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Corvair owner enters turbo-charged Corsa in
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® Cannonball One Lap of America

While at least three Hollywood movies have been made on the subject of the Cannonball Run, many people remain unaware of its roots in the early 20th Century. The depictions of the coast-to-coast auto race were not simply the product of vivid imaginations and skilled screen writers. They were based on real events.

The legendary Cannonball Baker

In 1914, after careful preparation and with an iron will, Erwin G. "Cannonball" Baker mounted a pure stock Indian V-Twin motorcycle and set out on a cross-country race against time. He encountered such poor road conditions that he chose to stand for much of the 3,379 miles (5,438 kilometers) from California to New York. He persevered through merciless weather, was forced to defend himself against attacking dogs, and—after running out of gas—had to push his motorcycle through 119º desert heat.  

Imagine his frustration when Cannonball had to struggle for a whole day to find a suitable place to cross a large mountain stream! In Kansas, he had to deal with six flat tires and a dog that took an interest in his moving motorcycle's front tire, bit into it, and caused a nasty spill. Baker was bruised and sore for the remainder of the journey. In Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, he rode through heavy rain and near knee-deep mud. As he got closer to his final destination, he had to work through the night to repair a number of problems. In New Jersey with a guide rider accompanying him, he got lost two or three times before crossing by ferry from Weehawken to New York City, ending his epic ride in 11 days, 12 hours and 10 minutes.

The Big Apple greeted Cannonball Baker with a hot meal and a crush of reporters seeking a firsthand account of his story. He answered questions until 2 a.m., and then turned in for a good night's sleep. He must have realized that night that his achievement had brought him fame, but even in his wildest dreams, he may not have seen how far into the future his legend would carry him.

Car and Driver's Brock Yates writes the next chapter

In the early 1970's, the now legendary automotive journalist Brock Yates honored Baker by creating the Cannonball Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, a race from New York City to Redondo Beach, California. The no-holds-barred, trans-continental orgy of speed became an annual event and the subject of three major motion pictures: the 1976 movie Cannonball, starring David Carradine, 1981's Cannonball Run with a star-studded cast—including, among others: Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore, Farrah Fawcet, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr.—and its 1984 sequel, Cannonball Run 2.

The real-life Cannonball was repeated five times in its original format, before evolving into the Cannonball One Lap of America in 1984. Since then, the Cannonball One Lap has been successfully run each year. Amazingly, and to the surprise and possible relief of its critics, it has resulted in only one injury in all that time; a broken collarbone resulting from a roll-over in 1987.

In mid-September, 2003, Cannonball originator Yates made a guest celebrity appearance at the First Annual Saratoga Car and Craft Festival at the Saratoga Race Course in upstate New York. There, he encountered Corvair owner and enthusiast, Ron Blachut, who told him he was considering entering his 1965 Corsa turbo in the Cannonball One Lap. Brock responded that to the best of his knowledge, no other Corvair had ever been entered. That news sealed it. The decision was made. Ron signed on as an official Vintage American Class entrant in the 2004 event scheduled to be run over ten days between April 29th and May 8th. (For more event info, click the Cannonball road sign at right.)

Cannonball 1 Lap of America

Then, after investing over $2,000 in the registration fee, circumstances made it virtually impossible for him to properly prepare his entry in time for the 2004 event, and he was forced to postpone his plans by a year. In spite of the unfortunate setback, he remains fully committed, and now plans to run in 2005.

Cannonball Corvair

This is Ron's Corsa. It was prepped for E/SP racing by a previous owner, Mike Mekinda, of Painesville, Ohio. Mike added Crane ignition, water injection, HD lowered suspension, a '66 Saginaw 4-speed, Positraction, racing seats with harnesses, and 16" Camaro IROC Z wheels shod with low profile 205x50R16 rubber on the front and 225x50R16 on the rear. An appropriate cliché to describe this car? How about, "Begs to be driven!"

1965 Corvair Corsa Cannonball racer

Click the road sign for more.

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