What’s the most iconic movie car of all-time?
Sure, it’s the thing from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Hands-down.
But that sweet T-top Pontiac Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit ain’t too shabby either, huh?
Nope, and that’s the first nugget you need to know.
Here are the rest of the Smokey and the Bandit car facts that will get you through life.
Floor Model … Only!
Director Hal Needham and Burt Reynolds first saw the car that would be Smokey’s in a brochure from Pontiac trumping their new look for 1977.
As it turns out, Pontiac didn’t have any of the actual ’77 models ready in time for the photo shoot, so Reynolds and Needham fell in love with a ’76 retrofitted with the new ’77 front end.
The car in the movie? Also a ’76, with the same ’77 mods.
Stumbling Over the Finish Line
Needham put in his order for six of the new Firebirds, but Pontiac would only commit to four.
As filming wore down, Reynolds and the rest had beat the hell out of three of the cars to the extent that they were unusable.
The fourth was still sorta presentable … but wouldn’t run. It had to be pushed by another car in the last scene of the film.
Arguably, the heyday of the muscle car came in the late 60s and early 70s.
After 1969, though, Pontiac progressively reduce the size of the engine, and car aficionados watched the cubic inches fall through the 400s. To stem that tide and create some buzz, though, the Smokey vehicle got a brand new engine-block sticker — “6.6 LITER.”
I Don’t Trust You as Far as I Can Throw … Your Car
Reynolds struck a deal with a Pontiac executive … if the movie was a success, the company would give Reynolds a free Trans Am, Smokey-style, T-top and all.
The movie rocked …
Burt came calling …
… and was given the runaround.
He never did get his free Trans Am, but he eventually bought a 1978 model.
Trans Am sales climbed from 68745 in 77 to 93341 to 117108
Burt bought his own version, a 1978 model, that eventually sold for 275K in 2017
Don’t Tell Super Chicken About This
The Trans Am model used in Smokey and the Bandit was called a “Screaming Chicken” special edition thanks to the hood painting.
No word on how PETA took this.
Is This Thing Front-Wheel Drive?
Remember the scene where the car ramps onto a peewee football field while a game is in progress?
Well, turns out that field had just been watered, but no one bothered to tell the driver.
As a consequence, the car slipped out of control and nearly took out the bank of spectators.
Next Up … the Grand Canyon!
In order to make sure the car cleared Mulberry Bridge in the big jump scene, the production team strapped on a booster rocket.
It was the same sort of missile that Evel Knievel used to cross Snake River Canyon.
What’s That Sound?
Man, that car sure made a hell of a roar, huh?
Well, yes … but not that car.
The 1955 Chevrolet Custom from Two-Lane Blacktop and American Grffiti was the “voice actor” who played the Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit.
Give ‘Em a Hand!
In order to provide unobstructed view of the scene at-hand, Needham had to ditch the normal slate board used to stop and start action.
Instead, the actors clapped their hands to mark beginnings and endings of scenes in the car.
While the plastic “Endura” nose design became an iconic part of the Trans Am in the late 70s thanks in large part to its appearance in this movie, it originated elsewhere.
In particular, the Chevrolet Camaro was already using the front piece when Pontiac mocked up their ’77 model for their catalog … and for Smokey and the Bandit.
Pontiac almost canceled the Firebird in 1972 due to new emission control laws and made only 1296 of the cars that year. Muscle cars were in a bad place, maybe on their way out.
They hung on a couple more years, and then Smokey gave them a kick in the ass.
Even so …
Pontiac was slated to move to the third generation Firebird in 1980, but strong sales enticed them to stick with the movie model until 1982.