On the DVD Documentary, Burt Reynolds says that a senior executive at Pontiac promised him a free Trans-Am if the movie became a hit. It did and the 1977 T-Top Trans-Am became one of the hottest selling cars of the year. When the movie became a hit, Reynolds expected the executive to come through with his promise. But the Trans-Am never came. After a few months, Reynolds, (who was afraid of looking like one of those pretentious stars looking for freebies), finally called Pontiac. As it turned out, the executive that made the promise had retired and the new executive refused to keep the promise that was made, by the previous Pontiac Trans Am executive.
Hal Needham asked Jerry Reed to write a theme song for the film. A couple of hours later, Reed presented "East Bound and Down" to Needham. With an acoustic guitar, Reed started to play it and Needham immediately stopped him. Thinking Needham didn't like it, Reed offered to re-write the song. To which Needham replied: "If you change one note, I'll kill you!" The song went on to become one of Reed's biggest hits.
Jackie Gleason reportedly modeled his character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, after Burt Reynolds' description of his father, a Florida police officer and Chief of Police. Among the character traits that came from this was the use of "sumbitch", a colloquial pronunciation of "son of a bitch".
According to director Hal Needham in the DVD Documentary, Pontiac gave them three Trans-Ams and two Bonnevilles (Sheriff Justice's patrol car) for the film. Needham says that one of the Trans-Ams was completely destroyed during the famous bridge jump scene and that with all the damages the Lemans sustained, they eventually had to piece all three bodies together to make one Bonneville.
Hal Needham was better known in the film industry as a stunt man, and had great difficulty in getting any producers interested in this project. Only when his close friend Burt Reynolds agreed to star in the film did he manage to gain studio attention.
Flash, the Bassett Hound dog for Snowman's pet, was personally picked by Burt Reynolds, chiefly because it refused to obey commands. Perhaps it was a reminder of 'Elvis Presley' singing Hound Dog to a Bassett Hound on Steve Allen's show for new talents.
When Hal Needham originally wrote the initial screenplay, he hired Jerry Reed to play the Bandit. But when Needham told Burt Reynolds about the film, Reynolds decided he wanted to do it and Reed was re-cast as the Snowman.
According to Hal Needham on a radio show in Atlanta, the scene with the football players narrowly missed being a serious accident when, unknown to the film crew, a groundskeeper watered the grass on the field, causing the car to go out of control, slide the wrong way, and almost hit the extras.
The nickname Smokey is Citizens Band radio slang for State Patrol troopers because of their hats. Most states outfit them with what are properly called "campaign hats" with a "Montana crease". The hat with that type crease is of late 19th century vintage. It came to be called a "Smokey Bear hat" after the US Forest Service began publishing images (posters) of their mascot wearing one in 1944. Nicknames for other law enforcement officers are, among others, "City Kitty" for a city police officer and "County Mountie" for a county police officer or Sheriff's deputy.
When scenes were filmed in the Trans Am, it was not possible to use a slate to mark the beginning and end of scenes. The actors had to clap their hands instead to mark when a scene started and ended. Several outtakes show this being done.
Near the end of the movie, one of the two Georgia State Patrol cars that block the entrance to the fairgrounds (the Oldsmobile) is equipped with an airbag (very rare for the '70s). General Motors did offer the airbag as the Air Cushion Restraint System in 1974 as RPO AR3 in full-sized Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillacs after it was experimented with some 1973 Chevrolet Impalas used as test mules. The airbags were used in conjunction with a knee blocker on the instrument panel. GM discontinued the ACRS after the 1976 model year in response to low demand. The airbag did not deploy in that minor collision but did deploy when they purposely wrecked the car years later. That car is shown in an airbag safety film used in some traffic schools.
In the restaurant Sheriff Justice (Jackie Gleason) orders a "Diablo sandwich" which is like a "Sloppy Joe" but spicier. There are regional differences but it is usually made like a Sloppy Joe with ground beef. The Sloppy Joe spices are replaced with taco spices and the recipe might include hot sauce, canned corn and diced tomato. In some places jalapeño peppers are added. It is usually served on a hamburger bun.
When Sheriff Justice first meets Sheriff Branford (a black man) he first addresses his white deputy as the sheriff, before remarking to Sheriff Branford "You sounded a lot taller on the radio." This is similar to a scene in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), when Walter Matthau first encounters Inspector Daniels (also a black man) in person, by telling him "Oh, I thought you were, uh, a, uh, shorter guy..."
In the original screenplay, Bandit's last name is LaRoue (first name never mentioned), Carrie's name was Kate, Cledus' handle was simply just Bandit II, Big Enos and Little Enos' names were Kyle and Dickey, Junior was not a character, Buford's name was different, Bandit's car was not a Trans Am, and the reward for making the run was a new truck, not $80,000.
When "The Bandit" asks "Silver Tongued Devil" as to his location, he answers "Interstate 82". There is no "Interstate 82" in the state of Arkansas. However, U.S. routes were also known as interstate routes, so calling 82 an interstate would be correct for the time period. The interstate system we know today was still being built at the time this film was made.
According to MapQuest, Atlanta to Texarkana is 665.2 miles, with an estimated travel time of 10 hours, 43 minutes (21:30 round trip). Atlanta to Boston is 1089 miles with an estimated travel time of 17 hours, 31 minutes. If driven the whole way, it would require an average speed of 121 miles an hour to do it in the 18 hours mandated by the "double or nothing" but the terms of the bet didn't specify how they were to get to Boston and certainly not how to return so they could have driven to the airport and bought round-trip tickets.
Even though the storyline had bandit as a notorious truck driver, Burt Reynolds' character never sits in the cab of any truck during the 'bet'. He 'drives' up to Snowman's house in the early scenes of the film.