What Car Does the Bandit Drive? The Iconic 1977 Trans Am

June 10, 2024

In Chilliwack, British Columbia, resides the impressive private car collection of Brandon and Kevin Mindel. Their collection is a treasure trove of beautiful vehicles, primarily consisting of iconic movie cars. Among their prized possessions is the 1977 Bandit Trans Am, famously signed by Burt Reynolds, which legitimizes it as a bona fide movie car. The Mindels' passion is undeniably contagious, encouraging car enthusiasts to delve into this captivating world.

"Smokey and the Bandit cars" by NSCALEFUN is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Background of the Collection

The birth of the Mindels' collection can be traced back to an ambitious project for Brandon's wedding—a replica of the DeLorean time machine from "Back to the Future." This sparked a journey into the world of movie car collecting. Establishing themselves in this unique niche allowed them to build a network that provided insights into auctions and listings of movie cars, eventually amassing a collection of over 80 cars.

Significance of the Bandit Trans Am

The Bandit Trans Am holds a special place for the Mindels. This iconic vehicle is celebrated for its striking black and gold color scheme with the "screaming chicken" decal on the hood. Despite its lackluster 0 to 60 time of over 9 seconds, the 1977 Trans Am is revered not for its speed but for its cultural and cinematic significance.

"Smokey and the Bandit car" by NSCALEFUN is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/.

Connection to "Smokey and the Bandit"

Director Hal Needham, originally a stuntman, was instrumental in bringing "Smokey and the Bandit" to life. His friendship with Burt Reynolds secured the actor's enthusiasm for the project and allowed the production to acquire four cars from General Motors. Interestingly, the cars used were actually 1976 Trans Ams with 1977 front ends, as the 1977 models were not yet available. The production was hard on these vehicles, with all of them being destroyed during filming. One memorable incident involved having to push a car into the frame because it was the last functional one and it wouldn't start.

Cultural Impact

"Smokey and the Bandit" was not only a commercial success but also left a lasting impact on car culture. The film's release caused Trans Am sales to double in 1978 compared to the previous year. The movie and the car’s popularity have endured for over four decades, solidifying the Bandit Trans Am's status as a cultural icon.

Personal Connection

Brandon, more of a movie aficionado than a car enthusiast, manages the collection with a meticulous eye for authenticity. His dedication is evident through his extensive research and effort to collect items that are true to the movies they represent. This passion culminates in the unique aspect of their Bandit Trans Am—it is still technically owned by Burt Reynolds, as the title has not been transferred. It is believed to be the last Trans Am Reynolds purchased, restored, and sold before his death, adding profound sentimental value for Brandon.

Unique Aspect of their Bandit Trans Am

Owning a piece of automotive and cinematic history like Burt Reynolds’ Trans Am is a privilege for Brandon. For him, it’s more than just a car; it represents a special connection to the legendary actor. Taking care of this vehicle is an honor, reflecting the reverence and enjoyment it brings to the Mindels’ lives.

Fan Engagement and Memorabilia

The Mindels’ collection isn’t limited to cars alone. They have amassed an array of props and memorabilia such as the exact model of the CB radio used in "Smokey and the Bandit," further immersing themselves in the movie car culture. Their devotion is a testament to the enduring appeal of these iconic vehicles and their stories.

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