Is there a more famous American car than the Bandit? Burt Reynolds wouldn’t be an American icon if he were driving around in Mr. Bean’s Austin Mini, yet put him behind the wheel of a black & gold ’70s Pontiac Firebird Trans Am and he becomes what he is, an automotive movie legend!
The original Smokey and the Bandit film debuted in 1977 and quickly became the must-see movie of the day. What starts off with a challenge to deliver beer across the country quickly turns into one of the best police chase caper films of all time. There are big rigs for the truck fans, fast-paced automotive stunt action, and a cute girl (Sally Field), together with a bellyful of laughs! What more could anyone ask for?
Of course, the true star of the show was the Bandit Trans Am. In fact, although GM never produced an actual Bandit Edition of the Trans Am, more than enough cruise the roads today to make people believe they did. The truth is, Pontiac simply capitalized on the movie to promote its 50th Anniversary style, black with gold accents, Trans Am LE and SE models.
Since then, any numbers of Bandit specials have materialized and there’s even a club dedicated to the Bandit cars. In fact, these guys are so enthusiastic about their vehicles that Hot Rod magazine once declared them “Rabid Fanatics.” I totally understand, as the very first car I owned when I came to Toronto was a silver anniversary 6.6L Trans Am with grey leather and T-roofs. What a car! I simply adored the vehicle until my first experience of Canadian winters. After slip-sliding my way through a couple of them, I sadly parted with the vehicle. Of course, I now wish that I’d parked it away as nice examples are fetching some pretty good money today.
With such a big hit on their hands, it was inevitable that the sequels would follow. Smokey and the Bandit II and III never quite hit the mark, and I’m not actually allowed to put in writing what I thought of the made-for-television films (Bandit Goes Country, Bandit Bandit, Beauty and the Bandit, and Bandit's Silver Angel). Brian Bloom in Burt Reynolds’ role — hat on earth were they thinking?
Yes, they probably all made a few bucks for the studios, but for me there will only ever be one Bandit — Mr. Reynolds — and only one movie worth digging out the popcorn for!