Published May 27, 2022 by Rick Cundiff
May the Force be with you! Star Wars (now Episode IV: A New Hope) premiered 45 years ago on May 25.
Sure, the film brought us stunning new images, timeless characters and a classic storyline. And we’ll never forget the first time the Millennium Falcon jumped to hyperspace.
Having said all that, most of us who were teenage boys that spring preferred another jump – that of a Pontiac over a washed-out bridge.
That car was the star, of course, of Smokey and the Bandit. Released just two days after Star Wars, the film was an instant classic in its own right.
A black Trans Am with gold trim, 400-cubic-inch (6.6-liter) engine, T-tops and a CB radio. Just what the doctor ordered for cruising those back roads, running interference for a truckload of smuggled Coors beer.
Add Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jerry Reed, a killer soundtrack and a basset hound named Fred, and you had a real winner. Light on plot, heavy on fast driving, it made any red-blooded American male want to head straight to the Pontiac dealer as soon as the credits rolled.
I felt the need, the need for speed. (Yeah, I know, wrong movie.) Since I was driving my grandmother’s ’69 Beetle at the time, that wasn’t really an option. With an engine about a quarter of the size of a Trans Am’s, it kinda left something to be desired on the drive home.
To say that Beetle wasn’t fast is the understatement of the year. Zero to 60 time was somewhere in the vicinity of “lunchtime tomorrow.” That certainly didn’t stop me from trying though. By putting my foot all the way to the floor, I finally got it hauling – something or other -- at 70 mph. Woo Hoo!
The speed limit on that stretch of interstate at the time was 55. As the state trooper who wrote my first-ever speeding ticket was happy to point out.
Like my driving skills, my taste in cars has evolved since then. Let’s face it, those ‘70s machines were far better suited to straight lines than curves, Bandit’s (or the stuntman’s) feats notwithstanding. But I’d still love to have that classic Trans Am, for at least a little while. Might be worth commemorating on a patch….