Car Lust: 1970-1981 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

19 Oct 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Car Lust: 1970-1981 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

by Anthony Cagle on February 08,

You may not ever have heard of car, but many of you over a age probably already know of it. The arguably, rarely gets the attention that the Chevrolet sister car, the Camaro, but it has a nice lineage and it produced a few memorable cars–even though a lot of appear here at Car Lust than in the big muscle car magazines and web

I always preferred the Firebird to the myself, for whatever reason, and the generation has always been my especially the later #39;70s. for whatever reason, the first styling never quite did it for me; it looks to me like something was thrown together quickly to get into the pony car market is all apart from the performance was generally stellar).

The second styling just seems to been well thought out clean lines, good all around, and manages to seem powerful, and sporty all at the same They look good any angle. Although I adore II the Firebirds from that remain my absolute favorite

Now, as to this car#39;s fans of NBC#39;s The Rockford (1974-1980) will recognize it as the car by Jim Rockford played by James I don#39;t recall watching the that often, but I remember the Oddly, all these years remembered it as a Camaro, too, shows how much I really attention back then.

Recently, however, PBS has been a show called Pioneers of and the latest segment was on crime which featured The Rockford . and it prompted me to finally put pen to paper to keyboard and extoll the virtues of yet brilliant, if underappreciated, 1970s

The Esprit was in reality a trim of the basic Firebird. As our fearless has noted. the second generation of the Camaro and Firebird, along some other models, was a departure from the hunky and muscle cars of the #39;60s. It had far of a sleek and understated European to it, something it shared with the Vega.

While today we to associate that generation mullet hair-don#39;ts, at the time I they were meant to more to the up and coming leisure-suit-and-martini rather than the t-shirt-and-beer

#0160;Like other models, the came in several trim and levels depending on the market each was appealing to: apart the base, there was the Esprit, and Trans Am versions, largely the power and handling options for step up although emphasizing features for each, the latter two the high-performance models.

The Esprit was geared to this upscale and also older more for the 40-and-up managers than the 20-something gearheads who bought muscle cars. The was more upscale and refined the standard and the exterior had touches of here and there along special lighting in the trunk and colors for the seat belts. of the performance looks–hood scoops and and what not–weren#39;t available on the (at least not initially), again it far more subtle and understated the higher-performance versions.

Pontiac a number of engine options the #39;70s, including the vaunted 400 and of which could be had on the Esprit. Esprit buyers had to make do small-block V-8s: Pontiac#39;s 301 and and Chevy#39;s 305. While not they provided pretty oomph while still easy on the gas mileage.

On the other this also forced the of the show to be, as we will see, in their depiction of Rockford#39;s In sum, the Esprit was, to a phrase, the Thinking Man#39;s

James Garner had made his TV name more in Westerns up to point, having starred in the successful Maverick in the late On the other hand, Garner was famous for his role#0160; in the 1966 Grand Prix. The film, in its time, has attained cult for its superb and realistic race and the use of actual F1 drivers. Garner was racing, but wasn#39;t much of a before the film.

By all accounts, he learned the craft well and did most or all of his own driving, acceptance from the real Garner went on to be involved in racing contexts, but made his largely through offroad By the time of Rockford he was an accomplished and stunt driver in his own right.

The of the Esprit as Rockford#39;s car was deliberate for a of reasons, some of which had input into. The series was for the genre up to that point in Rockford was very much a hero. He lived in a trailer on the wasn#39;t exactly a hard-bitten PI in the of Phillip Marlowe, and he certainly wealthy, not to mention being an very much in the vein of the anti-hero which gained at the time.

As a 40-something, Rockford have been attracted to the for its relatively upscale appearance and comforts, while having power and handling prowess to get him out of scrapes he got himself into. As an driver himself, Garner the exceptional handling of the Firebird/Camaros. In Garner did nearly all of the stunt himself, not because he was the star and to, but because he was one of the better stunt at the time.

In fact, a standard stunt has become associated with the The J-turn, where a car in reverse a 180 and ends up traveling in the same but pointing forwards, has since nicknamed the Rockford and is a staple of the See the video at the bottom for an example.

Pontiac Firebird

As for the the first season a real was used. Some modifications made to the car, notably the show#39;s own paint. The producers to maintain a consistent color each season and the vicissitudes of the market often dictated changes in colors from to year.

So they mixed up own paint and used it throughout the Interestingly, they changed each season to reflect the new which you can see in the series of photographs here which I#39;ve in chronological order. After the season, however, they using actual Esprits and to the Formula version of the Firebird due to its power and handling characteristics.

So, each season they buy a bunch of Formulas and rework to make them look regular Esprits.

#0160;Observant would have caught the year changes, especially the change to four square and the new beaked look of the grille The producers tried to maintain the that Rockford was still the same car throughout the series, but would have fallen flat in 1979 when the fascia went through a change; rumor also it that Garner didn#39;t the look of the redesign. Instead, purchased a few #39;78s and used (in addition to some others got from GM) for the remainder of the show#39;s

The program ended in 1980 and 1981 GM switched the Camaro and to a new body design and dropped the flavors of Firebirds to the base S/E and Trans Am version. I was never taken with the new design and caught the fever since; it kind of struck me as being of a boy racer look rather the more elegant grand look of the second generation.

aren#39;t that easy to these days, since were more of a niche than the other versions made them not very to begin with and a lot of people bother to take care of since they weren#39;t viewed as the Firebird to have, its evident popularity because of the TV

A similar model, the Camaro#39;s version, is also a personal (that#39;s actually what I was Rockford drove), though I really been able to up enough data to do a post on it. I think, sum up much of what was about the 1970s in terms of car very nice styling, performance, and a comfortable driving for those who regularly drive cars into swimming as well as to and from the office day.

Credits: All of the photos from either the Internet Cars Database or Jim Suva#39;s who happens to own a #39;77 Esprit was used in the PBS series (be sure to his blog as it provides a wealth of on the Esprit generally and his own car). Dunton also did a good on the Esprit and Suva#39;s car at Old Car Memories. is well worth perusing Below is a classic J-turn/Rockford in, of all things, a limousine.

–Anthony J.

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Pontiac Firebird
Pontiac Firebird
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