It’s a balmy, lazy day in Beverly Hills, but two young-and-in-love kids, Sam Freeman (RON HOWARD) and Paula Powers (NANCY MORGAN) have just made the biggest decision of their lives -they’re going to elope to Las Vegas. The good-looking couple speeds into the driveway of Paula’s family mansion to spring the news on her parents. Mr. Bigby Powers (BARRY CAHILL), a business tycoon with emerging political ambitions, stops polishing his prize possession, a vintage Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, just long enough to tell the solidly middle-class Sam Freeman to get lost and to remind his daughter that, as far as he’s concerned, she is going to marry the wealthy heir Collins Hedgeworth (PAUL LINKE) or no one at all. It doesn’t matter that Paula thinks Collins is a spoiled, flaky, perverted mama’s boy. Enraged by his daughter’s stubbornness, Bigby Powers grabs Paula’s car keys and sends his little girl off to her room. Undaunted, Paula climbs out the window, makes off with her father’s Rolls Royce and picks up Sam as she screeches out the gates of the estate.
The young lovers are off – streaking across the desert toward Las Vegas and marriage. However, Bigby isn’t going to take this sitting down, especially since he believes his political chances will be seriously jeopardized if his daughter marries so far beneath her. Bigby calls upon a trusted private investigator, Ned Slinker) (RANCE HOWARD), who promises to use his usual discretion in getting Paula back for Bigby. Meanwhile, Collins Hedgeworth gets winds of his presumed fiancée’s flight and takes off in furious pursuit in his Porsche after posting a $25,000 reward for her return. When Collins’ mother Vivian Hedgeworth (MARION ROSS) realizes her son has disappeared, she announces another $25,000 reward, this for her son’s discovery, and then takes up the chase herself.
The area’s most popular disc jockey, Curley Q . Brown (DON STEELE), picks up on the story, immediately starts making contact with all the participants in the chase and, to bring this quickly unfolding story to his listeners live and direct, jumps into the station’s helicopter to survey the ever-growing chase from the skies. Motivated variously by law and order, thrills, religious faith, curiosity and especially the big bucks being promised for the apprehension of Sam and Paula, not to mention Collins Hedge-worth, a wild and wide assortment of humanity joins in the frantic pursuit. A fanatical preacher hijacks a police car, the displaced cop commandeers a school bus full of senior citizens, two young and zany auto mechanics drop their tools to speed off seeking adventure and fortune, the highway patrol crisscrosses the desert highways and the goon squad in the employ of Ned Slinker bungles all its attempts to run the errant lovers off the road.
The entire rag-tag collection of Porsches, Volkswagens, vans, squad cars, buses and super-charged vehicles whips down the highways and byways, Sam and Paula weaving in and out in a spectacular trail of near-misses as the road behind them becomes one giant wreck of twisted metal and fuming drivers!