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Cannonball Record

Historic New York to Los Angeles Record Cars

A very common discussion that comes up about the New York to Los Angeles cross country driving record is the choice of automobile. Since the first drive that Brock Yates made in his recon run in 1970, there have been some amazing cars as part of the Cannonball, US Express, and other spinoff events including modern attempts like ours. Here is a bit more history on the progression of the record.

We drove a 2004 Mercedes CL55 AMG.
Ed Bolian New York to Los Angeles Record 2004 Mercedes CL55 AMG


The previous Transcontinental driving record holders were Alex Roy and Dave Maher with passenger Cory Welles. They drove this 2000 Le Mans Blue E39 BMW M5 with a time of 31 hours 4 minutes.

Alex Roy Transcontinental Record M5 Cockpit

Prior to the announcement of the record by Roy, the record was claimed by Richard Rawlings and Dennis Collins. They drove Collins’ 1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello with a time of 31 hours 59 minutes. Here are some picture via Bullrun.
Rawlings Collins World Record Ferrari 550 Maranello

Richard Rawlings and Dennis Collins Cannonball Record Ferrari Picture

Richard Rawlings Cannonball Record Ferrari 550 Maranello

Richard Rawlings Ferrari 550 Cannonball Run Cockpit

1983 was the last running of the US Express event. David Diem and Doug Tuner drove a 1980 Rosso Corsa Ferrari 308 GTS to a time of 32 hours 7 minutes. Photo from Cory Welles.
David Diem Doug Tuner 1983 US Express Winning Ferrari 308

Their time was the only one from all US Express attempts to improve upon the Cannonball Record time set in 1979 by David Heinz and David Yarborough in a 1978 Jaguar XJS with a time of 32 hours 51 minutes. This car was recently purchased by Richard Rawlings. Photos from Bring a Trailer.
David Heinz David Yarborough 1978 Jaguar XJS from the 1983 US Express

The 1979 winning time improved upon the record from the 1975 event held by Rick Cline and “Cannonball Jack” May in a 1973 Ferrari Dino 246 GTS with a time of 35 hours 53 minutes. Photo via cannonball
Cannonball Jack May 1973 Ferrari Dino 246

The time from 1975 only bested the previous record by 1 minute. That record had been famously held since the 1972 Cannonball by event founder Brock Yates and co-driver Dan Gurney in a 1970 Ferrari Daytona with a time of 35 hours 54 minutes.

Brock Yates Dan Gurney Ferrari Daytona Cannonball Run Cockpit

On the 1971 recon run prior to the first official running of the Cannonball Brock Yates, Steve Smith, Jim Williams, and Brock Yates Jr. drove a Dodge Sportsman Van to a time of 40 hours 51 minutes. This record comes with a bit of an asterisks because Wilt Chamberlain wrote that he once drove from New York to Los Angeles in his Lamborghini Countach in 36 hours 10 minutes. He tended to exaggerate things and that is even more preposterous than some of his other boastful claims so we will give that nod to Yates and co.


That makes 8 total cars that have held the New York to Los Angeles Transcontinental or Cannonball Record since 1971.

Of course there were many other participants in each event. Many of the times in later events were also faster than prior records but this is the list of cars that held the record for a time. I am working with an effort to build a list of all known times for New York to Los Angeles drives and will post that as soon as it gets closer to completion.

Honorable mention certainly goes to a few amazing cars. The 2010 BMW 335xi owned and driven by Greg Ledet in 2013 with a time of 31 hours 17 minutes now ranks third overall. Similarly, the legendary Mercedes Benz 450SEL 6.9 held a second fastest Cannonball time (driven by Al Alden, Dick Field, and Tom Hickey) and fastest all-female team (Pat Jones and Becky Damone). The Mazda RX7 was driven by two teams – Rick Doherty/Will Wright and Jeff Martini/Pierre Honnegger in 1980 to phenomenal times in the first running of the US Express.

Just some more history to enjoy. Drive safe.

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  1. David

    February 6, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    Hey Ed, great job compiling all the data and pics, I hadn’t known about Greg Ledet’s run. He keeps a pretty low profile or I’m not looking in the right places to find info on him. Do you know anything about solo attempts? The only one I can find is the Original by Ol’ Cannonball Baker himself in back in 1933 of 53:30. I know Betty Skelton did it in 1956 with a time of 56:58 but even though she did all the driving, she had a mechanic with her. I can’t seem to find any other instances.
    I need to come up there one day (if you have time) and buy you lunch and pick your brain on a few things if I may be so bold.

    • Ed Bolian

      February 10, 2015 at 11:30 am

      You are always welcome to swing by to chat.

      There is not much data on solo attempts. It would be extremely dangerous as the fatigue even with another 1-2 drivers is extreme.

  2. James

    March 2, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Hey Ed,

    How did you listen to all of those devices in the car? CB going off and the sanner making noise….isn’t that difficult to listen to all of the devices? was the co-driver responsible for the scanner and CB?

    • Ed Bolian

      March 2, 2015 at 10:42 am

      There was a lot of data coming into the car. The job of interpreting it was with the co-driver and our support passenger. The driver was only focused on driving. It ended up working very well.

      • James

        March 3, 2015 at 1:55 pm

        Thank you answering, you’re like a star! lol. If you had to improve your time on another run(if you did another run), what would you do different? strategy, electronics, car?

  3. Tim Riter

    June 18, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Going back in time, my father, Lynn Riter, set the record of 71 hrs and 2 minutes over 3384 miles in June 1929 in a 29 Ford Model A toaster. I have some pics and a newspaper article on it.

  4. Damian

    December 8, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    Has there been any interest from anyone in having another us express race?

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