How did Fred Ashmore set the solo NY to LA Cannonball record?
I spoke with Fred to get a closer look at what is likely the most controversial running of the 'Cannonball' in history
I've spent a lot of time covering all of the recent "Coronavirus Cannonballs," and over that time, I've become acquainted with many of the previous record holders, as well as their beliefs.
There seem to be two camps in this situation, you have those who applaud this new string of Cannonballers and those who would rather smite those people off the earth. I lie somewhere in the middle, and while I believe that setting a coast to coast record is something which can be done responsibly, there are certainly those who have challenged my beliefs.
Take Fred Ashmore, his recent solo run of just under 26 hours sure is impressive; however, my instant reaction was what a F*ing moron. Having said that, I was curious to hear Fred's side of the story.
"Why did you rent a car, let alone a Mustang?" I asked.
"The reason I chose a Mustang, It actually sounds strange, because I'm a Ford guy; I had looked into Charger, Hellcat, but based on their size and weight, and based on their fuel economy, I didn't necessarily think it would be up for the task." "That being said, the Mustang was the only real rental option that I could just pick up, drive, do my modifications, take apart, and reassemble in short order."
"You mentioned modifications, how did you add the fuel tanks?" I asked.
"One of them was a 50-gallon fuel tank that I sourced from my Cobra," "The tank was only modified in the sense that it was turned around and the fillers were put into the back."
"The other one was on the back seat with a release drilled into the bottom of it for the fuel line, and those both were strapped down through the child safety seat."
"You guys refueled once on your trip, how many people did you have as a 'support team'?" I asked.
I had two guys at the fuel stop, and I had my brother sort of as a support crew," "a friend of mine who owns a shop here in Oklahoma," "provided me with the shop and the tools."
"With the rental, installation, and fuel, how much did the entire thing cost you?" I asked.
"Out of pocket for this run, you have to remember, I already had the tanks from my other Cobra," "so realistically, this run without including any expenses I didn't have was right around $1,200."
"Everyone who came before you spend tens of thousands preparing their cars, especially from a safety aspect, and when you just show up at Hetz or Avis, how do you feel about the quality of servicing that car has received?" I asked.
"The difference between what I did and what a lot of others have done is that these people literally open the trunk and throw a fuel cell, and then make some sort of hokey mechanism to fuel it through a filler neck." "Our fuel tanks were mounted low, and they were proportionately placed through the car, so this wasn't 800 pounds of fuel on the back tail of the car dragging the back of the car down. When you take out the air-conditioned passenger seat which has airbags in it, and you figure the occupant of that seat who would be about 160 pounds, you're literally removing approximately in that area where you could easily place 200 pounds."
"The fuel tanks with everything loaded is still under 200 pounds, which basically balances out the chassis." "Now, one of the things that people didn't hit on in this was that when I burned off the fuel, the first fuel I burned off was the fuel tank in the car, and then a burned off the bigger tank that was in the trunk."
"So some people have this misconception that I'm just driving around with 1,500 pounds of fuel, it's not 1,500 pounds, it's just absolutely ridiculous." "It was much more planned out than just throwing a bunch of fuel tanks into the car and bonzaing across the country."
"The only thing I did to the car, I had checked over the tires before this run, and this is the rental car's issue, but more of it I blame on myself. The tires on it are quite soft, and with those Pirellis being at such high rate a speed which obviously the average person isn't going to do, it literally took the middle right out of the tire."
"Did you run into any cops?" I asked.
"I ran into several officers in different areas, you know, most of them weren't running radar," "I may have missed some along the way, the only real issue I had was I was paced, one time, in between Missouri and Tulsa [Oklahoma]."
"The obvious question here is that you had to stay awake for a bit over 26 hours, what did you use to stay awake?" I asked.
"Nothing, one of the reasons people reference me as a bat shit crazy person is because I use nothing, I'm a drugafobe." "I have a high pain tolerance, I run on adrenaline, and I have a long attention span." "So, the 26 hours is not an unusual amount of time for me to be up."
"Lastly, most people would wait a year before coming out with something like this, why do it now?"
"Realistically, I don't live in any of the states where that would affect me, even if something were to happen." "Arnie and Doug [previous Cannonball record holders] didn't wait a year when they released the 27:25, it was actually about a month." "And realistically I don't really think people care all that much about it with all of the other stuff going on in the world, it was one of those things where I believe it is best to give out this information when it is semi-fresh, because there's always that person who comes on and says 'Oh back in 1970 I had a [Mustang] Mach 1, and I drove from Quantico Bay to wherever faster than you."
"You know, is this considered crazy to a certain extent, yes I'm sure it is, and I'm sure there are people shaking their heads," "but realistically, I didn't hurt anybody, nobody was ever in danger."
What did we learn from all this?
Despite my previous reservations on this matter Fred made some really good points, especially when it came to the fuel system he installed. However, this doesn't meant that I entirely agree with him, this is still unbelievably irresponsible, and the only reason that Fred managed to pull this off is because of extensive experience.
Put simply, your average Joe can't just rent a Mustang, pay $1,200 and set a record, that's just plain stupid. Fred possess a unique skill-set, one which makes him at least somewhat qualified to do a run such as this one, and still, there was plenty of risk, and plenty of ways in which this could have gone badly.