UNITED STATES—It’s not often that one finds inspiration in a movie that most would consider a flop. Last week, The Cannonball Run made our short list of movies for car lovers. This week, the generally substance-less flick serves as impetus for our topic of discussion. Said topic can be summed up with the following question: If you were going to participate in a real-life cannonball race across the country, which vehicle would you choose? Now, before you jump to conclusions, allow the following rules to help you narrow your choices:
- This vehicle has to be a new terrestrial production vehicle (meaning it isn’t capable of sustained flight or aquatic travel and it has to be generally available to the public for purchase).
- The vehicle has to be purchased, not borrowed or rented. Furthermore, you cannot already own the vehicle (the honor system applies here). Finally, the vehicle cannot be immediately sold after the race. It must be purchased and held indefinitely.
- The prize is 1 million dollars.
- The vehicle has to be road-legal (The irony is not lost here. It has to be a legal vehicle participating in a generally illegal race). No aftermarket modifications are allowed.
Things to consider in your choice of vehicle:
While the primary goal is to win, those who might pony up for an Italian exotic, should remind themselves that the goal is also to walk away with as much of the 1 million dollar pot as possible. Sure a Bugatti Veyron will afford you with the highest potential top speed, but it will also run you $1.5 million. So, even if you win, you’re $500K in the hole.
Next, consider all fuel-related costs, both in money and in time. By this, of course, we mean that overall miles-per-gallon is not the only important factor to consider. What kind of fuel does your vehicle require? Is it premium unleaded? Is it diesel? What is the cruising range of your vehicle? The lower the range, the more often you will have to stop for fuel. These stops eat up valuable time. A Toyota Prius or similar hybrid/electric may consume the least amount of fuel possible in crossing the country, but it may not do it faster than any other vehicle. Not only will it struggle in the top-speed department, but it will also require more stops than a vehicle with a very large or multiple fuel tanks.
Is the vehicle you are considering a real “babe magnet”? If so, chances are it is a real Highway Patrol magnet as well. That’s right, some cars are attention hogs, plain and simple. Studies have been done with the goal of determining if certain colors of cars actually get pulled over more often than others. The data doesn’t, thus far, indicate a correlation (unless one of the bulls of Pamplona happens to be deputized and you are driving something in red), but there is one scenario these studies failed to consider. Fly through a speed trap in a Toyota Corolla and your chances of getting away with it are a lot greater than if you were behind the wheel of an extremely rare super car. The officer manning the radar gun will likely need to radio ahead to his fellow “Smokeys” with nothing more than a description of a blur. If that blur is already a relatively common “looks-like-every-other-car-on-the-road” vehicle, the “staties” will have a heck of a time tracking down the correct “silver Toyota Corolla” in a sea of silver Toyota Corollas, for example. The conspicuousness factor is very real and could determine weather you even reach the finish line at all.
Now, it may be difficult for most to consider the prospect of splitting the winnings with a navigator or passenger of any kind for that matter, but don’t forget that this is a 3,000 mile race you are competing in. Even at a constant rate of speed in the low triple digits, the journey will take a little over thirty hours at least. Given our frustrating 21st century traffic conditions, it will more likely take a few days. Unless you are a raging coke fiend or insomniac, you are going to need to sleep at some point. Therefore, you will need at least one other driver but it couldn’t hurt to have a team of drivers. To take it a step further, it would be ideal to not ever have to stop at a motel for the inevitable recharge. And generally speaking, sleeping in a sports car’s stiff, overly bolstered passenger seat is no substitute for a bed, even a filthy motel bed. But what if you could bring a bed with you? Better yet, what if you could bring an entire master bedroom suite with you? Perhaps a luxury motor coach would be the way to go.
Naturally, short cuts of all kinds will be pondered in a race that specifies no specific route. Contestants will be marking up countless options on their set of road maps, many of these routes featuring fluctuating traffic flows depending on the time of day or even the day itself. But maps don’t necessarily include every possible path. Those that are not “beaten”, for instance, will be largely underutilized. And that is to be expected. After all, these uncharted “roads” are generally unpaved and usually best traversed with some sort of all-terrain vehicle. Will you be one of those drivers who brave the unknown hoping to discover a straight, albeit rocky trail over the Rocky Mountains rather than the long, winding tarmac? If so, you will need to consider a vehicle with all-wheel or 4-wheel drive.
This, of course, is by no means an exhaustive list of things to be mindful of when choosing your winning ride. For those of you wondering what I would purchase to win as much of the million-dollar prize as possible, I can tell you it would probably not be a vehicle that wisely adheres to all of the above philosophies. When it comes to cars, I tend to be emotionally rather than logically driven. Please let us know what your Cannonball winner would be in the comments section below along with a brief explanation.