The Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, widely known simply as the Cannonball Baker or Cannonball Run, was an unofficial, if not outlaw, automobile race run four times in the 1970s from New York City and Darien, Connecticut, on the U.S. Atlantic coast, to Redondo Beach, a Los Angeles suburb on the Pacific coast. Conceived by car magazine writer and auto racer Brock Yates and fellow Car and Driver editor Steve Smith in 1971, the run was not a real competitive race with high risks, but intended both as a celebration of the United States Interstate Highway System and a protest against strict traffic laws coming into effect at the time.
As it was found out, the newly imposed 55 mph speed limit imposed by the National Maximum Speed Law (imposed as an energy conservation measure) was actually slower than the quickest average speeds of point-to-point travels of Erwin George “Cannon Ball” Baker in the first half of the 20th century. In 1933, Baker drove coast to coast in a Graham-Paige model 57 Blue Streak 8, averaging greater than 50 mph, setting a 53 hour 30 minute record that stood for nearly 40 years.
The initial cross-country run was accomplished by Yates’ son, Brock Yates, Jr., Steve Smith, and friend Jim Williams beginning on May 3, 1971. The first running was accomplished in a 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman van, called the “Moon Trash II”. The race was run four more times, on November 15, 1971; November 13, 1972; April 23, 1975; and April 1, 1979. The most remarkable effort certainly was by American racing legend Dan Gurney (winner of the 1967 24 hours of Le Mans), who won the second run in a Ferrari Daytona. Dan himself put it best, saying: “At no time did we exceed 175 mph.” With Brock Yates as co-driver, it took them 35 hours and 54 minutes to travel 2,863 miles at an average of approximately 80 mph, while collecting one fine. Snow in the Rockies slowed them down considerably. The record for official Cannonballs is 32 hours and 51 minutes (about 87 mph), set in the final run by Dave Heinz and Dave Yarborough in a Jaguar XJS in April 1979.
Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash on Wikipedia.