It has taken some air flights longer to go from New York to Los Angeles, what with all the security and delays, than it took Ed Bolian and two friends by car.
The men claim they drove the 2,800 miles from the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan to the Portofino Inn at Redondo Beach, Calif., in 28 hours and 50 minutes in a souped up Mercedes that has more electronic equipment in it than a second-rate fighter jet. That breaks the old record by more than two hours.
If you don’t have a calculator handy, that would be an average speed of 98 m.p.h. They topped out somewhere out west at 158 m.p.h., according to their global positioning system. Bolian hired a GPS tracking company to confirm their stunt.
The 28-year-old, from Johns Creek, said it was something he had wanted to do for a decade. Recently, his wife has been talking about having children.
“So it seemed like a good thing to get out of the way now,” he said laconically.
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If it’s a hoax, Bolian has done a pretty elaborate job of proofing it out. He has pictures of him, the team and the car in Times Square, on the Great Plains, in front of the Portofino. Car blogger Doug Demuro says he has seen the records from the GPS tracking company.
The route, known as the Cannonball Run, has been tried by many. The original run, back in 1933 by Edwin “Cannonball” Baker from Indiana, took 53 and a half hours.
Automotive writer Brock Yates revived the run in the 1970s to protest speed limits, and there were five unsanctioned races. The teen-aged Bolian, dreaming of becoming an automotive journalist, interviewed Yates some years after and his dream was born.
Oh yeah, and he saw the 1981 Burt Reynolds movie “Cannonball Run,” based on the race.
“I didn’t care that much about cars, until I could drive them,” Bolian said.
Then he was hooked. He started a high-end car rental business while he was a student at Georgia Tech. Today, he sells Lamborghinis at Motorcars of Georgia. But his selected ride for the cross-country feat was a 2004 Mercedes Benz CL55 AMG bought on Craigslist about 18 months ago.
Bolian probably spent a lot more outfitting the car then he did buying it. He says he is trying hard not to calculate the final cost of putting two extra fuel tanks the trunk (67 gallons total capacity), outfitting it with iPad docks, laser diffusers, which break up the light of speed detecting lasers, a police scanner and CB radio, radar detectors, two GPS systems and “a few other things we probably don’t need to put into writing.”
The multiple glowing screens across the dash make it look like the special Star Wars edition of the car. His final financial push — changing out all the fluids, filters, a brake job, replacing wiring and suspension parts, and on and on, cost him $9,000.
He recruited Dave Black, a self-employed friend and Dan Huang, another Georgia Tech graduate, to go along as alternate drivers, cop-watchers and manipulators of the electronics that helped them avoid traffic, cops and construction zones. A few friends across the country ran in front of them at times as blockers — traveling ahead a hundred or more miles to look for speed traps and trouble spots.
The only police trouble they had was when they were scouting the best route out of Manhattan. A police officer stopped them for making an illegal turn on a red light. He let them off with a warning. Didn’t even bother to ask about all that gear on the dash.
New York cops. Go figure.
They left Manhattan at 9:56 p.m. on October 19.
They were somewhere in Missouri before the sun caught up. Once they hit the Great Plains and its long, straight ribbons of asphalt, they were really getting warmed up. They stopped three times total for gas, chugged iced coffees and “and stopped five or six times by the side of the road to change drivers and urinate.”
By the time the sun was setting, they were approaching California. They got to the Portofino shortly before midnight, Bolian reports.
Is Bolian afraid of the cops coming after him after all the publicity he is getting?
“The reality is, yes, OK, we broke some laws along the way,” Bolian said. “But just saying that I went fast as some point is not a specific admission to any crime anywhere. It would be difficult for most precincts to establish probable cause to come after us, then trying to figure out exactly where we were breaking the law is quite difficult.”
And though he is getting the publicity, he tries to dissuade others from following his path. Or even trying it again himself.
“It’s one of those things, you realize how unbelievably difficult it is to do after doing it. The prospect of [trying again] is about as unappealing as it could be.”