East Bound and Down

Running with the Bandit Run 2014

Chris Chessnoe - August 19, 2014 01:30 PM


Vehicles ranged in make and model, but understandably, most were black with a ’bird on their hoods.


The event started at the Carlisle GM Nationals and participants had double the fun between the two events.


Ryan Reid and his black Trans Am won our celebrity’s choice pick. We love that he drives it and shares his enthusiasm with folks wherever he goes.


The Carlisle Theatre even got into the fun with a special showing of the original movie.


Participants were escorted off of the Carlisle grounds behind Buford T’s cruiser on their next adventure.


Bandit’s fame is far-reaching and folks showed up alongside the highway to cheer him on!


One of the larger-than-life stars of the show was Snowman’s rig. Having it there gives a heightened excitement to the event.


At each stop, it was Bandits for as far as the eye could see!


Each year, there are highlights along the route. The Air and Space Museum was one of this year’s highlights.


This newer-model Trans Am spelled out the route for this year’s event.


When you’re driving a black ’78 Trans Am on the Bandit Run, no other plate will do.


Panoramic shot of the participants from this year’s Bandit Run.

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“East bound and down, loaded up and trucking ...”


When that song plays, there isn’t a red-blooded American who doesn’t begin to think of a black Trans Am, waylaid bride, and a tractor trailer with a memorable mural on a cross-country jaunt for a truckload of Coors beer. Why? For the money, for the glory and for the fun, of course!

In 1977, Burt Reynolds, along with an all-star cast including Jerry Reed, Jackie Gleason, Sally Field, and the aforementioned black Trans Am, took the country by storm in the first movie of the Smokey and the Bandit series. The concept was simple. The world’s biggest showoff, never one to back down from a challenge, agreed to bring 400 cases of Coors beer from Texarkana, Texas, back to Atlanta, Georgia, because the Burdette Brothers were having some friends over – and they were thirsty. (And in those days, Coors wasn’t available east of the Misssissippi.)

The escapades that ensued were memorable, stunts unforgettable, and the comedy was unparalleled. Car chases, jumps, and some spectacular crashes made Smokey and the Bandit an action-packed feature. The movie quickly became a classic and is still running, every week on some cable TV channel, somewhere in America. The movie has a following that is quite possibly larger than ever. Who wouldn’t like to be the Bandit, with “Frog” as their passenger seat cover? 

Fast-forward a few decades and the famed black Trans Am remains popular, to the point where it’s a cornerstone of Dave Hall’s Lincoln, Nebraska-based automotive shop titled Restore a Muscle Car (RaMC). For the past 10 years, they have brought many of these legends back to life or to the next level, with features making the cars as comfortable as they are quick.

In 2007, Dave and the RaMC team came up with the idea to recreate the run made famous in the 1977 Bandit movie. They organized a convoy of devout fans and about 30 Trans Ams from Texarkana to Atlanta. With the first run deemed a success, it was natural to make it an annual event. With each subsequent run reaching a different part of the country, it enabled participants to see the country, along with some of the greatest auto museums and racetrack facilities.

Last year, while in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we were taking part in their annual Corvette rally, when we heard of the Bandit Run and caught a small part of their run through the Black Hills to Colorado – and the Coors Brewery, of course. While the sight of the Bandit Run got us thinking ahead to the following year, we decided it would be fun to see what it was all about. We planned to follow the 2014 route, which was scheduled from Pennsylvania to South Carolina.

Kicking off the event at the Carlisle GM Nationals event in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the all-GM show proved to be the perfect launch site for the 2014 event. With over 140 cars registered for the event and over 250 participants, this would be one of the biggest Bandit Runs to date. Arriving at Carlisle, it was impressive to see the sea of black Trans Ams, and dozens of other birds of a similar feather and even a stray Camaro or two, looking for their inner Bandit.

Aside from the Bandit’s legendary blocker car, the run would not have been complete without the Snowman and his Peterbilt rig, and a Buford T. Justice police car, of which there were two. Of course, we checked to see if there was a Diablo sandwich and Dr. Pepper on the dash, but Buford must’ve been in a hurry. Anyways, throughout the weekend in Pennsylvania, fans could be heard sharing their favorite lines from the movie, too many to remember. 

As a part of the show, we were asked to select our favorite car from the event – any car on the show field. Naturally, we picked a black Trans Am, belonging to Ryan Reid. Ryan had a great story to share about the car and how he drives it frequently. Built for runs such as these, he’s been to most of them, and feels the camaraderie is second to none. Ryan definitely keeps the wheels spinning! 

Saturday night, loaded up and headed from the fairgrounds, we travelled in a pack to downtown Carlisle, where the town theater ran the original movie for all fans to see. For some, this was their first time seeing the film on the big screen! In addition, Trans Ams further lined the downtown streets making for quite a show.

The following day, the caravan headed south to Gettysburg for tours and then to Chantilly, Virginia, for the next official stop, which included tours of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum at the Udvar-Hazy Center. This annex of the Smithsonian houses all forms of aircraft, including the Space Shuttle Discovery, Air France Concorde SST, and dozens upon dozens of other historical craft, from all eras and modes of flight.

On Monday, the Bandit Run continued south, encountering what seemed like more Trans Ams than before amid tremendous traffic on Interstate 95. After regrouping just outside Fredericksburg, Virginia, we travelled secondary highways the rest of the trip to Virginia Beach. With a quick lunch at Hooters and another parking lot car show, the Bandit Run pulled into town, where the next two days would be spent. 

The final leg of the run was to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where, at the end of the trek, Dave Hall counted nearly 90 vehicles, as some had branched off and gone their separate ways. Others remained committed, and in for the long haul. It was interesting to note that along the way, several cars were spotted with “BR14” decals on their windows, which weren’t expected. A BMW, Mazda, and even a few stray Dodges were seen participating. 

But it wasn’t about what you drove. Sure, it helped to have a black ’77 Trans Am, but if you didn’t, and imagined you had a great mustache, or sounded taller on the radio, you could join in the fun and antics of the Bandit Run! Looking forward to 2015, Dave said, plans are underway for the next event, which if this year was any indication, you won’t want to miss the fun! In the meantime, “we’re off to Boston for some clam chowder!” See you next time!