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Cannonball Record

The 2904: 2015

After we set the New York to Los Angeles Cannonball Record in 2013, I was contacted by a gamut of cross country aficionados. Some were past Cannonballers, some were contemporary aspirers to hold the record, others just loved the movies and the idea. One highly interesting phone call was one with the organizer of an event called The 2904.
Ed Bolian 2904Their previous run was actually just two weeks after our 2013 drive. They have done cross country drives six times over the past several years and they added a very interesting twist – the budget is $2,904. That includes buying the car, the gas you use, tolls, food, repairs, etc. For the sake of safety, they allow additional spending on lighting, suspension, fuel systems, brakes, tires, etc. The budget corresponds to the total mileage of the original New York-San Francisco route .
The 2904

It seemed like a very interesting challenge. Given that we averaged over 100.2 mph during our drive, I was also interested in seeing the route again at a slightly slower pace. The organizer of the event contacted me and said that he thought that me coming along would be spice things up for the regulars. Their fastest times ever were in the 37 hour range so although the spirit of the drive is to race, the budget limits the law breaking in theory. Although they had done NY to San Fran in the past, they decided that a more traditional Cannonball route of Red Ball to Portofino made more sense.
Ed Bolian Cannonball Red Ball Parking Garage

I thought that it would be a lot of fun, particularly if I could find a car that would at least pay tribute to the strategies and ideas that we used in the CL55 on our record drive.

I found this 2002 Mercedes S55 on Craigslist that seemed like a perfect salvage title, double accident, airbags deployed, frame damaged, formerly $100,000 now $1,500, 12 owner, candidate. You can see the insane build of the car in this exhaustive link.

I began the process of building it into something useful for a drive like this. I knew that I would need a co-driver that was considerably more mechanically competent than I was. Ever since the 2013 preparation of the CL, I had become friends with the shop foreman at my local Mercedes dealership. Clearly not fully understanding the implications of such a statement, he once told me, “If you ever do something crazy like this again, I would love to come along.” I made the call.

The rules permit non-permanent electronics such as a radar detector, navigation system, and a CB radio. That is where most of their participants stop but we decided to go a bit further. For the drive we will use:

  • Valentine 1 Radar & Laser Detector w/Bluetooth
  • Cobra CB Radio + Antenna
  • Used/Dated Blinder Laser Jammer (counted in budget)
  • Used Laser Interceptor Jammer
  • 2 x 7″ Garmin GPS units with XM Traffic
  • 2 x iPhone 6+ Running Waze, SpeedTracker & YaV1
  • Tethered WIFI iPad running Google Maps & Weather Radar
  • 4G iPad running Waze
  • 2 x 99 hour timers
  • Motorola Bluetooth Microphone & Interface
  • Misc 12V splitters, mounts, wiring
  • A GPS Tracking Device

Police Countermeasures

To get the car ready we did a comprehensive service, upgraded the brakes, installed good tires, nearly avoided replacing the ECU/EIS/Key/Shifter, repaired several components in the air suspension, modified the fuel cell to 75 gallon capacity, relocated the exit path for the full size spare tire, and did a whole lot of cleaning.

Our third driver would be a muti-Gumball 3000 veteran named Chris. Chris led us through Ohio on the 2013 run. We decided to call our team Ahab, Nemo, and Jonah in the Great White Whale. The 2904 calls for whimsical team names.

When he found out that I was interested in going, Dave Black asked if he could come along. He was the co-driver on the 2013 drive. Dave bought a 2003 Mercedes CLK430 Cabriolet with a leaking hydraulic pump for the top, a broken seat, banged up bumper, shot wheel bearings, and 185k miles. I also invited a friend and future Cannonballer named Dan. Dan bought a haggard Audi A8 to come along with his friend Justin. Hoping to set a solo NY to LA driving record, another fried with the Cannonball-common name of Dave found a salvage title 1995 Lexus SC400 to join in the fun.
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Some grocery shopping:

Cannonball Shopping Cart

The four motley Atlanta representatives all set out for New York a few days prior to the event. Before we could leave, though, we had a fuel vapor issue.
IMG_6804 IMG_6807 IMG_6808 IMG_6809The drive up to NY went well and we got to test out most of the systems.
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The Friday before departure, we did some exploring of New York. We got settled into our tiny, bathroom-down-the-hall hotel rooms at Hotel 31, just 500 feet from the Red Ball Garage on E 31st St.
IMG_6820 IMG_6818We made a practice run out of the city and visited some of the spots out in New Jersey where we had staged before the 2013 run.

Improvised aero enhancement strategy and makeshift fender liner attachment. IMG_6823 IMG_6826

Earlier that day, someone turning next to me had added a lovely foot long scratch along the two driver’s-side doors. IMG_6830

We knew that we would have some weather to contend with.


Obligatory Red Ball team pictures:

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On Saturday, we gathered everyone who had made it to New York to compete in The 2904 for a photoshoot and then a launch party in Brooklyn.
IMG_6845 IMG_6848 IMG_6853The assortment of cars was fascinating.
IMG_6854 IMG_6855 IMG_6856 IMG_6859 IMG_6861 IMG_6862IMG_6864 IMG_6865 IMG_6866 IMG_6867 IMG_6869 IMG_6871 IMG_6873 IMG_6874 IMG_6875 IMG_6877 IMG_6879 IMG_6881John, the organizer, showcasing “The Crappy Trophy.” There was also some Indian Leg Wrestling for starting position.
IMG_6882 IMG_6883

Those of us with early departure times went over to the Red Ball to stage.

IMG_6887 IMG_6885At precisely midnight, we set off.
Screen Shot 2015-11-05 at 4.25.06 PMThe first few hundred miles went very quickly.
IMG_6901And we settled into a nice stride.
IMG_6917 IMG_6918 IMG_6922 IMG_6928 IMG_6929 IMG_6935 IMG_6938 IMG_6941 IMG_6947 IMG_6951 IMG_6955 IMG_6957 IMG_6959 IMG_6962 IMG_6963

Great moonlight for the trip. IMG_6964

And we finished. We made the 2,804.3 mile drive in 32 hours 2 minutes 6 seconds. Our average speed was 88 mph. My wife, Megan, flew ahead to meet us at the Portofino. IMG_6965 IMG_6971 IMG_6978 IMG_6981 IMG_6986 IMG_6989

Update – The Official Times have been released. Our official time is 32:05. The official end point was the receipt of a text message photo of us at the finish. We remained victorious and still ahead of the 32:07 competitive event record. 

Dave Black and his co-driver Forrest, arrived just after us in CLK.
IMG_7058 IMG_6994A traditional post-Cannonball breakfast at Denny’s was in order. 
IMG_6992 IMG_6991Team P71 BlackTurd from Chicago finished third. They took the northern/I-80 route and had to contend with traffic in Iowa and the Rockies in second gear.
IMG_6998 IMG_6997We were slightly battle scarred from the trip. I tapped a mirror on a construction barrel in a merge.
IMG_7001Coming in 4th was David Simpson who also set a new solo NY to LA driving record. Check out his epic write up of the trip here.
IMG_6995Our 4th Atlanta Team had a tire issue that delayed them for several hours. They arrived a bit later.
IMG_7026 IMG_7024Here is a video of the arrivals and interviews with the teams at the Portofino produced by Peter Musurlian.

And we spent the next day hanging out around LA waiting on the others.
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Lots of tired faces.IMG_7031 IMG_7035 IMG_7037 IMG_7070 IMG_7078 IMG_7080 IMG_7083 IMG_7088 IMG_7094 IMG_7095 IMG_7099 IMG_7104 IMG_7105After the rest of the teams made it we headed over to a local bar to have a bit of a closing party. I delivered a few remarks. Everyone had a blast. It was a beautifully organized event that truly exemplified the spirit of the Cannonball Baker Sea to Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash.
12196110_10104957953842600_8116487361269009517_nIt was a fantastic experience. This was the first truly competitive event since 1983 and we set the fastest time ever in competition. The little S Class the could got us there and we took home the W. A huge thanks to my co-drivers Dave “Klink” and Chris. Amazing job by the whole team.

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  1. Pingback: The Cannonball is Dead, Long Live the Cannonball - Right Foot Down

  2. Pingback: TIL of "The 2904 Run" which is a NY to LA car race inspired by the Cannonball Run. The objective is to drive the 2904 miles from New York to California on a budget of $2,904 and that includes the car, fuel, toll, tickets, food, etc... The curren

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