By Randy Grider
I can’t help getting caught up in Smokey and the Bandit every time I find it on while channel surfing. It doesn’t matter that I’ve probably seen it 20 times.
There are several things about the movie that captivate me. First, there’s the nostalgia; the trucks and cars from the era. Second, there are a lot of crash-’em-up scenes with an upbeat atmosphere; you know everyone is going to come out unscathed. And third, the cast and soundtrack make the movie a fun way to spend a lazy afternoon.
This month’s cover story (page 24) puts the spotlight on trucker movies and trucking television shows. Through truckersnews.com’s parent website – eTrucker.com, which not only contains our online magazine archives, but daily news stories and other features – we polled more than 1,000 readers concerning their favorite trucker movies.
Our hope is that this comprehensive package will be fun and informative for truckers who enjoy seeing the big trucks Hollywood-style.
Realistic most trucker movies are not. Few spend any time showing the hassles of loading and unloading, dealing with scale house inspections or other parts of a trucker’s daily routine. But then again, it’s all about entertainment.
We’ve also included a story on some of the surviving original trucks from movies and TV series and those who collect them. (We know we may have missed one or two, but it’s not from a lack of trying. If you own a famous truck, send us an e-mail or write us a letter. We’d love to let our readers know about its existence.)
For this story, I traveled to Shady Valley, Mo., to talk to Dan Bruno, who owns the surviving truck from the 1971 movie, Duel (shown on the cover). He is also building an exact replica of the black Mack from the movie Convoy.
My visit with Dan was so enjoyable that I hated to leave to catch a plane home. He is a walking book of trivia on these two movies and the respective trucks used in each film.
For instance, I found out from Dan that in Convoy, the “stunt double” truck used for Burt Young’s character Pig Pen wasn’t really what it seemed to be. Pig Pen drove a Mack Cruiseliner, but the backup truck used in several scenes was actually a Kenworth K123 cabover painted and outfitted to resemble a Cruiseliner. Why the film crew went to all this trouble instead of getting a second Mack as the backup truck is a mystery to Dan, but part of the lore for Convoy fanatics.
As for Duel, I learned some very interesting facts about the trucks in the movie. For example, the original truck that was destroyed in the final scene and the surviving No. 2 truck Dan owns were Peterbilt 281s and not Peterbilt 351s as is often mistakenly reported.
Dan has a wealth of information and pictures about Convoy and Duel on his website. He’s gone through a lot of painstaking research to be accurate, and he’d love for truck and movie enthusiasts to check it out.
Through my own research, I’ve discovered several trucking movies that either I hadn’t gotten around to watching or didn’t know about. For example, Thieves’ Highway, The Wages of Fear and They Drive By Night are all worth a few hours in front of the tube. They are not on the top list of most people’s popular trucker movies, but seeing them may change your mind.
We included films like Over the Top in our list of movies, which may make some trucker movie traditionalists queasy, but the main character is a trucker and his desire to win a new truck through an arm-wrestling competition is central to the film’s plot. Some of the other movies in our list have similar circumstances.
The ranking and overviews are subjective as such matters always are. The hard facts and trivia are both informative and fodder for a truckstop chat. The overall package is about stirring your interest in a movie you may have missed or simply reminiscing about the “good old days.”
Grab some popcorn and look for your favorite trucker flick inside.