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The Bandit - An article in Motor Trend Magazine, June 1981.
The Bandit was a Trans Am modified by Trans Am Specialties in Cherry Hill, NJ.
Along with many performance enhancements, it also included special speedometers and embriodered features.
You could order any one of many performance increases to the engine and more including Turbo.

"Bandit Trans Am"

Made by Trans Am Specialties out of Cherry Hill, NJ.

Now, there was never a Factory "Bandit Edition" Trans Am, and everyone always asks me if their car is a True "Bandit Edition" Trans Am. I always tell them that there is no "Factory" Bandit Edition Trans Am which there wasn't. But, to be truthful, there WAS a Bandit Edition Trans Am. Below is an article from Motor Trend Magazine in June 1981 about a company called Trans Am Specialties who did make a "Bandit Edition" Trans Am. As you will se below, the cost of a Trans Am in 1981 was around $8,700 and this Bandit Edition cost around $30,000. Just to clarify one more time......... There IS NO BANDIT EDITION TRANS AM BUILT BY PONTIAC OR GM ! !


The Bandit

An object lesson in big-bore intimidation

Written by Kevin Smith oin Motor Trend Magazine June, 1981

   Awesome and menacing, it glides through traffic. Law-abiding townsfolk, intimidated in their mere cars, look on its imposing ebony form as they would a black-clad stranger riding cooly down a dusty main street: they want to size it up but dare give no more than a furtive glance. It's the Bandit, and the citizens' apprehension is not unfounded.

   This particular stranger is actually first in a series of 200 specially equipped Trans Ams bearing the Bandit name. Universal Studios (producers of "Smokey and the Bandit," editions one, two and who knows how many more?) ranted rights to the name for that limited run to Trans Am Specialties, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where new Pontiacs become Burt Reynolds signature models. TA Spec has created a car with the mechanical ammunition to walk tall in any company, but its visual impact alone will keep most would-be challengers at bay. This car demonstrates why the Oakland Raiders chose solid black for their home jerseys: The color plays on fear, enlarges the threat and beats into submission with one look. Indeed, the low, bulbous Trans Am recalls a John Matuszak or a Gene Upshaw hunkering down in a three-point stance, ready to explode into controlled mayhem.

   Bandits-to-be start as Trans Ams that come from Pontiac thoroughly optioned. The factory fits everything from T-top roof and power windows to lighted vanity mirror and remote trunk release. More importantly, the cars come with all the good hardware under the skin, including 4-wheel disc brakes and the WS-6 suspension with its high-rate springs and anti-roll bars front and rear. This performance equipment is a necessary and proper adjunct to the central element in TA Spec's makeover, a nofoolin' big-bore monster motor straight out of the power-crazed 1960s. The 455 Pontiac V-8 dumps truckloads of torque into a nice but hardly necessary close-ratio Doug Nash 5-speed gearbox.

   The Bandit transformation entails some welcomed lavishness in addition to Pontiac's factory amenities. Trans Am Specialties installs a pair of Recaro seats (upholstered to match the velour of the rear seat), a Blaupunkt 3001 4-speaker stereo, an Escort radar detector, a motion-sensitive theft alarm and the inevitable CB radio. Goodyear Eagle steel-belted radials in a chunky P255/60R15 size play a major role both visually and functionally. TA Spec mounts these on the factory-optional 15x8 inch alloy wheels. Gabriel Strider shocks, adjusted full firm, bolster the suspension. For identification, we are mercifully spared wildfowl hood decals and garish stripes. Yet the name Bandit is in no great danger of being overlooked, appearing as it does no fewer than eight times on or in the car. Airbrushed lettering displays the word immediately aft of each front wheel and across the tail; stick-on block letters spell it out along the top of the windshield; a small dash plaque directly in front of the driver serves as a constant reminder; and carpet mats with the name woven in a contrasting color lie in each front footwell and in the trunk.

   Despite all those Bandit labels, the car's real identifier is that 7.5-liter powerplant. It wraps the car in an aura of potency and sheer mechanical presence. Burbling smugly at idle, growling purposefully down the interstate, or thundering madly into the distance, the experience of the Bandit, for both passengers and bystanders, is framed in the sound and fury of that engine. As performance engines go, particularly in the context of the big-block glory days a decade ago, the Bandit's 455 is far short of radical. It relies on lots of displacement and a mild state of tune to generate all that flexible power. That we were smitten by its strength partly reflects how we have acclimatized to modern new-car performance levels, but the car is plenty fleet in its own right. Quarter-mile runs in the low 14's at nearly 100 mph and 0-60 mph leaps in 6 seconds will activate most adrenal glands. Even more telling are the fast 40-60 and 50-70 splits, both about 3 seconds, which show what the engine's massive pulling ability can do when dramatic wheelspin is not a limiting factor. That power comes from a mid-'70's Pontiac 455 block bored ,030-inch oversize for a true displacement of 462 cubic inches. Forged aluminum pistons (9.0:1 compression), a mild hydraulic-lifter camshaft, an aftermarket aluminum intake manifold and tubular exhaust headers sharpen the performance. Trans Am Specialties uses a high-volume oil pump and baffled pan to guard against pressure losses while cornering. All engine internals get a proper balance and blueprint job. The engine carries full emissions equipment including a pair of catalytic converters. TA Spec assured us the Bandit could pass emission requirements for 1981, but somehow that didn't convince us it actually had passed a recognized laboratory test. So driving around in the car gave us a mildly lawless feeling that meshed with the Bandit's personality. The other thing driving around in it did was remind us that by the standards of the current marketplace this is an old car.

   The present Firebird body shape reaches all the way back to 1970, and the basic platform dates from the mid-'60's. The car's space utilization-not even a pertinent concept in 1970-now seems dismally inefficient, and a chorus of creaks and groans says all that must be said about chassis rigidity. But none of that matters one whit. The Bandit is a celebration of the big-bore American musclecar; and if it's something of an anachronism, well, that just adds to its charm. Dated or not, the car has unmistakable charisma that transforms anyone who puts it on-like a black jersey. "Putting on" the car is exactly the effect of the Recaro seats, so snugly do they cling to the occupants' bodies. Their support makes fast cornering infinitely easier and the harshness of the stiff shocks and springs less objectionable. The Bandit stays flat and stable through winding curves and starts to feel weighty and clumsy only in extremely hard cornering-the legacy of its near-4,000-pound mass, live axle/leaf spring rear end, and design roots in a less sophisticated era. The car is at its best in what we'd call a fast cruise, snaking over a mountain road, taking 35-mph bends at 50. It will get through them at 60, but that kind of scratching ruffles the car's composure and is definitely uncool. The tires stick well in corner-carving and, as big contact patches do, give a fine feeling of stability and security. We encountered significant detonation on West Coast pump gas, and future Bandits will incorporate standard water injection to control the problem. Otherwise, the car drove willingly and responsively. But not especially easily, if we take easy to mean anyone could hop in and motor away. The Doug Nash transmission's shift action was stiff and notchy, and the clutch was unduly heavy. Both controls were positive enough; they just demanded lots of muscle. This poses no problem for the right kind of driver, but it does mean the "right" driver will likely have 12-inch forearms and drink his bourbon straight. But that's consistent with the car's character. Driving the Bandit is clearly a masculine exercise, and if that sounds like blatant sexism, so be it.

   Some 200 buyers will wind up in a genuine, limited-series Bandit. The distinction will cost them approximately $30,000. Anyone thinking the mechanicals could be duplicated for less is correct; a good portion of that tab covers the rights to the name. And in this case, with that name comes an air of authenticity and exclusivity- and a 12- month/12,000- mile warranty from TA Spec. It's a pretty heady car, this Bandit by Trans Am Specialties (1514 Route 38, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034). Driving it is an experience in sensation and image. The look plays a part, as does the engine, the name, the price. They all add up to a distinct personality that no one fails to notice-and that flows like electricity through the Recaro cushions into whoever dons the mantle of the Bandit.


Trans Am Specialties

Cherry Hill, NJ

Trans Am Specialties was started back in the late 70's and ran through the middle 80's. Not too much else is known about the company itself. The owners were a Chuck Posey and Rob Selby Jones Jr. who are still around today.

They did modification to specifically the Second and Third Generation Pontiac Trans Am. You can read one of their catalogs that has listed the options and features that you could modify your car with, just click on the image to the right.

They did have an agreement with Universal Studios to use the name "Bandit" for their cars and even had Burt Reynolds on their advertising.



Known "Bandits"

Now as far as I know, there is only ONE of these left out there known to exists right now. I have talked with quite a few people over the years who have stated that they own one, or know of someone who owns on, but as of this date, there is still no one else to come forward with any photos of a car out there that exists. Right now, car #24 is located in North Dakota as is the only one known to exist. If you or anyone else knows of a "Bandit Edition" from Trans Am Specialties, please email me here and let me know: BanditEdition@78ta.com




As I had mentioned above, Trans Am Specialties did have an agreement with Universal Studios for use of the "Bandit" name. When you did order a car from them, you also recieved a "Certificate of Authenticity" that documented your car with the number on it.

Some of the things that did come with the Bandit cars was a 150mph to 170mph speedometer with "Trans Am Specialties" printed on it. Handmade emroidered floor and trunk mats with the word "Bandit" on them. And even valve covers with the Trans Am Specialties name on it and engineer who built the engine.


Related Links
You know more?

If you have any more information about Trans Am Specialties, drop me an email. I would love to find out more, but so little is known out there about this company.

More Information

From Rob Selby Jones Jr.

"I was Chuck Posey partner. We owned Trans Am Specialties of Cherry Hill NJ."

"I have to give Chuck a lot of credit. He was a genius at figuring out how to make a Trans Am go faster! I recall that Chuck also made it a priority that the Bandit handles very well. I was the guy who built most of the motors and handled the business side. I still remember making calls trying to reach Burt Reynolds right after Chuck and I discussed the idea to build Bandits. I remember calling his club in Florida and leaving him messages. I finally was able to reach Burt's manager. He said that I should call Universal Studios to obtain the rights to the name Bandit. Initially Burt was not interested in working with us. So, I then called Universal Studios and obtained the exclusive rights to the name Bandit for a full size car. Then Chuck did his magic and designed some really trick handling and speed upgrades. We built our first Bandit and named it #7, because that was Chuck's and my 'lucky' number (and it made us look more successful). I trailered the car from New Jersey to California with a friend (Glenn). While in California, Motor Trend test drove #7. There is another entire story about that test drive, but that is another time.


Anyway, when Motor Trend hit the newsstands, Burt's manager called us!! Burt wanted in!! We did a deal with Burt to sign the 1982 and later Bandits. Burt is a real great guy. Chuck and I met him. Also, Burt called me the day before my wedding to wish me luck (I got divorced so I guess Burt's good luck doesn't work so well, LOL). Next, we bought a brand new Trans Am off the show room floor from Fred Beans Pontiac and converted it into a Bandit that raced the 24 Hours at Daytona. Our business model was to sell parts from a mail order catalog, do performance work on customer owned cars, as well as sell Bandits. I have fond memories of Trans Am Specialties, Chuck Posey, Burt Reynolds and all the people who worked for and with us."

Old Time Photos

Here are some older photos of Trans Am Specialties and some information on some of their cars....

Here is a shot of Trans Am Specialties on Opening day.


Here is a shot of Trans Am Specialties packing up a car and going to Daytona for racing.


Here is a shot of the first sold "Bandit" Trans Am #23 as it was being crated to be shipped to Cayman Islands.