by Steve Thompson
I own a 1977 Special Edition Black Bandit Trans Am and a 1978 Black Bandit Tribute Trans Am. Both have the 400 Pontiac Engine, 350 Turbo automatic transmission, power windows, T-tops, polished snow flake wheels, new paint and graphics, AM- FM Stereo CD player with amplifier and additional CD changer in the trunk and built in CB radio.
The 1978 was purchased six years ago and has been restored, frame on. Three years ago, I saw the 1977 at a car show. I told the owner to call me if he decided to sell it. I kept in touch with him and he finally agreed to sell it to me in the fall of 2006. I had it repainted in March 2007 and put new graphics on it in April. A fellow Trans Am owner, Gary Drew of Colorado Springs, told me about the possibility of a “Bandit Run” on May 15 -19, 2007. I immediately began research into the possibility of such a thing. Boy did that sound like fun. I signed up for the Run and decided I had to drive my 1977 Special Edition Bandit Car. I hoped to drive the car to a bunch of car shows in April, to test out the endurance of the 77 Bandit. But, it rained or snowed every weekend and the car sat in the garage. The “Run” was its initiation drive.
On Sunday May 13, I left Colorado Springs, Colorado and headed to Texarkana, Texas. I pulled into the designated hotel Monday night and saw a roped off area for the Bandit Run cars. Boy was I excited to join the other drivers on the first “Bandit Run”. That evening, most of the drivers were cleaning their cars for the next day “Run”. A bunch of us decided to drive to the Texarkana Classic Car Museum (Day 1 meeting place).
Day 1 we parked in the lot of the Texarkana Car Museum and got a free tour of the museum. While waiting for the official start of the “Run” a couple actors appeared, one dressed like “Sheriff Buford T. Justice” and another dressed like “Junior”. We met the actors and also had a visit from the mayor of Texarkana. He wished us a safe drive to Atlanta and the drive began with Police escort out of town. We started the Run with maybe 50 or so Trans AM’s, GTO’s, a Camaro, a Dukes of Hazard Car, and other Pontiacs. About an hour or so later, we picked up more police escorts as they took us through Magnolia, Arkansas. We were escorted around the town square where hundreds (if not thousands) of people were lining the streets waving to the Bandit Run Convoy. What a sight to see, all the people standing on the sidewalks waving and yelling at us as we drove by. That evening we pulled into Tupelo, Mississippi for the night.
Day 2 saw us meet at the Tupelo Auto Museum to show off our cars, view the cars in the museum and see the new “Year One Bandit Car”. It looks fantastic, but a little pricey for some. We were told that Bandit One starts at around $130,000 with Bandit Two at $160,000 and Bandit Three around $190,000. That morning, we probably picked up another ten or so cars joining the Bandit Run. We then began the drive from Tupelo to Birmingham, Alabama, after having a BBQ lunch at the museum.
Day 3 saw us pick up another 10 or so cars and leave Birmingham, driving in a convoy toward Atlanta. I had the pleasure to take on a passenger in my Bandit car, that day. Steve Clark flew to the USA from England to go on the Bandit Run. Day One and Two, he rode with other drivers and asked me if he could ride with me on Day 3, to experience riding in my Colorado “Bandit7” car. On the way to Atlanta, we stopped on the side of the road to gather all the Trans Am’s and other cars on the Run. Our next exit was to be the Talladega Race Track. Once at the track, we got to tour the museum and were treated to lunch. Photographers were lifted high in the air on a boom truck and took a photo of all the cars parked in the parking lot. That photo is in the August Automotive Magazine, in their article about the Bandit Run. We then drove to Atlanta, running into a huge traffic jam on our way to the Year One facility. Most of the Trans Am’s did not overheat in the hot weather and bumper to bumper traffic. Once at the Year One facility, we were treated to tours and snacks. We got to see the area where the new Bandit Cars are being built. We also heard the official news that Burt Reynolds was not going to make the trip to Atlanta due to an illness. Most of us Bandit drivers were disappointed that we were not going to meet him in person.
Day 4 saw us meet at the Year One facility to drive in a convoy to the Road Atlanta Track, for the annual Year One Experience. We showed off all the Bandit Run cars, which now totaled close to 90 or so, in a special Bandit Run Car Show. The organizers also gathered up all the black “Bandit” cars and took us down to the track facilities. We lined up our cars and drove two times around the track completing 5 laps, so a camera car could shoot the entire drive. We then came in to change camera cars and headed out for a second time to drive 5 more laps. What a sight to see, all the Bandit cars. I estimated that there were about 28 Bandit cars from 1977 through 1980. Once done, we then drove back to park them for the remainder of the day at the Bandit Run Car Show.
Day 5: Since Burt Reynolds wasn’t going to be at the Bandit Run Car Show, I decided to head back to Colorado. I knew that I had a 3-day drive back and left that Saturday morning. What I missed was the unveiling of the new Year One Bandit Car, but I had already seen it while on the Bandit Run.
Some of the participants of the Run were going to drive to a couple movie locations on Day 6 or Sunday. That part would have been nice to attend, but I kept thinking about my long drive back. There was no way that I was going to trailer my car to and from Atlanta, while on the Run. I had to experience the whole drive, even if it did cost me over $600 in fuel for the whole trip, ouch! But a small price to pay for a fantastic experience that I will never forget. I did the Bandit Run, wow!