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Editor's note: This fall, Brock Yates's new book, Cannonball! World's Greatest Outlaw Road Race, will appear in bookstores across the country. It's a collection of funny and bizarre real-life experiences written by Yates and the drivers who competed in the five high-speed, high-jinks cross-country races known as the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash.
Here is an of the final race, ofwritten by Women want sex Cannon Ball and Driver contributing editor Fred M. She was tall, beautiful, and more than a little drunk. Soft, round parts of her swayed back and forth under a loose white dress. She looked up with big, unfocused eyes and pleaded: "Please, take me with you. I wanna go. I couldn't really blame her for wanting to come along.
She'd been exposed to the high-voltage madness radiating through the place. On this night it was packed with speed freaks who'd been getting 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 an oil-soaked floor. Everywhere there was talk of cars, cops, speed. It was nearly midnight, and most of the crowd at the Barrel had come to witness the start of the fifth and, as it would turn out, final Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash miles of madness across the country to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California.
The 46 gathered teams had been taking off at minute intervals since dusk. By tradition, they always got the pole position. Then, as each crew and car pulled up to the start, a card was punched on the bar's time clock, and the vehicle sped off into the drizzly night. Watching these killer cars roar off must have worked like an aphrodisiac on the tipsy good-looker.
She was hot for 35 hours of red-eyed, raw-nerved, high-revving speed through the great flat middle of the United States. The Cannonball quickens your pulse like the prospect of sex. I was trying to fight the adrenaline pounding through my veins: Stay calm, stay sober. So the looker took her case to my driving partner, Peter Brennan. To win the Cannonball, you need a car that can cruise at,all day and all night for miles.
He had outfitted it with a hp engine, a full roll cage, a gallon fuel cell, and a racing suspension that kept it stuck to the ground like a barnacle. Herb had run the car in the grueling hour race at Daytona, where it had hung in for 19 hours, running the high banks of the speedway at more than Women want sex Cannon Ball. Then it broke down. But it was an impressive showing considering the car had been driven to the race from Michigan. Before giving us the car, Herb had installed a new motor, a powerful CB radio, and an Escort radar detector. And even though he removed the Daytona racing s, the Fire-Am still looked like a race car.
Its nose nearly touched the ground, and the sound from its three-inch straight pipes could be heard into the next dimension. It was one of the fastest street cars in the country, and a match for any car in the Cannonball. I had picked up the car in Detroit a few days before the race, intending to work out the bugs on the mile run to New York. Brennan, who was the managing editor of Oui magazine, for which I was writing the story of the race, was flying in from Los Angeles to meet me in New York the day before the start.
Heading east on Interstate 80 through Pennsylvania, the Fire-Am ran fast and true, gliding along at 80 and 90 like a shark through water. I ran it up to a few times, and even in a light rain it hugged the road. I was cruising effortlessly through the Pocono Mountains at about It was Thursday night, and there was plenty of time before the race. Suddenly, I hit a pothole. The wheel jerked in my hands, the Fire-Am's nose dipped, and the car jumped off the road.
I fought to keep the car on the gravel shoulder. The horrible sounds of ripping metal were coming from the front end. There was a truck stop just ahead, and I nursed the car there. The right front wheel had broken off and was tucked under the fender at a sickening angle. It took all the next day to get it fixed. By Saturday morning, I was on the road again. I was thinking the broken wheel was as bad as things could get.
Suddenly, I was seeing flames snake up the windshield from the car's shaker hood scoop. I pulled over, leapt out, and smothered the fire with my jacket. I got back in and drove off slowly. The carburetor had gone bad, and every 20 miles the car caught fire. With the help of some hot rodders in Summit, New Jersey, the Fire-Am was fitted with a new carburetor and a couple of strong fire extinguishers.
On the short ride to Manhattan, it purred like a contented tiger. Coming through the Holland Tunnel, its pipes sounded like feedback from an atomic guitar. The bugs were worked out, I thought. It's running fine, and we're going to make it. Navigating between potholes and pedestrians, the car overheated and quit. The engine gave off a huge cloud of steam on a particularly unappealing corner of the Lower East Side that was packed with cruising hookers. I called Brennan from a phone booth, keeping my eye on some pimps who were taking a keen interest in the Fire-Am's wheels and tires.
When Brennan arrived in a Checker cab with a cooler full of provisions, he was wearing a pair of eyes that definitely did not look normal. I was only hoping it would start.
It did. I gave it some gas, and a sound like sheetmetal being torn in half ripped through the neighborhood. Junkies nodding in doorways must have thought the city had been hit by an earthquake. I smiled. Brennan smiled. We were on our way. We arrived at the Barrel very late, just before midnight. We'd missed the drivers' meeting and most of the party.
We got a starting time of a. As we fiddled with last-minute packing and planning, the crowd continued to mill around the Fire-Am. We were the center of attention, and it felt good. It cranked up our energy and made us forget, for the moment, the car's recent temperamental treachery. The go-for-broke girl in the white dress pushed her way through the crowd and gave it one more try. And indeed we did. Brennan's chemical pit crew had supplied us with a combination of ingredients that would have kept an army on the move for a week.
Benzedrine for driving, Quaaludes for sleeping. The drugs were mixed in bottles of natural juice and stashed in the cooler with other drinks. The only problem was how to tell all the stuff apart. At Brennan punched our time card and made a running dash for the Fire-Am. I gunned it out of the Barrel and headed for the Connecticut Turnpike.
Since the Fire-Am was as conspicuous as an anarchist at a Rotary meeting, we kept the speed down toWomen want sex Cannon Ball
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The Last Cannonball