MIAMI — It was a barn find that would have left the American Pickers cast reeling with envy, the kind of thing that spawns urban legends and turns the timid into treasure hunters. An 84-year-old grandmother, the owner of South Carolina’s Snuggle Inn Doggie Resort in Anderson South Carolina, stumbled onto the car that served as the source of inspiration for Smokey and the Bandit Movie Director Hal Needham. Yes, She had discovered black gold.
Renee Martino went looking for a Trans Am. She was a fan of the hot rods of her youth and a big-time fan of late actor Burt Reynolds, whose 1977 “Smokey and the Bandit” turned Pontiac’s muscle car into a Detroit sales phenomenon. The four Trans Ams used in the movie were destroyed during filming, so no one could have guessed that the car Martino found would turn out to be none other than the one Reynolds later called the official first-born Bandit.
A historical first, Pontiac modified a 1976 Trans Am for the cover photo on the 1977 brochure. And that photo, spotted by “Smokey and the Bandit” director Hal Needham, inspired him to make the Trans Am the film’s centerpiece car and a character in the movie.
Cleaned up and thoroughly documented by Burt Reynolds, Hal Needham, Smoke Signal magazine and PHS Automotive Services, Martino’s son, David Martino, took the car to a Florida show, but with a detour to Reynold’s home. The late actor posed with the car and autographed it, adding to its value and pedigree.
“This Trans Am is as iconic as they come,” said Rick Deiters of Trans Am specialties in Miami. “It is the only one in the world. Never in my lifetime will there be another automobile as iconic. It’s immediately recognizable worldwide and someone is going to really enjoy having it in his collection. It’s well documented as the car that stared the Smokey and the Bandit phenomenon.
“With its multi-level pedigree this automobile is legendary and will be part of Hollywood’s history forever and we think it could go to either a private collector, museum or to a business that could leverage its marketing value to attract customers,” Deiters said.