A brand-new book by ours Mr. Yates recounts the madcap exploits the the world"s funniest cross-country auto race.

You are watching: Lock, stock and barrel, darien, ct




Editor"s note: This fall, Brock Yates"s new book, Cannonball! World"s greatest Outlaw roadway Race, will appear in bookstores throughout the country. It"s a arsenal of funny and also bizarre real-life experiences composed by Yates and the vehicle drivers who completed in the 5 high-speed, high-jinks cross-country races recognized as the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. Here is one account of the last race, that 1979, composed by Car and also Driver contributing editor Fred M.H. Gregory.

She was tall, beautiful, and an ext than a tiny drunk. Soft, round parts of her swayed back and forth under a loose white dress. She looked up through big, unfocused eyes and also pleaded: "Please, take me through you . . . I wanna go."

"There"s no room," i told her, and then edged my method through the body packed in ~ the bar. I couldn"t yes, really blame her for wanting come come along. She"d to be exposed come the high-voltage insanity radiating v the place.


The Lock, stock & Barrel, a pubby sort of share in the swank new York suburb that Darien, Connecticut, is normally frequented by tweedy sports-car enthusiasts. On this night it was packed with speed freaks who"d been gaining cranked up for hours. The crowd oozed through the bar into the huge, covered bay out back where a tuxedoed five-piece band played and couples danced on one oil-soaked floor. All over there was talk of cars, cops, speed . . . Thrills to come.

It was almost midnight, and most of the group at the Barrel had come to witness the start of the fifth and, as it would rotate out, final Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash-2800 miles of madness across the country to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California.

The 46 gathered teams had actually been acquisition off at 10-minute intervals since dusk. Bob Koveleski and also his "Polish racing Drivers" traction out first in a Camaro Z28. By tradition, they constantly got the pole position. Then, together each crew and also car pulled up to the start, a card was punched on the bar"s time clock, and also the vehicle sped off right into the drizzly night.

Watching these killer dare roar off must have worked like one aphrodisiac on the tipsy good-looker. She was warm for 35 hours of red-eyed, raw-nerved, high-revving speed through the good flat middle of the unified States. The Cannonball quickens her pulse choose the prospect of sex.

I was trying to fight the adrenaline pounding through my veins: Stay calm, continue to be sober. so the looker take it her case to mine driving partner, Peter Brennan.

"Maybe we could strap her onto the hood?" that ventured.

"It would certainly screw increase the aerodynamics," i replied.


To victory the Cannonball, you need a automobile that can cruise in ~ 110, 120, 130, all day and also all night for 2800 miles. And we had the monster for the job: a 1979 Pontiac "Fire-Am" constructed by automotive genius Herb Adams. He had actually outfitted it through a 425-hp engine, a complete roll cage, a 32-gallon fuel cell, and also a gyeongju suspension that kept it stuck to the ground like a barnacle. Herb had run the automobile in the grueling 24-hour gyeongju at Daytona, whereby it had hung in because that 19 hours, running the high financial institutions of the speedway at more than 150 mph. Climate it damaged down. However it was an exceptional showing considering the vehicle had been propelled to the race from Michigan.

Before giving us the car, Herb had actually installed a new motor, a an effective CB radio, and an Escort radar detector. And even despite he eliminated the Daytona racing numbers, the Fire-Am tho looked choose a gyeongju car. That nose virtually touched the ground, and also the sound from its three-inch straight pipes might be heard into the following dimension. That was one of the faster street dare in the country, and also a match for any type of car in the Cannonball.


I had picked increase the auto in Detroit a couple of days before the race, intended to occupational out the bugs ~ above the 600-mile run to brand-new York. Brennan, that was the controlling editor the Oui magazine, for which i was writing the story of the race, to be flying in indigenous Los Angeles to meet me in brand-new York the day prior to the start.

Heading eastern on federal government 80 with Pennsylvania, the Fire-Am ran fast and also true, gliding follow me at 80 and also 90 like a shark with water. I ran it up to 140 a couple of times, and also even in a light rain that hugged the road.

I to be cruising effortlessly through the Pocono mountains at about 80. It was Thursday night, and there was plenty the time before the race. Suddenly, ns hit a pothole. The wheel jerked in mine hands, the Fire-Am"s sleep dipped, and the automobile jumped off the road. I fought to save the vehicle on the gravel shoulder. The awful sounds that ripping metal were comes from the former end.

There to be a van stop just ahead, and also I nursed the automobile there. The best front wheel had damaged off and also was tucked under the fender at a sickening angle.

It took every the following day to acquire it fixed. By Saturday morning, ns was on the road again. I was thinking the broken wheel was as negative as things could get . . . When the engine captured fire. Suddenly, i was see flames snake up the windshield from the car"s shaker hood scoop. Ns pulled over, leapt out, and smothered the fire with my jacket. I got earlier in and drove turn off slowly. The carburetor had actually gone bad, and also every 20 mile the automobile caught fire.

With the assist of some warm rodders in Summit, brand-new Jersey, the Fire-Am was fitted through a brand-new carburetor and a couple of strong fire extinguishers. Top top the quick ride come Manhattan, it purred favor a contented tiger. Coming through the Holland Tunnel, its pipes sounded favor feedback indigenous an atom guitar. The bugs were worked out, ns thought. It"s to run fine, and we"re walking to do it.

Then ns made a dorn turn and wound up on the eastern Side that Manhattan rather of the West Side. The bombed-out streets of fun City began to take more out the the Fire-Am than Daytona had. Navigating between potholes and also pedestrians, the vehicle overheated and quit. The engine offered off a vast cloud of steam on a particularly unappealing edge of the Lower east Side that was packed with cruising hookers. I dubbed Brennan native a phone call booth, maintaining my eye on part pimps who were taking a keen attention in the Fire-Am"s wheels and tires.

When Brennan arrived in a Checker cab v a cooler full of provisions, he to be wearing a pair of eyes that absolutely did not look normal. "Jesus," he said, "this vehicle is one animal."

I was only hoping it would start. That did. I offered it part gas, and also a sound like sheetmetal being torn in fifty percent ripped through the neighborhood. Junkies nodding in entry must have actually thought the city had been fight by an earthquake. Ns smiled. Brennan smiled. We were on our way.

We came down on the Barrel very late, just before midnight. We"d to let go the drivers" meeting and also most the the party. We acquired a beginning time of 1:32 a.m. Together we fiddled through last-minute packing and also planning, the crowd continued to mill around the Fire-Am. Us were the center of attention, and it felt good. It cranked up our energy and made united state forget, for the moment, the car"s current temperamental treachery.


The go-for-broke girl in the white dress thrust her method through the crowd and also gave the one much more try. "Listen," she said, "I gained a pair grams of fantastic speed."

"Forget it," ns said. "We gained all we need."

And certainly we did. Brennan"s chemistry pit crew had actually supplied us with a combination of ingredients the would have kept an army on the move for a week. Benzedrine because that driving, Quaaludes for sleeping. The drugs were blended in party of natural juice and stashed in the cooler with other drinks. The only problem was how to tell all the ingredient apart. "Don"t worry," said Brennan. "Anything that looks also healthy has actually drugs in it."

At 1:32 Brennan punched ours time card and made a to run dash for the Fire-Am. Ns gunned it the end of the Barrel and also headed because that the Connecticut Turnpike.

Since the Fire-Am was as conspicuous as an anarchist at a rotating meeting, we retained the speed down come 55. We wanted to in ~ least acquire out that Connecticut prior to we gained busted.

Other Cannonballers take it the light-brigade approach and also charged into the traffic with sabers drawn.

Dennis "Mad Dog" Menesini uncovered a shortcut to the interstate. He simply bashed v a rickety fence with his substantial Chevy crew-cab dualie pickup–it had the extra ballast of 165 gallons the gas–and jumped onto the Connecticut Turnpike, sideways.

Darien would certainly not quickly forget Dennis. He"s built like a forklift: quick and wide with a big, mustache face. That announced his arrival at the local Howard Johnson"s by slamming a grizzly paw on the check-in counter and also bellowing, "Where"s the goddamn hookers in this place?"

The clerk, visibly shaken, might only stutter, "We don"t-don"t-don"t . . ."

Dennis glared at him with disbelief. "You average all the money you charge is simply for handing human being keys?"

Other departures were much less dramatic, however nonetheless notable. Paul Fassler and Robert Ziegel do a clean, flying start in a bright-red Porsche 930 Turbo. Castle ate up the miles prefer junk food and also were fine into brand-new Jersey prior to realizing they to be headed south toward Atlantic City rather of west come Pittsburgh. By the moment they changed course, they had lost four hours.

The worst start was make by the Cannonball"s most devious entry, Car and also Driver"s Brock Yates and his sidekick, stuntman cum movie director Hal Needham. Yates hatched the an initial Cannonball in 1971 to prove that great drivers in great cars have the right to go as quick as they want on interstate highways. "Speed is freedom, freedom is speed," sayeth Yates. He and race driver Dan Gurney won the very first Cannonball in a Ferrari Daytona, cross the continent in 35 hours and also 54 minutes. Says Gurney of that trip, "At no time did we exceed 170 miles per hour."

Yates called the race in honor of Erwin G. "Cannon Ball" Baker, a legend racer and daredevil the the "20s and also "30s. In 1933, control alone, Baker propelled a supercharged Graham from brand-new York come Los Angeles in 53 hours, 30 minutes. Yates calls that "the pinnacle that transcontinental driving."

In the previous Cannonball, run in 1975, two airline pilots steering a Ferrari Dino broke Yates"s and Gurney"s record by 60 seconds, a feat that motivated the movie Gumball Rally, i beg your pardon Yates tho dismisses as a "commercial defilement."

This time around, Yates want to write his very own movie about what really happened–with his girlfriend Needham directing. He also wanted to gain the record back.

Instead of flat-out speed, Yates to be banking on subterfuge. His auto was a dodge ambulance, accurate in every detail, including a patient (his wife, Pamela, actually) on a gurney sprouting intravenous feeding tubes and also a genuine clinical doctor (a girlfriend of Needham"s). Unseen in ~ the trappings of their Transcon Medi-Vac to be a souped-up Magnum 440 engine and also a distinct suspension that would certainly let the ungainly hulk cruise at 130.

Like our Fire-Am, the ambulance looked an excellent on paper. But no sooner did it leaving the Barrel than a sputtering carburetor forced it into the first gas terminal for an hour"s precious of repairs.

Still, your ruse worked. Website traffic on the Cross-Bronx Expressway parted in front of the ambulance choose the Red Sea before Moses. The wasn"t till they obtained into darkest brand-new Jersey the the cops stopped them. Yates and also Needham piled the end of the ambulance pull on in meat-wagon white uniforms. "We gotta take this lady come UCLA clinical Center!" they told the trooper. "Plug her right into that distinct heart-lung machine."

"Why doesn"t she take it a plane?" the cop asked.

"Cysts top top the lungs," Yates responded with a we"re-only-doing-our-job shrug. "She can"t take the cabin pressure."

The trooper watched as the ambulance sped away. That couldn"t hear the wild cackling inside. "They"re the many fascist enforcers around," said Yates, "and we flat-out bamboozled them."


By the time Brennan and I gained into new Jersey, us were averaging 70 mph, but we to be still keeping the auto under rein. Our plan was to operation straight across Interstate 80, going gradually through brand-new Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and also Indiana, and then gyeongju the Fire-Am throughout the levels at 130 mph come Salt Lake City, cave a left on I-15, and coast with the desert come L.A.

We flew across the Garden State as if that weren"t there. Unfortunately, rick Kopec and Bob crucial did not. As soon as the Jersey troopers stopped their Shelby Mustang, Kopec pulled out a new York State police badge and also tried the I"m-an-off-duty-cop routine. He was on his way in no time-in handcuffs, to jail. Kopec made Cannonball background by ending up being the very first driver arrested because that a felony: impersonating an officer. ~ two hrs of make the efforts to describe that the was all a mistake, Kopec lastly confessed to gift in the Cannonball. "I doubt the troopers all privately approved," the ventured, "because they turned me loose with nothing an ext than a speeding ticket."

Other Cannonballers had far better luck in tricking the authorities. Jim Sencenbaugh and his crew make the run in a Chevrolet Suburban. They wore yellow tough hats and coveralls. Your truck bristled through antennas and complicated-looking electronic gear. ~ above the sides and back were signs reading:

Satellite Tracking Associates recovery Team:

WARNING: continue to be CLEAR

This vehicle contains radio-transmitting equipment

which emits low-level RF energy. Contact

with antennas or tools may be dangerous to

unauthorized personnel. Tampering with or stealing

of radios, navigating equipment, or various other electronic

parts lugged by this automobile is, in many cases, a

federal offense punishable by fines approximately $10,000

and imprisonment of as much as 20 years.

All that supposed was the van had a CB onboard. The deception proved particularly effective in Pennsylvania, where 3 Mile Island had actually just begun to cook over. Every time Sencenbaugh and also his men stopped in ~ a gas station, they"d scan the attendants v Geiger counters simply to watch them freak.

One that the cleverest consist of was that of Lou Sellyei and Gary Arentz, both doctors from Reno. Packed right into their Jaguar XJ-S to be a medical cooler containing a pair the pig"s eyes. "We"re rushing to conserve a child"s sight, officer." their story must have worked: castle made it in 39 hours, 10 minutes.

There was no allude in our wasting time on tricks-one look in ~ the Fire-Am and also any cop would know we were approximately no good. We just had actually to count on the car"s power and also put our confidence in the radar detector.


By the time we overcome the Delaware River right into Pennsylvania, my eye were aching. Us pulled over. Brennan took a fight of banana-pineapple-apricot nectar ("I"m certain I placed the Benzedrine in this one," he said, "because it sounds so disgusting") and also took the wheel.

Brennan was intimidated through the Fire-Am, just as i had been at first. In a youth misspent on experienced drag racing, and also an adulthood spent writing about fast cars, I had actually never seen the Fire-Am"s equal. Gift strapped right into a racing harness through a five-pound buckle on your belly and a fire extinguisher dangling in your confront didn"t carry out anything come lessen the tension.

Brennan strapped himself in, lit a cigarette, and pulled ~ above the highway cautiously. "I"m gonna take it real easy," the said, "real slow."

The sun was just coming up together we cruised with the morning mist in the Pennsylvania valleys. Brennan was adjusting come the car, concentrating, eyes moving, gearing his mind and body to the machine. "I think I"ll bump it increase a little," the informed.

"Look in ~ the speedometer," i said. Us were already going 110.

"Shit," he said, easing off. "I assumed we were doing 65."

We were relocating fast and also loose. Our average was inching up with every mile. Screw the game setup of going slow through the East–we determined to open up this mommy up and go.

I to be just starting to settle earlier with a laugh on my challenge when Brennan noticed the oil-pressure gauge to be jumping up and also down erratically. "We"re down to 50 pounds," that said. "Now it"s 40. Now it"s 30." A sour ball was creating in my stomach. One of two people the engine was about to punch or we had actually a significant oil leak. "We gained a problem," i said, "a large problem."


Up ahead, other Cannonballers were also having their problems.

Crossing the state line right into Ohio, note Pritch and also his Ferrari 308 flew right right into the hand of the highway patrol. He was pulled over and ticketed for going 80 mph. Undaunted, he got ago on the interstate and also gunned the Ferrari again. Again he to be busted for speeding. Currently he had actually to make up for shed time, for this reason he propelled the Ferrari up to 100. The cops nailed him again. In all, Pritch built up three ticket in the very first five mile of Ohio.

Ohio proved to be i have lot of money for Charlie McCarthy as well. He"s a renowned off-shore powerboat racer, but that didn"t carry any weight through the cops once they clocked his turbo Mercedes-Benz law 110. He had actually to post a $900 bond prior to they"d allow him out of the Buckeye State.

Meanwhile, Dennis Menesini turn the cops come his advantage. He and his crew to be cruising with Jerome, Arizona, when some local kids pulled up chop on the ago bumper and also commenced flashing high-beams and also getting ~ above the horn favor the small-town bozos they were.

Menesini had actually rigged his truck v a switch to shut off the brake lights so that he could slow under in a hurry without tipping turn off a cop in hot pursuit. He driven his van on a straight stretch to 90 mph, hit the switch, and slammed on the brakes. The tailgating locals locked increase all 4 wheels trying come stop, then slid off into the sagebrush.

So lot for those dweebs, Dennis thought. But a couple minutes later, the youngsters came roaring by and also lofted a beer party at the truck. Currently Menesini"s blood to be up. "Let"s was standing on it," he yelled to his crew. "I acquired a Gatorade bottle for "em."

Right about then a cop join the chase. Dennis spotted him and also dialed into the emergency CB channel: "Officer, those children in the Chevy just threw a party at ours truck. We"re do the efforts to pursue them. Might you aid us out?" then he sat ago and laughed together the cop wailed on by.


On the other hand, the Kendall-Lanes, Stephen and Fiona, came throughout the nation with unruffled elegance. Their Cannonball entry was a 1948 silver- Wraith Rolls-Royce, which they had shipped native London. If the liveried chauffeur drove, Stephen and Fiona satellite in the ago seat munching biscuits, sipping tea, and watching the American countryside go by. Your only problem was trying to decipher the arcane CB lingo the the truckers. In frustration, Stephen lastly took the mike and said, "Look here, you chaps, friend really room going to have to talk more clearly if you intend me come converse v you."

Ultimately, the gap between the queen"s English and American redneck to be bridged. In fact, Stephen struck up something the a friendship with "a beavuh called the paris Redhead." The Rolls moved at a leisurely speed (you can"t rush when you have actually to change clothes because that dinner), but it regulated to make it throughout in 58 hours, 4 minutes.

Although the Rolls was something of a hit v truckers, other Cannonballers found the Teamsters more dangerous 보다 the troopers. The highwaymen in the 18-wheelers didn"t like the blinding quartz-halogen headlights most crews used, and they tended to get very pissed when you blew by them in ~ 120.

Truckers referred to as ahead to pointer off the cops the the 1979 Trans to be of Mike Snyder and Jeff Pierce to be headed west. As the black color Pontiac flew right into Arizona, the legislation was waiting. And also even after Snyder and Pierce payment up, the truckers teamed against them, trying to wedge the infectious diseases world fashion Am between two trucks on a twisty hill road. "We simply missed coming to be a Mack sandwich," Mike said. "Next time we operation the Cannonball, we should come equipped v M-16s."


As for Brennan and me, cops and also convoys to be the the very least of our problems. The Fire-Am was pumping a quart the oil ~ above the road every 10 minutes. The quicker we tried to drive, the much faster the oil push dropped. Us limped across western Pennsylvania, preventing every 50 miles to oil up. Our mean speed was sinking fast.

We pulled turn off I-80 right into Du Bois, Pennsylvania. That was early Sunday morning, and the small town to be closed increase tight. The noise indigenous the Fire-Am alone would probably obtain us busted for disturbing the peace. Us finally discovered an open gas station and also paid the guy 20 bucks to let united state use the lift. Eventually, every son in town proved up to take a look at the furious Fire-Am. And we had actually them running all over the landscape chasing under parts and tools. The leak was resulted in by one goddamned little bolt on the oil pan that had come loose and broken the gasket. On most cars that would have actually been a snap come fix, yet on the Fire-Am it meant taking turn off the whole racing exhaust system just to acquire at the problem.

With the aid of a little banana-pineapple-apricot nectar, I worked six or seven hours trying to fix the thing. When we allow the auto down turn off the lift and cranked up the engine, oil still sprayed every over, hitting the warm exhaust pipes and transforming into ugly blue smoke. We were moving 32 gallons that gas, and also the fuel lines ran right beside the hot pipes. "If this thing goes up," Brennan said, "they won"t even uncover our dentist work."

So we decided to pack it in.

We discovered a motel. That night Brennan and I consoled ourselves through a half-dozen pitchers that Genesee Ale and also came up through a brand-new plan. Us wouldn"t offer up.

The next morning we ripped the trunklid turn off the Fire-Am, swallowed the remainder of our drugs, and caught a aircraft to Pittsburgh. From there us flew come Houston and grabbed another flight come Los Angeles. A chauffeur-driven limo picked us up at LAX, and also we sped off to the Portofino Inn. Brennan ran in carrying the moment card-42 hours had actually elapsed since we left Darien–and I lugged the trunklid. "Where"s her car?" yelled the timekeeper. "The freaking thing went increase in a sphere of flame," us said, holding up the oil-smeared sheetmetal v the Fire-Am logo. "This is every that"s left."

The winning vehicle sat right in former of the Portofino Inn–a shiny black color Jaguar XJ-S v a victory wreath top top the windshield. Dave Heinz and also Dave Yarborough, a pair of jug racers and Jag dealers from Florida and South Carolina, respectively, had actually shattered the old document by making it cross-country in 32 hours, 51 minutes. That"s an average of 87 mph.

Only eight minute behind the Jag was a $50,000 Mercedes 6.9 sedan. That crew to be led by Tom Hickey, a to teach fellow and also Ph.D. Candidate at Harvard"s school of Education. Being a properly dignified Ivy Leaguer, Hickey experienced the gyeongju as an intellectual exercise. Probably if he had actually looked at it a bit much more practically, he could have won. Instead of payment cash for gasoline, the Mercedes crew supplied credit cards and also were required to wait endlessly for receipts while dropout gas-station attendants struggled with the basics the arithmetic.

Dennis Menesini"s truck come in 5th behind a pair of Pontiac infectious diseases world fashion Ams, and a Mazda RX-7 finished sixth. The the 46 starters, 42 car finished. They accumulated 50-some speeding tickets, yet there was just one boy accident: man Harrison"s "78 Lotus Esprit tapped a security rail coming down an off-ramp, and its suspension broke.

Despite ours trunklid ploy, Brennan and I were provided among the DNFs–the did-not-finishers. So to be Yates and Needham.

Their Transcon Medi-Vac had been making great time till the transmission blew a seal in Illinois. They tried come nurse the (no pun intended) across the plains, putting six gallons of infection fluid and also a couple quarts that 40-weight engine oil into the machine. However it finally died just external Palm Springs. They had actually to winch the ambulance come the ago of a flatbed truck and also haul it come the Portofino.

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At the Portofino"s bar, Cannonballers were exchanging war stories. Sam Moses, native Sports Illustrated, and George Willig, the guy who climbed the outside of the civilization Trade Center"s south Tower in 1977, shed the brakes on your Mustang external St. Louis. But they quiet made it to Redondo beach in much less than 40 hours. Keith Patchett and also Loyal Truesdale, two Hollywood stuntmen, were well on their way to setup a transcontinental motorcycle record on their BMW R90/6 when a snowstorm in the Rockies compelled them to take it refuge in a motel.

The following night, Cannonball awards were handed out at an as necessary bizarre and also boozy banquet. Dennis Menesini obtained the friends of OPEC award because that averaging 5.4 mpg in his Chevy truck. The Kendall-Lanes go away through the Diamond Jim Brady award for their moderation. Brennan and I acquired the DieHard trophy, a rusty pogo pole on a dead battery, for having actually suffered the many trials and also tribulations. And also Joan Mullen was offered a distinct Night Owl compensation for having gone 28 hours without taking a pee when she and also her husband, Jim, barreled throughout the U.S. In their Ferrari Berlinetta.

Brennan and I were currently plotting for the next Cannonball. It to be clear that the Fire-Am to be too breakable a machine. However if we simply took a "71 Camaro through a 454 engine, threw in a 50-gallon gas tank and a good set that tools, probably we might . . .

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