Survivor Reader Find: 1975 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Rocco B. for this terrific find! This 1975 Pontiac Firebird Esprit looks like the classic survivor that needs nothing. How often do you find that? The question is, would you rather have this superb condition Esprit, or hold out for a more expensive Formula or Trans Am? If you’re game for the Esprit, it’s listed for sale here on craigslist and is located near Flint, Michigan. The price? $11,000. That may sound expensive at first, but remember, it’s both mint and almost all original!

As you can see from this 1975 Firebird brochure, the Esprit was the second rung up the four-rung Firebird model ladder for 1975. Although I have to admit that when the first “distinctive feature” listed is concealed windshield wipers, I don’t think there was a whole lot gained (apart from Rockford Files street cred if you chose a gold one) by upgrading from the base Firebird.

Assuming for a moment that this really is the original paint, it’s pretty obvious that this 85,000 mile car has been extremely well taken care of, especially if it’s been in the Detroit area for it’s entire life. The seller tells us that the only item replaced was the original headliner, and they are including that as well. Not only that, but all the service records and original documentation come with the car.

Looking around the seller’s garage, they certainly appear to be a car enthusiast of multiple marques, with Porsche paraphenalia sharing the walls with Jeep and hot rod parts supplier banners.  Can any of you tell what’s under the cover in the background of this picture? I couldn’t figure it out.

While we don’t have a picture of what’s under the hood, the seller tells us it’s the 350 V8 with a two-barrel carburetor. On the other hand, we do see a picture of what is a mint and pristine interior. So, I ask you, would you hold out for a sportier model Formula or Trans Am, certainly having to accept one in worse condition (for the same price), or would this automatic, rather plain but elegant Esprit fit better in your classic car plans? Please let me know in the comments, and I wish all Barn Finds readers an early Happy New Year!



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  1. Bob S

    Boy, I am glade that it is not a white 79 Esprit. Otherwise my wife would want it. Her first new car was a special order 79 Firebird.

  2. Henry Drake

    CL ad is gone.

  3. Fred w.

    Somebody who wanted one asked himself the question, do I want to find a $4,000 beater and spend the next three years of my life tracking down parts, busting my knuckles, dealing with restoration shops, or just buy this immaculate, ready to go Firebird which ultimately will be worth more anyway? Easy decision.

    • Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

      The only thing wrong with statements like this is that most people don’t have stacks of cash lying around waiting to be spent on old cars. Most people only buy a klunker because they know that over the next couple of years or so they will occasionally have a bit of spare cash that will buy them a necessary part that will go towards making their dream a reality. Long ago I bought a British Ford convertible that took me 9 years to restore due to the fact that my young children had to be educated and I had lots of expenses, mortgage etc. However, once it was completed I had it on shows, rallys’, weddings etc. for the next ten years before selling it on at a great profit which then enabled me to buy future projects for cash.

  4. slickb

    My dad drives one of these almost daily. he loves them and i’m quite a fan as well

  5. Rock On Member

    Looks very sleek without all of the scoops and flares. The 350 two barrel will have no problem keeping up with modern traffic. My friends Mother had one. He was constantly rotating the tires to keep the tread wear even from doing so many burn outs in it!

    • Hendo

      1975 was one of the worst years for performance. Other than the old Blue Flame Six, the base ’75 Corvette 350 4bbl only made 165hp which was the least powerful year V8 car, worse than even the early 265/283 cars or even the dreaded 1980 305 California Corvette. So, unless you live in a state where emissions don’t matter there isn’t going to be much power in that 350 2bbl until that cat and the rest of the emissions are removed and some serious work is done like heads, cam, intake, and 4bbl. Best thing to do with this lovely car would be to put the original drivetrain under a shelf and an LS swap. Even a lowly 4.8 or 5.3 with some very basic work is going to lay waste to a Pontiac 350 much less a 400 or 455, all of which would take significantly more money in mods to even match a good, budget LS build like an iron 346 or 383 small bore LS. If an iron 6.0 or aluminum 6.0/6.2 was built as a 364, 370, 376, 402, 408, 414, 416 or 427, a
      Pontiac would have almost no chance. Especially not on a dollar for dollar per hp and et basis.

  6. Joe

    Car in background looks like 914 Porsche.

  7. Mallthus

    Definitely the Firebird I’d pick if I was to buy one. The problem with this one is that it’s too nice. Too nice to drive. Too nice to mildly update/improve.

    If I didn’t care about retaining originality, I’d, at least, fit a 4brl carb or, better, EFI for both driveability and performance.

    Like 1
  8. The Walrus

    Guess under the cover: Fox Body Mustang, LX hatchback.

  9. The Walrus

    As far as this car goes. If it checks out, ‘they’re only original once’. Buy this one, and wait for the car you really want, if it’s a Formula, etc, to come along. Having bought several cars of my youth with low miles, they won’t take you back in time. You’re likely to be shocked how much better cars are today. I believe we project today’s cars abilities into the past in our memories. I’ve kept mine purely as investments, because a bottom end Hyundai today is better than most things, even high end things, made before 2000. After owning this, you may say ‘Guess I don’t really want to drive a ’70’s car again’, or it may inspire you to find your dream ride. Either way you win, because a car this nice (again, if it checks out), will always have real value.

  10. Rock On Member

    The real value is driving them Walrus. Too many gadgets in today’s cars, with back up cameras, lane departure, ABS and traction control. Just makes it easier to talk on your cellphone and let the car drive itself. That’s why the roads are getting worse everyday.

    • The Walrus

      I’m a consultant. I fly to work and drive rental cars. At home I have 7 cars. I consider my daily driver a 1990 Power Ram. In today’s world, it doesn’t have much Power, and I wouldn’t want to Ram anything, but to your point, I like it because it doesn’t have all the ‘goo gahs’ as my dad called them. But to imply that the old way is better is incorrect. It’s different. So, I do drive one, but in no way does that differ from what I said. It’s way worse than what I rent.

  11. Rabbit

    Rocco seems to find a LOT of good stuff. Just put him on the staff, already! :P

  12. J Paul Member

    Amazing how much better the bumpers are integrated here than in the equivalent 1975 Camaro (and every other 1975 car save the Corvette). It really adds a lot to the desirability of the car. Very nice find.

  13. Rocco B. Member

    Thanks Rabbit, I enjoy the hunt. I will leave the write ups to the professionals!

  14. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    Nine year resto. Sorry about the picture quality as it’s a photo of a photo.

  15. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    Nine years later.

    Like 1
    • grant

      That’s outstanding, Ken.

    • BMW4RunninTundra

      I know I’m late to the party but I have to say, WOW! Nine years of hard labor and nine years of lots of love are extremely clear in the outcome of that vehicle!!!!!! You are a quite talented and patient gentleman!!! Enjoy the fruits of your labor! You EARNED them! (and then some)

  16. Troy s

    Formula, Trans Am, or a Esprit, hmm, interesting question, it’s got me thinking. If I was made of money I’d have to go with a Super Duty 455 powered TA or Formula, I just consider those to be the final exclamation point of a bygone era and they did run pretty darn good. A RA IV 400 formula would be interesting but now I’m too far back to compare to this civilized ‘bird and I doubt if today’s pump gas would be all that friendly on the high strung 400. Regardless, it would have to be pre ’75, don’t care for the even harsher emissions equipment like this car would (should) have if bone stock. Great question.
    As far as what is under the car cover I’d say some sort of Mustang.

  17. John

    To me, the car under the cover looks like an AMC Rebel or one of its cousins.

    As for the Espirit, it was, and in my eyes, still is the best looking of all of the Firebird/Camaro clan. My wife had one that was a very light blue. It was a beautifully balanced and very nice driving car. We took many long trips in it. I always liked it.

  18. Buick Fan

    We always joked that the esprit was a chick car…still hard to get that out of my head. Beautiful car though.

    • John

      My wife was a chick. the car was beautiful — it didn’t hold a candle to my wife though.

      Like 1
  19. Rich Sullivan

    My first car was an ’80 Firebird Esprit–a “hand me down” from two older siblings–it was a reliable, comfortable and stylish ride! Kept it to ’88 and 106,000 miles and a friend bought it–kept it many more years and over 200,000 miles (without any major repairs)! With Pontiac’s rally wheels, the Firebird Esprit was cool and classy–definitely my preference among Firebirds.


    I’m glad the ad is deleted. My wife had a 75 standard firebird. If she had seen this, I probably would be buying it. 11 k seems like a bargain to me. She would drive it daily, instead of her 15 Malibu. I’m ok with that. Dang its beautiful and reasonably priced. Thanks for the find Rocco
    Rocco, are you from Illinois?

  21. 86_Vette_Convertible

    That’s a good looking ride especially for it’s age. Someone took care of it, it was their baby.

  22. Rocco B. Member

    @BRAKTRCR- no I’m from the Toronto area.

    Like 1
  23. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    I bought my first Firebird from my Dad in 1984, a base model 1976 with a long list of options that made it almost Esprit-like. He was a smoker, so I took that summer to “desmoke” the interior. After only 8 years the headliner was sagging from its very design (adhesive and thin foam as opposed to rails and stitching. Back then I’d never heard of interior kits and probably couldn’t afford one as a college student. I agree about the bumpers on the firebirds looking much more refined than the Camaro. The second generation F-Birds are still under valued in this derivation, but I bet not for much longer.

  24. Ryan Shanahan

    I was thinking a fox body mustang with missing hatch glass.

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