‘Smokey and the Bandit’ star Burt Reynolds dies at 82

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Actor Burt Reynolds poses with one of his Pontiac Trans Ams. The Smokey and the Bandit star passed away Thursday at 82. | Barrett-Jackson photo
Actor Burt Reynolds poses with one of his Pontiac Trans Ams. The Smokey and the Bandit star passed away Thursday at 82. | Barrett-Jackson photo

Actor Burt Reynolds, who starred in the Smokey and the Bandit film that inspired a generation to modify their Pontiac Trans Ams, passed away on Thursday. He was 82.

The Hollywood Reporter said the actor suffered a heart attack and died at the Jupiter Medical Center in Florida.

Reynolds cut his acting chops on Broadway stages and transitioned into film and television in the 1950s. His first regular role was in Riverboat and he followed that with the role of Quint Asper on Gunsmoke. As his television fame grew, Reynolds began appearing in low-budget films such as Angel Baby and Navajo Joe.

His breakout role came in the classic horror film Deliverance. As far as the car world is concerned, Reynolds’ biggest hit was Smokey and the Bandit, in which he drove a new 1977 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird.

As the film became a hit, so did the car. Though the movie vehicles were actually 1976 models with 1977 front ends, the automotive world began to go crazy for the style. Even today, Trans Ams are being restored or resto-modded to resemble Reynold’s black-and-gold car from the movie.

Since then, Reynolds’ name has become closely linked to the Firebird Trans Am. The actor sold a few of his own Trans Ams, which typically earned more than double their value at auction.

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In an interview a few years ado, Reynolds said he “always thought the Trans Am was a beautiful animal, the body style, the paint job, it looks like it’s going when it’s just sitting. You could get a ticket while it’s sitting

Of course, Reynolds also drove some other great cars -– a 1975 Porsche 935 replica in Cannonball Run, a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro SS in Cop and a Half, a 1971 Ford 500 429 in White Lightening, and even a 1978 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in Hooper.

But for most car people, he’ll always be synonymous with the ’77 Firebird Trans Am.

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Carter Nacke is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He began his career at KTAR News 92.3 FM in Phoenix, the largest news radio station in Arizona, where he specialized in breaking news and politics. A burgeoning interest in classic cars took him to the Journal in 2018. He's still on the hunt for his dad's old 1969 Camaro.

18 COMMENTS

  1. Smokey and the Bandit is one of my all-time favorite movies and that Trans Am was my dream car from the moment I laid eyes on it. I still play East bound and down and I’ll always love Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed.

  2. He made another car movie in which he played an undercover agent chasing drug runners and he drove a really hot 1969-70 FORD LTD but I can’t remember the name all I remember he jumped the car on a soil laden barge on the river and got out and waved to the guys who were chasing him what a LEGEND R.I.P Burt

  3. The trans Ams WERE STOCK!! NO RESTO MODDED… There really is no dlifference between a 76 and a 77 except for the front… Two headlights vs 4.. the 76 Decal kit was different than the 77… But NO ONE Modded the Trans Ams of the Bandit type… I have owned two 79s a 403 and a 400.. Ex had a 77.. The car was NOT a very powerful machine even tho the 79 TA with the 400 was the most powerful car that could be bought .. 220 horsepower vs the Corvettes 180….Just an Fyi for the Writer..

  4. “”””WOW”””
    What a Icon; and he will be missed!!!
    I would Love to have one of his cars!!!
    Thx for all you Done Burt!!!!

    God’s Speed,
    Gordon

    • I once owned a ROLLS ROYCE SHADOW previously owned by Burt. He was befriended with HRH the Priincess Margaret . She sold ( or gave) him this Rolls and he kept the car for several years. I had the opportunity to acquitre the car and enjoyed the RR, registration 006 HRH, for many years
      The Original registration in the UK was 006 HRH, when in Belgium i had the opporttunity to register the RR under the same codes, making it, when driving in the UK, a very special sight. The RR had a Ruyal standart a and a blue police light, giving priority when needed.
      I still have the full documantation about the ownership and even a certificate and lettres covering the the purchase and the documentation about the special and personal finish expected by the Princess Royal.

      I still use the registration 006 HRH onto one of my actual classics. (Alfa Romeo 2000 spider)

  5. He was a fun actor, had a great laugh. And can finalize the deal with God he made while swimming back to shore in the end….

  6. RIP Bandit. Another movie of his I always enjoyed watching for a few good laughs is Stroker Ace; in which he plays the role of a star NASCAR driver in the early 80’s. A lot of the actual NASCAR stars from the time are in the movie as extras, including Darrell Waltrip, Kyle Petty, and Tim Richmond. It’s Days of Thunder minus the arrogance of Tom Cruise!

  7. I always liked Burt Reynolds from when he started on GUNSMOKE. He went on to do what he wanted to do. Smoky and the Bandit was a cool movie. In fact I liked Jackie Gleason, Sally Fields, and Jerry Reed. I met Jerry in person. He did a show in Waynesboro, PA back in the early 90’s. I was in the front row and I said. “Jerry , you hot you hot!” he replied “ Thanks A Lot”! This was all before the show even started. Very friendly guy. Maybe Jerry, Burt, and Jackie are looking down on us laughing while they’re playing GOLF.

  8. A sad thing RIP sir. My youngest brother helped with restoring the car . And other things. Its sad to here some one who gave us meny memroble movies. gone but not forgottern.RIP

  9. Not fascinated with Firebirds, Camaros, yadeyadeya. They’re a dime a dozen . .It’s those Mopar police cars (Plymouths, Dodges) that used to chase him that I luv.

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