The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, widely known simply as the Cannonball Baker or Cannonball Run, was an unofficial, unsanctioned automobile race run five times in the 1970s from New York City and Darien, Connecticut, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California.
Conceived by car magazine writer and auto racer Brock Yates and fellow Car and Driver editor Steve Smith, the first run was not a real competitive race, as there was only one team running, but intended both as a celebration of the United States Interstate Highway System and a protest against strict traffic laws coming into effect at the time.
Another motivation was the fun involved, which showed in the tongue-in-cheek reports in Car and Driver and other auto publications worldwide. The initial cross-country run was accomplished by Yates; his son, Brock Yates Jr.; Steve Smith; and friend Jim Williams beginning on May 3, 1971. The first running was accomplished in a 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman van, called the "Moon Trash II". The race was run four more times, on November 15, 1971; November 13, 1972; April 23, 1975; and April 1, 1979. Jack May and Rick Cline drove a Ferrari Dino (05984) from the Red Ball Garage in New York City in a world record time of 35 hours and 53 minutes, on April 23-25, 1975, averaging 83 mph (134 km/h).
A remarkable effort was made by American racing legend Dan Gurney (winner of the 1967 24 hours of Le Mans), who won the second run in a Ferrari Daytona. Gurney said, "At no time did we exceed 175 mph." With Brock Yates as co-driver, it took them 35 hours and 54 minutes to travel 2,863 miles (4,608 km) at an average of approximately 80 mph (130 km/h), while collecting one fine. Snow in the Rockies slowed them down considerably.
The record for official Cannonballs is 32 hours and 51 minutes (about 87 mph), set in the final run by Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough in a Jaguar XJS in April 1979. This New York to Los Angeles record was broken in 2006 by Alex Roy and David Maher, setting a time of 31 hours 4 minutes, as documented in the film 32 Hours 7 minutes. On October 19, 2013, Ed Bolian and his team, co-driver Dave Black, and passenger Dan Huang, made the trip in a Mercedes CL-55 in 28 hours and 50 minutes.
The 55 mph (89 km/h) speed limit imposed as an energy-conservation measure by the 1974 National Maximum Speed Law and in effect for the last two Cannonballs was actually faster than the quickest average speeds of point-to-point travels of Erwin George "Cannon Ball" Baker in the first half of the 20th century. In 1933, Baker drove coast to coast in a Graham-Paige model 57 Blue Streak 8, averaging greater than 50 mph (80 km/h), setting a record of 53 hours 30 minutes that stood for nearly 40 years.
After the original Cannonball races were halted, Car and Driver began to sponsor a legitimate closed-course tour, the One Lap of America. Outlaw successors in the United States, Europe, and Australia continue to use the Cannonball name without Yates's approval.
The object of the Cannonball Baker was to leave the Red Ball Garage on East 31st Street in New York City (later a venue in Darien, Connecticut; the now-defunct Lock, Stock, and Barrel restaurant, located in the Goodwives Shopping Center), usually after midnight, and drive to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California in the shortest time possible. Those were the only rules.
Nothing was specified as to the route, type of vehicle, number of drivers or crew, or maximum speed permitted. There was a gentlemen's agreement that the vehicle entered would be driven the entire distance, not having it transported on another vehicle, nor having an identical second vehicle hidden near the finish, etc. Speeding citations received along the way were the driver's responsibility and did not disqualify the vehicle, although having to stop to receive a ticket increased the vehicle's overall time.
The Cannonball Run was technically a race in that the fastest time was declared the "winner" and the results were announced in order of time, but times were not taken very seriously. It was found that sheer speed did not guarantee a first-place finish.
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The Cannonball runs gained notoriety after the 1972 run, but it was Time May 5, 1975 story on the Jack May and Rick Cline race that solidified it in the public consciousness. To the surprise of many, the hilarious reports in Car and Driver were warmly received by the press and the public alike, rather than being condemned for being reckless.
Reportedly, the worst "accident" that occurred in all of the Cannonball runs was spilled lasagna aboard a motor home which made the trip in 57 hours, as Car and Driver Magazine detailed the November 1971 running in their March 1972 issue. That article was reprinted in its entirety in 2005, being chosen to represent the decade of the 1970s in the magazine's 50th anniversary series of article reprints.
In his memoir book about the races (see References), Yates reports that in the 1972 event, an all-female team consisting of Peggy Niemcek, Judy Stropus, and SCCA racer Donna Mae Mims ("The Pink Lady") suffered a crash near El Paso, Texas, resulting in a DNF (Did Not Finish.) The book contains a first-hand account by Mims, stating that their Cadillac stretch limousine veered off the road and rolled over after the driver fell asleep at the wheel. Although the car was destroyed and Mims suffered a broken arm, no other vehicles were involved in the crash, and this was the only serious accident in all the Cannonball races.
Yates began working on a screenplay, to be titled Coast to Coast, but was scooped by two unofficial films in 1976, Cannonball and The Gumball Rally. Eventually, an "official" Cannonball Run movie was made - The Cannonball Run - starring Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise with Yates in a cameo appearance. Two sequels, Cannonball Run II and Speed Zone, followed. A later USA Network television program, Cannonball Run 2001, was given official approval to use the name.
After the last Cannonball, Rick Doherty, a veteran of the 1975 and 1979 races, organized a successor, the U.S. Express. Doherty won the first U.S. Express with co-driver and famous game designer, Will Wright, at the wheel of a Mazda RX-7. Their time was 33 hours, 9 minutes. The U.S. Express ran to the beach in Santa Monica, making it longer than the Cannonball. Despite the increased length, the fastest time recorded was 32 hours 7 minutes in the 1983 race, 44 minutes faster than the fastest Cannonball, and the "official" cross-country record until it was broken in 2006. 1983 was the last year of the U.S. Express.
In 1981 the U.S. Express ran from Long Island, New York, to Emeryville, California (bordering Oakland, California, at the east end of the Bay Bridge). Interstate 80 was largely the route of choice. The winning team in 1981 was the first time Express team of David Morse and Steve Clausman driving Morse's gray Porsche 928.
One unique road hazard experienced in the 1981 run was an early snowfall closing the Donner Pass for several hours to vehicles without chains, just as the U.S. Express cars were approaching. Their Porsche 928 carried special plastic chains and was able to proceed, while others had to wait for the pass to open. The team of David Morse and Steve Clausman competed the next two years. In 1982 (also to Emeryville) they endured several memorable police stops, and in the final U.S. Express run in 1983 to Newport Beach, they placed second.
More than thirty years after the last official Cannonball, the issues raised, and the possibility of a full or partial revival, are still of interest to some motorists. Yates, in his book, recalled declining offers ever since the last race to revive the concept, and gave a number of reasons: it was unworkable, including increased police activity; increased legal liabilities on the part of any organizer; and increased year-round traffic and expanding urban areas, as well as warning of the obvious dangers of a race on public roads.
The Gumball 3000 gained publicity in the early 2000s as a similar event, sometimes held on coast-to-coast American routes, but paced over several times as long and with no time-based winner. While not a coast-to-coast event, The Bandit Run is a similar road marathon held yearly since 2007, when it marked the 30th anniversary of the film Smokey and the Bandit (produced by Hal Needham and starring Burt Reynolds, who would both make the first Cannonball Run movie four years later).
Ed Bolian, co-driver Dave Black, and Dan Huang drove the 2,813.7 mile route from the Red Ball Garage to the Portofino Hotel in 28 hours and 50 minutes October 19-20, 2013, averaging 98 miles per hour, including the 15 minutes it took to get out of Manhattan in a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG. The drivers stopped three times for fuel. The car was equipped with two specially installed 22-gallon auxiliary fuel tanks in addition to its standard 23-gallon tank, a total of 67 U.S. gallons (250 L). As proof, Bolian presented the complete GPS logs, recorded by GeoForce, a global field equipment tracking company whose services Bolian had acquired to track his car.
Some of the previous motorcycle records between these two cities:
In 1968, the Great Transcontinental Electric Car Race was held between student groups at Caltech and MIT. The Caltech team, led by EV pioneer Wally Rippel, converted a 1958 VW Microbus powered by Ni-Cad batteries. The MIT team converted a 1968 Chevrolet Corvair powered by lead cobalt batteries. The MIT team raced from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Pasadena, California, while the Caltech team raced the opposite direction. A network of 54 charging locations were set up along the 3311 mile route - spaced 21 to 95 miles apart. The race began on August 26, and ended on September 4th. Although the MIT team reached Pasadena first, they were towed part of the way. After assessing penalty points, Caltech was declared the winner with a corrected time of 210 hours 3 minutes.
With the introduction of long range EVs, such as the Tesla Roadster (2008) and in particular the Tesla Model S, coast to coast travel became more feasible. In January 2014, Tesla Motors completed the first coast-to-coast corridor in their supercharging network for the Model S. A team from Tesla Motors completed a 3427-mile route from Los Angeles to New York City run in 76 hours, 5 minutes. (Time included 60 hours, 8 minutes driving, and 15 hours, 57 minutes charging.) In July 2014, a team from Edmunds completed a slightly shorter 3331.9 mile route in 67 hours, 21 minutes. (Time included 52 hours, 41 minutes driving, and 14 hours, with 40 minutes charging.) The initial cross country supercharging route was sub-optimal for New York-Los Angeles runs, notably due to the link between Denver and Chicago running through South Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin along Interstate 90.
Carl J. Reese and co-drivers Rodney Hawk and Deena Mastracci took advantage of a newly opened corridor on Interstate 70 to drive the 3011 mile route from the City Hall in Los Angeles to the City Hall in New York City in 58 hours and 55 minutes April 16-19, 2015, a new record for EVs, in a 2015 Tesla Model S P85D. The drivers stopped 24 times for electric charging, with a total charge time of 12 hours 48 minutes. As proof, Reese presented 16 documents notarized on both ends, identifying drivers and 3 eyewitnesses: Matt Nordenstrom, Johnnie Oberg Jr., and Anthony Alvarado. Complete GPS logs recorded by GPSInsight (a fleet tracking company) were sent to Jalopnik, Guinness Book of World Records. GPSInsight provided GPS tracking equipment to the team to verify the event. Reese's team of 3 drivers broke Tesla Motors' (team of 15 drivers) previous record of 76 hours 5 minutes and Edmunds.com's (team of 2 drivers) previous record of 67 hours 21 minutes.
On October 18-21, 2015, Deena Mastracci and Reese were joined by Alex Roy, with whom they beat Mastracci and Reese's prior record of 58:55 for an LA-NYC run in an electric vehicle with a total time of 57 hours, 48 minutes.
On August 24-27, 2016, the LA-NYC record was broken again by a team comprising Alex Roy, Righthook CEO Warren Ahner, and StreetWars founder Franz Aliquo, who completed the run in 55 hours flat in a 2016 Tesla Model S 90D. GPS logs were recorded by US Fleet Tracking, and Comma.AI's Chffr data logger, and data was shared with Time, Inc.The Drive.
With an early-production Tesla Model 3, which are delivered to California-based customers only, Alex Roy and co-driver Dan Zorrilla broke the eastbound Electric Cannonball Run record again December 28-31 of 2017, driving 2,860 miles from the Portofino Inn to the Red Ball garage in 50 hours and 16 minutes. GPS data was captured using the GPS Tracks application, and video evidence was shared on YouTube.
The first coast-to-coast autonomous record was set by employees of Delphi. Delphi engineers covered 3,400 miles, San Francisco to New York City, over a span of nine days.
Carl J. Reese, Deena Mastracci, and Alex Roy set a new coast-to-coast record using Tesla's new Autopilot function. The trio made the 2,995-mile journey in 57 hours, 48 minutes after departing from Redondo Beach, California on October 18, 2015 at 9:15 p.m. PST, and arriving at Red Ball Garage in New York on October 21, 2015 at 10:03 a.m. EST. The trip was completed with fewer than 14 hours of charging and 96 percent of the driving done by Tesla's Autopilot system. This record was a first outside of manufacture testing, proving that automated systems can deliver people coast to coast safely in record time.
As of August 27, 2016, the semi-autonomous (Level 2) driving record stands at 55 hours, set during the electric cross-country record run by Franz Aliquo, Warren Ahner, and Alex Roy in a Tesla Model S 90D, whose "Autopilot" function was engaged 97.7% of the way.
+ indicates winners
* indicates overall record
|Last name||First name||Run||Time||Place||Vehicle||Year|
|Adamowicz||Tony||2||36:47||2||Chevrolet Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|Adelberg||Harvey||5||36:19||9||Mercedes-Benz 300 SD||1979|
|Alden||Al||5||32:59||2||Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9||1979|
|Armstrong||Keith||5||39:20||20||Chevrolet El Camino||1979|
|Armstrong||Ted||5||39:20||20||Chevrolet El Camino||1979|
|Arutunoff||Anatoly||5||40:33||24||Volvo 242 GT||1979|
|Baker||Clyde "C.J."||3||41:15||13||AMC Hornet||1972|
|Baker||Terry||5||35:58||7||Ferrari 308 GTS||1979|
|Behr||Steve||2||39:03||6||Dodge Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|Behr||Steve +||3||37:16||1||Cadillac Coupe de Ville||1972|
|Bell||Roger||5||58:04||39||Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith||1979|
|Blue||Doug||3||49:04||25||Chevrolet Monte Carlo||1972|
|Brennan||Peter||5||DNF||45||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1979|
|Brock||Pete||3||37:33||3||Mercedes-Benz 280 SEL||1972|
|Brodrick||Bill||2||57:25||7||Travco Motorhome||1971 (2nd race)|
|Brownell||Dave||5||61:51||40||Ford Panel Truck||1979|
|Browning||Bob||5||40:33||24||Volvo 242 GT||1979|
|Bruerton||Ed||2||37:48||5||AMC AMX||1971 (2nd race)|
|Bruerton||Tom||2||37:48||5||AMC AMX||1971 (2nd race)|
|Canfield||Bill +||3||37:16||1||Cadillac Coupe De Ville||1972|
|Carey||Bob||2||57:25||7||Travco Motorhome||1971 (2nd race)|
|Chapin||Kim||2||39:03||6||Dodge Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|Cline||Rick +||4||35:53||1||Ferrari Dino 246 GTS||1975|
|Cooper||Bill||5||38:52||18||Ferrari 308 GT 350||1979|
|Corrizzoni||Tom||3||49:04||25||Chevrolet Monte Carlo||1972|
|Cowell||Jack||3||37:33||3||Mercedes-Benz 280 SEL||1972|
|Crittenden||Jim||5||36:00||8||Buick Park Avenue||1979|
|Davidson||Stuart||5||46:48||36||Ferrari 330 GT||1979|
|Dawn||Wes||2||DNF||8||MGB GT||1971 (2nd race)|
|Dawn||Wes||4||38:16||4||Mercedes-Benz 450 SL||1975|
|De Van||Fred||3||39:29||6||Mazda RX-2||1972|
|Dunaj||Jon||5||36:19||9||Mercedes-Benz 300 SD||1979|
|Egloff||George||5||43:32||30||Suzuki 850 Motorcycle||1979|
|Ehrich||Terry||5||61:51||40||Ford Panel Truck||1979|
|Epstein||Wendy||5||43:32||30||Suzuki 850 Motorcycle||1979|
|Fergusson||Alice||3||42:08||15||Citroën DS 19||1972|
|Fergusson||Joe||3||42:08||15||Citroën DS 19||1972|
|Fernald||Steve||4||40:31||10||Volvo 164 E||1975|
|Field||Dick||5||32:59||2||Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9||1979|
|Fog||Steven||5||34:07||4||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1979|
|Frankl||Andrew||5||65:55||41||Ford Mini Truck||1979|
|Garbarini||Steve||3||48:25||24||Datsun 240 Z||1972|
|Garcione||William||3||48:25||24||Datsun 240 Z||1972|
|Gilmartin||Richard||3||37:33||3||Mercedes-Benz 280 SEL||1972|
|Gregory||Fred||5||DNF||45||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1979|
|Gurney||Dan +||2||35:54||1||Ferrari Daytona||1971 (2nd race)|
|Harmston||Edwin||5||58:04||39||Rolls Royce Silver Wraith||1979|
|Heinz||Dave +||5||32:51||* 1||Jaguar XJS||1979|
|Herisko||Ron||2||36:56||3||Cadillac Coupe De Ville||1971 (2nd race)|
|Hickey||Tom||5||32:59||2||Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9||1979|
|Hitchins||John||5||65:55||41||Ford Mini Truck||1979|
|Hopkins `||Danny||3||38:02||4||De Tomaso Pantera||1972|
|Hopkins||Hoppy||3||38:02||4||De Tomaso Pantera||1972|
|Hourihan||Bob||4||40:31||10||Volvo 164 E||1975|
|James||Dirk||5||43:32||30||Suzuki 850 Motorcycle||1979|
|Jenkins||Richard||3||38:37||5||Alfa Romeo Giulia||1972|
|Kendall-Lane||Fiona||5||58:04||39||Rolls Royce Silver Wraith||1979|
|Kendall-Lane||Stephen||5||58:04||39||Rolls Royce Silver Wraith||1979|
|Kenny||Arnold||3||DNF||32||Chevrolet Camaro Z 28||1972|
|Kepler||Fred||3||DNF||32||Chevrolet Camaro Z 28||1972|
|Key||Robert||5||48:53||37||Shelby Mustang GT 350||1979|
|Kirby||Jim||5||36:40||11||Chevrolet Camaro Z 28||1979|
|Kopec||Rich||5||48:53||37||Shelby Mustang GT 350||1979|
|Kovaleski||Oscar||2||36:47||2||Chevrolet Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|Kovaleski||Bob||4||36:40||11||Chevrolet Camaro Z 28||1979|
|Leonard||Tom||5||37:46||16||Chevrolet Camaro Z 28||1979|
|Lincoln||Sam||3||49:04||25||Chevrolet Monte Carlo||1972|
|Lloyd||David||5||36:00||8||Buick Park Avenue||1979|
|Mahler||John||5||37:46||16||Chevrolet Camaro Z 28||1979|
|Marbut||Tom||2||37:45||4||Dodge Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|May||Jack +||4||35:53||1||Ferrari Dino 246 GTS||1975|
|McCarthy||Charlie||5||36:19||9||Mercedes-Benz 300 SD||1979|
|McConkey||Ron||4||40:43||12||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1975|
|McGovern||John||5||58:04||39||Rolls Royce Silver Wraith||1979|
|Mims||Donna Mae||3||DNF||28||Cadillac Limousine||1972|
|Morin||Holly||2||39:03||6||Dodge Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|Moses||Sam||5||39:29||21||Ford Mustang Boss 302||1979|
|Nickel||Gil||4||38:16||4||Mercedes-Benz 450 SL||1975|
|Niemcek||Brad||2||36:47||2||Chevrolet Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|Olds||Fred +||3||37:16||1||Cadillac Coupe De Ville||1972|
|Olds||Fred||4||40:31||10||Volvo 164 E||1975|
|Opert||Larry||2||36:56||3||Cadillac Sedan De Ville||1971 (2nd race)|
|Parker||Pal||2||57:25||7||Travco Motorhome||1971 (2nd race)|
|Pash||Phil||2||57:25||7||Travco Motorhome||1971 (2nd race)|
|Patchett||Keith||5||72:54||42||BMW R 90/6 Motorcycle||1979|
|Peeler||Jim||5||46:48||36||Ferrari 330 GT||1979|
|Perlow||Bob||2||DNF||8||MGB GT||1971 (2nd race)|
|Pierce||Jeff||5||33:42||3||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1979|
|Poston||Becky||2||37:45||4||Dodge Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|Pritch||Mark||5||36:52||18||Ferrari 308 GT 350||1979|
|Pritzker||Nate||2||36:56||3||Cadillac Sedan De Ville||1971 (2nd race)|
|Pryor||Bill||5||40:33||24||Volvo 242 GT||1979|
|Quartararo||Tony||5||46:48||36||Ferrari 330 GT||1979|
|Rasmussen||Buzz||5||39:20||20||Chevrolet El Camino||1979|
|Romine||Chris||5||35:58||7||Ferrari 308 GTS||1979|
|Roy||Alexander +||1||31:04||1||BMW M5||2006|
|Rosenblatt||Joel||5||36:00||8||Buick Park Avenue||1979|
|Rost||Bob||3||38:37||5||Alfa Romeo Giulia||1972|
|Rowzie||Dan||4||38:39||5||Porsche 911 RSR||1975|
|Satullo II||Sandy||4||38:45||6||Buick Electra||1975|
|Scribner||Doug||3||49:04||25||Chevrolet Monte Carlo||1972|
|Seneki||Alex||5||46:31||34||Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3||1979|
|Shugars||Dave||4||40:43||12||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1975|
|Sibio||Albert Jr.||5||36:40||11||Chevrolet Camaro Z 28||1979|
|Smith||Steve +||1||40:51||1||Dodge Sportsman Van||1971 (1st race)|
|Snyder||Michael||5||33:42||3||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1979|
|Sportiche||Alain||5||46:31||34||Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3||1979|
|Taylor||Justus||5||61:51||40||Ford Panel Truck||1979|
|Truesdale||Loyal||5||72:54||42||BMW R 90/6 Motorcycle||1979|
|Ward||Ken||5||43:32||30||Suzuki 850 Motorcycle||1979|
|Ward||Steve||5||43:32||30||Suzuki 850 Motorcycle||1979|
|Waters||Randy||2||37:45||4||Dodge Van||1971 (2nd race)|
|Weglarz||Dennis||4||40:43||12||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1975|
|Whiteside||Mark||5||34:07||4||Pontiac Firebird Trans Am||1979|
|Williams||Jim +||1||40:51||1||Dodge Sportsman Van||1971 (1st race)|
|Willig||George||5||39:29||21||Ford Mustang Boss 302||1979|
|Yarborough||Dave +||5||32:51||* 1||Jaguar XJS||1979|
|Yates||Brock +||1||40:51||1||Dodge Sportsman Van||1971 (1st race)|
|Yates||Brock +||2||35:54||1||Ferrari Daytona||1971 (2nd race)|
|Yates||Brock Jr. +||1||40:51||1||Dodge Sportsman Van||1971 (1st race)|