A guitar begins to twang as a gleaming, low-slung black Lamborghini screams down the desert highway, V12 howling in protest as the two lycra jump-suited beauties try to outrun the cops. Monstrous amounts of hairspray ensure their bouffant hairdos remain rigid in the heat of the chase. A thousand boyhood fantasies are born.
Every car enthusiast of a certain age will be familiar with the opening scenes of the original Cannonball Run film, released 30 years ago. Times have changed and cars have moved on, so what would JJ and the priests drive nowadays?
It would be easy to jump to an obvious answer: you want to drive 3,000 miles as quickly as possible? Ferrari 458 Italia it is then.
There are deeper considerations though. In 2006, Audi introduced a diesel Le Mans car, the R10 TDi. Their logical thinking was that the less stops for fuel you need to make, the more distance you can cover. The strategy worked, and Audi won.In fact, every Le Mans winner since that pioneering innovation has been diesel powered.
Conclusion one: It needs to be diesel. Painful as it may be, that rules out your Italian exotica, as well as the slightly less glamorous yet still extremely quick M5s and Mercedes AMGs.
If I was charging from sea to shining sea taking in all those great sites along the way, I would want some companionship, so my chariot needs to be spacious. In all probability not a coupe then, as my heavily-hair sprayed lycra-clad friends would need easy access to the rear seats. It would also be prudent to carry a few spares so a decent sized boot is a must.
Conclusion two:it must have five doors. Goodbye 6-series and Continental GT.
Now it may not be the most macho thing to admit, but map reading can be a bit of a headache. Luckily, we now have satellite navigation that removes the need to plan routes we merely react to what the nice polite lady in the dashboard is telling us to do. The added benefit of the most modern systems is traffic avoidance, a key point when charging towards the Pacific coast. I would also of course expect air conditioning, an iPod interface, cruise control and automatic headlights and wipers.
Conclusion three: it needs to have a good level of kit.
The past three decades have seen many changes on the roads, not least the introduction of speed cameras and a less laissez faire attitude by those who enforce the rules. More important even than fuel economy, space or equipment, the modern Cannonballers car of choice should be under the radar. Attention seeking Maseratis Quattroportes and Porsche Panameras are no good. The revenue-raising authorities on motorway bridges would go out of their way to snag a speeding Aston Rapide. It should blend in with the crowd; go unnoticed in the ebb and flow of the daily commuter grind. Colour is important too loud and vibrant is bad. Dull is good.
Conclusion four: it cannot stick out, and should be silver.
The heavily trafficked roads of today mean that you need consideration from other road users if you are trying to get somewhere quickly. It is no good to sit in a V8 BMW M3 if nobody lets you out of side turnings. The car should be an everyman car, devoid of attracting the wrong kind of feelings from your fellow drivers.
Conclusion five: it must be completely classless.
So, what have we got? A spacious, diesel, well-equipped, common car. Although it might not sell as many seats in the cinema as Sammy Davis Jr in a Ferrari or Roger Moore in an Aston Martin DB5, I propose that the winner of the modern Cannonball Run would be… a silver Ford Focus TDi.