What if the Bandit’s Trans Am was red instead of black?

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Trans Am
The Pontiac Trans Am looks pretty chic in its ruddy red color

Editor’s note: This piece is part of the ClassicCars.com Journal’s Muscle Month. We’ll be featuring stories, muscle cars and people during July about everything and anything that goes fast.


A year younger than the one driven by Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit, and in the less-familiar color of Mayan Red, the Pick of the Day is a 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in apparently preserved condition. 

The paint scheme on this Trans Am looks more-subdued than the vibrant black-with-gold-trim version made famous by the Bandit as he fled Sheriff Buford T. Justice. To my eye, the color also serves to better highlight the car’s styling, which was changed just slightly for this model year. 

The Trans Am is powered by a 400cid V8

Yes, that big flaming eagle is squawking on the hood (less-positive folk refer to it as a screaming chicken), and the Firebird comes equipped with a T-top roof. The T-top was built by Hurst, according to the Lincoln, Nebraska, dealer advertising the Trans Am on ClassicCars.com, which means the car was produced in the early part of the model year, as the roof manufacturer was changed during the 1978 run.

Although the dealer doesn’t say as much, this seems to be an unrestored original car that shows just under 53,800 miles on the odometer. The dealer does say the Trans Am is numbers matching and with Pontiac Historical Services documentation.   

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Trans Am
The crushed-velvet, disco-era interior looks to be in decent shape 

The car is powered, then, by its original 400cid V8, which was rated at 220 horsepower, hooked up with an automatic transmission. The car is fully equipped with air conditioning, power windows, power steering and brakes, rear-window defroster, “deluxe red interior” and 15-inch Pontiac Snowflake wheels shod with BF Goodrich tires.

“It drives straight and smooth,” the dealer says in the ad. “The Pontiac engine runs like a Swiss watch. A nice rumble comes from the dual exhaust that lets everyone know you are driving something special.”

This era Trans Am was on the upswing in the classic car market for a few years there, so this one seems reasonably priced at $24,900. 

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Any body remember a movie that came out after Smokey and the Bandit called Hooper, Trans am in that was red. Good flick.

    • Actually, this is NOT a 400 engine, but the Olds 403. The Pontiac 400 came with the 4 speed manual transmission only and was far more desirable.

  2. I don’t understand the reference to Smokey and the Bandit here. This is just a Trans Am, not even the same year or color. So it’s not even a clone. There were tens of thousands produced, This has nothing to do with the Smokey and the Bandit movie(s) I just don’t get this latest trend of trying to associate almost every vehicle made with some famous movie, actor, dealership, town, ANYTHING. It’s starting to sound like a Mecum auction. "This car has actually been driven down the same street that Brad Pitt saw from his airline seat while traveling to a movie set in Italy" It’s starting to get that bad !

    • Yeah… makes you think the cars not that sellable if they got to try and associate it with completly unrelated year that does actually have some collectability due a movie or famous person etc..

    • This car is the same as the trans am from the movie Hooper starring Burt Reynolds and Sally Field! Agree that really nothing to do with Smokey and the bandit. Nevertheless It is still a legitimate movie inspired car

  3. I’m glad to see this one was preserved in its original shade of red. There are enough Bandit look-alike’s out there.

  4. I had a red one with black interior. It helped me get a job. The boss said I would show up to work everyday to make payments. He was right.

  5. I own a 1980 Y84 , was black with gold trim , bought the car for 800 bucks in 2005. It was parked in 1988 put under a car cover and forgot about. Needless to say it ruined the paint , anyhow I installed a built 1972 455 H.O. with a 4 speed , wish I would have just restored it , still a cool car , this one is a survivor looks nice , Pontiac forever !

  6. Some of you are idiots it ‘s not comparing the car to Smokey and the Bandit but just asking what if the car was red and not black in the movie. The guy who said it;s a 403 because it’s an auto and not manual doesn’t know what he’s talking about. The ad says it’s a 220hp engine that would only be the W72 Pontiac 400, and in 77 and 78 you could get both auto and manual with the W72 79 was the year that the W72 was available in manual only. The person that said it was probably got rear ended doesn’t know much about the UAW my family owned a Pontiac dealership for 52 years and very few spoilers came perfectly fitted. This is a very nice TA and the price is more than fare.

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