Run, Bandits, Run

So much so that last year he sold his 2003 Acura and bought a $1500 Honda Civic to drive to work. "I took the money I was spending on my new car and I bought this." "This" is a fully restored 1977 Trans Am Special Edition, which Hershey found through Trans Am restoration specialist Dave Hall of Restore a Muscle Car in Lincoln, Nebraska.

"When I went there, of course we were talking about the car," Hershey said, "and I mentioned this whole idea of 2007 being the thirtieth anniversary of the movie and the idea of doing this run . . . "

"This run" is the Bandit Run, a drive Hershey and Hall organized that follows the bulk of the movie plot, a blast from Texarkana to Atlanta. In the movie, Burt Reynolds drove a Trans Am with Sally Field riding shotgun and his partner, played by Jerry Reed, driving an eighteen-wheeler loaded with Coors beer (which was then illegal to transport east of Texas). Jackie Gleason, as Sheriff Buford T. Justice, gave chase.

We're making the run in a black 1979 Trans Am, purchased for just this occasion by Automobile Magazine's auction reporter, Dave Kinney. Seconds after our car first rolls into view outside the Little Rock, Arkansas, airport terminal, we attract our own Sheriff Buford T. Justice, in the form of an overexcited Arkansas state trooper. He interrupts his important business of ticketing cars at expired meters to harangue the delivery driver who, after trucking the car down from Missouri, is now picking us up in the Trans Am. Evidently, our driver has chosen the wrong one of the three empty lanes in front of the terminal and is thereby Impeding the Flow, an offense that carries a $185 fine.

Despite demonstrating a complete lack of respect for the law, we get out of there without a ticket, but only because Buford fails to notice that the car has no license plate. (It arrives with Kinney on a later flight.)

With Kinney on board and the plate on the back, we roll down I-30 and into the setting sun, with the warm breeze carrying the smells of Arkansas--luckily here it's mostly forestry and not hog farming--through the open windows. The CB antenna almost immediately blows off the roof (we reel it in by its cord), but the car, with 99,000 miles on its Oldsmobile 403-cubic-inch V-8 and three-speed autobox, is running like a train; even the ominous slapping sound coming from the rear end has gone silent--or at least is drowned out by the rumble of the engine and the rush of the wind.

The next morning, at the Tex-Ark Antique Auto Museum for the official kickoff event, we got a very different reception from the representatives of officialdom. The state line-straddling city turns out both its mayors (Mayor Bramlett, of the Texas side, and Mayor Shipp, from the Arkansas side) to give speeches, and the Bandit Runners, in some forty cars, are given a police escort out of town. We're soon "eastbound and down" on state highway 82, getting nothing but friendly waves from the Smokies we pass.

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