Perhaps you’ve heard of the movie Cannonball Run, a Burt Reynolds favorite from 1981. In it, a rebellion protesting the 55 mile-per-hour speed limits in place on the country’s freeways set out to beat the record drive time for the New York to Los Angeles trip. On October 19, 2013, a man named Ed Bolian was on a new mission – to beat the 31 hour and 4 minute mark set in 2006 by Alex Roy and David Maher driving in a modified BMW M5.
Bolian, a man from Atlanta had wanted to make this trek most of his life. In fact, the man interviewed Brock Yates, the man who is known for winning the first Cannonball Run when he hit a time of 35 hours and 53 minutes. Bolian did that when he was just 18 and in college. During that interview, Bolian made the promise to beat Yates.
Preparation is Key
According to Bolian, even though Hollywood made it all funny and truly fun-looking, the process took a lot of hard work and research to get the project off the ground. In fact, it all started in 2009 when Bolian, began working for Lamborghini Atlanta, began the research of it all, including the research of cars, traffic patterns, equipment, modifications he could make, and even gas mileage.
The decision was made to make the 115,000 mile journey driving a Mercedes CL55. He did make some modifications, though. That 23 gallon tank wasn’t large enough so he added two additional 22-gallon tanks to the vehicle, which gave him a total of about 800 miles to work with. He put in a spare tire right in the backseat of the vehicle with Dan Huang, who worked as his spotter on the trip.
Further modifications included the addition of a kill switch for the rear lights installed by Bolian. Then he installed the best laser jammers and radar detectors money could buy to keep him protected from the eyes of the police. He also installed a police scanner, two GPS units, and various smartphones and tablets. After all of the high tech equipment was intact, the inside of the Benz resembled that of the DeLorean Time Machine. The final stage was to add all of the iced coffee, snacks and even a bedpan to the vehicle to keep him on the road going strong.
With a $9000 tune-up completed as well, he really had the vehicle souped-up and ready for the road. However, he wasn’t done just yet with the preparation work.
Bolian remarked that one of the hardest parts of the process was finding people who wanted to do it with him, which wasn’t as easy as he thought. His co-driver, a man named Dave Black, was a customer at Bolian’s Lamborghini dealership in Atlanta but he didn’t think he would be as Black didn’t agree to the process until 3 days prior to the team leaving for New York. Bolian’s spotter, Dan Huang didn’t sign on until just 18 hours before takeoff.
The Cannonball Run Journey Begins
The team of three left the Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street, which was the exact location of the Yates’ Cannonball starting point. The trip began on October 19th at 9:55 pm. He used a tracking company to manage the process of watching his time.
The journey began with a 15 minute hold up in NYC traffic but soon got moving at a crazy fast pace. They maintained very high speeds throughout Pennsylvania thanks to another trick they had up their sleeves. Area scouts, who were positioned 150 to 200 miles out ahead of the team and obeying the posted speed limit, sent warnings of any police, construction or other concerns that would slow them down. Through Ohio, Indiana, and through Illinois, the team flew without problems. They made it to St. Louis before dawn that day. By the time the team reached southern Missouri, they knew they were likely to break the record if they maintained the speed limit the rest of the way.
Many things helped the team accomplish their goal. They didn’t get lost throughout the trip. They didn’t have many problems with construction or traffic along the route either. When they finally hit the Texas border, they figured out that they may even break the 30 hour mark on the trip.
Amazingly, the team’s 2,803 mile journey concluded at 11:46 on October 20th when the Benz rolled up to the final destination, the Portofino Hotel and Marina located in Redondo Beach, California. Their time was outstanding at a record-breaking 28 hours and 50 minutes. The team was on the road nearly the entire time. They only pulled off for about 46 minutes. They averaged around 100 mph during the trip. Their top speed was as high as 158 mph
Bolian, with the help of his awesome team and thorough planning realized his life-long dream and made good on his promise to Brock Yates that one day he would break his record. He actually shattered it. The team had not only beaten the record set back in the day by Yates, they also beat the latest record which was set by Alex Roy and David Maher in 2006.
Keep Automobile and Motorcycle Racing on the Track
Bolian and his team did take steps to be as safe as possible during the journey, and they did choose a weekend day to ensure that they were going to hit as little traffic as possible while on the road. Nevertheless, Bolian is the first to admit this isn’t something for everyone to attempt to do. One reason alone is because it is dangerous to drive while tired. Bolian only slept for about 40 minutes the entire time he was on the road. Black, the co-driver, only snoozed for about 60 minutes.
Another huge reason is that speeding on public highways is extremely dangerous. NHTSA data shows that 153 people died in 122 racing-related collisions in the U.S. from 2001 to 2010. This statistic only includes incidents where at least one driver was charged with illegal racing. Previously, the agency used a broader definition that (more accurately) included all crashes where investigators concluded that racing was involved. Under that framework, 1,047 people died in racing incidents from 2001 to 2008.