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If you’ve ever taken a road trip, you know exactly how taxing driving cars for long periods can be. Now, three men have made it look easy, visiting every contiguous state in the U.S, setting a new record. The trio completed the Cannonball Run-style trip in record time, only stopping for gas and bathroom breaks. What takes some a lifetime, done one state at a time, took the trio only three days and change.

What is the Cannonball Run?

An empty, straight road in New Mexico
Empty roads in New Mexico | Andrew Lichtenstein via Getty Images

Now, some of you may be wondering what the Cannonball Run is. However, it isn’t just a cheesy 80s comedy movie. No, this is an unsanctioned all-out highway blast from one end of the country to the other. The famous Brock Yates started the whole thing back in May of 1971. The journey covers nearly 2,800 miles. It begins at the Red Ball Garage in New York City, and finishes in the parking lot of the Portifino Hotel in Redondo Beach, California.

However, Cannonball Run is highly illegal. After all, the protest of strict traffic laws was the point of the original run. Now, hopeful new record-holders employ a number of police countermeasure techniques to help them evade the law in the pursuit of speed. It has to be said that the Cannonball Run is an extremely dangerous and irresponsible thing. It’s one of the more controversial aspects of the automotive community. But, what does that have to do with three guys and a Mercedes?

The trio set record time

New record holders Todd Heckel, Grady Leno, and Peter Loforte with the record-holding car
The dynamic trio | Heckel, Leno, and Loforte

This new record for crossing every contiguous state shattered the previous record of 94 hours 42 minutes and 35 seconds. It required meticulous planning, as Grady Leno, the trip’s defacto planner pointed out in an interview with Road and Track. Per Leno, it took roughly 60+ hours of planning to get their Cannonball-style speed run planned out. Just like the official Cannonball Run, the group, comprised of Leno, Todd Heckel, and Peter Loforte, used a modified vehicle to aid in their quest for the new record.

The vehicle in question was a modified Mercedes-Benz SL550, a fast car in its own right. Additionally, the group made use of a litany of GPS units, fuel logging strategies, and other in-cabin assists to complete their version of the Cannonball. However, this run differs from the Cannonball in another crucial way. The group began their journey in a different place, at Wicked Awesome BBQ in Vermont. The run also ended in a different place, just across the Columbia River in Washington.

The debate on the morality of these runs rages on

The interior of the Mercedes SL550 used to drive across the country
The interior of the Mercedes in question | Heckel, Leno, and Loforte

At the end of their literal odyssey, the group clocked an astounding 86 hour and 19-minute drive. Their route took them over 6677 miles and to every connected state in the U.S. It’s an impressive record to be sure, but the debate on the legality of such things will surely continue to rage on. Frankly, attitudes on these high-speed cross-country runs seem to shift all the time, especially when larger media outlets pick up the story. These men are certainly seen as heroes by some, and to others, outlaws.


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