Car enthusiasts kick off 'Bandit Run' in Lincoln

2011-04-10T19:00:00Z 2011-04-13T18:17:00Z Car enthusiasts kick off 'Bandit Run' in LincolnBy PAIGE CORNWELL / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com

Ron Franks arrived in Lincoln in his 1979 Pontiac Trans Am at about 2 p.m. Saturday after driving more than 900 miles from Atlanta.

It's a short stay, since he'll be leaving Lincoln at 9 a.m. Monday. But on the drive back, he'll be surrounded by a lot more Trans Ams.

"We contemplated having the cars shipped up, but it's a whole lot more fun the other way," Franks said. "So we drove."

Franks is one of the more than 160 car enthusiasts participating in the Bandit Run, a five-day, 1,100-mile journey for car enthusiasts.

The Bandit Run kicks off at 9 a.m. at Restore a Muscle Car, 11850 N. 56th St., in Lincoln and ends Friday in Georgia. The fifth-annual run will include a caravan of more than 85 cars, many of them Trans Ams resembling the car driven by Burt Reynolds' character, Bandit, in "Smokey and the Bandit."

The Bandit Run started in 2007, when Restore a Muscle Car owner Dave Hall set out to recreate the route taken in "Smokey and the Bandit" from Texarkana, Texas, to Atlanta. The original trip was set up to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the movie, but the journey was so successful that they decided to plan another trip, Hall said. It's grown since then, with a different route every year.

Kansas City, Kan., is one of the first stops, where participants will get to drive laps around the Kansas Speedway.

"It's an event that a lot of people can enjoy, and there's a lot of people we have all gotten to be good friends with," Hall said. "A lot of people are used to taking their cars just to car shows, but with this you can actually drive it and enjoy it."

Franks has attended every Bandit Run since it started. He bought his first Trans Am in 1977. It was a brand new 1978, Martinique blue, bought through special order. He still has it, but has since bought another Trans Am, a Mayan red 1979.

"I've just always owned a Trans Am," Franks said.

The Bandit Run becomes more popular each year, Hall said. Someone flew in from Australia, another had a weeklong drive from Canada. New York, Georgia, Kansas. The list goes on.

"You see the same people and it turns into a social event," Franks said. "Everyone shares the same enthusiasm."

Hall already has planned the 2012 Bandit Run. The route will be from Texarkana to Atlanta again, to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the film.

Franks said he plans to be there.

"This is the greatest week offered for car enthusiasts ever," Franks said.

Reach Paige Cornwell at 402-473-7126 or pcornwell@journalstar.com

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