Here’s A Firsthand Look At The Glitz And Spectacle And Bonkers Cars Of The Gumball 3000

Gumball 3000 Topshot 2

Toronto isn’t exactly a modest city when it comes to its supercars. If someone were to ask me, “Hey, did you see that XJ220 this weekend,” I’d have to ask, “Which one?” Still, it’s a bit of a special occasion when the Gumball 3000 comes to town.

Gumball 3000 Aston Martin Tracking Shot
Photo Credit: Thomas Hundal

So what makes the Gumball 3000 so special? Well, it’s a spectacle. Sure, anyone can take a group road trip, but this Robin Leach-like fascination with the lifestyles of the rich and famous elevates Gumball to a global icon. Whether or not icons deserve reverence is a different story, although not one I’m hugely interested in debating today. The other big thing that makes the Gumball 3000 special is history. While the One Lap of America trackday road trip has been going on longer, it’s a bit nerdy. It’s car people road tripping from track to track, great for gearheads like me who are in quite deep, but a bit boring for the masses. Supercar owners road-tripping from party-to-party though? That was a pretty new concept when the first Gumball 3000 happened in 1999.

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Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

Another factor contributing to the Gumball 3000’s success is media. While the rally always had star power with Kate Moss and Guy Ritchie attending the very first event, the crew of Jackass tagging along for the 2001 event cemented the Gumball 3000’s place in pop culture history. In a way, Jackass was a perfect fit for the Gumball 3000 – celebrities behaving badly.

Oh come on, you didn’t believe for a second that famous people would stick to the speed limit while road-tripping fast cars, did you? Look, if I had enough wealth to basically equal freedom from consequence, I’d travel pretty quickly so long as conditions were safe. One of the highest speeding tickets of all time was allegedly handed out on the 2003 Gumball 3000 to a Koenigsegg CC8S driver accused of traveling 242 mph in a 75 mph zone. This story’s a bit of an urban legend with little in the way of conclusive evidence, but urban legends build reputation. And hey, 242 in a 75 definitely fits with the Gumball 3000’s reputation.

Ram TRX at the Gumball 3000
Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

Of course, the Gumball 3000 of today is a far cry from the Gumball 3000 of the past. Looking at previous entries, some of the cars are truly astounding. A Brabus SV12 Megacar, a Jaguar XJ220S, that aforementioned Koenigsegg CC8S, multiple Bugatti Veyrons, a replica of the Batmobile, a flamethrower-equipped BMW 8-Series, the list goes on and on.

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Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

By contrast, this year’s field was fairly cookie-cutter. A Ram TRX and a particularly-interesting Beetle [Editor’s Note: a little tricky to tell with only this shot, but I think that’s a ’68 or ’69 – JT] certainly stood out, but most entrants brought modern Lamborghinis, Ferrari 812 grand-tourers, and current 992-generation Porsche 911s. It’s safe to say that these days, things are a bit different for the Gumball 3000.

Gumball 3000 GT3
Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

Some say it all went downhill after a 2007 crash between a participating TechArt-modified Porsche 911 Turbo and a Volkswagen Golf in which the occupants of the Golf were killed. Details of the crash are disputed, but it’s generally agreed upon that the driver of the Golf was turning left onto a main road when the vehicle was struck by the Porsche. According to The Guardian, Nicholas Morley, the driver of the Porsche, received a suspended sentence, while Marketing Week reported that Gumball 3000 sponsor Adidas pulled support for the rally.

Gumball 3000 DBS
Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

Admittedly, it would be hard to have the same sort of event as the first Gumball 3000 today. Social media’s a snitch, the roads are more crowded, penalties for speeding are stiffer, and infrastructure is in a more advanced state of decay. Today, the Gumball 3000 is still a road trip with lavish parties at overnight destinations, except it’s now largely a charity fun run of sorts. This year’s event raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for charities including Laureus Sport for Good, Project Wreckless, and Tony Hawk’s The Skatepark Project. All fairly reasonable causes if you ask me.

Pog's Ferrari 812 ripping a donut at the Gumball 3000
Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

Mind you, Gumball hasn’t exactly banished the antics of old, they’re just fewer and farther between. While nearly every car entering the Gumball grid either took it easy or took care not to chirp the tires, a group led by YouTube personality Pog had a slightly different approach. Was ripping a donut on Bay Street safe? In this case, probably. It happened in a fenced-off area upstream of most fans, car control was actually nice and tight, and the fenced-off area was free of other entrants’ vehicles. Was ripping a donut on Bay Street frowned upon? Ooh yes, Pog’s group got an immediate “tut-tut” from Gumball 3000 officials.

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Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

The crowds though, haven’t moved on. They leaned into the spectacle, crowding gates and throwing hands, phones, and cameras in the air for revving Lamborghinis and Pog’s crew’s donut, fervently salivating all their admiration for these fast, mad, expensive machines. To rip a line from Marie Kondo, the spectacle of the Gumball 3000 sparked joy. Almost as astonishing as the energy of the crowd was its diversity – Toronto may be one of the most multicultural cities in the world, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

Normally, you’d expect this sort of thing to be a bit of an upper-middle-class frat boy cliché, where white dudes from the suburbs take the train downtown to see the sort of cars that little their Instagram feeds. Not so. The crowd was electrically young, with a massive array of ethnicities represented. Men and women alike were there to push their way towards the barriers, yearning for a glimpse of a Lamborghini Aventador SV-J or a McLaren 765LT. And keep in mind, this was all on a Friday, where students would’ve had to shrug off school and adults would’ve potentially had to either take time off or trade shifts.

Hood of a Huracan with Ram TRX in background
Photo credit: Thomas Hundal

While the Gumball 3000 may not be the wild band of roving outlaws it once was, it still has the power to captivate the next generation of automotive enthusiasm. There may not be many members of Generation Z showing up to old-school cruise nights, but that definitely doesn’t mean that car culture is dying. It’s just taking on a different form. The Gumball 3000 may be a controversial event, but it’s a solid window into one facet of the next generation of car culture. Long may it run.

Lead photo credit: Thomas Hundal

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22 Responses

  1. Caught a glimpse of a few as they streak down I75 from ATL to Miami and I live right near it. Came over for gas and decided to hang out and watch a few blast by. Years past I had dreams of taking my Continental on it, but it’s way to rich for my blood.

  2. The problem with Gumball and all it’s copycats (of which there are thousands now) is the gallingly offensive and overtly hostile gatekeeping.
    You want to join so-and-so’s “we’re gonna break speed limits, uh, for charity” small-time rally? That’ll be proof of a $1500 donation, and then you get put into the pool where they pick the cars and people they like or think will do good on Instagram. I’ve had people ask me to join these things (my 997.2 is photogenic and capable of over 190MPH,) and I’ve turned them down. Because it’s always “donate some ridiculous sum to charity” or “pay some obscene entry fee to get on the list with no guarantees.”

    Know what it costs to get into the Gumball 3000? Well for starters, you have to be famous to begin with. Don’t know how to drive, don’t give a shit about cars, they don’t care – spend a buttload of cash and rent a Ferrari.
    So how much do you think Gumball 3000 costs? $10,000? $25,000? Try north of $100,000. Non-refundable wire-transfer only. May be turned away if you or your car isn’t cool enough.
    Fuck that, fuck the organizers, and fuck any praise for that shit. They deserve nothing but scorn. They aren’t getting people ‘interested in cars’ in the least. They’re just a bunch of ultra-wealthy assholes showing off so one of them can get richer through a highly questionable ‘charity.’

    MrJWW put together a YouTube video on how much it cost him to run Gumball 3000 in 2018. Over $80,000 just for the entry as a member ($160k as a new entrant,) a $150k+ car minimum, and taking more than a week off of work. But hey, a bunch of ridiculously wealthy people who find each other ‘super interesting’ get to party and enjoy all kinds of ‘networking’ opportunities.

    1. “They want me to join because my car would look great on Instagram but I refuse on principle.”

      I just want to take a moment to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to mingle amongst us plebs. It’s good to know that you’re principled enough to not donate to charity because the other participants *may* not have worked as hard as you did for your fancy sports car.

      1. It’s called “working your ass off, saving for years, and buying when the market was low.”
        I don’t own a house, and probably never will at this point, so you can fuck right off, asshole.

        1. You missed the point. The point is that it’s all relative. While I agree on your general take of the Gumball, what you missed is that you rant about the obscene costs, you justify your own niceties because of “hard work” and somehow magically timing the market, while ignoring that even those things alone put you in a rarified position. And then you get all pissy when someone calls you out on it. I’d imagine some Gumballers would tell you the same thing; they worked their ass off, saved for years, and timed the market just right, to get to their position.

          1. It’s really, really hard to apply blanket distain for these sorts of rich car folks. Sure, many probably are trust fund douchecanoes or bitcoin bros. But some probably did earn things fair and square.

            A previous acquaintance of mine made his money reselling overstocked product. He was in his mid 30’s when I knew him, and he had a GT-R that was very Gumball worthy due to the Alpha work AMS had done on it. He also had a souped up Z06, and a Ferarri of some sort that I don’t recall. Anyway, he was just a normal guy besides the money. He joined our lowly car club at random chain restaurants and joked around on our Facebook group with us like anyone else. He even gave me a ride in his GT-R to pick up kitty litter to clean up an oil spill I made in a friend’s garage during a build meet. He was just another guy besides the fact that he had hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cars.

            I’m sure there are more like him out there, maybe even who do Gumball for fun. I’m not sure this particular event is worth covering here, and what Rootwyrm says is probably accurate for 95% of entrants, but to throw them all in that pot is probably not right.

  3. The more I grow up the less I car about these events, especially as you realise most of the people taking part of it or a$$ hole$.

    There is so many car event that should deserve more coverage, more interesting, fun, roots, I think of Gumbalkan, Babelraid, 205 Africa Raid, 205 Trophée, Maroc Challenge, Budapest Bamako, Baja XL, Mongol Rallye, Rallye Muenchen Barcelona etc

    One I’d love to do is the Trophée des Andes or Trophée Paris-Pékin, but you need to be retired to take part as it is over 30days.

        1. Those 205’s were great cars. My first company car was a 1988 205 XRD and for a diesel a rather fast car, in the first year I got it over 180 km/h. Got it to 140.000 km’s in I believe 20 months, without any problems besides the usual tyres/tires, exhaust, brakes etc. I took it to our German office and drove to Belgium and France, until the day someone who was probably still under the influence of some kind of religious gathering they had just left, decided to do a “I’m turning left goodluck everybody else” from the right lane to the third and most left lane.

          My next car was an Alfa 33 Sportwagon followed by an 133 (no diesels), so I am sure you will understand how much I missed that 205!

    1. I’ve started to feel similar. I’ve become more and more downtrodden. What used to be a cool thing to me, now appears to be a bunch of rich dickwads having fun, while we get to look on. They make it seem like we, the common people, are part of the fun, but really we are just on the outside looking in. Look at all their glitz and glamor.

      1. What makes the rich richer is the poor wanted to be like the rich. Real rich guy nevers pays for his bottle of Dom Perignon at St Tropez, the less rich than him will spend the 1500 euros to buy it to show off that he is rich, to the less rich that will buy a table 500 euros to show off etc etc.

        Also I’m from Monaco, and I don’t like much guys like Pog they do not respect anything, one year he turned the Top Marques salon into a shit show.

  4. I’ve never really understood what the gumball rally was other than something that seemed unattainable for the average person, therefore I lost interest. Now I see its just an ego stroking version of a rich person “takeover” Ill pass.

  5. I was born in Toronto and grew up in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) and was never aware of the level of wealth here. Once I got into the car scene and started going to events I started to see it. It’s hidden, drive an hour north of the city and that’s where all the NHL players and other truly wealthy people live. You see McLarens and Ferraris all over the place up there. Sure you’ll see exotics downtown but the real wealth has paid to be invisible. You see F40’s and XJ220’s show up to some events but you don’t see them just driving around.

    As for the Gumball, this isn’t car enthusiasm. It’s just flaunting wealth and breaking rules normal people can’t afford to break. If it wasn’t about flaunting the cars wouldn’t be covered in stickers. They want you to see the stupid things they do, and I’m disappointed that they’re now in Canada. My life revolved around the GTA car scene for a solid 5 years ending in 2018 (I’ve since branched out). If you want to feature Canadian car culture this isn’t how to do it. Go check out the multiple race tracks we have (Mosport, Cayuga, Shannonville, Grand Bend) and all the clubs that operate there. Or the multiple autocross clubs that are actually giving real people an opening into car culture (PITL, TLMC, OMSC, etc.) Or the endless number of meets and cars and coffee events where people both poor and rich come together to share their passion, where you’ll see a Citroen 2CV parked next to a 2nd gen Ford GT, in matching colours, and getting equal attention. But Gumball? That’s on the level of the street racing that happens all over the city at night.

  6. Please don’t waste good ones and zeroes with coverage of this crap. This way leads to promoting wankers like Alex Roy. Let’s work towards the Autopia we all deserve rather than the dystopia the rich pricks want for us all.

    1. For what it’s worth my 11 year old and I had a pretty awesome Saturday afternoon parked at the enRoute on the 401 watching all the cars go by (he loves McLarens) and even got to talk to a couple of the drivers, who were super cool about talking to a kid hanging out in a parking lot. To me, this is what it’s all about – if you’re going to show off, show off to people who are still dreaming they might get to be you some day, not to the rest of the super rich on a fancy lawn somewhere.

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