Many hardcore fans of Burt Reynolds’ most iconic movie, 1977’s “Smokey and The Bandit,” know that none of those cool black Pontiac Trans Ams with gold trim survived the stunts in the film.
Hold up on that car wash, as Sheriff Buford T. Justice would say. There is a survivor. And a South Florida resident owns it.
Luck, and a mother who is a big Reynolds fan, brought Fort Lauderdale resident Dave Martino together with the 1976 Trans Am that Pontiac retrofitted as a 1977 Trans Am for its annual brochure. That’s where Reynolds and director Hal Needham saw the car and decided that a Trans Am had to be the car running blocker for the semi-truck carrying bootleg Coors beer from Texarkana to Atlanta.
Martino has paperwork from Pontiac proving the car’s lineage, as well as the best endorsement of all: Reynolds himself.
The story, as does many in the South, starts with a mama.
Philadelphia native Martino said his mother wanted one of the black Trans Ams used in the movie. The chances of that disintegrated in rural Georgia back in 1977.
Needham said on the documentary included with the movie’s Special Edition DVD release that Pontiac gave them three. A jump over a lake destroyed one (well, maybe not the jump so much as the landing). Needham cannibalized that one for parts while other stunts banged up the other Trans Ams.
After Martino learned this, he was talking Trans Ams with a guy in a small Virginia town.
“He told me there’s a Trans Am down the street I ought to look at,” Martino said. He bought the car, knowing it wasn’t one of the movie Trans Ams, “but this looks like it.”
That was in 2014. Martino, who owns several movie and TV cars through his company Iconic Premier, had the car at South Miami-Dade’s Trans Am Specialties. Then he learned the car has some movie fame after all.
It started with a brochure. That’s what he found out from PHS Automotive Services, an organization that tracks down paperwork on old Pontiacs if the owner can come up with the fee and the VIN number.
In November 2016, The Burt Reynolds Foundation called Trans Am Specialties wanting to know if the shop had a black T-top Trans Am because Reynolds would be at the San Carlos Institute in Key West for a documentary on “Smokey and The Bandit.”
It was there that Reynolds signed the brochure with the car. Two days later, someone from the Burt Reynolds Institute called Martino.
“He wanted to know if this was the actual car that was in the brochure,” Martino said. “I said yes. The guy said Burt said, ‘This is the actual car Hal and I saw on the brochure that made us want to use the Trans Am.’ “
Martino took the Trans Am to Reynolds, who deemed it “The Original First Born Bandit.”
Then it was taken to Georgia for the movie’s 40th anniversary celebration.