Forgotten F-Body: 1972 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

By Nathan Avots-Smith

It’s hard to believe, since the survival rate is much, much higher for Trans Ams and Formula Firebirds, but for many years of second-generation Pontiac Firebird production, the most popular model was the luxury-oriented Esprit—and when it wasn’t the Esprit, it was often the base model. Many of these “lesser” F-bodies have miraculously transformed into Trans Ams over the years, or sacrificed their parts to one, so it’s now something of a perversely rare treat to see one, especially one as nice as this 36,700-mile ’72 Esprit. At $15,500, it seems to be priced accordingly; it’s listed here on craigslist out of Campbell, California (archived ad).

The Esprit typically came standard with the Firebird’s tamest V8 option and this one is no different, sporting a 350 V8 newly downgraded in advertised output for ’72 from 250 to 175 horsepower, thanks to the switch from gross to net ratings. This is said to be a numbers-matching, original mileage car that runs great; there’s even an allusion to the proverbial “little old lady.” I’d like to hear that story!

The other hallmark of the Esprit was a deluxe interior, and this one looks pretty inviting, with plush bucket seats and a full-length console. Alas, that console reveals the dreaded slushbox, but I guess that just drives home the point that this is something different from the more hairy-chested Trans Am or Formula—many of which were automatic anyway, I should point out. The interior’s condition supports the mileage claim, and the back seat looks hardly used, as you might expect.

It may not be the most exciting Firebird out there, but it’s nice to see that this Esprit has been so well cared for for such a long time. The plates suggest an original California car, which doesn’t hurt. This black-over-gold-over-black coupe shows the elegant, luxurious side of the Firebird family that’s been forgotten, and I think that’s pretty neat to see.

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Comments

  1. 68custom

    nice bird I would rock it!

    10+
  2. sir mike

    Yes some things are best forgotten…

    3+
    • Tommy Smith

      Closed mind…..

      1+
  3. Blyndgesser

    Two-barrel 350 with an automatic. Excellent for cruising. Probably came with a 2.56 or 2.73 rear end for economy too. You’d probably pull 20-21 mpg on the highway and 15 in town. Not a bad way to ride.

    25+
  4. JamestownMike

    Funny, the paint looks greenish!

    7+
  5. jw454

    This would be a nice way to get into the old car hobby for relatively little money and have a car you weren’t ashamed of. It’s sporty looking and doesn’t appear to need a tremendous amount of work initially.
    Very nice car.

    9+
  6. mallthus

    Not gonna lie, I’d rather have one of these as the base for a full resto-mod than a boy racer looking TransAm.

    Perfect Q Ship.

    9+
  7. SC/RAMBLER

    Nice, leave it as is. Not every Camaro or Firebird needs a big engine to be enjoyable. Even an inline six and powerglide are okay in my book. Had a 68 Camaro 250 3speed years ago. Traded it and wrecked 67 Chevelle SS 396 for 1969 SC/RAMBLER in 1978.

    6+
  8. ulm210

    I always wanted to pull a stunt like Jim Rockford… this is the car to do it!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pruex3pgX1g

    9+
    • Chuck Simons

      THose were nice stunts!!!

      2+
  9. Steve R

    Nice looking car. The price seems like a bit of a reach, but it’s not so far out of line that he might find a buyer.

    Steve R

    1+
  10. Chris Kennedy

    Add a formula hood, spoiler, built 350 and a T-5 and your good to go!

    2+
  11. Derek F

    I love Trans Ams and Formulas of this era, but the purity of the early second-gen F-body really shows up in the lower model range.

    Love them or hate them, these have great overall proportions.

    I wish I had room for this one!

    5+
  12. Chris In Australia

    Shorten the rear axle ratio, 4 speed auto and a 4bbl carb would do me.
    Nothing that can’t be undone.

    0
  13. Rich Sullivan

    My first car was an ’80 Firebird Esprit–with the rally wheels and “loaded”–and it was a great car! It rode nicely, looked classy and it was very reliable and the person I sold it to with 104,000 miles in 1988 kept it for another 100,000 trouble-free miles! My preference is for an Esprit model over all the other Firebirds.

    0
  14. BOP Guy

    I love it ! I wouldn’t change much on it, just a few minor under-hood changes to squeeze out a few more horses. And great to see one out in my neck of the woods!

    4+
  15. John C Cargill

    I want it so I can make believe I’m Jim Rockford.

    3+
  16. Maestro1

    I’m with Derek; I don’t have the room either but it’s a hell of a nice driver and although I think it’s overpriced there is some value.

    3+
  17. JW

    I like it just as it sits, not every classic car has to be a tire shredder.

    5+
  18. Henry Drake

    Not even a 1,000 miles per year? Why sell now? Fishy.

    0
    • Loco Mikado

      I have a 1990 Ford Tempo with 97,000 original miles. That works out to 3,600 miles a year. And my 1972 Sport Fury I sold about 5 years ago had 98,000 original miles. That works out to 2,391 miles a year. So yes it is is within the realm of possibility. I have owned other similar low mileage older cars over the years.

      2+
      • BOP Guy

        Yeah, my wife and I have four cars, three classics and a daily driver. I have a very messed up back so I work from home, and she has MS. The daily driver gets less than a thousand miles a year, and the classics even less. So it’s totally possible.

        2+
  19. LAWRENCE

    What S/C said….nice little cruiser….on the high side…but most likely worth it as a survivor….heck – check out that license plate !

    0
  20. Troy s

    Just a sharp looking ride then and now, for those with a need for speed there were other ‘birds to pick from. It’s just too clean of an old car to be messing around with as far as modifications go.

    0
  21. Cris Carver

    One of my dreams is to get a tan corduroy sports jacket, a mid 70’s brown Firebird & drive around L.A. making smart ass comments to arrogant police lieutenant & doing my best not to get thumped around by two coffin salesmen from Detroit. Oh yeah, & to occasionally solve something there by getting my $200 plus experiences.

    4+
  22. CaCarDude

    I like it and I say leave it as is! If I did not have so many cars now and projects going on I would consider this nice Firebird. As far as price I think the seller has done some research on this, current market in the Old car report PG shows this in a number 2 condition to be $15,400, number 1 at $22k. True these are slow to appreciate in value, but I look at the Camaro’s and one day these will be right up there with them.

    1+
    • CaCarDude

      Just realized I have to correct myself regarding the current value in OCRPG it is now listed as $17,500 for a No. 2 and a big $25k for the No. 1, this Esprit model did a big jump since the Spring of this year..

      0
  23. terry

    I bought one back in 1974 with a bad engine. Long story-short, girl bought it new and didn’t check the oil. I installed a 400 cu in out of a almost new smashed up Pontiac wagon. it made the Bird fly! I drove it for about a year and then sold it to another guy. Next time I saw it was back at the same junk yard smashed beyond repair.

    0
  24. Jubjub

    The middle aged man in me loves everything about this one. The automotive design school drop out in me loves its uncluttered simplicity. Even the vinyl top and turbine wheel covers. Cool color too.

    0
  25. Rob

    My second car was a 74 Esprit. Interior was very similar to this one. I added an L-88 fiberglass hood scoop, some custom wheels and rwl tires, dual exaust, painted it midnight metallic blue and drove the tar out of it. Wasn’t the fastest but it looked good!

    1+
  26. Alexander

    Had a 1971 base model with vinyl roof and American mag wheels, a 1976 base model with PMC rally II wheels, and a 1977 Esprit with PMC simulated wire wheel covers. My favorite of the bunch was the 71 with the same interior as this car. I, too, see too many T/As and Formulas at Cars & Coffee and would prefer this much more honest vehicle as my hobby car.

    0
  27. leiniedude

    This posting has been flagged for removal.

    0
  28. Paul

    Love it, second gen firebirds and Camaro’s are most definitely on the rise in the collector car world. Buy it while it’s still affordable!!

    0
  29. john m

    The cars in the Rockford files were Formula Firebirds painted brown with the spoiler removed and wheels changed out. They wanted the power and handling of the Formula with the looks of the Esprit. Look at the size of the exhaust pipes and you can see the car in not a Esprit.

    0
  30. john m

    The cars in the Rockford files were Formula Firebirds painted brown with the spoiler removed and wheels changed out. They wanted the power and handling of the Formula with the looks of the Esprit. Look at the size of the exhaust pipes and you can see the car in not a Esprit.

    0
  31. SC/RAMBLER

    I just googled it, the firebirds used in Rockford files was an Esprit, with the Formula engine. Also gold color was special, not pontiac color.

    0
  32. Bill

    My first car was a gold ’72 Firebird Esprit. Never failed to start or get me home. I got the bug for a Corvette and sold it to a friend of mine. He hit a bus, totaling it.

    0

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