Ed Bolian was participating in the "Cannonball Run," a transcontinental race that began as a comedic rebellion against the 55 mph speed limits of the 1970s.
After hearing of the race, Bolian knew he would one day race in the Cannonball Run. He decided ten years ago, when as a senior in high school he got to interview Brock Yates, who invented the run, that he would one day beat his record.
Bolian began working for Lamborghini Atlanta in 2009 and started seriously considering his options. After selecting a 2004 Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG, he has been modifying and readying the car for the last 18 months.
"I thought about a Ferrari 612," said Ed. "But gas mileage would've been bad. A Bentley would've been perfect, but you'd want the V8 for gas mileage, and those are still way too expensive," Bolian said. But harder than getting the perfect car was finding someone to ride with him -- at least to keep him awake.
For this year's race, Bolian piled in the souped-up Mercedes with two friends and a bedpan.
"The hardest thing, quite honestly, was finding people crazy enough to do it with me," Bolian said. One of the passengers, co-driver Dave Black, did not commit to go until three days before the trip. The other, Dan Huang, came on as support passenger. He did not sign on until just 18 hours before they drove to Manhattan.
The previous record was set in 2006 at 31 hours and 4 minutes. Google Maps says that the drive should take nearly 40 hours. To beat the record, Bolian drove an average of 90 mph, with a max speed of 158 mph.
“Honestly, I was so shocked at how much we had beat our target and previous record,” Bolian said.
“It was just unbelievable. It was cathartic and amazing. But mostly, I was just shocked,” he said at the end of the drive.
The traditional end point is Los Angeles' iconic Portofino Hotel, the historic end of cross country speed attempts since the 1970s, when Brock Yates created the very first “Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining Sea Memorial Trophy Dash” as a nod to Ed 'Cannonball' Baker's first run in 1933.
That race was traditionally run from the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan to the Portofino in Redondo Beach, Calif.
“There’s no governing body for outlaw street racing. That’s the whole idea,” Bolian said. “But there is an unwritten rule book and we wanted to mirror as closely as we could that chapter of American automotive history. We wanted to mirror the cannonball start and end point.”
To get across the country in such a short period of time, Bolian had to find ways to get around the law. He installed a CB radio, a switch to turn off the tail lights and installed two laser jammers and three radar detectors.
He also had a police scanner, two GPS units and a tangle of chargers for all their electronics. Driving about 150 miles ahead at the speed limit, acquaintances kept watch for police officers.
And he shattered the record not by minutes or seconds, but by hours.
“I know someone will try to beat the record. And that’s the fun. But for now, I’m enjoying it,” Bolian said.
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