beautiful lines that form the modern GT’s sleek body.

Next up, and synonymous with all American muscle, particularly the Ford GT-40 and it’s modern tribute, the GT, is it’s V8 heart.

So what would you say if you found out the latest edition to the GT family has decided it doesn’t fancy a V8? What would you think if it wanted a V6 instead? You’d first no doubt gasp in horror, perhaps calmed somewhat in the knowledge it had asked for twin turbos.

Turbos are looking to be the future in maintaining high horsepower without pushing emission limits.

I’m all for technological progression, and as far as the following video shows, I think the new Ford GT is something to behold.