Random thoughts on choosing your Cannonball Run vehicle

Yesterday, Alex Roy, the dude who once set a Cannonball Run record and a friend of Hooniverse, answered the question that was on my mind for some time – which car is best for setting a Cannonball Run record. His somewhat obvious answer is that a German sport sedan is the best vehicle for the task of driving nearly 3,000 miles at triple-digit speeds. And he justified really well, too.

I started brainstorming. I thought there could be a better vehicle – a modern pickup truck. Yea, I know, crazy.

Specifically, I had a modified Ford F150 Limited in mind. I threw a whole bunch of theories and justifications down and posted them below. I did some math. And then I concluded that I was dead wrong and that a pickup truck cannot possibly be used to set a Cannonball Record. Further, in doing my math I realized that how amazing the current new record is. Looking at the numbers and what it took to accomplish it, I don’t think it will be broken for some time, or for at least two years. Enjoy.

* * *

Alex’s reasons to choose a German Q-ship:

  • Inconspicuous sedan design.
  • Dash space, rear seat space, and overall interior space.
  • Noise levels (I never thought this would be a consideration but read his piece – it makes sense).
  • Trunk space.
  • Adaptive suspension.
  • Designed for speed.

Those are certainly valid reasons. I wouldn’t even question them because Alex has first hand experience in this and get tired after driving for more than two hours. But…

The current Ford F-150 Limited has the Raptor EcoBoost 450-horsepower and 510-pound-feet of torque engine in it. Stock, Car and Driver says it does 0-60MPH in 5.1 seconds and clears the quarter mile in 13.7 seconds at 102MPH. While that is not slow, it’s not even as fast as a stock, nearly twenty year old E39 M5. But the Raptor engines have been modified to make over 600-horsepower and take a second off each of those times supposedly without sacrificing reliability and longevity.

Going back to Alex’s points on what makes a good Cannonball Run vehicle and how it applies to the F-150 Limited:

  • Inconspicuous design – The F150 has been the best selling vehicles in United States for several decades. They are everywhere. The Limited draws much less attestation that the Raptor because it looks like an XLT with chrome door handles. Even the 22-inch wheels and Pirelli Scorpion Zero in 275/45-22 don’t look out of place on it. And from my experience, pickups don’t seem to get pulled over as frequently as other vehicles. This is as stealth as a vehicle on American roads can get.
  • Interior space – doesn’t get much bigger than this. And the aftermarket offers significantly more options for mounting of the various electronic devices needed for such run and other remotely mounted equipment. Visibility is great, too.
  • The rear bench seat is huge and offers more legroom and headroom than an S-class. The cabin is so huge that hopping, while not suggested at ridiculous speeds, between front and rear seats is easy even for the large-butted males. There is plenty of space for anything that would been needed on such a run.
  • Noise level is one of the F150’s shortcomings, especially at speed. The frontal area is so huge that moving all the air around will make more noise than any midsize German sedan. Sound-deadening could be better even for conventional driving.
  • Trunk space is the F150 has a clear advantage. Each of the record setting vehicles was outfitted with a custom fuel cell in the trunk. Alex had an additional 38-gallon fuel tank in his M5. The AMG E63 that just set the record had a 66-gallon fuel cell. The F-150 comes from the factory with a 36-gallon fuel tank, or almost three times the size of Benz tank. Aftermarket in-bed fuel tanks are quite common and can provide as much as 100-gallon of extra fuel capacity.
  • Capacity and suspension: A gallon of gasoline weights about six pounds. That is lighter than water. Even with an extra 100-gallons and the weight of the tank, that’s still less than half of the Limited’s maximum payload. I have no idea what range that would yield as I have no idea what the burn rate of an F150 at speed could possibly be. Aerodynamics play a huge rule at high speeds and more power is needed to keep something so big at speed for extended period of time.
  • The guys in the Benz made four stops, averaging just over 5-minutes per stop to refill. Could a modified F-150 with a huge second tank go the distance with less refuel stops? Could that make up the difference lost is some top speed section of the drive? I don’t know but this is where the F150’s clear advantage is.
  • The one thing that the F150 is not, is designed for speed. It’s a huge fucking pickup truck. The F150 frontal area is significantly bigger than that of any German sedan. Aerodynamics, which at sustained speeds are much more important than weight, needed to achieve and sustain high speeds are not there. That said, a stock Limited will get rather effortlessly to triple digit speeds. Small aerodynamic improvements could make big differences but certainly not big enough to even approach the claimed top speed of 193MPH that the Benz achieved during its run.

In process of writing this post I realized some things:

  • The speeds and times achieved in this latest record are insane. We can all say that some guys drove 27 hours and 25 minutes at an average speed of 104MPH. It almost rolls off the tongue.
  • The fact that they achieved 193MPH on some road is just insane. For comparison, the top at the 24 Hours of Le Mans are about 205MPH.
  • They made only four stops. That translates into five driving stints of over five hours each. Stints that require complete focus, where a simple mistake could mean imprisonment or death.
  • The total time for those refueling stops for the Benz was 22.5 minutes. That is incredible.
  • The average speed wins. The top speed of of 193MPH does not need to be achieved if the slowest sector speed is raised.
  • The fuel stops eat precious time and lower the average speed.
  • Nothing matters if just one thing does not go according to plan.

Some highly theoretical math:

  • If the Benz guys had a 70-gallon tank (cell + OEM tank + spare) and managed 700 miles from that, they averaged about 10MPG.
  • With a 150 gallons of fuel and a burn rate about 10MPG, the Ford would have a range of 1500 miles.
  • If a driver change can be done at speed (yes, dumb++ but so is the whole race) even a civil speed, with the use of technology (The F150 has dynamic cruise control, lane keeping assist, and emergency braking), the average speed over that driver swap time could be, say 70MPH and not 0MPH.
  • The Ford would require just one, albeit longer, fuel refill stop.
  • Assuming no bathroom stops, could this give the pickup an advantage it needs to break the Cannonball Record?


I conclude that there is no way anyone driving an F-150 like I suggested could set this record. No way. I seriously doubt that this thing could go, and sustain, more than 150 MPH, which is simply needed to accomplish this. Alex is right. I don’t know what other, American or Japanese, vehicle can be that fast, stealth, and spacious enough as a proper German performance sedan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here

42 responses to “Random thoughts on choosing your Cannonball Run vehicle”

  1. William Byrd Avatar
    William Byrd

    Unlike your take on the Tahoe, this is great! I’m in, let’s go!

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      If I’m gonna cross the continent at hyper speeds while sitting text to a huge fuel tank, it will in a Boeing.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        You present all this math on how to take a container ship to a boat race, only to throw it out for a plane?


  2. onrails Avatar

    Regardless of the fuel capacity advantages big truck pushes too much air to work well at the speeds required to get the (now) record. And I don’t think you need to go German, though it’s easily the high target area.

    Fast? Check. Roomy? Check. Proven speed over distance? Check. Virtually invisible? Double check.


    1. Kamil K Avatar

      Yup. I forgot it existed, like 95% of people. I don’t have comeback.

    2. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      I was trying to decide between the SS and the Caprice PPV for this. The SS is fast, comfortable, and anonymous. People will move out of the way of the PPV.

      1. Kamil K Avatar

        PPV with SS interior.

    3. Vairship Avatar

      Toyota Camry TRD. In special-order beige.Or is that Toyota Racing Beige?

      1. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
        dead_elvis, inc.

        That’s Toyota Racing Drab.

    4. 0A5599 Avatar

      A smaller truck doesn’t have to push as much hole through the air.


      1. Kamil K Avatar

        But cabin is cramped and payload lower, to Alex’s two points.

        1. 0A5599 Avatar

          F150 and S15 both fall into the same cargo class, though, of course the LSR isn’t a production vehicle.

          An extended cab S15 is plenty wide enough and long enough for two people (even though all production Syclones were regular cab, LSR used an extended cab for aerodynamic reasons), but, yes, it would be a tight fit for more people than that.

  3. ptschett Avatar

    To sprinkle a little more rain on the parade: modern pickups tend to have electronic speed limiters around 110 MPH (sometimes slower) to protect against higher-order driveshaft vibrations.

    1. JayP Avatar

      Or low speed rated tires. Both can be resolved and a tune can take the limiter off.

  4. Fuhrman16 Avatar

    This may not be the worst idea. Afterall, the car that came in second in the 1975 Cannonball run was a plain looking 70’s Chevy C-10 with a bed topper.

    1. outback_ute Avatar

      The PRDC used a van on one of the runs with the idea of having enough fuel on board not to stop at all – they had other problems so never got to test that.

      I think Kamil has the E63’s fuel tank size wrong, it should be 80 L / 21 USgal. Alex’s article refers to the total fuel capacity too, not just the added cells.

    1. Vairship Avatar

      Just ask yourself: which vehicle would I prefer to be in when it gets a tire blowout at 150MPH, a low-slung German sedan or a tall pickup?

      High center of gravity kills at high speed.

      1. Kamil K Avatar

        New pickups are way too stable than they have every right to be. Note if stable enough for crazy speeds but damn stable.

    2. Tiberiuswise Avatar

      I think we need to consider some of these suspension parts to lower the F-150. I’m not sure you need to go beyond the stock 3.5 EB for power, but lowering the truck could gain an extra MPG and increase top speed. Also make it more stable.

    1. nanoop Avatar

      With a clever paint scheme it would produce contradicting eye witnesses: “that blue sedan was tailgating” “a white truck nearly pushed me off the road when overtaking”

    2. nanoop Avatar

      With a clever paint scheme it would produce contradicting eye witnesses: “that blue sedan was tailgating” “a white truck nearly pushed me off the road when overtaking”

      1. Troggy Avatar

        Also, shroud of sorts over the tray that can be popped while on the move.
        Better yet, nested shrouds. First it’s a wagon, then a sedan, then the high tonneau, then it’s a ute.

        “Unit One, we have a report of a of a white Commodore wagon travelling at high speed heading your way”


        “Whoa, that white sedan was really moving!!”

        “Stay put Unit One, it’s the wagon we’re after!”

      2. Troggy Avatar

        Also, shroud of sorts over the tray that can be popped while on the move.
        Better yet, nested shrouds. First it’s a wagon, then a sedan, then the high tonneau, then it’s a ute.

        “Unit One, we have a report of a of a white Commodore wagon travelling at high speed heading your way”


        “Whoa, that white sedan was really moving!!”

        “Stay put Unit One, it’s the wagon we’re after!”

      3. Troggy Avatar

        Also, shroud of sorts over the tray that can be popped while on the move.
        Better yet, nested shrouds. First it’s a wagon, then a sedan, then the high tonneau, then it’s a ute.

        “Unit One, we have a report of a of a white Commodore wagon travelling at high speed heading your way”


        “Whoa, that white sedan was really moving!!”

        “Stay put Unit One, it’s the wagon we’re after!”

    3. Kamil K Avatar

      Room for three is a prerequisite.

      1. Troggy Avatar

        We have the answer to that too:

        I once had to use a V6 variant as a course car (sponsor provided). Wheelbase is a bit long for serious cornering (not a problem for cannonballing), and was a bit wheezy on acceleration, but I’d imagine that the V8 with a mild workover would fit the bill. Except I don’t think you could get one in the US.

        1. outback_ute Avatar

          You couldn’t regard that as a 3-seater for 27 hours, the rear seat is way too uncomfortable. The backrest is so upright it feels like you are leaning forward, to try and eke out an extra bit of legroom. With an aftermarket seat for a normal seating position I’m not sure the legroom would work – maybe?

          On the other hand, it has a leaf sprung axle and good cargo capacity, so while not adaptive suspension would cope with a large fuel load easily.

  5. crank_case Avatar

    Agree with most of your points, but apart from the logistics of refuelling in the US, for range, surely a diesel is the engine of choice?

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      Needs moar powah.

      1. crank_case Avatar

        Not that I have a great love of the black stuff, but I’d imagine headline power on even the 3.0 V6 is plenty sufficient, not to mention monster torque. Remember it’s not peak power, it’s power where you can use it and the multispeed autos most these come with now would do a good job of keeping the diesel in that optimum range. I believe MPG Figures are 23 for Ecoboost and 30 for the Diesel, which over distance could make quite the difference.

        1. Troggy Avatar

          High-flow diesel pumps at truck stops would make refuelling significantly faster too.

    2. outback_ute Avatar

      Alex Roy stated that at 150mph diesels don’t have a significant advantage, petrol engines are running efficiently by that point.

    3. Maymar Avatar

      In this context, that’s probably not even an issue, as most Cannonballing would be done with the interstate network, which is littered with diesel fuelling stations (for the sake of transport trucks). Although, the quarter-ton diesel options tend to be (relatively) lower powered, and I’m not sure I’d want to drive a half-ton at high speeds.

  6. P161911 Avatar

    Do you HAVE to stop to refuel? Could you arrange to meet a fuel truck on a highway in the middle of nowhere and just do an on road refueling? (Not much more stupid than the Cannonball in general). Either that or have your own refuel rig, something like the Penske Trans Am rig with a 50 foot tall tank, a 6″ line, and a dump valve to refuel your truck and all auxiliary tanks in seconds.

    1. Kamil K Avatar

      There are, literally, no such rules. So yeah, that’s fair.

    2. dead_elvis, inc. Avatar
      dead_elvis, inc.

      If fuelling-on-the-fly can be done on two wheels, surely it can be done even more easily on 4? https://www.revzilla.com/common-tread/texas-iron-butt-challenge-1000-miles-24-hours-zero-stops

  7.  Avatar

    F350 long box single wheel crew cab, modified / tuned / more turbo etc. Air bags. Cap with facilities in the bed and a giant giant fuel cell. ?

  8.  Avatar

    Is there a known record for fastest Cannonball Run in a truck?