"Gumball!" That's all bored businessman Michael Bannon (Michael Sarrazin) has to say to his friend and rival of 20 years, Steve Smith (Tim McIntire,) to set the wheels in motion. Calls and telegrams go out to selected drivers in various states and abroad, and the race is on.
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The Gumball Rally is an unofficial, illegal, 2900 mile road race from New York City to Long Beach, California. It recurs at the whim of its organizers, Smith and Bannon. There are no rules and no publicity. The winner nets only exhileration and a gumball machine.
One participant (of sorts) is the uninvited Police Lieutenant Roscoe (Normann Burton,) whose past failures to thwart the race have only made him more crazed to succeed.
On race day, cars and crews secretly converge to fine tune, draw for starting positions, and rev up. There are Bannon's Cobra and Smith's Ferrari; a Camaro manned by a pro stunt driver (John Durren) and his redneck mechanic (Gary Busey); a Mercedes driven by two elderly gentlemen (J. Pat O'Malley, Vaughn Taylor); a Porche crewed by two adventurous women (Susan Flannery, Joanne Nail); the Kawasaki motorcycle of "the mad Hungarian" (Harvey Jason); a Dodge; a Jaguar; a van; a Corvette; and a late entry Rolls Royce whose owner naively thinks it is being delivered gently to California.
The "no rules" rule leads to some clever strategies, most of which backfire. The Dodge team (Steve Keats, Wally Taylor) disguise their car as a police vehicle - which works like a charm until they are called to real emergencies. The van loads up with 200 gallons of fuel to avoid pitstops - not anticipating a fireworks factory. Smith's ploy is to team with a flamboyant Italian Grand Prix winner named Franco (Raul Julia) - not factoring in Franco's tendency to brake for beautiful women.
As the race begins, Roscoe springs into action from his stakeout car. But thanks to Bannon's deft sabotage, Roscoe's hot pursuit must wait as he struggles with his dead radio and loosened wheels, and the racers drive past (and into, and over) his cruiser to speed through the quiet streets of early morning New York, bound for California.
One vehicle stalls. One catches fire. One snaps in half. Those who persist must tackle (among other things) a helecopter pursuit, a wild motorcycle gang, a double-crossing con artist, and legions of cops.
The review of this Movie prepared by vjm