Gumball 3000 is an annual supercar rally that brings together a high profile crew of billionaires, rap artists, bored aristocrats and reality TV stars. For an entrance fee of £30,000 the contestants have the privilege of driving their ferociously expensive and completely unreliable vehicles across 3000 miles of Europe and America fueled by speeding tickets and champagne parties. Since its inception in 1999 by the entrepreneur Maximillion Cooper, Gumball 3000 has morphed itself into an ‘aspirational lifestyle brand’ spawning a series of DVD films such as Gumball 3000: The Movie (2003), 3000 Miles (2007) and Number 13 (2011).
The task of driving thousands of miles in 6-8 days renders any such journey quantitative rather than qualitative. The experience of travel becomes purely a question of mileage, speed and fuel consumption. Little attention can be paid to location because the need is always to be further on. It is this emphasis on dromos, rather than topos – the former aggressively consuming the latter – that lies at the heart of the Gumball 3000 venture in terms of both its status as a capitalist enterprise and its on-screen (self) representation.
Each of the Gumball films wrestle with the representational monotony of such a high speed journey. The result is a series of almost indistinguishable projects that are more showroom catalogues than road travelogues. One strategy of invigoration adopted by the film-makers and the Gumball brand is the copious, self-conscious use of references to classic road movies. The Gumball Rally (1976) and The Cannonball Run (1981) are clear citations, but the brand also regularly invokes Vanishing Point (1971), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971) and Bullitt (1968).
This article considers the representational stakes at play in the re-performance of these cult films. Specifically, the discussion will consider the dissonance generated when broadly countercultural narratives (expressing ideas of individuality, freedom, self-sufficiency and rebellion) are re-enacted as part of a project of accumulative cultural capital (emphasizing the sovereign display of wealth, personal irresponsibility and financially contingent ‘freedom’). The key point of comparison will be the image of the ecstatic car crash in Vanishing Point versus the static weight of the broken Lamborghini in 3000 Miles.