by Bo Durban
On March 23, 2023, I had the incredible opportunity to sit down with Barry Trivette at his race shop. During this exclusive interview, Barry shared his captivating story about his involvement, alongside his father's shop, in preparing the stunt cars used in the iconic film, Smokey and the Bandit. Joining us for this momentous occasion were Bill Goforth, one of Barry's racing customers, and Tyler Hambrick, a renowned Smokey and the Bandit historian and the coordinator of the annual "Snowman's Run" event.
I extend my heartfelt gratitude to Barry, Bill, and Tyler for making this interview possible and allowing me to be a part of it. Below, you will find the (mostly) unedited conversations from our extensive interview, which I have divided into segments. This is part one of the interview, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Tyler: Please introduce yourself
Barry: I am Barry Trivette and my Dad's former shop "Baird and Trivette Racing" was put in charge of prepping and helping with all the stunt work. Prepping all the stunt cars. I was 16-17 years old when all that happened. But I was very much involved in what was going on.
Tyler: So that shop was not here?
Barry: No that shop was over in Norcross on Medlock Bridge. Now there are condos sitting there. That was my Dad's shop.
The way we got involved, there was this guy named Don Schisler who was in the industry and he started getting us...Don Schisler and my dad go back to racing NASCAR together back in the 60s. So they have known each other for a long time and Don got involved in the movie business. In turn got us involved. Some of the first stuff we did was doing...the very first thing I remember doing was down at Atlanta motor speedway, Hardee's was doing their big promotion with the "Road Runner" and his crew chief and there was a white Camaro, number 90 that they used in all the ads and everything. My Dad fixed my brother's wrecked race car, sold it to Hardee's and went down to Atlanta Motor Speedway and filmed several commercials for them.
Then we did all the work for "Smokey". Then after that we did "The Dukes of Hazzard" cars. When they first did that. They did the first episodes in Atlanta. Then they moved to California and that killed it. So when it was in Atlanta we did a lot of prep work on the "General Lee"s
Tyler: So for "Smokey and the Bandit" who actually contacted you?
Barry: We already had a reputation of doing movie prep work. In the industry. I mean a lot of people...we had done a lot of small shows and stuff just for people. And I think through Don Schisler he kind of introduced us...well let me back up. The Georgia Film Commision we were on record with them as being a stunt prep shop in the Atlanta area. So they already knew of us. So then Don kind of pushed them our way.
The first thing they said they had to have, was they said "We are gonna wreck a lot of police cars". So my Dad directed them to Dekalb County was selling all there old police cars. So they took all these Dekalb County police cars and made several different state police cars out of them. So instead of buying all new vehicles, they went and bought everything Dekalb County was getting rid of. So that is where all the police cars came from. And we actually had a couple of the T/A Bandits cars in our shop before the dealerships had even seen them yet. We were told to keep them under cover. Dealers didn't have them yet. So they were trying to introduce this movie before the cars were actually ready and available.
Tyler: You had two?
Barry: We had 2 to begin with. We did work on several of them during the show. The one full stunt jump car, was a total car by itself. That is pretty much all it did. Then we had other cars we had to do some reinforcing on suspension. Reinforcing this, that and the other so they could...I think...I am not positive. I think the show used 6 cars and one of those was a beauty car with absolutely nothing but...it was a perfect, pristine car it didn't do anything but have drive by shots of it. And that was their beauty car.
They took one brand new car and screwed it full of camera mounts and just screwed big wood screws right into the side of the body and had cameras mounted to the windshield...it had cameras mounted all over the ex of the body to do the interior filming when Burt and Sally were having discussions back and forth and driving down the road.
And so there were a couple of backups for different things.
Bo: I was researching the Trans Ams used in the movie by analyzing the movie frames and it appears one of the cars had a 4-speed transmission based on how it accelerated.
Barry: Well I was not aware...The car that we got and was told to build the jump car. We got that car. They said we could only go this far up the road and the bridge opening is here, the jump’s here. They could not get that stock Pontiac motor with the automatic transmission up to speed in that time frame. They took the motor and transmission out of the car and in my dad’s shop one of his customers had a late model stock car that raced at Dixie on the asphalt. Took the engine; 350 small block Chevy…took the engine and transmission out of that race car put in the jump car and that was how they got the car up to speed from point A to B. So it had a real race engine and transmission in it for the jump.
Barry: Yea. That was the only manual car that I was aware of.
Tyler: Yall put the roll cage and all that in there?
Barry: Yea. We did the roll cage. We mounted the seat on hinges with motorcycle shocks in the back so it don’t break the driver’s back. I mean we did tremendous work to that car to prep it for the stunt. Calculated how much ballast to put in the trunk so it didn’t land nose first.
Tyler: So that car was toast when it hit the ground.
Barry: Yea. That was one and done.
Bo: I really like watching that jump in the movie because that car is flying as straight as an airplane…
Barry: They calculated all the weights. They put the car on scales and measured how much weight we had to put in the trunk to make the car launch nose up and level out by the time it got to the other side.
Tyler: Did he go too far? I always heard…
Barry: It did. It actually cleared the ramp on the far side. Hal Needham said “Measure that. If it beat my record we are doing this again.” And it was just short of the record. Hal Needham had the record for a jump and he was the director of the movie. Needham sat there and watched it clear the ramp on the far side.
Tyler: I always heard that they originally wanted the car to hit the ramp part, bridge part on the other side and it was supposed to collapse or something but the car went too far.
Barry: It cleared it. Yeah.
Tyler: Now I know there is a U-Haul place there. So did that road just continue on?
Barry: I have no idea on that particular location.
Tyler: Ok. So were you there when it jumped?
Barry: No. I did not get to watch the jump live. One of the places I went to is the end sequence down there at the Lakewood Fairgrounds. A bunch of my Dad's customers took their race cars down there and it is funny because in the movie shows just a few sporadic cars. We had a bunch of race cars and all my Dad's customers were drivers and they were out there and they all thought "We are gonna be in the movie!". Well they cut out all the racing footage and just showed them in the background going...and they show the tractor trailer coming in and you can see the race cars in the background. But I mean we did all day filming racing scenes. So yea I was down there for that filming.
Bo: I wonder if that footage is still around. That would be pretty amazing.
Barry: I don't know. So it was funny at the premier, we were all invited to the premier in Atlanta. And so, all of my Dad's customers that participated with the race cars got tickets and we all went. And so at the premier, some guy comes up front and says "Ok, if anybody was actually in the movie we want you to stand up and recognize you". So all these race car drivers stand up because they thought they were in the movie. So I guess until you see the final cut, you don't know if you are int the movie or not. But it was funny.
Tyler: So you were in the premier then?
Barry: Yes. Yes.
Tyler: Wow! Do you remember what Burt said? Because I have a picture of him at the microphone and he was talking, something.
Barry: I was a junior in high school and I have had lunch since then...so.... But I just remember it being a very unique experience because you know, at a premier there is a lot of media attention and everything.
Tyler: So best guess, what happened to the 400 engine that got pulled out of it.
Barry: I have no idea. All that stuff went straight back to the studio. I mean they told us anything we took out like interior and anything we took out of the car they had a big box truck and they took it somewhere.
Tyler: So you said you were working on cars, did y'all, was that at Lakewood Fairgrounds.
Barry: No, our shop was in Norcross.
Tyler: I mean did they work on the cars at the fairgrounds or did they bring them to y'all?
Barry: No, they brought them to us. Yea, I don't know. I know there is a lot of studios and shops in Lakewood now but back when they were filming that, there was nothing. No.
Tyler: I was thinking of the football car where it went through the duggout. They tore that car up.
Barry: Yea that was an ooops by the female stunt driver.
Bo: So they put that Chevy engine in there. After the jump, did they pull that motor back out?
Barry: Oh, yea. The engine and transmission...I think they probably put it in a car and raced the next Saturday night. It was on loan. They paid a lot of money to rent it...to borrow it. So...but yes, just...like I said, it was a good personal friend of my dad that was a racer, one of his customers, and they said they needed a race engine and a good transmission to do the jump and my Dad said "well they are willing to pay, we will pull it out of there".
The prep work on the jump car was just phenomenal. Like I say, they didn't want to impact the driver's back so we hinged...we put a race seat in the car. Hinged the front of the seat and mounted motorcycle shocks. Coil over motorcycle shocks on the back of the seat so when it hit it had dampening and springs to help soften the blow on the driver's back.
But I thought one of the coolest things was when the Sheriff and his son went under the tractor trailer. On that one, both of those actors are tall and so the stunt guys are tall. So they actually rigged up a deal where the passenger seat...at a certain time they hit a button. The passenger seat flew back and the driver laid over this way and the passenger laid over this way when they went under that thing. Because there was not enough room for 2 grown men.
Part 2 coming soon...