Sic Trans Am Gloria

The way it was

’79 Trans Am from the collection of Bill Stewart

We were saddened to hear that Burt Reynolds’ very own ’77 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, his Smokey and the Bandit co-star, is set to hit the auction block this week along with the Golden Globe he won for Boogie Nights and hundreds of other artifacts from the breadth of his career. Burt’s apparent reversal of fortune underscores the fact that they don’t make movies like Smokey and the Bandit anymore. Come to think of it, they don’t make Pontiacs anymore, nor films starring Burt Reynolds. The Trans Am isn’t so much a vehicle as a holy relic of a bygone era of automotive excess and scenery chewing..

The (screaming) chickens have come home to roost

The (screaming) chickens have come home to roost

We also noted that the Trans Am of this era was listed by no less an authority than Road & Track as among the 51 Coolest Cars of the Last 50 Years.  It’s not often that the louche Firebird gets to keep company with all manner of Alfa Romeos, Lancias, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Porsches and BMWs.  Aura, it seems, is not something on which one can put a price.



We’ve always found Firebirds to exude an anti-social attitude, they’re a cipher for the “greaser” ethos, especially the hot Trans Am model which sports that crazy “screaming chicken” hood decal. It depicts a literal “Firebird,” wings splayed, rising from flames and/or ashes.  We know a woman who was set up on a blind date back when these things were new.  She looked through the peephole in her front door when she heard a low end rumble emanating from the driveway and was aghast to realize that her date had driven up in a Trans Am.  She panicked and left though the back door, standing up her unseen date and foregoing the thrill of riding shotgun with a view of inverted feathered fury before her.

The read deal, shaker hood 'n' all

Somebody’s idea of bird watching

The Firebird name can be traced back to a series of GM dream cars one of which we encountered during a visit to the GM Tech Center in Warren Michigan.  Behold the Firebird II, a gas turbine powered experiment that debuted in 1957, truly a flightless flight of fantasy.

Bubble roof bird

Bubble roof bird

'50s Firebird, a literal road rocket

Road rocket for real

We found a first generation (’67 – ’69) Firebird on the streets of Stockholm where American muscle cars are very much appreciated. It’s not clear if the purple paint job came from the factory or was applied by the Scandinavian equivalent of Earl Scheib.

Swede stuff

Swede stuff

Feral Cars Field Scout Heather Crist Paley found this much more subdued convertible of the same vintage back in the USA.  We think it looks downright civilized; who wouldn’t open the door to someone who arrived in this?

Chickenfree early 'bird

Chicken-free early ‘bird

The last generation Firebird didn’t endure as long as Pontiac.  GM shut down the marque in 2009 while the final Firebirds were built from 1993 to 2002.  Quite recently, we saw a white convertible and a blue coupe from that era.  It’s a reminder that, like Burt Reynolds’ career, the leap from renown to ridicule can sometimes be a short jump.

Headed for extinction

Headed for extinction

Look at the beak on that thing!

Sleek beak

Burt’s Bandit Trans Am is expected to go for upwards of $60,000 but you can get a perfectly serviceable example for less than half that much.  We like this ’78 with a mere 95,000 miles on offer in nearby Milford, OH for a just $18,500.

OK, back to Burt and his Trans Am.  Somebody pulled some of the best tire-smokin’ Trans Am stuff from Smokey and The Bandit and posted it here.  We’re lovin’ the late, great Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down” on the soundtrack!

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One thought on “Sic Trans Am Gloria

  1. Byron Laursen

    When you want a purple paint job in any of the Scandinavian countries, you go to Jarl Scheib. If possible, arrive with Gene Chandler singing “Duke of Jarl” on your car radio.


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