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Cannonball Run 2018

An account of my second attempt at a nonstop run from NY to LA in a FFR Type 65 Daytona coupe.

Back in October of 2016, Chris and I had just “timed out” of our first attempt at a NY to LA Cannonball run being attempted in a Daytona Coupe.

http://www.ffcars.com/forums/21-ffr-type-65-coupe/580345-durability-testing.html

Plagued by multiple small mechanical issues, an electrical snafu made apparent by a Kansas State Trooper at 3 am (no rear running lights), and the final nail in the coffin, an electrical fire from the auxiliary gas pump wiring. To make matters worse was the timing of this electrical fire occurring just after filling both tanks to capacity for a total of 37 gallons. We ended, “timed out” 330 miles short of LA. Upon returning home I felt defeated. Although I still had the desire to finish, both our wives were fed up with this endeavor. Less than a month afterwards I knew I was in good company when our thoughts turned to planning our second attempt.

Fast forward to the last week in April of '18 we both scheduled time off of work and time away from our families. After working overnight and squeezing in some shut-eye, I hit the road for the last shakedown run setting out from Missouri to Pennsylvania. The car ran beautifully, except for a few minor hiccups but none the less I motored into Hummelstown PA, home base for Mark Dougherty, aka the Traveling Builder.

My car is not new to Mark and his team. They were elbow deep in the prep for the initial attempt 18 months prior. So once again Mark and now Matty, went to work. We once again installed the auxiliary tank but foregoing the electrical fuel pump given our aversion to fire, now utilizing gravity and a manual valve. Additional adjustments to accommodate the extra weight were made to the rear ride height. After adjustment of the mechanical linkage (to fix my mistake) we were all set.

This time was going to be different. What we learned from attempt number one had allowed us to formulate a plan and build a winning car. During the last run fatigue, lack of power at elevation from taking the northern route, an absence of cruise control, inability to communicate (earplugs, overall sound), all added up chipped away at our souls. Changes and mods added to address the first Run’s deficiencies were Fitech EFI coupled to the new 331 stroker, pilot communication headsets/intercom, cruise control, and traveling the southern route.

My friend Chris flew into NY on Monday the 23 of April. Over dinner, we went over the final prep and plans for our attack. We purposefully left a 24-hour window in which we could to choose to leave allowing us to adjust for weather, traffic, and fatigue. Fortunately for me, Chris’s past endeavors included a shortly lived stent as a storm chaser in Kansas. So with weather maps and Doppler radar readings, we monitored 2 storm cells along our route. A mid-morning am departure was decided.



Eleven am, would allow for missing am rush hour traffic out of New York, a few more hours of sleep, but more importantly place us in the best position to get through the looming rain.

As luck would have it we finished up the final install of our electrical armamentarium under the watchful eye of the attendants at the Redball Garage in Manhattan and departed at 11 am on the nose. Exiting NY was met with a few hiccups of slow traffic, road construction but surprisingly we made it out with little harm to our running clock. I powered the Daytona coupe out of New York City, through New Jersey into Harrisburg PA, where we made our first driver change. We topped off the fuel and were back on the interstate in less than 8 minutes.

We chipped away at our time and upped our overall average speed as we monitored it with the Garmin. As expected foul weather hit in Eastern PA. Now off the beautiful PA Turn Pike, we experienced rain-soaked roads with less than desirable road conditions, ie. potholes. Actually calling these potholes would be an understatement. These were potholes that were strung together four or five long. To complicate matters my once sufficient brakes were now rain-soaked and felt useless. Bad enough where I made a call to Mark D to get his advice regarding on the fly adjustments. After said conversation, wash out from the water seemed the likely cause and no quick fix or adjustment would likely help. So we motored on.

New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania done.

Over the next 100 hundred miles, the rain changed to mist, and then to cloudy skies. The roadways dried and the sky cleared except for a light shower in Ohio. We utilized our auxiliary tank as planned and continued down the road bypassing gas stations as planned. By limiting our stops we were increasing our average overall speed and the clock and miles ticked away. Late into the evening, somewhere in the mid-east, we stopped, fueled both the primary and auxiliary, installed the FLIR thermal camera and were back on the road in 14 minutes flat. These stops were a far cry from our first run’s efforts.

West Virginia, Ohio done.

We kept pushing on and traffic seemed to be just getting thicker and thicker. Rows of semi-tractor trailers blanketed the interstate. In an effort for safety and in our desire not to be singled out by our fellow drivers with whom we shared the roads passing at excessive speeds, right-sided passing was avoided at nearly all costs. Despite this traffic burden we were slowly building time in our favor.

Indiana, Illinois done.

Home state of Missouri entered slightly ahead of schedule. A quick driver change and we were off. St Louis had been the branch point for the Northern route on the 2016 attempt. In an effort to avoid driving right through our home of Springfield Missouri in 2016 we elected to add an additional 30 miles and mountainous terrain and travel through Denver into Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the carburetor ran rich which declared itself as pig rich and slow as molasses in the mountains of CO. This time we bit the bullet and hit I44 straight through Springfield. Just after 3 am, our tired bodies and minds were tempted with the idea sleep with driving just 15 minutes from our homes. We had a laugh and motored on.

Missouri done.

Chris made his way into Ok where we switched drivers and entered what I will call a hurricane/monsoon/El Nino/ La Nina/ natural disaster/ the opposite of drought-like conditions/ the great flood. Chris slept and I did my best to keep moving forward. After a miscalculation, driver’s error, my fuel gauge was bouncing on empty and an earlier than expected fuel stop was needed.

And so “IT” begins. By “IT” I mean everything. Upon exiting the interstate I experienced a frequent problem, the car decided to die. As the clutch was depressed, the car died. Usually this is no big deal, just slip it in gear and pop the clutch, and all is well. This time we had no room and no speed. Attempts at turning the key gave its usual response of not wanting to start. After the third attempt, I announced to my co-driver “get out and push, but not on the spoiler”. He looked at me as if I was crazy, responding “it’s uphill and raining”. He, or rather we were saved by the fourth attempt at turning the key and made it into the gas station.

To add insult to injury, the Oklahoma fuel stop was far from ideal. I'll admit I'm a city boy and like paved roads. This parking lot was a small pond, with hidden holes of various depths that had to be blindly maneuvered. This "pond" also extended under the canopy, resulting in Chris stepping in a 4-inch puddle of manure smelling water, soaking his socks and shoes. We fueled up, and despite being under the canopy, the sideways rain soaked me from head to toe. Now we were both wet but still optimistic with our banked time.

Chris took the wheel and was determined to battle on. Seventy-five feet later we were stopped in the parking lot. We lacked the ability to see out either front or back windows secondary to the condensation. Damn Vintage Air. Just before leaving Mark D's place, 2 days prior I had made mention of some ac/ heat issues. I thought to my self I could manage without either but Mark set Matty on the problem and a questionable ac switch was identified. Given this was not an off the shelf part at the local Napa, replacing it was not in the cards. So a couple of wiggles and shakes we got it working again. However this time a couple of wiggles and shakes of the switch did not seem to give us the same outcome as before. Nothing.

The decision was made, to remove the dash. tools were in the back, so out in the rain, I went to get the allen wrenches. A few minutes later the switch was exposed and a couple of smacks and foul words it seemed to begin working. Working out of the dash vent, not defrost/defog vents. Ideas were thrown around to drive with squeegee, or cloth to wipe the windows but we both felt risks were too high. I then had my ingenious idea of removing a vent hose and holding it to the windshield. All I can say is that it worked. We removed enough hose to branch off the ac unit and blow it on the windshield. Worked like a charm to keep the window clear from condensation.



What it didn’t do was anything to keep the temperature in the cockpit above a painful level. Coupled with the outside temperature in the 40’s, us being wet, and sitting in rain-soaked seats, we were freezing. My coupe is a driver. That being said, it has seen its fair share of rain. What it hasn’t seen are torrential downpours that have no end in sight. We took on water like none other. Our seats were soaked, we were soaked. (side note our seats were still wet enough to requires us to sit on plastic sheeting 2.5 days later at the HB cruise).

The clock was no longer moving in our favor. Our average speed dropped. We had lost a ridiculous amount of time not only to our repairs but also lower than expected speeds. Finishing in under 40 hours no longer seemed possible.

Oklahoma done.

The weather cleared, and we made it to Amarillo Tx. I realized my sub 40-hour attempt wouldn’t be possible. The first half of this endeavor I saw our average speed tick up and our arrival time slowly shave off minutes which then became hours. Prior to this weather fiasco, we were on track but now not so much. Forty hours had always been a goal. I thought this time was attainable, without driving like an antisocial moron which would put others at risk. More importantly, 40 hours was when timing stopped back in the early 70’s when Brock Yates and Dan Gurney ran the original Cannonball. So finishing sub-40s is considered finishing anything more did not count.

Coupled with the cold and seeing our breaths in the car, we both couldn’t feel our feet. Rather we could feel them but they were beyond painful from the cold. We changed our socks and after fuel and a driver switch we motored on.

Over the next few hundred miles reality set in. My overall speeds decreased, I was no longer motivated. Despite moving west, it did not seem like we were getting any closer and my dream of finishing sub 40 hours was lost. You may laugh when I say dream but I regret to say countless hours and ridiculous amounts of money has been consumed to accomplish this trek. Ever since I first read Alex Roy's article in Wired magazine in October 2007, I have been thinking of doing this Cannonball Run. We none the less continued.

Texas done.
New Mexico done.

We switched drivers outside of Flagstaff placing Chris behind the wheel. This stop took a bit longer, actually stopping for a picture of the car and one of my copilot.



Chris carved through the hills and did quite well. I remember commenting on the aviation headset and intercom we utilized for this trip. This allowed us to decrease the overall sound of the car to a non-deafening level and more importantly talk without yelling. Our first trip was deafening despite the use of earplugs and overall fatiguing due to our yelling to overcome the earplugs.

As Chris drove I thought about what we had accomplished so far. Strangely, I came to terms of not finishing in 40 hours and that finishing meant when we arrived in LA. I thought about a lunch my wife Cheryl and I had just days before leaving. A fellow for builder and friend, Kerry P. asked what my goal was for this endeavor. I had always accompanied my goal with the reason behind this and a justification of why this was so “long” when compared to modern-day records. Driving for me is fun, I'm not looking to rack up felony speeding tickets in an attempt to beat a record or worse yet place others at risk by driving excessive speeds. His response left an impression. He responded that I was doing it in the “spirit of the Cannonball.” And at that time in my trip, it hit me. Finishing for me was now getting there. Time did not matter.

AZ done.

Entering California, fatigue set in. I was now piloting the Coupe and we divided the remaining distance into short stents behind the wheel. We switched frequently and once again I was at the wheel driving the remaining 75 miles. We navigated the streets and pulled in to the hotel at 4 am. Exactly 44 hours 22 seconds after leaving 31 st street in New York. The kind bewildered hotel clerk took a pic. I'm sure he wondered why two guys in a replica of a 1965 Daytona Coupe were so happy to have arrived at 4 am and needed photographic evidence of such an arrival. We made our way to our room.




I'm still sensitive about the time. I forget that others are not familiar with the distance, the Cannonball Run, the US Express, the modern day 2903, Sea to Shining Sea, Roy, and Bolian. I don't consider myself in the same category as the "others" who have completed this trip. What I can say is that we safely traversed our country/continent in 44 hours. Longer than I would have liked, but we finished.

CA done.
NY to LA done.

Huntington Beach Cruise-In was 2 days away. We rested. Enjoyed the hospitality of David H. at his home on Friday. Saturday we were greeted by a very friendly Karen Salvagio at the registration tent. She ushered us across Main street onto a side street. We parked, removed the plastic covering our still wet seats, and enjoyed the show.

At 2 pm we made our way to Main and Walnut hearing “Has Mike Moen arrived yet?” I announced my arrival and was instructed to place my car in the middle of Main St. in front of the awards table. I was able to tell the crowd of our 2800 mile journey and leave my car front and center.

Since there was no award for stupidity, Karen S. gave me her Best in Show - Coupe runner-up trophy. This acknowledgment meant more than I realized. I truly appreciate the gift.

We spent the remaining time at HB with my brother and friend. Jeff Miller, being the great guy he is, was nice enough to trailer my car to his bat cave despite having left it all dirty at the show covering his spectacular work.
Arrangements have been made to get my car back home, but as of this writing, I'm not desperate for it any time soon. I think I can take a little break from driving.


I know this is short, if any of you want the long version pm me.

Pilot - Mike Moen.
Copilot - Chris Forrer
 

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Mike,

What an awesome trip. Even though you didn’t make your preferred time, I think this is a great accomplishment.
I’ve driven across country twice now but it took 4-5 days with 10 hr days sometimes more.
I think it’s a testament to the car you build, and the tenacity of the both of you to pull it off. Even if it meant holding an ac hose to defrost your window.
Hats off to you.
PS I’ve always wondered how cool it would be to drive a caravan of FFR cars from the east coast to HB. Not in 40 hrs though.....

John
 

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Well done, Mike! Great story and accomplishment. The longest drive I ever did in my coupe was Charlotte to Atlanta, after the Charlotte AutoFair ... about 4 hours ... with earplugs! I was beat when I arrived home. You guys are true road warriors! What is your next challenge? You could join John Tongish and I as we take our Cobras on the Lake Superior Circle Tour in August ...

Garry
 

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The Traveler
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Well done! :) Very WELL done!
 

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A great adventure, most success is built on failure, getting up and going again.. well done Mike.. :)
 

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What an amazing adventure!!!! It was great to meet you at the show. I'll never ever complain about the ride to Huntington from San Francisco again!

Jeff
 

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Awesome Mike. Congratulations and great write-up.

Thanks for posting this.

-Matt
 

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Awesome is all I have to say! It takes balls and the some for taking this on...twice! Congrats on making it.
 
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