Smokey and the Bandit starred Burt as "the Bandit", the irrepressible daredevil trying to outrun Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) -- aka "Smokey" -- in his black Trans-Am when he and his best friend Snowman (Jerry Reed) set out to haul in 400 cases of beer from Georgia to Texas in 28 hours straight.
The success of Smokey and the Bandit led to these popular action shows from the 1980s featuring fast cars and CBs, beautiful women, and the good guys always triumphing over the bad guys week after week.
- The Dukes of Hazzard (1979-85, CBS) with Tom Wopat and John Schneider as cousins Bo and Luke Duke, two good ole' boys fighting the corrupt system as modern-day Robin Hoods in their orange 1969 Dodge Charger nicknamed "The General Lee".
- Knight Rider (1982-86, NBC) with David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a modern-day Lone Ranger with the Knight Industries Two Thousand (KITT) as both Tonto and Silver by his side. Together, they championed the innocent, the helpless, and the powerless against criminals who are above the law.
- The A-Team (1983-87, NBC): Mr. T's B.A. Baracus may have a "bad attitude", but he is the driver of the big, bad, black GMC van, as he, Hannibal, Faceman, and that crazy fool Murdock are soldiers-of-fortune for the weak and oppressed while being pursued by the military as war criminals.
- Hardcastle & McCormick (1983-86, ABC): Like Michael Knight and KITT, the titular characters are a modern-day Lone Ranger and Tonto with the late Brian Keith and Daniel Hugh Kelly as an ex-judge who teams up with an ex-con, ex-race car driver tracking down criminals released on legal technicalities in their experimental Coyote X.
Before switching to directing, Needham was Richard Boone's stunt double for the CBS Western Have Gun -Will Travel (1957-63) with Boone as Paladin, the gentleman "knight without armor in a savage land" known as the American Old West: offering his services via his calling card as a hired gun for those in desperate need.
Needham is survived by Ellyn Wynne Williams, his wife of 16 years.