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The C2C Express is a Cannonball Run style event for pre 1979 vehicles with a purchase price of <$3000.  It runs the classic 2800 mile Cannonball route from the Red Ball Garage in Manhattan to the Portofino Inn in Redondo Beach California. Like the real Cannonball, your time starts when you punch the time clock at the Redball and doesn’t stop until you get to the Portofino.

2016 would be my first year running the C2C Express and would be my second Transcontinental Cannonball Run. I immediately knew what car I needed to bring – my Bluesmobile.  What could be more “Arne’s Antics” than that!?!?

Blues Brothers Bluesmobile

My Bluesmobile at the Joliet Prison

Where To Begin?

While I had already updated the suspension on the car a few years back with a full kit from Firm Feel Inc, the drivetrain was in dire need of an upgrade.  Both the engine and transmission were severely leaking oil and had an unknown amount of miles on them. Knowing the cost of rebuilding the factory 360ci Mopar V-8 was going to be 10x the price of a fuel injected junkyard 5.3L Chevy LS engine, it made my choice simple. Unfortunately time was not on my side, so I turned to my good friend Matt Happel from Sloppy Mechanics for a little favor.

Matt Happel of Sloppy Mechanics working his magic on the Arne's Antics Bluesmobile

Matt Happel of Sloppy Mechanics working his magic

Matt located a 5.3L engine out of a Chevy Silverado at his local Pennsylvania junk yard for a mere $400.  I already had a spare used 4L80 I had picked up for $150, so it was the perfect solution.  Matt blasted out what has to be the fastest LS engine swap known to man – just 39 hours including the tune. Quick and dirty, Blues Brothers style!

Stock LS swapped Arne's Antics Bluesmobile on the Sloppy Dyno making a whopping 228whp

Stock LS swapped Bluesmobile on the Sloppy Dyno making a whopping 228whp

Cannonball – An Endurance Race

Doing a 3000 mile drive like this sounds simple enough but the abuse the car takes is more like 30,000 miles worth.  The constant wide open throttle, fast turns and aggressive driving really take a toll on the vehicle. While I didn’t have to worry about damaging the finish of the Bluesmobile, I needed the car to be safe and sound. When I got the car back, my team began prepping the car to be reliable as possible.  I also decided after driving it, I needed a little more horsepower. The stock engine was only making 228whp and that wasn’t going to cut it.

The First Place To Start For Reliability – Engine Mods??

Clearly the way to make things more reliable is too start by modifying the engine *sarcasm*. So out came the engine for a $100 Z06 Corvette camshaft and some mild porting of the cylinder heads. We replaced the exhaust manifolds with some cast Hooker units and made a new transmission cross-member while we were in there too.

Arne's Antics LS swapped Bluesmobile for the C2C Express Cannonball Run

Out comes the engine again

Arne's Antics Cannonball Bluesmobile LS swap

5.3L reinstalled with Z06 cam and hand ported heads and a custom intake built from the scrap bin

The new combo would produce a still-not-so-staggering 280whp on the Dynojet chassis dynomometer. I figured this was good enough and well within the spirit of the event because a 440ci powered Monaco surely made more horsepower than that.

OK, NOW We Will Focus On Reliability

After the engine was reinstalled and tuned, we turned to going over the whole car to make it worthy of such a long and strenuous trip. The brakes were all replaced with new hardware, new wheels and tires installed and a full LED lighting upgrade were performed among other things.

Arne's Antics LS swapped Bluesmobile for the C2C Express Cannonball Run

18″ Police Charger wheels and tires installed

Arne's Antics LS swapped Bluesmobile for the C2C Express Cannonball Run

Charlie works on the LED lighting upgrades

More Fuel Needed – Because Cannonball

The Cannonball requires more fuel to extend the range of the car and minimize time stopped refueling. On my P-71 Blackturd I had a total of 74 gallons on board which ended being a little much. I decided to go for a total of 55 gallons for the Bluesmobile meaning I needed a custom 35 gallon cell for the trunk. The tank was designed in CAD, cut out with a laser jet and welded up by Blane. Lance outfitted the new tank with 2 stock Nissan GT-R fuel pumps and built a custom panel with fuel gauge and switches.

Cannonball Bluesmobile fuel cell Arne's Antics

Blane welds up the custom built 35 gallon fuel cell

Cannonball Bluesmobile fuel cell Arne's Antics

Finally found a use for some stock GT-R fuel pumps

Arne's Antics LS swapped Bluesmobile for the C2C Express Cannonball Run

Lance and Blane putting the final touches on the auxiliary fuel system

Cannonball Bluesmobile fuel cell Arne's Antics

Custom “rust” patina on the all aluminum fuel cell makes it look right at home

Arne's Antics Cannonball Bluesmobile

Fuel gauge for the fuel cell along with brake and tail light kill switches

Mad Aero Mods

Knowing the aerodynamics of a 1974 Dodge Monaco were less than desirable, I requested a front and rear splitter to reduce drag. Blane whipped up a Mad-Max looking sheetmetal front air dam for the job.

Arne's Antics Cannonball Bluesmobile

Front Air Dam installation

Stock Bench Seat No More

The vinyl stock bench seat was not going cut it on a cross-country trip. A quick call to P&L Motorsports landed me some used STI seats. Some left over GM seat belts and a Jeep center console were added to top things off.

Arne's Antics Cannonball Bluesmobile

Subaru seats, GM seat belts and a Jeep center console – standard equipment

Police Countermeasures

Unlike The 2904, the budget resterictions for the C2C Express are pretty loose, so I went a little crazy stocking up on the Police countermeasures for the car:

AL Priority 5 head laser jammer system

Passport Max 360 radar detector

Valentine One radar detector

Zaon plane crash avoidance detector (to spot Police air patrol)

Uniden 536HP Police scanner w/ GPS

Cobra 29 Classic CB radio

2 Garmin GPS units

Canon binoculars

As most things go in my life, it became a last minute scramble to get the car ready so I enlisted some outside help to meet the quickly approaching deadline. Ray’s Electronics handled much of the electronics installation covering the laser jammer, police scanner, radar detector wiring.

Arne's Antics Cannonball Bluesmobile at Ray's Electronics

At Ray’s Electronics for installation of the Police countermeasures

Arne's Antics LS swapped Bluesmobile for the C2C Express Cannonball Run

Bluesmobile or NASA Mission Control?

Panic Sets In

As the event drew near I was in an all out panic. The brakes were all new but would quickly overheat so we needed brake cooling. We knew we had a lot of weight to slow down and had to maximize the brakes. Jake and Miles hammered out a ghetto-fabulous solution that seemed fitting for a Bluesmobile.

Arne's Antics Cannonball Bluesmobile brake cooling

Jake hammers out (literally) some quick brake cooling ducts

Arne's Antics Cannonball Bluesmobile brake cooling

Race car stuff right here

Arne's Antics LS swapped Bluesmobile for the C2C Express Cannonball Run

Air inlets and an LED light bar to finish things off

RCN Motors Saves The Day

With just 2 days before the event things were looking good until I went out for some high speed test runs late at night. I realized the stock highway gear was far too long and was hurting acceleration. I also found out my torque converter was on its way out and took the transmission with it. My good friend RT at RCN Motors saved the day with a last minute 3.55 gear change and a transmission swap with another 4L80 I had laying around.

Arne's Antics Cannonball Bluesmobile

RT at RCN Motors saves the day at the 11th hour

To top things off I added a “We’re on a mission from God” sticker in the back window to hopefully make people laugh as we passed at high speed rather than call the Police!

Arne's Antics LS swapped Bluesmobile for the C2C Express Cannonball Run

You can’t pull us over, we’re on a mission from God!

The Story Is Just Beginning

Stay tuned for the rest of the story of how I drive the Bluesmobile across the country on the Cannonball Run. You are NEVER going to believe who my co-driver is!

Follow all of my automotive adventures:

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Instagram: @arnesantics

Arne's Antics LS swapped Bluesmobile for the C2C Express Cannonball Run

Ready to embark on an epic journey across the country and looking like a Pro-Touring Bluesmobile


Continue to Part 2