Cannonball Run Changed My Life

August 9, 2021

by Chris Bright

Take a minute to re-watch the opening of Cannonball Run. Totally worth it!

If I close my eyes, I can visualize that Lamborghini Countach ripping down a Nevada highway. Truth be told, I fire it up on Youtube more often than I care to admit, and I'll bet I'm not the only one. The opening credits of 1981's Cannonball Run  changed my life: It’s the reason I’m a “car guy.”

Unlike many, I wasn’t born into the car hobby. I didn’t have a parent that worked on our run-of-the-mill family cars. I always had an interest in them, however, as evidenced by my pile of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars, and the devoutness with which I watched races on ABC’s Wide World of Sports

For a kid in rural Central Pennsylvania, I didn't even know about exotic cars or V-12 engines until that black Lambo howled onto the screen. It was impossible to imagine a car that looked remotely like that wedge-shaped, dual-winged Countach -- that I earnestly mispronounced “kown tock.” 

Honestly it wasn’t the looks that thrilled me, it was the sound. That is still one of the most intoxicating engine notes I know of -- a raucous yet silky symphony played on 12 cylinders. All credit to stuntman-turned-director Hal Needham for featuring the engine sound so prominently -- in spite of the insipid Ray Stevens title song.

With that scene, the fuse was now lit. I started thumbing through Road & Track, Car & Driver, and AutoWeek at the newsstand. Naturally, I got the poster at Spencer’s Gifts at the mall. 

Then fortune favored me: I learned about a car show in Lancaster, the nearest city to me. The ad in the local paper said that there was going to be a Countach. (By now, I had mastered the proper pronunciation.) I headed off to the Dutch Wonderland amusement park where the show was happening. Man, was I amped up! 

For me, it was like getting to meet a celebrity or sports idol. As is the case with people, my expectations were unrealistically high. Frankly, I was a little underwhelmed when I laid my eyes on it. Mind you, it was a fabulous looking car, but it was smaller than I imagined and it looked cooler on the poster. 

But all was not lost as right next to the Countach was its predecessor the Miura. Oooh, la la! Va-va-vroom!!! A masterpiece of glorious low-slung curves that squatted shockingly low to the ground. I must’ve stared at it for 15 solid minutes. 

There were many other cars from Porsches to Triumphs and all manner of souped up American Muscle. However, like a baby bird, I had imprinted on Italian exotics, and they are still what moves me the most although I appreciate them all. 

We all have our path into the collector car hobby, now you know mine. Just like “baby boomers” and Gen X, I’m guessing there is a whole generation of us “Cannonballers.” I proudly count myself among them!

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