Esprit De Pontiac: 1977 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

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Some of you may remember the great James Garner as the star of the television show, The Rockford Files. Garner was a renowned car guy, and the car his character drove was an important part of the show. If you’re a gearhead, it’s possible you may also remember that the car Rockford drove Pontiac Esprits throughout the run of the show (1974-1980). For quite a few Firebird fans, the Esprit was a very desirable trim line, far more understated than the flashy and more powerful Formula and Trans Am trims. It was a fitting car for the anti-hero Rockford character that James Garner made so popular in the late seventies.

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These days, it seems that the aforementioned Formulas and Trans Ams get all the love, but the clean look of the Esprit model is still a very attractive trim option on the European inspired second generation Firebird body. Wide, low and long, the 1977 Firebird design holds up well almost forty years since it was introduced.

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Since these cars were for the most part driven into the ground by successive owners, and here in the northeast, suffered from their exposure to highly salted winter roads, it’s pretty certain that not too many of these cars survive now in original condition. So this low-mileage, example for sale here on craigslist near Southbury, Connecticut really stands out, and not just because it is such a bright shade of yellow.

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There is alot of like about this car. While I am not usually a fan of vinyl roofs on pony cars, this half roof style is appealing. The yellow paint looks great, though the front fascia and bumper and the rear bumper have the fading that is typical of GM cars from this era.

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According to the seller, this is not a restored car, but is a 100% authentic, all original, 1977 Pontiac Firebird Esprit. The interior looks pretty darn pristine for an almost forty year old car. My guess is that almost all Esprits were ordered with automatics, as the demographic of their buyers was older, and the whole approach of the car to appeal to the sophisticated, older buyer.

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This car is said to have been in the same family since it was new. The seller says this car “is completely stock and unmolested,” and the photos certainly support that claim.

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This Pontiac’s condition is stated as being in between “very good” and “excellent” and this also seems a reasonably correct assessment of the car’s condition.
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The Pontiac’s mileage is stated as 30,100 and the seller says that mileage can be verified, presumably with registration and repair records.

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The seller claims this Esprit might be one of the best that is for sale in the entire country, and that does not seem far fetched to me at all.

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While a high horsepower Trans Am is what many Firebird fans lust for, this Esprit is incredibly attractive, handles nicely and given its highly original condition and known history, has alot going for it, though its yellow hue may not appeal to all buyers. Pontiac made 34,548 Esprits out of a total of 155,736 Firebirds in 1977.

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One important factor is knowing which engine this car has. By 1977, horsepower was far reduced from the glory years of even the early seventies. Unfortunately, the seller here does not specify which engine his car features, though at least it is not the base 231 V-6. I am pretty certain the Esprit could be had with any of three V-8 engines, a 305 (Chevy?) cubic inch V-8, a 350 cube V-8 producing 160 horsepower, or the more muscular 400 cube V-8 with 180 hp output. Any prospective buyer will need to find out which engine is under the hood (no photos of the engine bay are provided in the ad).

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I also suspect that any potential buyer will want to negotiate a bit on the $13,900 asking price for the Esprit. It is definitely a rare car in unusually good original condition, but Esprits are just not as valuable as their more performance oriented siblings, and I think this asking price is above market value. On the other hand, if you are in love with this model Firebird, you may not find a better one for sale for a long time. I’d love to hear what some of our readers think of this car. This seems like a fun collector car you could drive and enjoy without needing to do anything except continue to maintain its original, clean condition.

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And how many of you remember the Rockford Files?

 

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Comments

  1. Blindmarc

    If it is “original”, it’s a rare color and the half vinyl top is too.

  2. Cassidy

    James Garner was always a class act! I remember the Rockford Files very well!

    Like 2
  3. Glen

    That was a great show. I can’t see Rockford driving this SCREAMING YELLOW thing ,though. Atleast you’d never lose it in a parking lot!

    Like 2
  4. Gear Head Engineer

    Who could forget the “Rockford reverse” move that was used in what seems like every episode? That’s what one of my high school friends called it anyway. Drive backwards really fast, spin the wheel and lock up the brakes to spin the car around on a dime. That same friend will tell you first hand that the move works far better with a Firebird than it does with a full size early ’70s Buick four door. Maybe he just needed more room. Anyway, his Mom’s car was a little shorter after that.

    Nice Firebird. Brings back memories.

    – John

    Like 2
    • St. Ramone de V8

      I’m old enough to know exactly what you are talking about! We all tried a “Rockford” in our parents car. Unfortunately, back then all of our parents had huge 4-door boats, or wagons. Man, we sure tried! Only time I got Dad’s Olds to pull it off was during a snowstorm. This car surely brings back all that. It looks great.

      Like 1
    • fritz swanberg

      I had a 1977 firebird Esprit and watched Rockford all the time. decided to try the reverse move at the boing parking lot that was empty. took me 3 times and on the 3rd time it happened so quick and perfect it scared the hell out of me and didn’t try it again !

      Like 1
  5. grego

    I had well over a dozen of the birds and ta’s back in the 80’s switching parts and making whole drivers from parts cars that were almost free by today’s standards. The only stuff store bought were the air shocks, cherry bomb mufflers and the cragar’s with eagle get tires!!! Ohh the 80’s in high school

  6. Frankie

    He drove Various years from 74-77, the colors seemed to close to the copper/brown color. Great show, I remember staying up until 9 o’clock to watch it.

    Like 1
  7. mikeG

    Being one of the biggest Rockford Files fans in the world, I’d love to be able to recreate a “Rockford” Firebird with the proper colors inside & out. A friend and I always dreamt of starting a Private eye business together. Maybe someday….

  8. Steve

    I remember watching the show with my fam. My mom would say James was her boyfriend. My dad would get mad. Pops just passed away at 98 two years ago. I owned a 79 fire chicken too.

  9. Fred W.

    Rockford’s was a bit more subtle…

    Like 1
  10. Blindmarc

    I had a 1970 polara, ex chp pursuit car in the mid 80’s. One night about 2 am in a church parking lot I was trying “bootleg” or as y’all call the rockfords and got lit up by a garden grove cop. He gave me a lecture and pulled one off backing out of the parking lot. True story.

    Like 1
    • Alan Brase

      Some cops are truly good guys. More than a few are motorheads.

      Like 1
  11. St. Ramone de V8

    Great story! Thanks. Did you get that Polara to pull off the move?

  12. JamieB Member

    A genuine Rockford Files Firebird (used in the show) came up for sale a year or so ago. The show cars actually were Trans Ams (they wanted the extra horsepower for the action shots) that were de-nuded to look like the Esprit trim. The reason: part of Jim Rockford’s back-story was that he was always broke, so it would be out of character for him to drive a high-dollar Trans Am.

    • Lawrence Ragans

      Correction. The TV show cars were Formulas. Pontiac supplied three new Firebirds per year for the TV series. They received Firebird Formulas, and then they would remove the splitter exhaust tips and the rear spoiler. They also changed the hood and rear deck lids, and filled the drill holes from the spoilers. (I believe that Universal Studios decided to paint the Firebirds a Lt Topaz color for the 1975 model year, which was the color used throughout the rest of the TV seasons.) This was done so that it gave the illusion, Rockford always had the same car. After the first season, however, they stopped using actual Esprits and turned to the Formula version of the Firebird due to its enhanced power and handling characteristics. So, each season they would buy a bunch of Formulas and rework them to make them look like regular Esprits. https://starcarcentral.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/rockford-files-pontiac-firebird-esprit-all-you-need-to-know/

      Like 1
      • Paul Bellefeuille

        All I know is what I read in Garner’s book.. I just considered the source as being correct.. No argument from me.

  13. Tirefriar

    Great actor, a true car guy! If anyone is ever down in SoCal, go have breakfast at Paradise Cove. The Rockford trailer was parked in the restaurant’s lot during filming. As for the Esprit, I’m not a fan of the color or trim.

    • Gary K

      The Rockford Files one of my all time favorite series to watch, James Garner a true good guy and I have seen all episodes at least twice if not more. I like the Pontiac of this era and it is on my bucket list. I will have to check out the Paradise Cove in the future, I am in Laguna Beach area quite often, how far north is PC?

      • Blindmarc

        It’s at the north end of Malibu, west of PCH. About 40 miles from Laguna.

    • Murray

      I think there is a caravan (Trailer in US speak) parked permanently their these days. I remember being there and seeing it, but until today did not realise what it was….

  14. redwagon

    the half vinyl roof or even a full vinyl roof is not a good idea on this car.

    the front clip is not a good idea on this car (best were from 67-76)

    three color options were special and noted so: yellow bird, red bird and blue bird, all with fancy script. brilliant yellow and brilliant red the blue was more like a baby blue or robin’s egg blue. these were somewhat rarer but they still show up in ads from time to time. iirc they slotted between esprit and formula in the years they were offered.

    the esprit was a nice car and had good lines which were accentuated by the fact that the plastic cladding was not installed. they were known as secretary cars because many a secretary aspired to a firebird but not the payments of a formula or trans am (nor the gearheads those models would attract!)

    make mine a 72 formula please or a 74-75 SD.

  15. Van

    I would change the front to a 74 or 75, add formula hood.
    Don’t get mad, I’d save what came on it and not change the color.
    8″ snow flake wheels.

  16. Tom Stewart

    I’d love to make a Rockford clone. One day…

  17. RoughDiamond RoughDiamond Member

    We had a neighbor who bought one of these new. It was a beautiful car and according to the owner, very dependable too. James Garner could sure drive the heck out of a car. Recently learned that his brother, Jack, played in something like sixty episodes of the Rockford Files doing cameo appearances as different characters.

  18. Prowler

    I can’t believe James garner would find that targa looking vinyl top appealing….thank God that look never caught on for F bodies.
    He was actually a huge gear head and a pretty accomplished racer and respected as a competitive driver .

  19. Paul Bellefeuille

    From “The Garner Files”: “We got a new car every season.. actually three.. two backups in case of a breakdown or damage..until the last two seasons..when we stayed with the ’78 model. The official color was Sierra Gold and the interior was Camel Tan. Standard equipment on the Esprit was a 400 cubic inch , 6.6 liter V-8, with dual exhausts and an automatic transmission. Which was fine for our purposes. The only modification we made was to stouten up the suspension to handle all the stunts.” The “Rockford” was actually called a J-Turn. And he explains it “When you’re going straight in reverse at about 35 miles an hour, you come off the gas pedal, go hard left and pull on the emergency brake. That locks the wheels and throws the front end around. Then you release everything, hit the gas and off you go in the opposite direction.” (The Garner Files page 132.)

  20. erikj

    Paul, love that comment, you must have inside info. I to loved the r-files and jim sure as heck could drive that bird! Love even the esprit. Back in 77 the neibiours (sorry) had new matching birds. A t/a for the guy, and a formula for the girl. both yellow. brand new then.A guy done the block had a hemi gtx and a nother back the in the area a orange super bird. Man I lived in a fun nebiorhood. Also remember seeing a a/c crobra drive by every so often . Sorry ,miss what I saw and now know very rare.

  21. Jack

    I remember as a kid .. Manix .. The Only guy that could squeal in the sand. As a kid was that was impresive

  22. Prowler

    Joe Mannix always drove really cool Mopars.
    I think I remember an episode of Cannon where he got the tires to screech on the Lincoln in the dirt
    Frank was pretty competitive

    • Paul Bellefeuille

      Those sound effects “foley artists” people were quite crafty.. most of the time.. How many times did you see a show or movie and a character starts a Chevy with a Mopar starter sound..lol..

  23. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    Price dropped to a more “affordable” 11,900.

  24. Jeffrey Duddles

    I was always more of a fan of Rockie’s truck!

  25. wabbit1211

    This has little to do wite the rockford files but I ordered a 73 formula firebird new in 73 while I was oversea’s in the military and with my military discount and the fact that by buying it there we didn’t pay taxes on it, it was barely over $3,000. Well long story made short I was to get off the plane in dallas and take a taxi to the closest dealership and take deliver of my new car. But GM had been on strike and my car didn’t get built. So after a few weeks of sitting home with no wheels I contacted GM and got a full refund, but Could only buy a used car a couple of years old and having to pay taxes on one in the states I had to settle for a 71 Chevelle, 454 SS That was geared so low that 95 MPH was top speed, but it got up too that 95 MPH’s really quick and only got about 4 MPG. LOL I could hardly pass up a Gas Station.

    • Mark-A

      I’m in the UK & STILL use the same expression when speaking about Fast Cars, “Niiice, BUT I’ll bet it can pass anything APART from a Petrol station!”. So even though there’s a big lake between US & us we aren’t that different.

  26. PLS

    Its mine now! love it! Is a beautiful car inside and out. Was really taken care of. Looks like no one ever drove it. Thank you to the sellers. They are wonderful people and loved the car as much as I do. Knowing the history of the car makes it that much more beautiful!

    • Jamie Palmer Jamie Staff

      Congratulations!!! Keep us in the know!

      • Pls

        Thank you. I will. Just gonna drive and enjoy it. She’s advertising her age too. Plates say “77FRBRD” : )

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