Name: 1977 Pontiac Firebird Esprit
Year(s) Produced: 1970-1981 (All models)
Number Built: 35,548
Class: Pony car, muscle car
Body Type: 2-door coupe
Engine: 400 cu in (6.6 L) Pontiac W72 V8
Power: 220bhp @ 3500 RPM
0-60mph: 9.3 seconds
Top Speed: 126 mph
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Length/width/height: 196.8 in./73.4 in./ 49.3 in.
Wheelbase: 108.2 in.
Base Price: US$4,977 (NADA)
Current Price: US$22,260 (NADA)
This Coppermine Gold Pontiac Firebird from the hit TV series “The Rockford Files” is a real gold mine for most auto enthusiasts and fans alike. Lead by the iconic James Garner who played the role of Jim Rockford (an ex-convict-turned-private-investigator), the TV series featured what could be the best collection of Pontiacs ever gathered in a TV show.
Garner who is a true racer himself, competed at places like Daytona, Sebring and Le Mans. Garner finished the second at Baja 1000, and then competed five more times riding a Ford Bronco and a specially prepared Oldsmobile Cutlass nicknamed as the ‘Banshee’.
As such, it doesn’t come as a surprise for Stunt Coordinator and stunt double Roydon Clark, if Garner will have the last word on what type of cars he will ride on in the TV series. With preference towards the more powerful Firebird 400s, Garner turned an ordinary Pontiac into a piece of smooth automotive perfection that highlights the racer-actor’s superb technical skills. According to his 2011 autobiography entitled “The Garner Files”,
“Car chases and car action were a big part of the series, and I did most of the driving myself. That was my fun. I’d driven race cars a little in Grand Prix and gotten the bug. One maneuver became kind of signature of the show. People thought I invented it and began calling it a ‘Rockford,’ but it was really just a reverse 180, also know as a ‘moonshiner’s turn’ or ‘J-turn.’ When you’re going straight in reverse at about 35 miles per hour, you come off the gas pedal, go hard left, and pull 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.”
Clark further explained, “The Firebird 400s were made to look like Esprits. Garner likes the more powerful 400 better than the Esprit, and since he was the star and did the majority of the driving scenes and stunts, he got what he wanted”.
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