When “Smokey and the Bandit” was released in 1977, the late Burt Reynolds sparked a love affair between America and the iconic car he drove in the movie, the Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
Jason Forsland, of Foreston, was one of those enthralled with the image of the Firebird Trans Am.
When he was 6 years old, one of his older brothers drove a Pontiac Firebird Formula and his other older brother drove a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.
“That’s just the car to have,” Forsland said of the Pontiac Trans Am Bandit edition.
Forsland was in the market for a Bandit edition, but he said they were out of his price range 12 years ago.
Instead, his wife, Jennifer, discovered a different Pontiac Firebird Trans Am model with plenty of history to tout on its own.
Jennifer gave Jason her blessing to purchase a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am 10th anniversary edition. The same model paced the field at the 1979 Daytona 500, the first NASCAR race televised in its entirety, which Richard Petty won.
There were 7,500 10th anniversary editions were built, the highest volume of any of the anniversary edition Trans Ams.
The car was fully loaded.
The 1979 10th anniversary edition had nearly every factory option available at the time, including leather seats, silver-tinted T-tops, four-wheel disc brakes, red-lit dash gauge display, an AM/FM radio with a tuner and an 8-track player.
As for flare, the 10th anniversary edition didn’t hold back any punches. A shaker hood, spoiler, a T-top, and the largest hood bird ever to be painted on a Firebird in its history were all a part of the package, to go along with a blacked-out taillight assembly and highly recognizable aerodynamic front nose.
Forsland bought a 1979 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 10th anniversary edition as an anniversary present 12 years ago from a college kid near Mankato who had the car stored in a machine shop. A race fan himself, Forsland was unaware of the car’s history with the Daytona 500 but upon doing some research, was happy to make that connection to the car.
The car also came with replica 1979 Daytona 500 Official Pace Car decals, which Forsland applied to the car after he brought it home.
Before he added the decals, Forsland found the correct wheels and updated the motor and transmission. In 1979, buyers had a few different engine options for the car and Forsland’s features a 403 CID V8 Oldsmobile with a three-speed automatic transmission.
He also put a fresh coat of paint on the car, but isn’t interested in restoring the car to the point where he can’t have fun with it.
Today, the car has roughly 130,000 miles on it.
“If I can’t have fun with it, it’s worthless to me,” he said. Forsland likes to pick up his kids and take them for drives, so the car sees some use, which he is completely OK with.
Eventually, after his kids get older, Forsland said he would like to restore the car by reupholstering the interior, fixing a minor dent and putting another new coat of paint before driving it down to Daytona Beach, Florida to watch the Daytona 500.
“Even if you don’t know anything about cars, you still know what a Trans Am is when you see it,” Forsland said proudly.