You’ve probably seen the movie, Cannonball Run, a star-studded romp across the country with Burt Reynolds and friends. It was based on a very real event: Back in 1971, automotive legends Brock Yates and Steve Smith took off in a 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman van called the “Moon Trash II” in a celebration of the United States Interstate system and as a protest to the restrictive speed limits on our highways. That first run took 35 hours and 54 minutes.
Needless to say, others would follow.
This week, Arne Toman, Doug Tabutt, and Berkeley Chadwick left New York in their customized 2015 Mercedes Benz E63 AMG at 12:57 a.m. on November 10, and arrived in Redondo Beach, California 27 hours and 25 minutes later, shattering the prevailing Cannonball record by more than two hours, according to Road & Track. If ever there was a cult following for a speed record that’s highly dangerous and can’t be obtained legally, this is it.
“We planned every detail of the run including building a spreadsheet which we planned the exact times we passed through more populated areas in order to make sure we went through either at night or in low traffic times,” Toman told Digital Trends.
The trio left the Red Ball Garage on the east side of Manhattan and aimed the Mercedes west, opting for a northern route using I-80 through Nebraska, then veering southwest on I-76 down to Denver, I-70, over the Rockies and through the middle of Utah, and then south on I-15 through Las Vegas and across the Mojave Desert, then dropping into the maze that is Los Angeles to finish at the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach. All that in a little more than 27 hours. To break it down, that’s an average of 103 miles per hour, including fuel stops, which totaled a mere 22-1/2 minutes.
The Mercedes was highly modified, with a reported 700 horsepower delivered to the wheels. Mods included upgraded turbos, down-pipes, intercoolers, and intake. An array of electronics ranged from aircraft avoidance systems to detect state patrol aircraft, several radar detectors, taillight and headlight kill switches, several GPS systems to verify the record run, and much, much more.
These three men can claim a place in Cannonball history next to Dan Gurney — who won the second Cannonball in a Ferrari Daytona — and alongside of Brock Yates, who founded the event. “I didn’t want to break the record by minutes,” Toman reported to Road & Track, adding that “I didn’t want anyone else trying and I didn’t want to do it again.”