• Mar 3rd 2011 at 6:41PM
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American Truckers does the Smokey and the Bandit beer run – Click above to watch video after the jump

SPEED is looking to revamp its program lineup as it enters its 15th year on the air. One of the programs that's set to hit televisions is called American Truckers. Hosted by Rob Mariani, the series looks at iconic rigs, amazing routes and the people who make up the industry. To kick off the series, the crew of American Truckers has decided to get down to business and re-create a route with which most of your are familiar: the epic 1,800-mile beer run from Smokey and the Bandit.

The first and most important part of the journey (besides the beer, of course) is making sure they have the right vehicles. Bud Brutsman, producer of American Truckers, Rides, Overhaulin' (the list goes on...), and his crew acquired a 1974 Kenworth W900 Snowman tribute truck. Year One stepped up to the plate and handed over the keys to a resto-mod 1978 Pontiac Trans-Am. The Bandit car is packing a 605-horsepower LS7 engine with a five-speed transmission, Baer six-piston calipers on 14-inch front and rear rotors and a roll-cage with a five-point racing harness.

Vehicles in order, the team set out on their journey from Atlanta with their sights set on Texarkana. How'd they fare? Read on to find out...

[Source: Speed | Image: Year One]
American Truckers takes on Smokey and the Bandit teaser clip

The American Truckers 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.

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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."

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Please. I did 1,955 miles in a bench seat, 4 cyl S10 with a bed full of crap and 410lbs of human and a cat in the cab in 34 hours.

      • 4 Years Ago
      A sick part of me wants to watch to see if they jump that Trans Am the same way they did it in '77.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I don't think I exaggerate by saying that taken together, Smokey and the Bandit and Road House form a primer for how to lead a rewarding, self-reflective, and moral life.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I love the "T/A 7.0" lettering on the cowl. But this 7.0 has a lot more power than those old big-blocks.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Loving that Year One Trans-Am. That was my dream car when I was in 4th grade.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's awesome that your mom lets you post on Autoblog at the tender age of 12.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Does anyone else love seeing those tricked out Semi trucks at night all tricked out with the LED's everywhere and after-market stacks? Some of the truckers even put in HID headlights and glow kits. Seeing those always gives me a smile on a long night road trip to Vegas. I hope they do an episode about those trucks.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This single AB story is cooler than anything that has ever been posted on Autoblog Green.

      Eastbound and down......

      • 4 Years Ago
      Great idea. Loved the old movie. Probably watched it a dozen times. Classic for sure.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like to think that I'm a pretty big carguy, but I HATE the Speed Channel. I think they need to seriously revamp their programming BIGTIME!!! This will help. I do respect the fact that a lot of people like NASCAR but I for one am sick of ALL the nascar programming they have on there. I like different types of racing myself. The Bloomberg Channel had GT racing on, on the weekends and I would watch that. It's pretty sad when I have to watch the car racing I like on a financial network. Come on Speed, get it together...
      • 4 Years Ago
      i used to have a 79 black and gold, it stocked a 403 olds but the guy i bought it from had swapped in a bored 455. it also had all the decals removed and airbrushed on instead. i used to terrorize my highschool in that car... it wasn't very fast but it could do burn outs like there was no tomorrow.

      in the movie when sally fields says "are we really doing 110?" they are really doing about 70, she was lookign at kph on the spedometer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Uh, unless they were riding the Ferris wheel the word would be fare.

      Spell check is no substitute for proofing your work, even on the Internet.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks for the fix. That at least makes sense.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Did Mariani ever actually drive a truck for a living?
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