James Garner's Personal 1978 Pontiac Firebird Heads To Auction

Jan 14, 2019 2 min read
Barrett-Jackson Rockford Files Pontiac

The 1978 Pontiac Firebird Formula personally owned by James Garner and used when filming The Rockford Files is heading to auction with Barret-Jackson at no reserve

To a generation of loved-up millennials, James Garner remains known for his portrayal as Old Noah Calhoun in 2004 weep-fest The Notebook. However, to those who grew up during the era of flared trousers and disco, Garner was the king of cool; Jim Rockford.

Whoever said they didn’t want to be Rockford when surviving the 1970s as an adolescent is an out-and-out liar, with his uber-American lifestyle one of envy for those stuck on the school run in their father’s humdrum saloon. Quite frankly, The Rockford Files was more of a religion than a TV series to those of a certain age. Well, courtesy of Barrett-Jackson, you can finally be Jim Rockford, as his 1978 Pontiac Firebird is headed for sale this week at no reserve.

CFS: Rockford Pontiac

Perhaps rivalling Burt Reynold’s Bandit for the title of coolest on-screen Pontiac, Rockford would showcase his Firebird Esprit and its 6.6-litre V8 abilities every Friday at 9pm. Reruns over the succeeding decades helped cement an unwavering fan base that currently outstrips most modern TV shows.

In fact, Rockford remains the only TV detective to have coined a driving manoeuvre – the famous ‘Jim Rockford turn-around’. Although he didn’t invent the reverse 180-degree ‘J-turn’, Garner’s character employed the action so often that the manoeuvre is forever associated with the show and its titular character.


The vehicle heading under Barret-Jackson’s hammer was one of three Firebird Formulas provided by Pontiac Motor Division for filming, employed from 1978 until the series ended in 1980.

With a special Sierra Gold exterior and tan interior, the factory Formula 400 model was modified to look like an Esprit. Used as a sound car, for close-ups while driving, the Firebird still has the original mic box, drilled holes for recording equipment and wires, and a skid plate to protect the engine and transmission from stunt damage.

Proving that Rockford was the coolest TV hero of the time, his Pontiac features air-conditioning and rally gauges, alongside power windows, steering and brakes. As the only car from the series to feature such luxuries, Garner was impressed enough to purchase the Firebird after the conclusion of the series and personally driven by the actor until May 1981.

More recently, the TV car underwent a frame-on restoration by noted Pontiac restorer Mike Flaherty and currently presents itself just as it would have appeared during filming of The Rockford Files.

Included in the sale lot is a copy of the dealer invoice highlighting delivery of the car to the production company alongside a letter from Garner’s production company identifying the model as an actual screen-used Firebrid Formula 400.

Ready to try out a few Jim Rockford turn-arounds? The Pontiac is being auctioned off at no reserve. Get a closer look here.

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