Text and Photography by Jon Mikelonis

January 21, 2002 , San Francisco, CA - From April 17th through April 22nd 2003 the Gumball 3000, a cross-country road race, will take part across the USA. A field of over 200 high performance cars will converge on San Francisco to begin the event that ends in Miami six days later. The race is made up of 5 legs. Rather than an all-out race across the country the event uses segments to stimulate camaraderie between drivers. Don't get us wrong this is a very serious event with cars and drivers being shipped from all over the world. In fact, about 85% of the cars and drivers participating are of European origin. Ferrari's and Porsche will make up a vast majority of the cars with a smattering of Aston Martins, BMW's, and Lamborghini's. This leaves about 5% of the field to American cars of which most will be Corvettes. These statistics are only estimates based on last year's participants since the starting grid has not been formally announced.

The race was first launched on European soil by Maximillion Cooper in 1999 and was inspired by the liberating and infamous 70's American movie classics "Gumball Rally" and "Cannonball Run".

Southern Boy Realizes a Dream
Last year a dream was realized when the event was to be run in the United States for the first time. Kevin Mikelonis, a huge fan of the movie "Gumball Rally" and an even bigger fan of the Ford Gran Torino decided to make some mods to a nearly stock '72 Gran Torino Sport. See photos at right. Once Kevin made contact with Maximillion Cooper and gave him his story, the founder of the event was happy to welcome Kevin and his under appreciated piece of Ford muscle into the event.

The 2002 Gumball 3000 was run from Rockefeller Plaza in New York City to Los Angeles with stops is Nashville, Dallas, Albequerque, and Las Vegas. Kevin faired well with his best performance between Houston and Santa Fe, finishing 14th in the 150 car field.

This year, with the modifications shown to the right, Kevin along with copilot Tommi Kukkonen plan to be serious contenders in a race among some of the most exotic sports cars in the world.

FordMuscle™ will be there for the start of the race in San Francisco on April 17th to record all the pre-race action with a special focus on Kevin's Gran Torino and other Ford participants. F/M

Onboard GPS and Video: Navigation is a key for success in the Gumball 3000. Kevin's navigator (Tommi Kukkonen of Finland) will keep tabs on best routes through the onboard GPS navigational software "Co-Pilot". Served through a laptop. Pictured to the right of the laptop is a monitor that will display live video of all the "up ahead" action seen through a camera fitted just behind the cowl.

351C 4V: For once, Horsepower takes precedence over Torque on the street. Known for huge intake and exhaust ports, high speed cruising is a great place for a heavy breathing four-barrel Cleveland motor.

Automatic Overdrive: A three 3-speed C6 won't make the cut in an endurance race that requires minimal fuel stops. To keep the RPM's down while cruising an AOD coupled to a 2.75 rear gear was installed.

Fuel Cell: Even fewer pits for fuel with an additional 22 gallons on board.

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