Detroit City Council Bans Autorama Bandit Jump Over Seemingly Nonexistent Confederate Flag

Until Tuesday, organizers of the 2019 Detroit Autorama were planning on opening the show on March 1st with a car jump by a replica Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am Firebird. A couple of years ago, the Autorama featured a jump of a Dukes of Hazzard “General Lee” Charger replica, to considerable press coverage, including here at TTAC.

This year, the same group of car enthusiasts that put on the General Lee jump, Northeast Ohio Dukes, was going to be back on Atwater Street behind Cobo Hall, only with a black and gold Pontiac, not an orange Dodge. When it comes to famous fictional car jumps, the Bandit’s Mulberry Bridge leap is right up there with the General Lee’s vault in the Dukes’ opening credits, and the Autorama jump was going to be part of a more general tribute at the custom car show to the late Burt Reynolds, a Michigan native, who starred in SATB.

Detroit’s City Council, though, has put a kibosh on the jump, apparently over a nonexistent Confederate battle flag, voting 7-1 to reject the jump. In the 1977 film, the black and gold Trans Am wears a period-correct Georgia license plate on the front of the car. The plate’s Confederate war banner offends current woke sensibilities.

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QOTD: What Would 'The Modern Bandit' Drive?

Burt Reynolds and his 1977 Pontiac Trans Am in “Smokey and the Bandit”, complete with gold on black screaming chicken and honeycomb wheels, are solidly part of the zeitgeist of the late ’70s.

But what if they weren’t?

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QOTD: It's 1977 and You're The Bandit. Do You Buy a Trans Am... or Something Else?

We had a 1970s movie-car QOTD last week, and that was so much fun we’re doing it again! So, here we go: in the beginning of Smokey and the Bandit, when Big Enos challenges The Bandit to fetch 400 cases of that Colorado Kool-Aid, a wad of cash of unspecified thickness gets handed over for expenses, including a “speedy car.” As we all know, The Bandit headed straight to the nearest Pontiac showroom and bought himself a brand-new 1977 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. In the film, that car seemed to be the fastest imaginable motor vehicle (thanks to the magic of engine swaps, stunt drivers, and special effects). In reality, however, the ’77 Trans Am was kind of a bloated Malaise Era slug, and The Bandit probably had a lot of better escape-the-smokeys car choices available.

So, in his shoes and with a ’77 Trans Am-sized stack of C-notes, what car would you have bought for that run to Texarkana and back?

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Curbside Classic: 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Instead of a “screaming chicken”, the 1979 Firebird Trans Am should have a pterodactyl on the hood. This is truly a living dinosaur, the very last direct descendant of the the original big block/hi-po pony car. Once a thriving species during the golden performance car era, it was all but wiped out by that great natural calamity, the 1974 energy crisis. Challenger, Barracuda, Mustang, Javelin; even its stablemate the Camaro Z28; by 1975 they were all extinct or in deep hibernation. Only the Trans Am hung in there, and then just by a whisker, or a feather, in this case.

But Pontiac’s risky gamble to press on against the odds had a huge payoff: not only did Trans Am sales explode by the end of the decade, but it came to symbolize the whole genre. Rarely has one car so dominated the American public’s awareness: in the second half of the seventies, the Trans Am became the icon of the American performance car, for better or for worse.

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  • Conundrum Was unlucky enough to have a ride in the back of one of these things shortly after they first appeared, a project of Mercedes' ownership of Chrysler and that silly German professor with the gigantico walrus mustache who ran the place.Brother rented one of these early Magnums. The ride in the back was of constant wallowing up and down, like a 2015 BMW 3 Series, where my senses were similarly assaulted by lack of attenion to rear ride comfort, Up front was OK in both, back seat ride bloody awful. Must be a Germanic trait.The Magnum had an additional sensory deficit. Interior smelled of the peculiar rubber/plastic dash. Smelled like Chinese winter boots for kids, or Chinese tires of yore. Pass.
  • Anonymous My dad drove an 84 LTD. He always bragged about how special it was. Interesting to see that again.
  • Conundrum Here's how much Ford had to do design-wise with that engine in the article's lead picture.Zero. It was a Cosworth when Cosworth was still original Cosworth, over 30 years ago. The engine shown is a development of the original DFV. Ford paid to have its name on the cam covers for decades.I wonder who Ford will get to design this proposed new F1 engine for 2026. Because sure as hell, they don't have the in-house talent to do it themselves.
  • Sayahh Story idea or car design competition: design a compact sedan, a midsize sedan, coupe and/or wagon specifically for people 6'4" through 7'2". Not an SUV nor a crossover nor a raised chassis like the US Toyota Crown or Subaru Outback.
  • Sayahh I only check map app only when absolutely necessary and only at a red light. An observation: lots of ppl leave 2 car lengths (or more) between themselves and the car ahead of theirs so that they can text or check the internet (because they are afraid they might roll forward and hit the car in front of them?) This drives me crazy because many ppl do it and 3 cars will take up almost 7 car lengths and ppl cannot get into the left turn lane when it's bordered by a cement "curb." Worse is when they aren't even using their phone and have both hands on the stewring wheel and waiting for the green light. Half a car length is enough, people. Even one car length is too much, but 3 or 4 car lengths? At 40 MPH, maybe, not at 0 MPH please.