I had forgotten all about coast-to-coast Cannonball Runs. Erwin “Cannon Ball” Baker was the first, of course, going from the East Coast to the West Coast in 53.5 hours in 1933, driving a Graham-Paige Model 57 Blue Streak 8.
The late Brock Yates, of Car and Driver fame, got it down to 32 hours, 51 minutes in 1971, and the 30-hour mark fell to Dave Black and Ed Bolian in 2013 (28 hours, 50 minutes).
Now, Arne Toman and Doug Tabutt have shaved over an hour off that time. With the help of spotter Berkeley Chadwick, they motored from Manhattan’s Red Ball Garage to the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach, California, in 27 hours and 25 minutes.
They did it driving a 2015 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG that had been specially prepped for the run. They stopped for fuel for just 22 minutes total (!) and averaged 103 mph for the 2,825 miles.
Yes, you read that right. Averaged 103 mph. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess what speeds they got up to.
The all-wheel-drive Benz was tuned up to make 700 horsepower, and vinyl tape was used to cover the carbon-fiber trim and the taillights.
A coast-to-coast high-speed dash is not to be undertaken without a defense against law enforcement, so the crew used two radar detectors, laser jamming, and a ground-based version of aircraft collision-avoidance. That last was useful for detecting airborne cops. A remote-controlled thermal scope was used to pick up the heat signatures of any cops who lurked in the grass after dark, and in a modern touch, Waze was used to mark checkpoints. There were also three GPS units (mostly used to prove that the time was accurate), a CB radio, a police scanner, and a kill switch for the brake and taillights.
Not only that, but 18 people served as lookouts for cops and hazards along the route.
There were challenges, beyond the obvious. While the thermal scope was good for spotting deer, it had to come off during the day to keep the car from attracting too much attention (and it could get stuck in one direction, thanks to the force of the wind).
The car also experienced detonation in Colorado, thanks to low-octane gas and high altitude, but a restart solved that problem. The police scanner only worked on cops who hadn’t upgraded to encrypted digital communication systems.
The trio reported no near misses regarding accidents, but they did get close to being popped by the cops in the Midwest while traveling at 120 mph. Instant-on radar lit them up, but a cop setting up a speed trap missed them, and the cruiser that hit them apparently needed fuel.
It should go without saying that attempting this kind of record is highly illegal, highly dangerous, and quite costly financially. We’re not taking a side on whether these guys are automotive legends or stupid fools – but it regardless of how you feel about such runs, under 28 hours to cross the lower 48 from coast to coast is mind-boggling.
Road and Track has the whole story.
[Image: Shutterstock user Pozdeyev Vitaly]