There are three kinds of drivers who enter goldRush Rally, the coast-to-coast motorcade of lavishly decalled supercars now in its eighth running. The roster includes 1) luxury-lifestyle enthusiasts, often draped in various precious metals, 2) dedicated gearheads, and 3) naturally, psyched bros.
Jeff Allen, the epically goateed host of CNBC’s The Car Chasers, good-naturedly occupies all three categories of goldRusher to one degree or another, but is overwhelmingly a gearhead — a car guy to the bone. He and his partner, Meg Bailey, had a car powered by Pennzoil and Shell V-Power in the rally. They gave us a tour on the opening day in Boston last Saturday, before the crew headed to Washington, D.C., Charlotte, and Nashville, followed by a hop out west for the Denver-to-L.A. half. We checked out the teams, rated the rides, and gawked at the gawkers who gathered in the city’s Government Center plaza to absorb the spectacle of 70 exotic sports cars roaring their way out of town.
“GoldRush is a fashion show on wheels,” Allen joked as three women in barely there skirts strolled by. “The parties and the driving are great, but the showmanship here, in terms of both the cars and the people, is absolutely insane.”
Some participants roll in themed cars with matching costumes. The Star Wars: The Porsche Awakens couple, for instance, are killing it this year with their black and white Team Dark Side 911. “We love Star Wars, love dressing up and meeting fans, and love riding with these guys,” said Chad Phelps, a digital media entrepreneur from Colorado who, together with his wife Robin, are rocking matching Stormtrooper ensembles. “These guys are great drivers who really care about cars and want to have a great time.”
Across the plaza, the Talladega Nights–themed Lamborghini Huracan duo brought pitch-perfect wit to the affair. “When we were choosing our theme, we realized we don’t want to take ourselves too seriously,” said Jordan Martin, playing Will Ferrell’s famous character, Ricky Bobby. “We’re both a little goofier than that. Talladega Nights is a great fit because it’s hilarious and so quotable.” He’s running goldRush with pal Arne Toman, as Cal Naughton Jr. (played by John C. Reilly). They’re driving a twin-turbo 1,000 HP Lamborghini Huracan with a sleek blue cargo box on the roof, filled with T-shirts to hand out to fans.
The Rally is a feast for the ears as well as the eyes. Allen noted the arrival of the slammed, zebra-striped Ferrari 458 GT widebody fronted by Daily Driven Exotics, which emitted a fierce exhaust note that the driver blipped repeatedly and angrily, to the crowd’s delight. “That car looks incredible and sounds awesome, but I personally wouldn’t ride quite so low for a rally,” he mused. “It’ll be pretty beaten up by the time we reach L.A.” (He was ultimately proven right — the Ferrari got a flat on the first day.)
After our tour, it was time to inspect Allen’s own ride. He and Meg, owners of the Dallas-based automotive wheeling/dealing Flat 12 Gallery, brought a well-tuned 950 HP Nissan GTR, nicknamed “Pennzilla” in honor of Pennzoil. (The Japanese supercar’s traditional nickname is Godzilla. Ergo, Pennzilla. Its gorgeous, artistic wrap — honestly the best of the bunch — includes a Tokyo skyline and hints of Godzilla’s tail.) Allen gave the car some flared carbon-fiber fenders, an APR Performance carbon wing, an Alpha9 tuning package that doubled the horsepower, and red bespoke wheels, among other things.
Even though the car is deeply performance-tuned, for rallies like this Allen and Bailey err on the side of endurance rather than track-readiness. They chose the car in part because it’s more comfortable than certain high-end sports cars would be after a week of cross-country driving, and they gave it a higher ride, rather than a low-slung track or show stance, in order to deal with potholes, speed bumps, and the like. The conversation, of course, quickly came back around to engine octanes and oil performance on long-range trips, especially in cars that have been enhanced. This, Allen said, is the reason he chose to collaborate with Pennzoil. “Oil is like underwear,” he joked as we looked over Pennzilla. “Everyone has their preference. Sure, I’ve got an affinity for Pennzoil from watching Rick Mears in his Yellow Submarine when I was young, but I’ve stuck with them because they’ve stayed up with the times in a way that other oil manufacturers haven’t.”
This is especially important once you begin modifying your machine — as was the case with virtually all the hardware around us. “If you start competitive body-building, for instance, you’re going to change your diet just at the same time [as] you start working out,” said Allen, who has two new TV shows in development, along with a new performance-tuning company called Speed Asylum. “With cars, if you change the configuration, you’re changing the parameters that the car operates under. So you wouldn’t want to use any brand-X oil that’s not proven. You’re stressing out the car. If we were to switch oils on this car, we’d notice it when we break the engine down at the end of the season. There will be wear marks and other characteristics that we wouldn’t get with better oils.”
This would indeed be a punishing week for Pennzilla — and everyone else. A few minutes after our talk, the rally began with the combined 42,000 horsepower of the starting field lighting up in unison, seemingly on the verge of shattering the windows of the staid office buildings around us. They left the plaza under a huge banner, with a police escort clearing the way to the highway and fans lining the sidewalks for blocks. Engines growled and revved to the limit, and, once on the highway, opened wide. Packs formed on the way through Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, and the police that so graciously escorted the Rally out of Boston kept watchful eyes on it all along the route. At the end of the day, there were a few tickets — nothing major, and just as many selfies taken with cops and the drivers — a few flat tires, one lost spoiler, and lots of wildly entertained car nuts either surprised by the surging supercars, or eagerly awaiting them by the side of the road.
This motley crew of cars and characters — call it a cross between a wrestling tournament, a 4th of July parade, and a somewhat racy pajama party — is great fun for anyone who doesn’t take it too seriously, and perhaps the most democratic of automotive extravaganzas. After all, its roster of pricey super-hyper-ultra-cars are routinely displayed to enthusiastic fans, sans velvet ropes and other mechanisms typically used to keep them at bay. The drivers here see their rides less as precious flowers than as tools of fun and adventure, meant to be shared. “It’s exciting,” Meg said after the Rally arrived to a huge crowd in Washington, D.C.
At the first-night party in a parking garage outside of D.C., capping off a long day of hauling ass from the starting line in Boston, fans gathered with their own tightly wound tuners to party to thumping house music and take up-close selfies with the red and black Bugatti of Hezy Shaked (founder of action-sports clothing line Tilly’s), ogle the glorious Pennzilla, and chat up the drivers, especially Allen, about cars. Rides were given, T-shirts were flung, and bro-shakes were dispensed across all socioeconomic boundaries.
The next morning, everyone fired up the machines again and rocketed off to the next stop in North Carolina, eager to keep the party moving.
Learn more about how Pennzoil powers Pennzilla here.
Photos by Eric Teti.