Does this one bring a movie title to mind?
Text and photos by Mark Ehlen
Many of our preferences in life are formed when we are just kids, usually because of experiences we have involving family and friends. Our favorite foods, activities, movies, clothes and yes, cars, become so because of enjoyable experiences we had with them when we were young.
Michael Gressman was just 7-years-old when his dad took him to see the movie Smokey and the Bandit. The movie made such an impression on him that he still occasionally watches it to this day. Not that a 7-year-old had much interest in Burt Reynolds, Sally Field or even the general plot of the film. No, Michael’s interest was in the real star of the movie, the 1977 Special Edition Black and Gold Trans Am that was being chased for most of the plot.
Young boys love exciting car chases and Smokey and the Bandit had its share. It was that day that Michael decided that one day he would have a Trans Am just like the one in the movie. Of course that was going to have to wait awhile but that little boy’s dream refused to die.
Of course there was no way that Michael could have imagined that it would take more than 25 years before he could actually start thinking about looking for his dream car. It was not until 2004 that the serious search began for a Bandit Edition Black and Gold Trans Am with the T-Top option. What he found was a surprisingly solid 1978 that had gone through an amateur resto that he called a “20 foot car” meaning it looked great from across the street or if it was in any kind of motion.
Michael enjoyed his Bandit car for a number of years but eventually realized that it was going to need a proper restoration to bring the dream to its full fruition.
Once the car was stripped down to bare metal it was indeed found to be pretty solid. There were a few minor rust areas that needed to be addressed but there was also evidence that it had been in an accident at some point in its past which was going to require some body panels to be replaced.
There were also some gauges that didn’t work and the 400 inch engine was just not cutting it power wise. Not that it ever did with its original 220 HP factory rating. Remember this was in the early days of federally mandated emission controls and everything was detuned to the point that most cars of that time were considered “all show and no go”. Well that’s not how Michael remembered the Bandit car in the movie so a power upgrade was definitely on the list of needed improvements. Another problem area for these cars (actually many from that era) is the plastic bumper covers that were used over the mandated 5 MPH bumpers. They all eventually warped or got wavy and the paint cracked and there really wasn’t anything that could be done to correctly restore them.
So when the time was right, Michael brought his Trans Am to MCR not just for a full restoration but also to solve some of the other issues inherent in these cars.
The result is a little boys dream come true and a car that maybe outperforms the one that inspired the dream in the first place.