overdrive extra

Max Heine

When ‘Bandit’ debuted, the Force was with it – and still is

| May 30, 2017

With all the “Smokey & the Bandit” anniversary events going on next month, I can’t resist a little bragging on Overdrive’s minor role in the movie.

The legendary romp was released 40 years ago, May 27, 1977. The May 1977 Overdrive devoted six pages to a preview, highlighting in part Overdrive’s involvement, notably the inclusion of a truck race banner bearing its name.


Re-creation of the Smokey & the Bandit Mulberry Bridge jump to take place June 24

June 24, in Jonesboro, Ga., Hollywood stunt driver Oliver Keller, owner-operator Tony Pennello and others will join a crowd of spectators near the end of ...

The unsigned article notes that many of the trucks in the race scene bear Independent Truckers Association decals. ITA was one of the organizations formed by Overdrive founder Mike Parkhurst to provide benefits for owner-operators or to represent them politically.

The article concludes by saying the movie debuts that month, “so you better be prepared to see it when it opens or you may not get another chance until it hits the boob tube.” It sounds like the writer, and probably everyone else, little suspected how popular the movie would be then – it was the second-highest grossing film that year, trailing only the original “Star Wars” – and in the decades to come.

Here are some photos from Overdrive’s 1977 article and the captions that ran with them:

“In a re-creation of a truckers’ drag race sponsored by Overdrive, many tractors line up for the beginning of a laugh-filled film.”








“In one very short sequence at the Overdrive Truckers Drag Race, [Overdrive] press secretary Lori Bekas prepares to deliver the winning trophy to trucker Dick Lee, who did a lot of the actual truck driving scenes in the film.”












“Is this a picture of a port of entry holding up the truckers of yesteryear?”

“Some of the most realistic crash scenes in the film include playing bumper car. These still photos don’t do justice to the spectacular scenes in the film, but are a very small hint of the great bang-up stunts.”

“Some of the vehicles needed to set up just one shot for ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’”

“Although Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) is chasing Tom Bandit (Burt Reynolds), he doesn’t at this point in the film know what Bandit looks like.”

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