There's been a lot of talk on Jalopnik during the past few months about setting the cross-country record. You know, driving a vehicle from New York City to Los Angeles in the least amount of time possible. It sounds like the greatest record you could possibly set in the world, until you realize that someone set a record for balancing a car on his head and that Guinness doesn’t publish cross-country records.
Author’s Note: Before you (and law enforcement personnel) read any further, I DON’T speak from experience on this. I may have written this though. Nor do I condone any attempts to set the record. The point of this piece is discouragement, especially to think about the consequences if you don’t break the record.
What isn’t discussed, however, are the people who don’t succeed and what occurs when they decide to give up their cross-country run vehicles for good. I ended up contemplating such a situation since such a car would be practically unsellable. Though before I discuss that, let’s first focus on what got you to the point of abandoning future attempts to set the cross-country record.
It was initially great. Finally, you had the funds (or more likely, the right credit score and perfect pay stubs) to get the perfect cross-country record car! You looked at cars from the E320 Bluetec to an E39 M5 until the point where you saw an F430 coupe and thought “Maybe I could mount an external fuel tank on the roof and get some diplomatic plates...”
A while later, after answering salespeople’s probing inquiries with “I’m planning on setting the cross-country record” which promptly led to a look of bemusement, you bought the right car. It was a sedan, had a large trunk to accommodate fuel cells, and had a dashboard which you could easily run wires through and integrate radio equipment in. The engine easily made over 500 horsepower, three people could fit inside,
The car was sent to a customization shop. You had them weld in a fuel cell and put a better intercooler in. Not to mention the anti-LIDAR paint, the radar detectors and jammers, the radios, and the numerous antennas that had to be embedded in the dashboard and the center console. All of this had a five-figure price tag. Never in your life would you think you’d put so much money into your car.
Then you started planning. You hired a GPS company to track your car so you could stick to the outlined route, important when you’re making decisions on a public road at 120 mph. Google Earth is used to find all the gas stations and the possible roads. The Weather Channel is watched like never before. Waze and Trapster become your best friends, never mind all the data they record. You pray that there’s no road construction at night on your route.
During the planning stage, you somehow managed to find people insane enough to put their life in your hands at triple-digit speeds. Everyone who was your “first-choice” dropped out because they couldn’t get vacation time or saw how many cones you knocked down on the autocross course, at which point they came up with excuses like “I have to get Regina Spektor concert tickets that weekend.” When all your friends dropped out, you resorted to random Facebook messages and tweets like “@thesmokingtire @matthardigree Want to do a cross-country record attempt with me? E-mail me at iwannabeatedbolian AT gmail.com.”
Within three months, you’ve attempted about three or four runs across the country. But you’ve been unable to break the record, so you’ve developed no emotional attachment to the car. Meanwhile, the payments are becoming more and more unbearable, and there’s no forthcoming book deal because you didn’t come under 28 hours and 50 minutes, so you decide to sell the car.
There’s a perfect customer for the car you’re selling. It’s for someone just as crazy as you who wants to set the cross-country record, but doesn’t want to go through the money, time, and effort needed to prep the car for the run when one is available and ready to go. What you find out is such buyers are few and far between, and the ones who would be interested don’t have the cash to buy it in a heartbeat.
Believe it or not, at first, there is a right way to go about getting rid of the car. You can create a thread on cross-country record forums (if such things actually exist, I’ve never checked) or on model-specific forums, where you can list a good amount of the modifications. Unfortunately, many of the members are made up of middle-aged men who are beyond setting a cross-country record, or teenage fanboys. And all of them want that welded-in fuel cell gone.
Also, the car is unfortunately wanted in at least five states for speeding, tailgating, road rage, obstruction of the windshield, passing on the median, and so on. So you can’t just sell the car to anyone, especially since it may be difficult to simply drive it on the road. Some people may know that. But any highway patrolman or state trooper who comes across the car will throw the book at whoever’s driving.
Dealers won’t take the car on trade-in, and if they do, they’ll send it directly to auction. (“Sir, you can directly swap this for an A4 and maintain the same payments. That’s the best I can do.”) This is because the interior smells like “guy” despite having less than 10,000 miles on the odometer. There might be more than a few holes in the dashboard due to integrating all that equipment. You also welded in a fuel cell.
And you can’t simply advertise the car on Autotrader or Craigslist like normal people do. The Autotrader listing will get interested people, but they’ll have more than a few questions about the holes in the dashboard or why you didn’t upload any photos of the trunk. The Craigslist listing will get perpetual lowballers, e-mails detailing despair asking for my willingness to set up a payment plan, or penis enlargement ads.
Subsequently, after a month of dealing with all the inquiries, you seriously begin to consider consignment shops. (“Brother, I can sell this car in two months. No problem.”) However, leaving the car with them ends up with some new records being set. Things such as highest commission ever given to a car salesperson or most number of times “test-driven” without being bought. And one night you’ll be surprised to see your car parked in front of a club with perpetually long lines.
Eventually, you come to the realization that there is a very specific perfect customer for the car, one you never thought you’d have to consider, and he (or she) will have the money. And that person is: the drug trafficker.
Yes, it has come to this. You’re actually doing business with a drug cartel member. ("You got a f***in' legit ride here, holmes.") You've been forced to advertise how the modifications you put on the car can help them make a cocaine delivery from Miami to Chicago. The car is perfect for it. The necessary radios to check police movement have been installed. The extra fuel cells minimize fuel stops. The fact the car can still seat at least three people means plenty of room for product. And since the vehicle can do triple-digit speeds with ease, it’s perfect for running away from DEA agents on the highway.
But the consequences are high. Your cell phone is probably tapped by now. You might be questioned by the DEA. There will be a suitcase full of cash somewhere in the house which you can’t deposit at any bank. (It was either that or an HSBC wire transfer, and those funds would’ve clearly be flagged.)
All things considered, even thinking of setting a cross-country record is a seriously terrible idea. You’ll burn through more cash than you ever thought possible, law enforcement may come after you, and meet the shadiest people in the world. Not to mention, it’s a very difficult record to beat at this point.
Let's face it. We all (even including me) are still going to try anyway. Even if I have to watch The Weather Channel for 24 hours straight.
Satish Kondapavulur runs Clunkerture, named because "Clunker.com" was $82 at auction and would've taken 30% out of the balance of his Eagle Vision for LeMons fund. In between contemplating cross-country runs, he spends much of his time attempting to convince others that his MkV Jetta 2.0T Wolfsburg is indeed a sports sedan.
Photo courtesy Car and Driver.