Top Gear Tackles Smokey and the Bandit Challenge with Modern Trans Am

Photos by Webb Bland/

The boys at Top Gear have a long way to go and a short time to get there in a modern day, 717 horsepower Bandit Trans Am. Their goal is to make the historic Smokey and the Bandit  road trip from Atlanta to Texas, and back, in 28 hours.

Thirty-nine years after the original Bandit Trans Am made history, the crew at Top Gear picked up a modern Trans Am from Trans Am Worldwide (TAW) for the 19-hour estimated round trip. In case you’ve been living under a rock, inside a mountain, on Mars, the TAW Trans Ams are incredible pieces of machinery. Don’t dare call them specialized Camaros, because they are builds of their own.

This particular TAW Trans Am is a top of the line Bandit Edition with removable t-tops, a twin-screw 2.9l supercharged 7.4L 717hp/835tq engine, and the iconic black and gold appearance package.

The crew’s mission was to run to Texas for a beer and return to Atlanta — sounds easy, right? Even considering the near ten hours to spare, there was still dining, trips to the gas station, and stops for photography to account for along the way.

Their starting point is at the Lakewood Fairgrounds in Atlanta — where a policeman decides to scope out the action, so thumbs up for staying true to the plot of the movie.

As soon as they start rolling, they realize that T-tops and large hats are hard to manage, amateurs. This must be their first experience with t-tops since they’re also amazed by how rain will fly over the top while you’re in motion, oh the wonderment.

At the 165-mile mark of the trip, they stop for gas at a station in Holly Pond, Alabama — this is an incredibly short mileage capacity for the car’s tank, but that wouldn’t stop us from driving the hell out of the modern Bandit Trans Am anyways. During the stop, the guys are bogged down by admirers, so bank that into time-lost.

They make a scheduled pitstop at a Memphis, TN Peterbuilt truck dealer, as an ode to Cledus’ truck in the film. This stop is followed by the next fuel up at 429 miles, so still not looking great on fuel economy (but again, who cares). After noting a low-oil light, they have to be shown how to fill up on oil without a funnel, take out of that what you will. Fuel stop three comes at 621 miles, and they take 20 minutes to put the t-tops on before carrying on down the road.

An adoring Pontiac enthusiast catches the crew before they head out to tell them about his 1966 Pontiac GTO — a car TAW will eventually make for its customers. This is of course before they chicken out when a Porsche 911 tries to race them once they hit the road again.

The halfway point in the journey, Texarkana, is reached only thirteen minutes behind schedule, amazing considering the three gas station stops and ‘troubles’ from the t-tops. They grab their beer at a drive-thru liquor store, and start the journey back, taking a sleep break at the Mississippi boarder.

Fuel stop number four happens at 859.7 miles, and they both encounter another officer and need a fluid top off. Not even thirty minutes after leaving the station, they are pulled over for going 80mph in a 60mph zone, and get a ticket — which really just makes the trip that much more authentic.

Cutting close with time at this point, fuel stop number five occurs at the 23:15 mark, and they decide that making the time didn’t matter as much as a stop at the Montgomery Motorsports Park. Considering that they were only going 20mph over during the trip, it seems a worthy time waster for the sake of finally manhandling this beast of a machine.

They hit the dragstrip and a dirt-road area (calm down, they did plenty of off-roading with the original Trans Am), and completely miss their mark on time.

After a quick stop at the bridge jumped for the movie in 1977, the Mulberry bridge, they return to Lakewood at 31:47 hours. The seven state journey seemed well-worth it to travel the westbound and down Bandit trip, and in such an incredible car too. We may have gotten a little more foolish with the car’s power along the way if it were us behind the wheel. But that’s a conversation for another time…

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