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Burt Reynolds still the Boss Hogg at Lakewood Ranch Car Show

The Knights of Columbus event expects to raise $10,000 for St. Jude Children's Hospital.

Gene Kennedy, the owner of Bandit Movie Cars, brought a replica of the 1969 Charger used in the movie "Dukes of Hazzard."
Gene Kennedy, the owner of Bandit Movie Cars, brought a replica of the 1969 Charger used in the movie "Dukes of Hazzard."
Photo by Jay Heater
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It was the most familiar face at the fifth annual Knights of Columbus Car Show on Nov. 4 at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church in Lakewood Ranch.

Burt Reynolds.

Reynolds died Sept. 6, 2018, but his legend lives on, especially at car shows where many of his movie cars, and their replicas, are featured.

It was no different at the Knights of Columbus Show as Palmetto's Gene Kennedy, who owns Bandit Movie Cars, was showing off an exact replica of the 1969 Dodge Charger R/T that was used in the movie "The Dukes of Hazzard." On the hood was a painting of Reynolds as Boss Hogg.

The Knights of Columbus show was an example of how connections spread among car enthusiasts.

Kennedy was a car enthusiast who in 2014 went to a show in the hope of getting Reynolds, who was making an appearance, to autograph his 1977 Y82 Trans Am. The two hit it off and Reynolds found out that Kennedy owned Kennedy Roofing and Kennedy Construction in Palmetto.

Gordon Frank shows his 1984 Excalibur at Our Lady of the Angels Catholic Church. He worked at the plant that made the Excaliburs.
Photo by Jay Heater

Reynolds needed a new roof on his Jupiter home along with other upgrades and he hired Kennedy to do the work. They became friends and Kennedy began working on several other projects for Reynolds, including the restoration of several of Reynolds personal cars, several of them Trans Ams.

They became business partners and Bandit Movie Cars are born.

The car community connections continued from there, including a connection Kennedy made with Knights of Columbus member Michael Mahan, who spearheads the car show event each year at the church which benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Mahan had a Trans Am in his garage that he wanted to rebuild, and he had Kennedy assess his project. Kennedy said the car was too far gone.

"Mike found me," Kennedy said. "I told him it would be a lot less expensive if he let him find him a car."

He found Mahan a 1979 Trans Am that was rebuilt with the motor from a Firebird featured in Reynold's movie "Hooper." Mahan picked up the car two days before the Knights of Columbus Car Show and had it on display. 

Sarasota's George Schwab shows off his 1930 Ford Model A at the Knights of Columbus Car Show in Lakewood Ranch.
Photo by Jay Heater

While Kennedy seldom goes to car shows anymore because of his workload, his new friendship with Mahan promoted to come to Lakewood Ranch.

Their cars were among more than 180 that entered by early the morning of the show.

"This is our biggest one so far," Mahan said of the show. "Our goal is to raise $10,000 for St. Jude Children's Hospital and I think we will do that easily."

More connections were down the row from Kennedy and Mahan. Mill Creek's Dan and Deborah Slottke were showing off their 1979 Trans Am that Dan Slottke bought new. Over the years, they met Kennedy, who in turn introduced them to Reynolds, who signed their glove box in their car. Deborah Slottke began making Reynolds carrot cakes on special occasions, something she said always brought him a smile.

Other connections were on display as well at the car, such as the friendship formed between Parrish's Gordon Frank and Lakewood Ranch's Anne and Ken Donovan. Frank and the Donovans met at a previous Knights of Columbus Car Show because they were showing Excaliburs.

Michael Mahan of the Knights of Columbus displayed his 2020 Challenger at the car show. He also showed the 1979 Trans Am, in the background, that he picked up two days before the event.
Photo by Jay Heater

The Donovans have a 1973 Excalibur Phaeton while Frank shows a 1984 Excalibur. Frank worked at the Excalibur Motor Company in West Allis, Wisconsin from 1973-1987, He started as a parts truck driver and eventually became the plant manager.

Frank and the Donovans, who now sit together and show their cars side-by-side, were having a great time at the show.

Frank was asked what he likes most about his car, which he restored in 2017. "It is a happy car," he said. "You could be in a bad mood, but you jump into the Excalibur, people are smiling and waving at you, it makes you happy."

Sarasota's George Schwab didn't know any of the others, but he was on his way to making friends as he showed his 1930 Ford Model A. He said he used to be a motorcycle rider, but "things got crazy around here.

"And these are a lot of fun."



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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