The Cannonball Run with Ed Bolian | #074

Ed Bolian, Cannonball Run

Last Updated on August 20, 2020 by Tim Harman

This week’s show is a follow-up with prominent exotic car enthusiast, Ed Bolian. Ed and his team claimed the speed record for the world-famous, coast-to-coast Cannonball Run back in 2013 and Ed gives us the story behind this amazing feat. Just a couple of amazing data points captured during the run: they spent 15 hours above 100 mph… they traversed Ohio in just over 2 hours… with two additional fuel tanks, they were able to travel more than 800 miles between stops!

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Transcribed by and then edited some. There may be mistakes. 🙂

Josh Matthews 0:00
Welcome to the You can, man.™ podcast episode 74. I’m Josh. I’m Tim. And I’m Dave. And on this week’s episode, The Cannonball Run with Ed Bolian.

Tim Harman 0:20
Hi, guys, welcome back to the You can, man.™ podcast where we believe what one man can do you can do as well with the proper know how a little help from your friends. We’ve got Ed Bolian again this week joining us. Last week we talked all about his amazing app that he created VINwiki, which is all about car stories. And so if you did not catch that, definitely go back and check out the backstory of how he created the app. just crazy stories of how he used to have an exotic car rental business and then he sold Lamborghinis in Atlanta. I mean, this guy is just like me. What hasn’t he done? And so I’ll tell you what he’s also has done is he’s been a world record holder of the Cannonball Run, which is a coast to coast car. Well, you can’t really carry race against time, I guess you could say, which he held from in 2013. Yeah, it was 2013

Josh Matthews 1:17
to 2019. Yes. A long span in today’s terms, which we’ll get into.

Tim Harman 1:24
Yeah, for sure. But we’ve got Ed on the line and say, Hello.

Ed Bolian 1:28
Hey, thanks for having me back.

Tim Harman 1:30
Yeah, so we’re super excited to talk about the Cannonball Run and the craziness that has happened recently with the records because of COVID and all the traffic that has not been there. But we want to hear the backstory of what made you get the crazy idea that you were going to set out to break the record of this crazy race.

Ed Bolian 1:53
So a lot of us saw the goofy 1981 movie with Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise and the Rat Pack and what most people may not understand is that that was actually a real thing. In the 1970s, there was a coast to coast, New York to LA race, where the idea was there are no rules. You just drive as fast as you can. It was organized by Brock Yates and Steve Smith from Car and Driver magazine, and they ran it five times from 1971 to 1979. It inspired some continuation events. And then as I’m growing up, as a high schooler, I hear about, obviously, the movie, but then learn that yeah, it’s a real thing. And I actually interviewed Brock Yates for a school project back in 2004, as high school senior and he’d released a book in 2001, about the history of Cannonball and had a lot of contributions from other people that had run the races and had continued the history. And I just, I loved it. I thought it was such an interesting and compelling part of American automotive history. And it had kind of fallen out of the public eye. It was always kind of done underground, but it was also done in a way that people do about and there were a lot of articles about it. In addition to movies. And so it kind of became the stuff of legend. And as I looked at what it might be like to do a run like that in a modern context, I thought, Hey, you know, a lot of the things that I’d like to think I’m good at, or what I’d like to prove that I could do, could sort of be made manifest in an attempt to drive as fast as you can across the country. I love cars. I love problem solving. I love the engineering behind it. So I wanted to figure out a way to do it. And so in speaking to Brock Yates, I told him that I said, Hey, I know you said that there’s twice as many people in the US twice as many cops on the road, and that the penalties if we ever were to get caught are a whole lot higher, but I still want to do it. I want to see what it looks like. And I told him that one day I tried to set the record and it took me about 10 years but through a very long process of research and testing and everything else. We were able to do it in 2013.

Dave Greenwood 3:49
Well Ed, I’m interested, the car that you did it in was a Mercedes cL 55 AMG, if I’m not mistaken, what made you choose that car and then specifically the color of the car is kind of a very cool blue I guess that I don’t know that really doesn’t stand out on the road when you’re passing by the cops, but I’m just curious why you chose that vehicle.

Ed Bolian 4:08
So man, I love the exotic cars, your Ferraris, Lamborghinis and everything else but unfortunately they are not the best cars for driving as fast as you can over a long distance. They’re not the most comfortable. They don’t have any space for the extra fuel that you would want. And they are definitely not inconspicous. And so you want to find something that is comfortable that can kind of fly under the radar both literally and figuratively. And the the CL any of the AMG cars honestly are great options. I love Mercedes products and kind of in that decade of me chasing the idea of Cannonball. I had the unbelievable privilege of seeing a few people actually do it. So Alex Roy and Dave Maher had set the record in 2006 in a BMW M5 that was the 400 horsepower V8 the E 39 model and they kind of put it into that modern context. They had a great kind of cue car as you might call it, one of these cars that is very technological very fast but also comfortable one of these autobahn Stormers and and now around the same time Richard Rawlings and Dennis Collins of gas monkey garage had claimed a time at 31 hours and 59 minutes so not quite as fast as the 31 hours and four minutes that Roy and Maher done, but still an unbelievable time, and faster than any of the previous Cannonball times. And so they did it in a Ferrari 550 marinello. So certainly an exotic car but more of a grand touring example. So something that you could cross the continent in. And so I was able to kind of tweak the ideas that I’d had through seeing theirs and also look at the electronics they’d use and things like that. So you’ve got a tremendous electronic draw from all the police countermeasures that you want to use. You need a really, really strong suspension that can adapt as you burn through 400 pounds of fuel and you need space obviously, you’re not going to do it by yourself. And so we had a co driver and a third person has kind of a navigator it’s for passenger so you need something that’s comfortable and they can get the job done. But of course, it still needs to be fast.

Dave Greenwood 6:04
And yes, it was fast. You did it in 28 hours and 50 minutes. What do you remember what your average speed was?

Ed Bolian 6:10
Right at 100 miles an hour, it was 100.3 moving and then 98 overall

Tim Harman 6:14
(That’s fantastic). That is insane.

Josh Matthews 6:16
That’s an amazing statistic. And when the when all your data was released after the statute of limitations, you know, I was one of the first to click on the article and like, pour through the data. I think Doug DeMuro did that article. And but you were the first sub 30 hour, you were the first sub 31 hours. Well, coming in at 28:50. What’s really impressive about about your time and about the couple of times before you in the history of the race is the I believe the 32 hour and seven minute record was set in 83. And it wasn’t touched again till 06. Is that right?

Ed Bolian 6:58
That is correct. Yes. So that was a (that’s a testament) into the US Express.

Josh Matthews 7:03
Yeah, I mean, that’s such a testament to what those guys did back then. I mean, the technology just so different than it is today. And for people to try to chip away so many times without it without it coming down until recently is super impressive to me.

Tim Harman 7:21
Yeah. And how much did you have to I’m just thinking about preparing for this. So what did you do to prepare for this in terms of going out and driving? You’re just like, Okay, I’m just gonna go out right now and just go as fast as I possibly can.

Ed Bolian 7:34
Not exactly. I mean, when you think about having to average the speeds like that. It’s not about you know, how hard you can keep your foot down. It’s about how much you really cannot slow down. And it’s avoiding stops. It’s developing a strategy that allows you to maintain speed and avoid detection and build a team around it. And so, you know, we had You know, people witnessing from home people who had driven the route days before in parts of it and a few people that actually acted as scouts that was kind of a new idea that we deployed, honestly, because I didn’t have much money to do this. I was shoestring the budget together, I bought 115,000 mile heavily depreciated cL 55. It’s all I could afford. And, you know, I was very different than the trust funded approaches that have the records that I was trying to feed. And so I was, you know, really trying to think of the right recipe, kind of breaking down the big problem into all the little problems that I could digest and find a solution for. And so that’s what we did, and that’s what worked.

Josh Matthews 8:45
Yeah, I know, you’ve talked about the previous record holder, you know, I believe spent, like half a million dollars or something like that. Is that right? Yeah. And you heard you say you came in around 10% of that, which is amazing. And you know,

Ed Bolian 9:01
every dollar I had (Yeah, that’s awesome.)

Josh Matthews 9:03
And I got to see I actually was at Caffeine and Octane a few years back and got to got to see your car. I don’t think I got to meet you. But um, yeah, I love that car choice. And you had two fuel cells in the back. Is that right?

Ed Bolian 9:17
Yes, we had three total gas tanks 67 total gallons. We had three radar detectors, two laser jammers, a police scanner, a CB radio an ambulance traffic light changers, all the GPS systems you could ever want threat tracking devices, tablets and everything, you know, phones run in Trapster at that point and Waze, which is still a thing and high powered binoculars, all this stuff.

Tim Harman 9:42
That’s incredible. What What does it take to prove that you did what you did? So what what is that like a data that you are giving as proof that this is the actual time that I did this.

Ed Bolian 9:56
So there’s not a governing body of outlaw cross country road races. So you don’t really have anybody to submit it to, it’s usually interesting enough from a cultural perspective that you can get a couple of news articles written about it. And so pretty much, you’ve just got to have enough proof to make a normal news outlet feel good about it. And fortunately, when I was attempting it, we could go beyond your gas receipts and toll receipts and photos and things like that we could use tracking devices that would use cellular data and tell a third party that you couldn’t manipulate where your car was. And so we use the same tracking devices that I used to use for my exotic car rental fleet, and that that company that we had used, had no idea well, the CEO knew what we were going to do with it. But in the time between when he and I had that conversation, and when we actually did it. They had grown from a very small, you know, home office in Texas to you know, 300 employees and they did not want to be getting calls from CNN asked to verify, you know, the world’s longest street race. And so I, he was reluctant, but he obviously did vouch for everything that we did. And he said yes, real in the car, you know, the device was never disconnected. It’s not like they got it on a plane and flew it across, like, you know what he said happened. And so that was kind of the end all be all approved. The problem was when we pulled into the port of veto and looked at looked at the data, it was so wildly incriminating that in the 93 counties we drove through, it could have easily earned us a year in jail in each of them. And so I couldn’t just go out and make it public. Because I would have been, you know, endlessly prosecuted for that. And so I we had to wait a year because the statute limitations on speeding and reckless driving and endangerment vary between three six and 12 months depending on which state it is. And so at that point, we were then finally able to release the data although the news Alex had already you know, seen it but when I say seen it, I mean They stood in front of me and held my iPad and scrolled through it and then handed it back to me. I couldn’t even send it to them.

Josh Matthews 12:06
Yeah, like, that’s what fascinates me about this whole thing is especially the way you approached it. And I think the guys have approached it since is, it’s an outlaw race, but but you guys are really putting in the work to make it as safe and practical. And you’re covering your own bases, too. But the preparation is fascinating. And you guys are on the road as much as possible when others aren’t on the road as much as possible. So, and I know, we’ll get into COVID in a second.

Tim Harman 12:37
But yeah, I mean, when you hear talk about this, and other guys that have done it, I mean, you like these guys are true professionals, for sure.

Josh Matthews 12:44
I mean, well, there was that. Well, when you hear the story, you’re like, these guys are nuts. But when you look into it, it is very professional. Yeah,

Tim Harman 12:50
I mean, just all the equipment, they’re using the spotters, like all kinds of stuff. I mean, is odd as it is to say they’re doing this safely. I know you No, you listen to that. You’re like how in the world are you averaging 100 miles per hour and you’re doing it safely but these guys are they really are because of all the measures that they’ve got in place. There was the one guy I’m forgetting his name now but he did the solo run in his Mustang for Ashmore. Now that one I was a little like, okay, that, you know, that had some questionable stuff there. Because, but, you know, he still had help, you know, they were they were still measures that he took. And so that was a really interesting YouTube video that I watched on the on the solar on Joshua, where you’re gonna say,

Josh Matthews 13:34
yeah, so take us into modern day like, what are we you know, your record was broken in 2019, pre COVID. It was done in another Mercedes AMG. But once we’re into COVID, what are we doing? What are you guys doing as a community as far as how do you designate these races? I mean, this is unprecedented times. It’s kind of is that cheating? What are we saying here?

Ed Bolian 13:59
So, after we set the record, and in fact, as I was researching, winning everything that I possibly could surrounded can’t call it everything. I couldn’t find any evidence that anyone had really tried to beat Alex Roy and Dave Maher’s record. They claimed that five to six people tried a year. But there were no times claimed that were slower than it there was. I mean, nobody had made a forum post about it by any means. And so, immediately after our story got released, I did start to get contacted by a ton of people that were inspired by it, or at least had been interested in it. And they all wanted to talk about their plans to go driving. And the most important thing as anyone who becomes attached to the community of idiots that care about this sort of thing is that in the 50 years of pursuing it, there have been no accidents involving any other cars. There’s No injuries apart from a girl in 1975 that was in a limousine that was a part of the race that ran off the road with everybody in a fell asleep and nobody was wearing seatbelts if she broke her arm, like that’s it. And so there’s, there’s an immaculate history of safety that has to be maintained. And so as the, you know, unofficial torch bearer of it after we set the record, I started to really bring people together, mostly out of efficiency so that as I answered questions, I wouldn’t have to do it 100 times, but it started to develop this community of cannon ballers. And once we launched the VIN wiki app, and then a year later, the YouTube channel that we use to promote it. Part of the reason we did the YouTube channel was to capture Cannonball stories because I didn’t have that many that I could find prior. And I wanted to have a way to kind of immortalized that a document the hobby a little bit more thoroughly than anyone had been able to and So it’s resulted in kind of, you know, I knew this was sort of a hazard of doing so a lot more people trying to beat my record. And I knew that the community that I would enjoy being a part of would probably also be the reason that eventually my record fell. And it did. In fact, it was two guys that met while coming to film, car stories at dinner wiki. Each Other Brier and wanted to figure out a way to to BP, and I understand that’s all well and good and they came and told the story of it. So it all works out. Then there we had all been talking about doing a collective run on April for not really as a race. But as a, you know, different people wanted to try different things. They had cars they’ve been building. A friend of mine has built a perfect replica of the ambulance that was in the movie and that actually ran in 1979 was driven by Brock Yates and So we were going to drive that thing across, it wouldn’t have been fast, it would have been comfortable, but it would have maybe made it probably broken down. But as the virus started to spread, and as the shutdown started to be announced, most of us just kind of decided, well, we’ll wait. There’s no, we didn’t need to do it right now. So we won’t, but some of the other guys were pretty darn serious about it. And so they decided to go. And I knew that so I had actually made a video for our YouTube channel talking about whether or not it was that advantageous, like, what what could you look for, and, you know, we had kind of thought it would be certainly an advantage that there wouldn’t be anybody on the road. But it also might be a lot harder to blend into traffic when you needed to when you came across the speed trap. Now, what we didn’t know at that point is that the cops were so scared of the virus that they weren’t pulling anybody over. And so that weekend, there were three different runs that went very, very quickly and a new record was So from the guys that have been my record with a time of 27:25 in November of 2019, the record dropped to 26:38. In a reasonably unprepared it had a marine fuel cell plumped in the trunk that was in a leased Audi eight that this kid borrowed without necessarily permission from his father. And it was nobody we’d ever heard of. But I got an email when they were in Arizona saying, hey, these guys are about to beat the record, you want to follow them on his tracking device. So we saw them and it was true and they had done it. And the other two runs one was a solo run that was insane. Not quite as fast as Fred eventually went, but another was a diesel time. So guys in a 250 horsepower diesel car beat our time by 20 minutes. Wow. I wish it was unbelievable and awesome. And so over the course of the next six weeks, there were eight runs that would have beaten my time.

Josh Matthews 18:59

Ed Bolian 18:59
So it took dozens and dozens of attempts in earnest, money no object kind of efforts to eventually beat 28:50 it was now being done by just about anybody who wanted to go out there.

Dave Greenwood 19:11
I’m gonna say all of those deserve asterisks after them because it’s just not it’s not the same thing I don’t know.

Ed Bolian 19:18
Well, and that’s what they said most of these guys had done it in a more traditional time where you had to contend with traffic and you didn’t go hours on end without ever touching your brakes. And so they realized that it was a different thing, but at the same time, look, it’s a game of no rules. Like you can’t really say that it’s a it’s a different game now that things are but but it is. And so the fortunately, what we saw for most of it was, you know, that anybody could go out there and set a pretty crazy time. And towards the end of it, we had two absolutely insane times that probably can’t even beaten by a really strong car and a really strong team. Like they still had a lot of stuff go right, in addition to the fact that the roads were deserted. And so I think the death knell is probably in there at this point. And I don’t think the record advance anymore. But yeah, it was definitely an unbelievable time. So you have that question, right. Like it’s kind of a soso Maguire era of cannon balling where there’s this advantage that had never been afforded to people previously, or at least not nearly in the ways that this happened. And so how do you compartmentalize those times, and people have introduced the idea of an asterisk or, you know, a covid Cannonball contest that you know, is its own little thing, but I don’t know that we can say what that is or should be just yet. You know, when you look back on, you know, how you categorize sailing times when there’s wind or marathons. That net downhill. Like at first, they’re just marathons or sailing contests or Olympics where they wear swimsuits to cover their whole bodies and are hydrophobic, or you realize that it destroys the pursuit. And I think that’s the bigger risk right now. There are that I don’t see how anyone would take the risks and try in a normal world that isn’t shut down to try to beat the existing times. And then the question is, well, would it even matter if you claim to beat the other times the ones that preceded COVID? And so I think we’re gonna have to look at it a year or two from now and see if anybody tries it before and and how successful they are before we decide how these have to be viewed?

Josh Matthews 21:50
Yeah, that’s, I mean, I haven’t even thought about that. That that’s such an interesting viewpoint of now that the record is so low. Have you eliminated that desire that this that so many people have had for so long to even go out there and put themselves out there?

Tim Harman 22:07
I doubt it. I doubt it, there’s still gonna be the guy that’s gonna try it, you know, even when stuff gets back to normal, and honestly, maybe maybe the traffic will be less, even when this is over, because just so many people are going to be working from home permanently now. Because I think I think there’s going to be such a shift to working from home even after long after the COVID goes away. And so I don’t know, maybe there’ll be generally less traffic, who knows.

Ed Bolian 22:35
I think there will be less but that’s a big difference from zero. (true true.)

Josh Matthews 22:41
When you get the trucks off the road. That’s a big yeah, that’s a big deal.

Ed Bolian 22:44
Trucks were the problem. The trucks didn’t stop and they didn’t have our logs and requirements. There’s really (oh interesting) measures whatsoever. They took the governor’s off of many of them. And so the guys did run into a lot more truck traffic. than normal, but it was still a significant difference and there were there were there were fewer trucks but it was they noticed them a lot more I suppose.

Tim Harman 23:10
Well, this has been a extremely interesting and our to our listeners, there is a wealth of information and stories about the cannonball on Ed’s YouTube channel so you could literally spend, I mean, you could spend hours, like listening to these stories and they’re super interesting. So definitely go check that out. It is there. Is there anything else you wanted to share with our listeners anywhere any websites you could point them to that we didn’t already mention and that sort of thing?

Ed Bolian 23:39
No, thank you, guys for having us. And be sure to check out the VINwiki YouTube channel and download the free VINwiki app to tell the story of your car.

Tim Harman 23:47
For sure. Ed, thanks so much again for being on the show with us today. Guys, thanks so much for joining us. Be kind leave us a review on Apple podcasts and we will catch you guys next time.

Transcribed by and then edited some. There may be mistakes. 🙂