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Smokey and the Bandit Star Burt Reynolds Dies at 82

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By Dave Ashton

This is a sad day as we learn that Burt Reynolds, the star of Smokey and the Bandit has passed away at the age of 82. He reportedly passed due to a heart attack in a Florida hospital with his family at his side. Burt had a long and varied acting career, with one of his standout movies being the 1977 Smokey and the Bandit in which he played Bo Darville.

The movie was significant for the popularity of the 1977 Pontiac Trans Am, which in the movie was apparently 1976 model cars with 1977 front ends, 1977 decals, with ‘6.6 litre’ engine size decals. Such was the popularity of the car that it outsold the Chevrolet Camaro at the time.

The popularity of the Trans Am lasts today, with the likes of Trans Am Depot producing a modern interpretation of the car, with examples signed by Reynolds himself. The movie even spawned the ‘The Bandit Run’ which is an annual road trip by Trans Am owners from Texarkana to Jonesboro, Georgia, recreating the original route from the movie.

Just like the film Bullitt, the Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit was almost a character in itself, so identifiable by the Screaming chicken hood decal. It was obviously Mr. Reynolds screen presence that made the movie, but the co-lead of the Trans Am made kids and adults yearn for the muscled up car, which doesn’t just represent power and performance, but also a lifestyle of freedom of the road. Mr Reynolds played the parts with a wink and a smile and plenty of humour, also evident in one of his other classics The Cannonball Run.

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The Trans Am got centre stage again in the likes of 1978 Hooper, 1979 Rocky II and 1980 Smokey and the Bandit II, along with being chosen for the 1980 Indianapolis 500. The Trans Am was nowhere near the power of classic muscle cars from 68-72, only rated at 200 bhp with the T/A 400ci. (6.6 L) V8, but that didn’t really matter. It was now a movie icon and that’s what counted. Classic looks and so identifiable. Seeing Burt Reynolds blast around with the V8 sound and the freedom of the road meant the Trans Am was so appealing. It became an immediate classic of the late 70s.

Associating an actor with a vehicle is a rarity, you think of one and then the other, but the 1977 Trans Am will always be associated with Burt Reynolds and also a reminder to take life with a wink and a smile. Also, if you want to brighten up your day check out the bottom video for Burt’s infectious laugh.

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