by Bo Durban - July 8, 2023
This is research related to the Pontiac LeMans patrol cars from Smokey and the Bandit that had the "TwinSonic" light bar on it. This light bar was manufactured by Federal Signal Corporation. The "TwinSonic" light bar can be identitfied by the tag on the side of the light bar which is fairly recognizable after the LeMans crashes into the pond.
In the movie, this LeMans is used as 3 different patrol cars:
- Mississippi Highway Patrol - this is the white patrol car that Bandit and Snowman uneventfully pass at night on their way to Texarkana.
- Arkansas Highway Patrol - this is the car that Bandit hides from behind the shack in the town square at night. It is the same LeMans (both physically and in the story) that crashes into the pond the next morning. Technically, this car trades places with a Plymouth during filming, but we don't care about that detail for this story.
- Mississippi Highway Patrol - this car is used for a very quick dub in at the Mississippi roadblock when 2 MHP cars crash into the ditch (aka 'Ready Roy?' scene) Technically the cars in the movie were Plymouths, but this car and a Ford were used, for a couple of seconds as part of that sequence. (screen shot below) Why does this matter? Because if you follow the filming schedule, this LeMans was repainted 1 time and the timing of this repaint is significant for figuring out both filming schedule details as well as how many Trans Ams were used in the movie.
9/3/1976 - The scene were the LeMans crashes into the pond was filmed. We know the exact date because of a copy of the call sheet donated by Tyler Hambrick. We know the car was reused because of an interview with Hal Needham talking about that car. The story was confirmed by Barry Trivette whos father helped prepare the stunt cars for the movie. On this day, the LeMans shares the screen with Trans Am #2 (no seatbelts)
9/4/1976 - The night scene where Bandit hides behind the building in the McDonough time square uses the same LeMans. On this day Trans Am #2 is used for filming but has an accident that destroys the suspension (per witness and group member Doug Walker). Trans Am #1 (small dent in driver door) is used to finish up filming and is the one we see in the movie.
At some point between 9/4 and 10/7 this LeMans lost its custom hood scoop.
10/7/1976 - The night scene where Bandit initially runs from this car, which was filmed in Jonesboro, shares the screen with Trans Am #3. Trans Am #3 was earlier used as an "Insert Car" (close up camera car) and had several modifications as such. By this date, the car was converted (mostly) back to an original looking car to use for these driving sequences. ****
10/7/1976 - The LeMans was quickly painted white and converted into a Mississippi Highway Patrol car. It was used to film the night scenes at the beginning of the movie. This date is based on the "Advanced Schedule" section of the 10/4 callsheet donated by Tyler Hambrick. It is also the only rain date in this time period based on weather history.
10/8/1976 - (or approx) The LeMans was crashed into a white Ford to create the dub in shot for the "Ready Roy" scene. After this it was no longer used for filming.
**** Trans Am#3 is identified by missing grilles and the gold tape stripe on the front bumper is damaged in the same spot where the tow bar was attached for filming. Trans Am #1 was beat up pretty bad doing stunts on 10/5 and 10/6 at GA400 and was not up to the task. Ironicaly, Trans Am #2 was converted to an insert car and used for close ups for the last few days of filming.