Kids and old-heads who lived in the 1970s will remember Smokey and the Bandit as one of the most unforgettable films that ever produced. The film secured Burt Reynolds’ status as a legendary actor, and in addition to this, it boosted the sales of the Trans Am. This car was especially popular with men and teenage boys who wanted to prove that they had balls that were made of steel! After the movie, the muscle car would get a new nickname that was inspired by its hood decal; it would be known as the “Screaming Chicken.”
The film also saw Sally Field transition from being considered an “unattractive actress” into an American sweetheart. This movie was so popular that only Star Wars made more ticket sales in 1977. In case you’re wondering, the specific version that was used was the 1977 Trans Am. The movie was full of many stunts that caused damages to most of the cars that were used on set, but it was all worth it because we ended up with a classic movie. The romantics will be pleased to know that Sally Field and Burt Reynolds had a romantic relationship after the film. It’s time to find out some of the little-known facts about the world-famous Pontiac Firebird Trans Am and its role in the film.
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Hal Needham, the film’s director, was impressed by the sleek Trans Am after he came across it in a magazine. He instantly knew that it was the perfect car to do some old-school product placement. He was a patient man with a keen eye for detail. He knew that this badass muscle car would enhance his film right from the onset. He only managed to get four cars although he was looking for six. In the end, three cars were severely destroyed during filming while the last one was used for commercials. It is important to note that the filmmakers did some very dangerous stunts that you should never think of trying at home.
Every boy had a poster of the black and gold model that was used in the film. The obsession with this vehicle was simply because it was the first of its kind. The original plan was to use a 1977 special edition model but the filmmakers ended up using 1976 models, which came with front ends that were gotten from the unreleased ’77 model. Previous versions were offered with an off-center scoop, but the ’77 model came with a different hood scoop. In addition to this, it introduced a new and unique slant-nosed front. I get goosebumps every time I remember watching this car jump out of Bandit’s truck and speed off into the streets! It was the new dream car.
The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am was an egoistic attention seeker. This car reminds me of boxer Floyd Mayweather, who happens to be one of the most self-centered guys on the planet, if you don’t believe me, just check out his Instagram. The hood scoop of the Pontiac in the film came with a decal that claimed that it had a “6.6 LITRE” engine, this move was made in order to grab the viewers’ attention. It was an unusual way to describe an engine because previous versions were described using cubic inch size. Apart from seeking attention, the manufacturers decided to use this trick to distract people from noticing that the original 1969 muscle cars had more horsepower than the new Trans Am model they were promoting.
The Trans Am made a killing in sales! This muscle car sold 93,341 units in 1978, an increase of 25,000 units from the previous year. Things got even better in 1979 when the company soared even higher with up to 117,108 units.
After the film, Burt Reynolds said that one of Pontiac's senior executives had challenged him to popularize the movie in exchange for a free Trans Am. Reynolds expected to receive his reward after the car became one of the best-sellers, but as fate would have it, no one offered him his car. He decided to call Pontiac after a few months only to learn that the official he was looking for had retired. The new man in charge disregarded the promise of his predecessor, and Burt was denied his well-deserved Trans Am. Although it took long, Burt would eventually get his “Screaming Chicken” from the company.
A perfect scene in an action or stunt-filled film requires a lot of expertise from actors and directors. In fact, sometimes filming can be a matter of life and death; for instance, Jackie Chan has broken almost every bone in his body when filming his karate-filled action movies. Smokey and the Bandit was as risky as they come. I bet you didn’t know that one of the cars in the football field scene almost rammed into some bystanders after it spun out of control. Luckily, no one was injured. In the bridge scene, the stuntmen attached the car to a booster rocket so that it could safely jump over the bridge. Evel Knievel used the same booster when he was jumping across the Snake River Canyon.
Actors and directors will go to any length to ensure that their movie is as entertaining as possible, even if they have to lie to their viewers. If you’re a gearhead worth your salt then you must have noticed that the sound of the Trans Am in the movie is a little “unnatural.” On the other hand, a layman viewer will never notice that something is off. Surprise surprise….. the sound used in the film comes from a 1955 Chevrolet Custom because the directors felt that it had a more intimidating sound than the Trans Am. The Chevrolet Custom has also been used in American Graffiti and Two-Lane Blacktop. So now you know that what you hear in the movie is simply a sound effect, you can thank me later.
The movie star was gifted with a 1978 tribute Trans Am that had been upgraded to deliver a whopping 600 horsepower from its 8.2-liter engine. This model was eventually auctioned for $275,000 back in 2017. In early 2018, he auctioned an “Official Pace Car” Turbo-Trans Am that he owned. His celebrity status allowed him to sell it for $110,000 – this is more than double of the original price. Now that he’s gone, it will certainly cost even more.
Smokey and the Bandit was a hugely successful movie that turned the 1977 Trans Am into a household name. It went on to become a legendary car. More than 40 years later, the car and movie are still in many peoples’ minds and hearts. Based on these emotions, Pontiac decided to release a new model that is based on the 1977 Trans Am; it is known as the Trans Am Bandit, and it was launched back in 2016. It boasts of having a 7.4-liter V8 engine that churns out 840 horsepower. It only needs 3 seconds to hit 0-60 mph, and it also offers a top speed of 200 mph! The manufacturer only made 77 units (in remembrance of that special year.) Can you guess who promoted it? Yes, you guessed that right, Burt Reynolds was the official spokesperson of this modern-day Firebird.
After the movie, Pontiac decided to maintain the design of the 1977 Trans Am because of its huge popularity. In fact, the company was forced to postpone the Trans Am’s third generation from 1980 to 1982. The company enjoyed its best years in 1978 and 1979, and therefore it would have been extremely dumb to kill this momentum. However, the fun times came to an end when the company launched its third generation in 1982. This generation lasted from 1982 to 1992 but in all honesty, it arrived a little late, and it ruined the party. Perhaps, Pontiac should have waited a little longer before launching the “party-pooping” third generation of the Trans Am.
There was a possibility that the Trans Am might not have been used to film Smokey and the Bandit, or even worse, maybe the movie itself would never have been made. This would have been devastating news. The problem started in 1972 when the government decided to introduce new emission laws that forced companies to adapt; this resulted in many changes in the muscle car revolution. The manufacturers came up with new ideas to ensure that they maintained power while still respecting the law. In the heat of this confusion, Pontiac considered the possibility of canceling the production of the Firebird. In 1972, only 1,296 Trans Am units were made because there was a strike at GM. It is almost unbelievable that the Trans Am would go on to make record sales only a few years after this confusion.