Autorama officially cancels stunt jump following Confederate flag controversy

Candice Williams
The Detroit News
The original Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from the 1977 Burt Reynolds movie 'Smokey and the Bandit" had a Confederate flag on the front license plate.

Detroit — Organizers of Autorama have canceled a stunt jump originally set for this Friday following the City Council denying their permit request while accusing the event of supporting the Confederate flag.

The jump called for a "Smokey and the Bandit" replica car to go airborne off a ramp to open the 67th annual hot-rod and custom-car show Friday at Cobo Center. It would have recreated a scene from the 1977 action-comedy with Burt Reynolds.

“The Pontiac Trans Am stunt jump was a nod to the Motor City,” said event promoter Pete Toundas, president and owner of Championship Auto Shows, in a statement Monday. “Unfortunately, our permit was not approved, and the stunt jump will not happen this year. We hope to continue the tradition in 2020.”

During a city council meeting last week, Councilman Scott Benson said the Bandit car “still proudly flies a Confederate flag, which is a symbol of oppression, slavery, as well as home-bred American terrorism.” He also took issue with Autorama's "Dukes of Hazzard" replica car stunt jump in 2017. The Confederate flag was painted on the roof of the orange Dodge Charger, like the original car, the "General Lee" on the television series.

The original Pontiac Firebird Trans Am from the "Bandit" movie carried a front license plate with the former state of Georgia flag that features the Confederate battle emblem. 

Northeast Ohio Dukes, the stunt group who planned the jump, said the stunt car does not have the license plate. Photos on the Northeast Ohio Dukes Facebook page also show no such flag.

Benson said Monday that prior to the "Dukes of Hazzard" stunt car jump in 2017, the city asked for the Confederate flag emblem to be removed from the General Lee, but it was not. He said he was not willing to take another chance.

“I will not give them the opportunity to lie to me again," Benson said. "That would be shame on me."

Rayond Kohn of the Northeast Ohio Dukes drives a General Lee replica form the" Dukes of Hazzard" television show to open the 2017 Autorama behind Cobo Center.

Shortly after the permit denial last week, Autorama officials said they were trying to resolve the issue with the city. 

Benson said because a waiver was placed on the City Council's vote, it could not be reconsidered for another vote. Eight city council members either voted against or expressed their disapproval for the stunt jump request. Councilman Gabe Leland was absent. 

Autorama is scheduled for Friday through Sunday at Cobo Center. Organizers say there is no time to arrange for another opening event.

The Trans Am, "Smokey and the Bandit" movie memorabilia and a Burt Reynolds look-alike will be the event all weekend, according to organizers.

“Although the jump has been grounded, the tribute to Burt Reynolds who died on September 6th, 2018, will still continue inside the show,” organizers said.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN