The March 1972 issue of Car & Driver featured the first Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash run by a single 1971 Dodge Custom Sportsman van nicknamed “Moon Trash II”. Editor Brock Yates conceived the idea to protest the 55 miles per hour national speed limit and celebrate the interstate road system which was designed for speeds well above the imposed so-called “fuel saving” measure.
The trophy dash name was derived from Erwin George “Cannon Ball” Baker who made several forays across the continent long before any organized road system was developed. In 1933 he made it in 53 hours and 30 minutes, a record which stood for 40 years. His car… a Graham-Paige model 57 Blue Streak 8, not exactly a household name.
At the November 1971 Dash, Dan Gurney and Brock Yates teamed up driving a Ferrari Daytona from New York to Los Angeles in 35 hours and 54 minutes traveling 2,638 miles and setting a standard for the future. Gurney said, “At no time did we exceed 175 mph.”
They were expecting a firestorm of response from media as well as the public in protest of this obvious jab in the eye to the establishment. No such response followed, in fact, the public made the event into an iconic protest that eventually resulted in a movie, Cannonball Run, starring Burt Reynolds and Dom DeLuise.
I had no knowledge of any Maine people taking part in the Dash until recently when Bob Alexander suggested I contact Fred Ashmore from Hancock. Last Friday, I contacted Fred at his shop, Ashmore Automotive Restoration and Repair.
His exposure to the event, now called C2C Express, came as a result of discussing the sale of a car to an Australian. The C2C Express came up during the course of the discussion. The Australian must have had some connection to the powers that be at C2C Express since the only way to enter is by invitation only. You cannot buy your way into the C2C Express.
In 2015, Ashmore got the call. He decided to use his 1952 Henry J, however, a last-minute parts failure forced him to make his initial Express run in his 2013 Ford F-150 pickup truck. He was one of three participants that year.
C2C Express continued the tradition of calling contestants only a few days prior to the departure date. Once he got the call, Ashmore drove from his home in Hancock to Red Ball Garage on 31st Street in New York City, the starting spot, to Portofino Hotel and Marina at Redondo Beach near Los Angeles, California in less than 48 hours.
He was hooked by the experience. No cross-country adventures took place between the initial foray in 2015 until the 2018 edition. This did not mean he forgot about the event. Much thought was put into preparation for the next time he would compete. What car, since the rules state the initial cost of the car must be less than $3000 when new, and what modifications might be needed to make the trip a success.
This was the year! Ashmore acquired a 1963 Ford Galaxy XL 500 in Steuben, Maine. Over the next two weeks he and a team of fellow enthusiasts removed the front frame from the Galaxy and grafted a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor front end in its place. The 4.6 Interceptor engine along with transmission and differential were added as well. The differential needed to be converted to leaf springs to be compatible with the Galaxy.
The more modern front end also featured aluminum components to save weight. The need to save weight was because Ashmore calculated he would need to have a fuel tank with a capacity near 200 gallons to allow him to travel non-stop from coast-to-coast. The fuel load would be over 1100 pounds of high-test gas.
Glenn Manring, Lamoine, was commissioned to build the fuel tank, which held 187.8 gallons of fuel and had NASCAR like fuel cell safety features such as one way valves preventing fuel loss in case of a turnover and a fuel cell bladder.
The hood, doors, and trunk deck were replicated in fiberglass. The rear quarter windows were replaced with Plexiglas with dark screen to shield the tank from view. The original tank was removed.
The fuel level and addition point was located in the roof of the car. During the run, Ashmore turned in his seat to read a dipstick while his friend Andrew LaVerdiere, Pittston, held the steering wheel to keep them on the road. LaVerdiere volunteered for the cross-country adventure.
In addition to the modifications listed above, Ashmore replaced injectors, coil packs, alternator, water pump, rotors, brake pads, brake hoses, removed the heater as well as the air conditioning. The battery was replaced with an Optima Red-Top. His was the only one of the 16 participants whose car did not suffer mechanical ills.
Assisting Ashmore with the car preparations was his father Fred Senior, Arthur Ashmore, LaMoine, Mitchell Mahar, Machias, Scott Hinkel, Ellsworth, John Carter, Eastbrook, and Nick Turner, Steuben. He attributed the success of the cross-country event to their quality work.
The C2C Express began at the traditional starting point, Red Ball Garage on 31st street in New York. Unlike several other teams, Ashmore did not load his car with electronic counter measures. He also did not use high-tech foods or beverages to make the trek without stopping. He drove the entire distance with LaVerdiere as his navigator.
Ashmore said, “We started with a loaf of bread, peanut butter, power bars, and water. Prior to the race we made sure to not eat anything that would force us to defecate in the next couple days. We peed in a bottle when we had to go and disposed of it along the route.”
When he and LaVerdiere pulled into the Portofino Hotel and Marina, in Redondo Beach, 37 hours and 15 minutes later, they had set the Pre-1965 Car world record beating the record set by a Ferrari by over 3 hours.
During the whole time in California, Ashmore left the keys in the car without fear of it being stolen. He rigged up the heater control to act as the link to starting his Galaxy.
If Ashmore does the C2C Express again, he will swap in a 6 liter PowerStroke diesel and decrease the fuel tank size and make the trip non-stop. He has the engine which has only 150,000 miles on it.
He has an extensive motorsports history racing four-cylinder cars primarily at Speedway 95, helped crew with a top fuel dragster in the Nostalgia Drag Race circuit for 8 years. His last stock car race was at the Last Chance Motorsports 150 event in 2012 where he won the four-cylinder class.
Spud Speedway announces first event of the 2019 season
For the first time, Spud Speedway will be hosting the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience June 14 from 10 am to 2 pm. Late Model with 400 horsepower crate engines will be utilized for those wishing to drive or ride along at the 1/3 mile track.
If the time slots sell out, the time will be extended to accommodate those wanting to participate. Information about the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience can be found at https://racewithrusty.com/
Use the bullring as your guide for pricing the event at Spud Speedway.
Let’s go racing,
Soli Deo Gloria