crew stayed as true to the story as possible, in fact they stayed more true to the trip than the actual movie. You see, the film never strayed far from Atlanta during the shoot. Not that you would expect the film crew to make the actual trip.
The truck had no heat and we can only guess how often the Pontiac needed to stop for fuel, but the crew pulled it off. They did 1,800 miles in 26 hours. It's a hell of a journey, especially since the beer in question is Coors, but a road-trip doesn't always have to make sense.
If you want to watch the trip unfold in full, tune in to SPEED tonight at 10 PM EST or 7PM PST.
SPEED SERIES AMERICAN TRUCKER RELIVES EPIC SMOKEY & THE BANDIT CONTRABAND HAUL
HOST ROBB MARIANI TAKES THE AUDIENCE INTO THE UNDERAPPRECIATED LIFESTYLE OF TRUCKERS and the MANY ICONIC MACHINES, ROUTES & LOCATIONS THAT HAVE HELPED DEFINE a PROFESSION
NEWS EPISODES CAN BE SEEN EVERY THURSDAY AT 10 P.M. ET/7 P.M. PT
One of the most underappreciated jobs throughout the world is truck driving.
Dangerous roads, immense traffic, mindless drivers and difficult deadlines make over-the-road trucking one of the more demanding professions anywhere. It's also one of the more fascinating.
To capture this largely unknown lifestyle is new SPEED original series, American Trucker, produced by Bud Brutsman (Brentwood Communications International, Inc. (BCII)) of Hot Rod TV, Payback, Overhaulin' and Rides fame. Premiering new episodes every Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT, and hosted by trucking-enthusiast Robb Mariani, the show takes a look at some of the most iconic machines, routes and locations that define this largely underappreciated occupation.
On Thursday, Hal Needham's southern bootlegger movie, Smokey & the Bandit, takes center stage. This blue-collar classic was a box office smash, grossing revenues second only to Star Wars in 1977, and starred some of Hollywood's biggest names in Burt Reynolds (The Bandit), the late Jerry Reed ('The Snowman'), the late Jackie Gleason (Buford T. Justice) and Sally Field playing the 'Frog.'
Reminding many of the southern moonshine runners that rushed the Appalachian mountain roads during prohibition , the movie was based around a bet that 'Bandit' and 'Snowman' could make a round trip 'beer run' to pick up and deliver a 400-case shipment of Coors between Atlanta and Texarkana, Texas within 28 hours. At the time, the sale and shipment of Coors was illegal in the south, but the two antagonists – Little Enos & Big Enos – felt differently, and offered a pile of money to see if it could be done.
According to Needham's newly released book, Stuntman, the movie had come about because someone had been stealing the Coors out his of his hotel room's refrigerator during the shooting of Gator. Realizing it was primarily Coors that was being pilfered; his curiosity was peaked.
"I tried to figure out why." Needham wrote. "How important was it to acquire Coors beer? I had read an article about Coors being transported on Air Force One. The driver captain had bootlegged a number of cases to Georgia. The maid was stealing two bottles at a time. This must be serious stuff. Bootlegging Coors would make a good plotline for a movie."
While the comedy had taken center stage to a wider audience, Reynold's 1977 Pontiac Trans Am and Reed's 1974 Kenworth W900 also built cult followings on its own, becoming much sought after vehicles when followers craved the representative excitement and havoc these two machines delivered while blistering the back roads and highways of the American south.
But Brutsman discovered something not told on the silver screen.
"We found out in our research they never really did it (the actual trip) in the movie," said Brutsman, talking about the show's main premise. "Obviously, why would they, as they did all the traveling shots, the road shots and did them within a 30-mile radius of Atlanta. Well, that didn't seem very fun..."
So, the four-man BCII production team went to work, acquiring a 1974 'Snowman' tribute truck, a resto-modded, 605-horsepower 1978 Pontiac 'Burt Reynolds Edition' Trans-Am and mapped out the entire round trip trek from Atlanta to Texarkana and back. Having 'a long way to go' was only the beginning.
"We decided to actually make the run in a 1974 truck with no heater," noted Brutsman, as temperatures during the trip dipped into the teens. "We mapped out the 1,800-mile route, got everyone on board, told Robb he was going on an adventure and he did it. We made it in 26 hours, and I think we really made a cool, iconic type episode out of it. Luckily, we were able to get license to the movie rights as well, so we were able to show what it looked like, and what we did.
"It wasn't an easy shoot," Brutsman continued. "Year One, out of Atlanta, did a re-creation of 'The Bandit' Trans-Am with a Corvette (LS-7) engine, and it was so ridiculous. We actually had a 1974 truck, it's a rolling tribute truck, and we had our film crew; a sound guy, a camera guy, the host and a driver; four guys in a truck and trailer with no heater. We really didn't discuss (the heater) until they were on the road.
"They were in the truck three days, it was cold, they complained, but they had fun and at the end of the day, it made for a great adventure," Brutsman added. "I didn't want to fake it. I wanted to try to do it. See if it could be done. They made the trip, stopped off at some of the really cool sites along the way – which is another part of our show – as we're really trying to see the world through the eyes of a trucker."
The re-created movie run is a perfect way for BCII to introduce the lifestyle as well.
"You kind of forget that, as these (truckers) go over the open highways, they stop in (places like) Tupelo, Mississippi and see these truck stops, see all these cool, famous places," Brutsman said. "They stopped at some of the places that were included in the movie as well.
"There was a time in the 50s, 60s or 70s where truckers were highlighted as these cool guys, you could start your own business and run around the country," he added. "They live their lives day in, and day out, bringing us things. We've become such an elitist society that we've become blind to where everything comes from. What we're going to be able to see throughout the series is that there's nothing around us, that doesn't involve a truck in some sort or fashion."