Episode 35 – Transcontinental Tales – The Steve Brown Interview

Here at Throwin’ Wrenches Podcast, we love all things automotive.  But when the phrase Cannonball Run is uttered, our ears perk up!

Whether its the classic 1981 Hal Needham film featuring Burt Reynolds and the hilarious cast of characters to the real-life unsanctioned Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. There’s something appealing about hopping into a purpose-built car or truck and blazing across the entire United States in just over a day’s time. It takes real guts to put it all on the line just to prove that you (and your well-oiled machine) can endure a non-stop run across the United States.  

Erwin “Cannonball” Baker

What started out as a cross-country driving stunt by thrill-seeker Erwin “Cannonball” Baker in 1915 later evolved into the “Cannonball Run Challenge” in 1971 thanks to the pioneering racer and journalist Brock Yates and fellow racer Dan Gurney. The traditional, roughly 2,800-mile route began at the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan, New York and finished at the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach, California.

That famous 1971 run in a Ferrari Daytona Coupe took 35 hours and 54 minutes. 

In the years that followed, several other participants took their turns trying to break the Yates / Gurney record in various automobile configurations. There were such trios as Steve “Yogi” Behr, Bill Canfield, and Fred Olds’s 1972 run in a Cadillac Coupe DeVille to Gas Monkey Garage’s Richard Rawlings and Dennis Collins’ run in a 1999 Ferrari 550 Maranello.

Other cross-country rallies such as The 2904 would later emerge along with other transcontinental routes, including one from Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California. The spirit of adventure continues to this day.

Occasionally we’ll read about such legends as current record-holder Fred Ashmore’s blistering fast record-setting solo run from New York to California in a Ford Mustang GT plucked from the Avis rental car fleet, or the trio who disguised a Mercedes E63 AMG to rip across the continent in 27 hours, 25 minutes.  But most of the time, these folks remain in the shadows until it’s safe to emerge.

That’s where our guest comes in.

Meet Steve Brown

Solo Transcontinental World Record Holder

Jacksonville, Florida to San Diego, California in 27 hours, 13 Minutes

March 21-22, 2020

Eric met up with Steve at the season opener of Central Illinois Cars and Coffee on the hottest July 4th we’ve had in Central Illinois in quite a while. The heat didn’t keep them from talking shop, and we’re grateful Steve was willing to join Eric and Daryl for an interview! 

Episode Highlights

In this episode, we talk with Steve Brown and his Coast-to-Coast solo record. We also learn more about how he pulled this off during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what it meant to him personally. Steve also talks about the camaraderie of the community he’s now part of. Several fellow record-holders offered advice and even helped verify Steve’s recent run. How cool is that? 

The Vehicle

2014 GMC Sierra Z60 Crew Cab (2WD)

5.3 LS V-8 with Active Fuel Management delete Air bag suspension for the rear springs
Full service and prep by Steve’s Automotive Uniden 885 hybrid CB radio and police scanner
Custom 200-gallon fuel tank by Bessler Welding Garmin GPS
Holley Red electric fuel transfer pump iPad

The Route

The Run

In our interview, Steve describes what it was like to depart from Jacksonville on the evening of March 21, 2020. From the last-minute mishaps to the adrenaline-fueled trek across the west… we get a first-hand account of this journey.

We learned so much from Steve during our conversation. These types of trips are so much more than just carrying out a wild idea. They take several months of methodical planning and careful consideration to pull off. Even with all of that planning, there are so many variables that can wreak havoc on the final outcome. You won’t want to miss a minute of Steve’s interview. (And there are some pretty interesting details in our bonus pre-show conversation. To hear this, hit us up on Patreon with a few bucks and enjoy even more of this episode.)

Check out Steve’s full time-lapse video of his Transcontinental Run on YouTube.

Special Thanks

We’d like to thank Steve Brown for sharing his story with us, and if you’re in the central Illinois area, be sure to watch for his truck at a local show near you!

Cars of the WEAK


2003 Scion TC 

This week’s pick is a car Eric actually bought!  Will this turbocharged, stripped-down racer with relocated HVAC controls, carbon fiber hood, custom rims, racing seats and a stage one weight reduction become the next autocross star? And what will become of the fabled Red Mist?

You’ll have to follow along as new details emerge.


2000 Jaguar XK8 Coupe $6,900 

Source: Craigslist Chicago

Who could resist a silver British grand tourer with a 32-valve V8 and luxurious leather seats? I’ve liked these since they were new and I saw a limited-production Silverstone coupe at the Chicago Auto Show in high school. I think these 1997-2006 XK coupes and convertibles are future classics. This example is a 124k-mile California car that presents itself quite well for the price. Just be prepared for some maintenance on the transmissions or electrical.


1976 Mercury Montego MX Villager Wagon – $8,500

Source: Facebook Group “Obscure Cars for Sale”

We have to admit, Steve is possibly the first guest who fully embraced the Cars of the Weak segment. He chose this beautiful ’76 Montego Villager wagon with a super-sized 460 V-8, ice cold AC and lots of restoration already done. Finished in cream with a burgundy/brown vinyl interior, this family truckster is ready to run across the United States… as long as you have a giant aftermarket fuel tank and a Shell credit card.

Thanks for listening!

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