The race was illegal; the movies were popular; and a number of the participants will be invited to Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2011 for “The Cannonball Run Revisited,” a seminar on the infamous coast-to-coast race that snubbed its nose at the pending national speed limit and other traffic laws in the 1970s designed to slow down the American driving public.
The brainchild of Brock Yates then with Car and Driver magazine, “The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash,” as the Cannonball was officially known, was run four times in the 70s (’71, ’72, ’75 & ’79) from New York City and later Darien, Connecticut, across the U.S. to the Portofino Inn at Redondo Beach, California. There were no official “rules;” the quickest time won.
One of the most famous entrants was Dan Gurney, former F1 driver, AAR team owner and Le Mans winner, who partnered with Yates in the 1971 race and won it driving a Ferrari Daytona Coupe with a time of 35 hours and 54 minutes covering 2,863 miles. Amelia Island Concours Founder and Co-chairman Bill Warner participated in the ‘75 Cannonball in his 1971 Porsche 911, and other notables included Tony Adamowicz, Anatoly Arutunoff, Pete “Father Pete” Brock, Bill Brodrick, William Jeanes, and Oscar Kovaleski. Motor Trend sponsors a legitimate version today of the Cannonball Run called the Tire Rack One Lap of America, which is a closed-course road tour.
“At the time, Brock had no idea of just how much of an underground, cult status event that the Cannonball would become; he thought it would just be a fun thing to do,” says Warner. “It had never been attempted before on such a big scale and we really had a lot of fun doing it. The Cannonball movies were pretty outrageous and the telling of the story and all of the mishaps and experiences along the way just added to the legend. This seminar should leave the audience entertained!”
To the surprise of many, the press liked the concept and lightheartedness of the Cannonball and reported on it favorably, according to Yates, who has declined a number of offers over the years to revive it. Today he still maintains a uniquely irreverent take on the Cannonball era. “Woodstock and the permissive 60s were waning, and the state was flexing its muscle with the 55 MPH speed limit and ‘Nader’s Raiders’ were out in full force. My solution was The Cannonball Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. This one is still for you, Ralph Nader.”
William Jeanes, Chief Judge at Amelia Island Concours and a former Cannonball participant himself, adds, “I think the Cannonball Seminar attendees deserve to see and question one of the fools who drove a 37-foot Travco motor home at 105 miles an hour and got the thing across the country in under 46 hours. I shall therefore make myself available.”
The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2011 will be held March 11-13 in Amelia Island, Florida. Tickets for the 16th annual event are $45 for adults purchased in advance and $50 the day of the show. Students ages 12-18 are $20, and children under 12 are admitted at no charge when accompanied by a paying adult. A VIP ticket will again be offered for 2011 and it includes admission to the Concours, VIP parking, food & beverages, cash bar, preferred viewing tent for the awards, commemorative gifts, and a poster signing with the show honoree. Event tickets can be ordered in advance at www.ameliaconcours.org or can be purchased at the door.
For more information, visit www.ameliaconcours.org.
[Source: Amelia Island Concours]