What is America if not a country for people trying to speed from one ocean to the other in a car as fast as possible? The most notable of such efforts is called the Cannonball Run, and it’s just had its previous record cross-country time from 2013 shattered by three guys in a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG breaking a lot of laws.
Arne Toman, Doug Tabutt, and Berkeley Chadwick left the Red Ball garage in their customized 2015 E63 AMG at 12:57 a.m. and arrived in Redondo Beach, California 27 hours and 25 minutes later, shattering the Cannonball record according to Road & Track.
The Cannonball Run is so named for Erwin ‘Cannonball’ Baker, a cross-country pioneer who earned his nickname after the Cannonball Express train line back in the 1930s. The Run as it’s known today was established in 1971, after Brock Yates and Steve Smith of Car And Driver wrote about their cross-country trip.
From there, it became somewhat of an actual race, with multiple cars participating in record attempts at one time, with a community of enthusiasts that still exists today.
Jalopnik contributor Alex Roy, along with Dave Maher, set the record time of 31 hours and four minutes in 2006, which was broken in 2013 by Ed Bolian and Dave Black with a time of 28 hours and 50 minutes. In a call with Jalopnik, Roy said Toman was one of the more rational and responsible people he was aware of making an attempt at the record, and he congratulates him on the accomplishment. (You can watch the trailer for Roy’s documentary about his Cannonball Run, available later this month on iTunes, here.)
To beat the previous time, Toman, Tabutt and Chadwick modified their car and turned to others for help when they could get it. Here’s more from Road & Track on the record-setting setup:
The plain Jane-looking silver AMG sedan was custom-built for the record attempt, and not just by being fast. Sure, it puts down about 700 horsepower to the wheels (according to Toman), thanks to an ALPHA 9 package with upgraded turbos, downpipes, intercoolers and intake (the brakes and suspension are all factory AMG stuff and work just fine at any speed).
But there was also a built-in Net Radar radar detector, a windshield-mount Escort Max 360 radar detector, an AL Priority laser jammer system and an aircraft collision avoidance system—a bit of gear usually used in airplanes to help them avoid hitting other airplanes.
In this case, the technology was meant to help the trio find highway patrol aircraft. The car was equipped with brake light and taillight kill switches, and Toman had all of its flashy carbon fiber trim covered with silver vinyl, which he also used to change the appearance of the taillights. At first glance, the AMG looked more like a mid-2000s Honda Accord from the rear, not like a car that would be cruising at 160 mph or faster.
For navigation and further police detection, they ran Waze—a popular traffic-avoiding and hazard-detecting app—on an iPad and an iPhone. For the GPS data they would later need to prove that they’d actually finished in the time they said they did, they ran two dash-mount Garmin GPS units and one of those GPS tags tracked by a third party. They also had a police scanner and a CB radio, each of which had a big whip antenna mounted at the back of the car.
The trio also got help from 18 friends on the ground acting as lookouts, helping to guide them through areas of the country, spot cops, and flash cars to move out of the way of the record-runners.
The result was a trip average speed of 103 mph, with a max speed of 193 mph. That’s including stops for fuel and food, and not including any regard for basic traffic laws.
But now they can say they hold the record. I, for one, would never want to torture myself. I get sweaty palms just from catching myself going 10 over on the highway.
To read about everything that went wrong on the group’s journey, give the full story a read over at Road & Track. There’s also this video documentary of the journey: