A day in the life of 3 Trans Ams

McDonough, GA, September 4, 1976

Day 6 Of Filming

Thanks to group member Doug Walker we know the fate of one of the Trans Ams used in Smokey and the Bandit:

On the evening of September 4, 1976, filming moved to McDonough, GA Town Square. The scenes are 35-D and 35-E where Bandit is running from the Arkansas state trooper and hides behind the the building in the middle of the square.

The square was filled with McDonough residents there to watch the filming of the next Burt Reynolds movie. The first scene filmed was the close up of Burt Reynolds as he rounds the corner headed towards the square. Burt is driving the Trans Am with a camera mounted to the driver's door. This is Insert Car #3. After the first take, Burt politely asked the onlookers to stand a little further back so they would not get picked up by the camera. Then Burt did the 2nd close up take, which is the one you see in the movie.

Burt drives the insert car into the square to set up the next scene

For the next scene, the plan is for the Trans Am to do a high speed s-turn into the square. The car should swerve to avoid the curb in the corner of the square and then hop up the high curb onto the square's center to hide behind a small building. Ironically, the small building is operated by the McDonough Police Department.

The problem is, the stunt driver (Alan Gibbs) came in a little too fast to make the turn. The Trans Am slams into the curb, fully parallel, and blows out both tires and destroys both wheels on the passenger side of the car. Doug said it sounded like a bomb went off. The whole suspension of the car was damaged in the accident.

The movie crew tows the car away and cleans up the debris. They pulled another Trans Am off the car hauler (Hero Car #1) to film the scene again. This is the take you see in the movie.

This is take 2 of the Trans Am navigating the traffic curb

We know the 2nd take is Hero Car #1 because of the headlamp that is out and the small dent in the driver's door. I derived that the car Doug saw in the accident was Hero Car #2 as we don't see this Trans Am again for several filming days. It shows up again near the end of the filming schedule and it is used as an insert car (for close ups) when filming the Alabama convoy / rocking chair scene. That was filmed on or around September 22, 1976.

The last scene filmed this evening is Burt driving Hero Car #1 from behind the building where he stops and smiles at the camera. As they were setting up to film this scene, Doug's brother went over to talk to Hal Needham:

Doug's Brother: "Hey, when you get done filming this movie I sure would like a chance to buy one of those Trans Ams"

Hal Needham: "Well son I’d love to just give one to ya but those are Ghost cars meaning they don’t have VIN numbers"

Burt Reynolds breaks the 4th wall

Here is an aerial photo from 1981 of the square (the closest date I could find). It shows the original location of the triangle shaped traffic curbs. The one in the lower right corner is the one that took out Hero Car #2 (south east corner)

McDonough, GA Town Square circa 1981

Other Interesting Information

It appears that Hero Car #2 becomes a donor car after it is damaged. If we compare Stunt Car #4 before and after this accident, it appears to get some new wheels. Car #4 is the one we see with the incorrect honeycomb wheels in a couple of scenes. However, when Car #4 does the mailbox smash, we see it has the correct snowflake wheel on the rear. The mail box smash was filmed 3-4 days after the town square scene.

Does this mean Stunt Car #4 received the 2 good snowflake wheels from Hero Car #2? Here is a behind the scenes picture of Car #2, set up as an insert car. Notice it has plain steel wheels on it now.

  • Car #4: Mixture of wheels on Stunt car
  • Car #4: Honeycomb wheels at Texarkana sign
  • Car #2: Converted to an Insert car

Google maps: McDonough, GA - Town Square

Thanks again to Doug Walker for meeting me at the McDonough, GA square and sharing his story with me. What a treat!