Wealthy but bored businessman Michael Bannon issues the code word "Gumball" to his fellow automobile enthusiasts, who gather in a garage in New York City
to embark on a coast-to-coast race "with no catalytic converter and no 55-mile-per-hour speed limit." Their nemesis, LAPD lieutenant Roscoe, also learns of the race and most of the film is devoted to the adventures of the various driving teams and Roscoe's ineffectual attempts to apprehend them. Hilarity Ensues
The race ends at the Queen Mary
in Long Beach, California, where the finishers celebrate their adventures and the defeated Roscoe skulks off to one side—until a fleet of police cars and tow trucks arrive to impound the vehicles; as it proves, Roscoe had contrived in advance to see to it that all of them were illegally parked. Bannon congratulates Roscoe on his final victory, and again utters the code word "Gumball" to initiate a race back to New York.
Compare Cannonball Run
; the two films were both inspired from the same real-life outlaw race (but this one did it first, and some would say, better).
The Gumball Rally provides examples of:
- Badass Driver: Franco is hired for his reputation as one.
- The Big Race
- Biker Babe: Joann Nail and Susan Flannery play a pair in a Porsche 911.
- Bug Splat: Lapchick runs into a swarm of bugs that splat on his helmet faceplate, making him unable to see and causing him to crash.
- Candid Camera Prank: Inverted. The Dodge police cruiser team gets an Arizona state trooper to believe that they are filming a movie from a camera hidden on a far-away peak, and ask him to hold still for a face shot, as they make their getaway.
- Cool Car: Several.
- The Danza: Michael Sarrazin as Mike Bannon.
- Distracted by the Sexy: "Emergency Plan Alpha" is a very sexy blonde who distracts Franco into pulling over and letting Bannon win the race.
- Don't Look Back: Played for laughs.
Franco: First rule of Italian driving: whats-a behind me [breaks off rear-view mirror and throws it away] is not important!
- Down LA Drain: The end included a race down the LA river.
- Dressing as the Enemy: One entry disguises their car as a police cruiser, complete with magnetic door decals for every state they'll be passing through.
- Drives Like Crazy: Lapchick The Mad Hungarian. Literally. Franco, to a lesser extent. Also Ace "Mr. Guts" Preston in the Camaro Z-28, toward the end, as he tries to get through a traffic jam by going up on two wheels (while giving a rebel yell).
- Driving Into A Truck: One team uses this ploy to evade a police roadblock and make a pit stop.
- Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: The car disguised as a police cruiser loses the race when it stops to help a pregnant lady giving birth while stuck on an L.A. freeway.
- Epic Race
- Funny Foreigner: Lapchick, Franco. And the British Benz team.
- Good Ol' Boys: The Camaro Z28 team. Also the Arizona state trooper.
- Hello Again Officer: The main racers are literally on a first name basis with their dogged pursuer.
- Hot-Blooded: Franco's entire motivation.
- Jurisdiction Friction: Largely averted. Roscoe pursues the racers from coast to coast with the help of local law enforcement, despite not having any jurisdiction.
- Large Ham: Raul Julia's character, Italian race driver Franco Bertollini.
- Latin Lover: Franco.
- Metallicar Syndrome: Pretty much every car.
- Quintessential British Gentleman: The crew of the Mercedes-Benz 300SL.
Andy McAllister: Sedately Barney, as befits our years and station in life.
[Barney squeals tires as they leave the parking lot]
- Recycled: The Series: Gumball 3000 (only not played for laughs, it was a serious rally).
- Except for the Jackass entry, perhaps.
- Right Under Their Noses: One of the teams evades a roadblock by driving into a truck.
- Running Gag: Several. Lapchick's craziness, Franco's womanizing, the Rolls-Royce...
- Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: The Porsche 911 team relies on their feminine wiles to evade speeding tickets (or to get whatever else they need during the race). It also works quite well - repeatedly - on the Good Ol' Boys team in the Camaro Z28.
- Show Some Leg: See "Distracted By The Sexy" above.
- Take That: The production company approached Jaguar to provide a car for the film, but the company refused. So, the makers bought their own Jaguar to use in the film. The car fails to start.
- Toyota Tripwire: Lapchick gets doored.
- Vapor Trail: Happens accidentally to one team of racers.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story
- Wacky Racing
- Watch the Paint Job: One person enters the race by getting a job delivering a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow. It doesn't end well.
- Weapon for Intimidation: Hot-blooded Franco pulls a gun from a paper bag and threatens another driver with it. It turns out it's a squirt gun, and the whole thing was a gag.