Promotional vehicle once thought destroyed currently owned by 85-year-old woman
A promotional vehicle that inspired the famed Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit will be sold at an auction early next year.
The car – once thought to have been destroyed – will be offered by EG Auctions at its Spring Cars, Stars and Rock N’ Roll Collector Car Auction at the Big Rock Pub and Golf Course in Indio, California. The company’s CEO, Todd Schwindt, said the sale will be held in early February; he is working to finalize the date.
Schwindt said the car would be put on display this weekend at the Fall Cars, Stars and Rock N’ Roll Collector Car Auction held at the same location.
“We are incredibly excited to his have this American muscle legend at our auction,” he said.
“Legend” certainly is the right word. The car, a 1976 model with 1977 bodywork, was made by Pontiac as a promotional vehicle. The ’76 had a 455cid V8 and 4-speed manual transmission, a black deluxe interior with center console, stereo system, power windows, rear defroster, and the Y82 Limited Edition package with Hurst T-top.
Late actor Burt Reynolds said he and director Hal Needham decided to use the Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit after seeing the car in Pontiac’s brochure.
“I remember when Hal Needham and I first saw this car,” Reynolds said in a video as he sat next to the car when it visited his home. “It was love at first sight.”
Promotional cars are usually crushed. Somehow – likely because it was being used at events on the West Coast – it wound up for sale by a dealer in California. The ’76 bodywork was reapplied, but the Snowflake model wheels for the ’77 remained on the car.
Eventually, it made its way to the East Coast and into now-85-year-old Rena Martino’s possession. Her son, David, bought the car four years ago. He only learned of the car’s significance after the fact.
“This car is documented from A to Z,” David Martino told the ClassicCars.com Journal in October, listing the build sheet, window sticker and Pontiac Historic Services documentation that confirms that his mother’s car is the one in the brochure, and thus the car that inspired the Trans Am’s role in the movie.
Both Pontiac Historical Services and Smoke Signals, the official magazine of the Pontiac-Oakland Club International, confirmed the car’s significance.
Because it needed some cosmetic restoration work, Martino took the car to Trans Am specialist Rick Deiters. Upon their discovery of the car’s history, Martino and Deiters expanded the restoration to return to the car to its Pontiac promotional brochure configuration, including the proper ’77 sheet metal.
Its role was confirmed by Reynolds, who autographed the car, and it also took part in the recent 40th anniversary reunion and celebration of Smokey and the Bandit.
An estimated value for the car has not been set, but given the popularity of Smokey and the Bandit and other Reynolds-related vehicles and memorabilia following the actor’s death, along with the car’s significance, it’s a safe bet that it will fetch a pretty penny.