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1970 Pontiac Firebird: Reader Project

1970 Pontiac Firebird

From Michael P – You’d think North Carolina, a Southern state would have a bunch of mostly rust free cars, wouldn’t you?…Not! We obviously get too much rain here! I’m so tired of looking at a bunch of rusted out junk that’s too far gone in my area, needing everything including floors, trunk pan, quarters, fenders, rockers, lower doors, etc that they still want a bunch of money for! So I ended up buying this 1970 Pontiac Firebird online yesterday at Copart in the San Francisco, CA area for $1,800. I bought it sight unseen, relying only on their 10 pictures, since I’m over 2,700 miles away in the Greensboro, NC area.


According to the vin number, it’s a 1970 Pontiac Firebird Esprit with original V8, built at the Los Angeles/Van Nuys plant. It appears to be a factory code 65 Carousel Red (orange) exterior, non-vinyl top, black interior, non-A/C, Power brakes, Power steering, Pontiac 350 V8, with a factory 4 speed with Hurst shifter. I’m going to order the PHS docs to verify it’s a real deal factory 4 speed car, however it having a solid California body is good enough for me! It’s hard to find an affordable solid first year example of the second generation F body in these parts. It has the correct one year only low back bucket seats with headrests. Hopefully when the car arrives from transport (cost me another $1,200), it’ll be as solid as I hope. So what do you guys think of my $3,000 project car gamble?


  1. Keith

    As someone living in the road salt capitol of the world (Minnesota/Wisconsin border), I’d love to hear what others have found to be their rust-free havens.

    Seems like the obvious choice is the non-coastal southwest, but the desert sun tends to destroy paint and interior (plus it’s not exactly near to me). TX, AZ, NV, CA, etc.

    I’ve had a couple cars from the northwest – Washington in particular – that have been great, but maybe they were just exceptions? From reading Curbside Classic, I gather that inland parts of Oregon should also be good.

    People also rave about the Dakotas, but I’ve had mixed (mostly poor) results looking out there. Some also say that my neck of the woods is great, so long as you’re shopping things that were “driven summers/parked winters” – but not many deals to be found on such pampered vehicles.

    What say you, fellow car hunters?

    • MH

      Where in MN are you?

  2. Jeffrey Duddles

    Good luck, keep us posted.

    • Michael P.

      Thanks, will do.

  3. Don

    I like this car, & even with the cost of shipping, it seems to be an excellent deal.

    • Michael P.

      Glad to hear that, thank you!

  4. jimbosidecar

    I Like it. I hope and pray it’s as nice or nicer than the pictures. I think you got a great deal. I now live in Nevada, so I’m used to poking around cars that have no rust-through but dry rotted interiors, rubber seals, fogged windshields. etc… But still better than the rusted out hulks I grew up seeing in New Hampshire

    • Michael P.

      Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I’m hoping it’s nice or nicer than the 10 Copart pics I viewed. Prior to 10 years ago, I’ve lived in the Phoenix, Arizona area for 32 years, so I grew up around mostly rust free cars…….guess I’m spoiled. I feel pretty confident this will be a super solid California car. I’ll post additional condition details and pics once the car arrives if readers are interested?

  5. OhU8one2

    I think you did great. First of all if car check’s out to be factory 4speed,major plus. Secondly it’s NOT a Camaro. Third bonus, part’s are readily available. If it was mine. Paint it the factory color,with a Formula hood,put spoiler on trunk lid,and most of all I would put early snowflake wheel’s on it. Stiffen the suspension up,run good tire’s,install 4 wheel disc’s,run 3:56 gear’s,and lastly dual exhaust with x-pipe . Awesome ride. As you can see,I love to spend someone else’s money. Enjoy that Poncho!

  6. roger

    Nice car if paperwork is good.
    In South Carolina it is hard to even get an in state car title transfered to your name.
    They are very strict on paperwork and out of state cars can be a worse nightmare.
    The DMV loves to be jerks.
    Maybe N.C. will be easier.
    Nice car.Wish I had one like it.

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      NC has a thorough procedure where they inspect the car to ensure things are on the up and up. Been through it 4 times now. Nice folks, at least at the Raleigh place. Good luck with the car and keep us informed!!!

    • Michael P.

      On an out of state antique vehicle (20 years and older), DMV requires a VIN inspection. Pretty simple and straight forward here in NC.

  7. Chris

    From what I see, it looks like a solid starting point. For wheels,a set of alloy Pontiac Rallys in 17 inch is my pick.

    Its your dream, so go for it.

  8. George

    Looks like from the pictures that you did good. I used to do body and paint for a living and believe me it was smart staying away from the rust buckets. Hope we can see it when you are finished and some pictures in between. Congrats and enjoy!

  9. Jason

    Brave man!

  10. JW

    As a Poncho lover yes I think even with shipping cost you made a decent deal if all checks out. Living in the Midwest 61 out of my 62 years on the planet I never knew there was a used car without rust issues, I always thought it was a seller option added to the sale. Good luck and yes it’s not a Camaro or Mustang is a plus, no offense to said owners just too many at car shows.

  11. Rhett

    yes. Any solid pre- 74 F-body is worth 3500.00 in my book.

    And transport costs are ALOT cheaper than hanging quarters or repairing cowls…trust me. I’ll never buy another rust belt car again. Last car I bought was a 73 Buick Gran Sport Stage 1 4 speed out of the Mohave desert….I was freaking giddy when the car came off the transporter, I’d never seen one so solid. Viable colonnade cars had ceased to exist in the northeast a couple decades ago….

  12. Jeff Staff

    Michael, I’m on my second “blind” purchase from the land of California and it’s absolutely been worth it. I grew quite weary of looking at cars in my stomping grounds of New England that, even on their best day, had the indications of rust forming in all the usual places.

    Both my daily driver ’95 M3 and latest project, an ’87 535is, came from California. The M3 is an absolute peach with not a sign of rust anywhere. The 535is had a really weird spot of rust due to the trunk weatherstripping failing and water collecting in the rear passenger-side footwell, leading to corrosion in the bottom of the door; however, the floors are beautiful (factory beautiful, in fact) and there is no rust at the bumper shocks or rear license plate lights, practically an inevitability on older BMWs from the northeast.

    I will say though, I think you paid a bit high on transport. I’ve used a broker called 4Corners Transport and both cars have gotten here (Rhode Island) for under $900.

    Congrats on the project and keep us posted! It’s fun to roll the dice when the stakes aren’t too high.

  13. Doug M. (West) Member

    Great buy! I love that 4 speed shifter picture! This looks like a great car at a great price -including shipping. I think you paid right for shipping. I have shipped long distance a number of times and always been in the $1200 range. If Jeff ships for $900, that is a bargain! But I think your price is pretty common. And as others said, way cheaper than repairing rust panels! Keep us posted…

  14. Rick

    Even factoring in the cost of shipping you’re not anywhere near being underwater. Should be peppy too, those Poncho 350s really rev and put out the power, and with the 4 speed, will be lots of fun to drive.

  15. Oldstuff 1941

    Great Find and Buy !! I have bought a few cars trucks and motorcycles over the net in the last few years, and by far the 59 Corvette from North Texas was the most completely rust free. Bought a 57 Bel Air from here in Bama, but it was the usual barn rust car, floors and light frame. The rare 51 GMC 1ton short wheelbase Dump from South Dakota a friend found me and had shipped to Bama for $900. was surprisingly, just light surface rust and dry rot on a few easily fixed things…. I have been contemplating buying a original car from California or one of the other West to midwest states just for the lack of rust usually found. I’m getting to where I like the easy resto with out major bodywork at this later stage in life… Your find is a good one I believe and the shipping was like others said, about normal I think, ( I got a discount on the 51 GMC because the Hauler was coming this way anyway and was a friend of my friend who found me the truck)… Good Luck and Happy times with your super nice ride.

  16. RickyM

    Well done Michael – brave buying sight unseen but looks a good one. Looking forward to updated pictures of your work on the car in due course please !

  17. Dave

    The nicest Firebird of this generation. Espcially the front end.

  18. Mark in Medford

    One thing in keep in mind with these F bodys is that the windshield and back glass both tend to leak. An otherwise nice car can have a rusty dash or rear package shelf. The leaking rear glass can also flood inside the car between the front and rear seats and rust the floor. I have seen this in Southern Oregon where cars really dont rust.

  19. D. King

    I’m not at all versed in Detroit iron, so I don’t know if this is a good deal or not, but couldn’t help commenting on the statement that the South should have “rust-free” cars. The roads might not be covered in salt to melt the ice, but there’s plenty of humidity here! Much if not most of the year it’s 60 to 90% humidity, with plenty of rain. Many of the southern states have direct links to coastal areas too–you know, saltwater?!

    You can bet your bottom dollar a lot of these older coastal state cars have been in hurricanes and tropical storms, too. And expect a lot of Texas cars to come on the market in the near future, with or without a “cleansed” title from a different state. Lots of them will be flood cars, especially from Houston, Dallas, or Hill Country areas that really took a beating in the last week or so.

  20. David Frank David Member

    About buying cars sight unseen… I hope a lot of people are like me who would be glad to have a look and take pictures of a car in my area (Sacramento) for anyone on this site. Hmmmm, would folks in other parts of the empire be willing to do so? Anyone in the bay area or LA? What do you think of having a way to ask? Perhaps submit the car and the request?

    (A fun experience I had recently buying a car online. I was looking for a used car that sells for at least 20K in California. Saw one on eBay in Houston for only 15K, offered them 10, they countered with 10,950 and $700 to deliver it. Figured that gave me 5K for repairs. The car is perfect, just needed new tires. Even the dealer couldn’t find anything for me to spend money on. Phew! Lucky me!)

  21. gunningbar

    I just relocated to Redding CA.. from here are amazing.. NO RUST! All I do is look at old cars as I drive around.. some are being driven some are behind houses barns etc.Lots of survivors! I d be happy to check out a local car for a fellow reader just not sure how to do that. I m here every day. I suppose we could start a separate web site “Barn Finders” or something. Jamie?

  22. RoughDiamond

    Did you ask them to confirm the engine was free and could be turned over? If the engine is not locked up you’re golden, If not, then at least you have a rust free Firebird. Hope it all turns out well for you. You’re probably paying a higher shipping cost mainly due to shipping a non-op vehicle.

    • Michael P.

      I actually ended up paying $1,300 for shipping ($1,250 to the shipper directly, $50 to the transport broker). A NON-OP coming out of the San Francisco area is about normal.

  23. Chuck Foster Chuck F 55chevy

    Great buy I think, I love early 2nd gen Firebirds. I would be tempted to make a Trans Am clone, I remember drooling over a white with blue stripes one on my paper route in 7th grade. Are you on Ames Performance Pontiac Years forum?

  24. Chris Buchaniec (@CBuchaniec)

    still better than the new camaro… go with new radial ta tires n cragars..

  25. pontiactivist

    I love all second gen birds. I also think you dod good. Even with the shipping costs I think youve got a nice ride for the investment. Myself I think it would be sweet done up as a formula with the trans am spats and chin spoiler your choice of color nice stance and a sweet set of torque thrusts. And a motor that sounds pissed off and go play! Tinted glass would be on my lost also. Lol

  26. LBB

    I had a 1973 Firebird in the early 70’s when it was almost new. By the time it was 4 yrs old there was rust around the back window and in the trunk. I mean it was bubbled up around the rear window. GM was known for rust in those days. I was in southeastern VA where there wasn’t any salt. It did rain a good bit though.

    • D. King

      I feel your pain, LBB. I bought a brand new Fiat in the early ’80s. By the time it was one year old, it had bubbled through. They used to say that Fiats rusted with the amount of salt McDonald’s used on an order of fries…this car wasn’t even exposed to that much!

  27. Doug

    Congratulations on a nice car for a great price! I’m betting it works out well for you. If anyone needs a car checked out in Arizona please contact me. Happy to do it if I can. Also, I have a full set of 15×7 Esprit Snowflake wheels for this car. They are in decent shape, not perfect. They came off of a blue Firebird Esprit Skybird, so they are painted blue. I do not have the caps or lugs. They will need to be repainted, but there is very little curb rash. Roller tires are on them, easily removed. They are in Phoenix, Arizona.

  28. Justin

    The Honeycomb wheels were the optional wheels that were available on the early 70s Pontiacs. They are 14×7. The 15 x7 came out in, I think 1976. The Snowflake design, the picture that Doug submitted, came out in 1977.
    There are the ever so popular Rally II wheels with the 5 spoke design as well.
    The Crager and ET Aluminum slot wheels were what many people in the 70s chose over the factory wheels. Whatever wheel design that you wish to go with is your decision as there many options to choose from today. But please don’t put on 18-22″ wheels on this car.

  29. Justin

    I found this interesting from the early “Let’s Make A Deal” game shows where these cars were some of the prizes.

    • Michael P.

      How funny!……..the second car featured just happened to be the same car……..a Carousel Red (aka. Hugger Orange) 70 Pontiac Firebird Esprit! Thanks for that link.

  30. Michael P.

    Well I promised everyone an update. I ended up paying a total of $1,300 for shipping a NON-OP car from the San Francisco area, plus purchase price put me all in for $3,150. When the transport arrived, I was VERY pleased to see RUST FREE; quarters, inner/outer wheel wells, rockers, pillars, firewall, fenders, frame, undercarriage, etc. In fact, the ONLY rust through on the entire car was the battery tray which was most likely caused by battery acid. It had a dented passenger quarter and fender, but I’d rather fix dents than rust ANY DAY! The car must of been covered during the last 30 years due to the condition of the interior (straight dash pad, nice door panels and black interior parts were still black). A mouse(s) and/or rat(s) made a home out of the glove box and under hood on top of the engine/carburetor. The black carpet was NASTY with mouse/rat urine and poop so I removed it as well as the black tar based sound deadner to reveal a FACTORY manual shift floor hump, 4 speed alum cased Muncie with Hurst chrome shift lever and RUST FREE floors! Without pulling PHS docs, I’m not sure if this car was born with a 3 or 4 speed manual transmission but at least it’s a FACTORY MANUAL SHIFT car! The trunk had a urine encrusted orange/yellow shag carpet which I also removed to reveal some water entering the trunk (most likely from the back window) which caused some surface rust on the driver side trunk floor. I ran the numbers on the engine to find out the original 350 Pontiac engine was changed out to a Pontiac 400 2bbl out of a California built 1973 Catalina. Pontiac performance guys like that 400 block for a “stroker” build. I ended up selling the car as a father/son project (son was 10 or 12 years old) for $5,000. If I didn’t already have a rust free 70 Chevelle 2 door from the California desert to restore, I would of definitely kept it.

    • Gary

      I am the guy who bought the bird and wanted to give a little update. It has been disassembled, blasted. Had more rust in the quarters than we thought because of window leaks being plugged incorrectly, so I had them removed. The front clip has been removed as well as subframe. Motor has been rebuilt to the tune of 400 HP.

      • Jesse Mortensen Jesse Staff

        Thanks for the update Gary! Please send in some photos when you get a chance. Good luck!

      • Michael P.

        WOW, your not wasting any time! Sounds like the car went to a good home. Please keep the updates coming. I’d LOVE to see some pics.

  31. Gary

    Here is current stage.

  32. Gary

    I will send more in a couple of weeks. Hope to have paint on by then.

    Like 1
    • JW

      Excellent Gary I love progress reports with pictures, keep them coming.

    • Michael P.

      Gary, Any more progress pics?

      • Gary Cox

        Almost there!

  33. Michael P.

    Gary, Glad to hear! Any recent pics?

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