Archive for April, 2012


Rockford Files: On The Set in 1979 James Garner rare photos!

Rockford Files On The Set in 1979

By Jim Suva

I recently had the pleasure to talk to Michael Mundy.  Michael is a big fan of James Garner and “The Rockford Files”.  He was kind enough to share some stories and these pictures from the set of the “The Big Cheese” episode.  Michael and his Mom your visiting the set back on 11/5/79, when he took the following pictures.


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Notice the picture below of Michael and Rocky’s Truck.  On the bluff above you can see two Firebirds and two Police cars.


The Firebird ready for the next scene in front of The Sandcastle.

Now the pictures below were taken in 1981 in Toluca Lake.  James Garner rented this house across the street from Bob Hope.


The picture below is Luis Delgado’s van parked in Toluca Lake in 1981 by Jim’s house.  Mary Ann Rea’s red VW can also be seen parked two cars behind the van.

This last picture was taken at the LA Covention Center in 1979 of Michael with James Garner’s 4 passenger race car.


This last picture was taken by Michael as Jim was entering NBC studios to appearing on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” back in 1978.  He was promoting “The Rockford Files”.  Jim was rushing in when Michael asked to take a picture.  He said: Let me finish this candy bar first.  He then was kind enough to pose for this picture.


I would like to thank Michael for sharing these picture with us.  If anyone else has a good story about James Garner with pictures,  please contact me


Rockford files makes a Firebird Esprit station wagon?

Rockford Files and Vista Group


Written by Jim Suva


I recently had the opportunity to interview Eric Dahlquest and Chuck Koch of Vista Group. They gave me the insight into the vehicles of The Rockford Files. Eric Dahlquest is the President and founder of Vista Group. Vista Group is a product placement, public relations and marketing company. Chuck Koch has worked for and has done contract work with Vista Group since 1978.

Jim S:   How did James Garner and you decide on the Pontiac Firebird Esprit? Plus how did Vista Group get involved with the show?

Eric:     Jim Garner and I didn’t decide on the Firebird Esprit. Vista Group didn’t get involved with the show until later, after the Pontiacs were established. I think the original deal was made with Jim Graham, Pontiac’s Marketing Director. I recall speaking with Jim Graham about this and I think it was because the Esprit was a new model and could use the help to gain awareness.

We got involved with the show through Vick Hickey whom I had known from my days when I was an editor on Hot Rod Magazine, 1964-68. We did stories on Vic’s cars and trucks that he had developed mostly for Chevrolet because that’s where he had been a Development Engineer. Vic had worked with Jim Garner when Jim had his race team, American International Racers (AIR). If memory serves, I met Jim at Vic’s shop.

Regardless, during these years AIR fielded teams in off-road, Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring and when I left Hot Rod to become Editor of Motor Trend, I spent a lot of time with Vic and Jim on their various programs.

When I left Motor Trend in 1975, Vista Group’s first GM public relations client was Pontiac and shortly thereafter Vick recommended us to GMC Truck’s visionary Sales Promotion Manager, Jim McLane who hired us to do all kinds of promotion programs including movies and television. It was a natural step from there to The Rockford Files because we had all worked together before. Pontiac dealers sold GMC trucks, so it was an obvious product tie-in and the topper was our boss at GMC was a native Oklahoman, as was Jim Garner. It was like the perfect “old-boys” storm.

Jim S:   Were the Firebirds and GMC pickups given to Cherokee Productions, Universal, or another company, or were they purchased? 

Eric:     I just looked though our files and didn’t find the original loan agreements, but I think it was Cherokee Productions. But if it wasn’t, it was Universal Studios, since they would have the biggest liability. No vehicles were “given”, everything was on loan for a specific time on a specific loan agreement with insurance documentation.

Chuck:  Ownership was retained by General Motors for $1.00 fee for 1 year. Cherokee or Universal had to pay taxes, license plates and insure the vehicles. In fact, the support vehicles for Cherokee Productions were all GMC. These vehicles were with James Garner through The Rockford Files and a number of his movies.


In fact, Vista Group worked with Jim on his movies like “Murphy’s Romance”. They purchased an older GMC pickup for him to drive to keep him with the GMC brand. They also worked with Jim on the Indy Pace truck and the red GMC pickup “Sportside” that Jim drove and was used in The Rockford Files. The red pickup was used in the episode titled “Material Difference”.

Jim S:   I know that there were 3 Firebirds per season, until the 79 Firebird style changed. Were there 3 pickups per year too? 

Eric:     I think there were just two pickups, but Chuck would know that.

Chuck:  They had two trucks for the series.  They were not replaced every year.


Jim S:   Since Mr. Garner stayed with the 78 Firebirds, did Universal purchase additional Firebirds from a local dealership?

Eric:     No, I remember them just keeping them [cars from the previous year] in company inventory.

Jim S:   The Firebirds were painted the same color each season. What company painted them and repaired them if they were damaged?

Eric:     A guy named Vince (Carriage Craft) painted the GMC’s I’m not sure about the Pontiacs. But, why wouldn’t he have done both?

Jim S:   The GMC pickups were customized with Vic Hickey equipment. Who did the work?

Eric:     If they had Hickey Equipment, then Vic probably put it on.

Jim S:   Any cool stories about working with James Garner?

Eric:     Stories? Yeah, there’s probably a million of ‘em. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the details except for a few.

When we worked on “Maverick, the Movie”, (the stagecoaches were GMC’s) with Jim and Mel Gibson and Jody Foster, I was sitting with Jim in his dressing trailer remembering some of the old times with AIR racing and Rockford, and how he got into the movie business in the first place. I recall Jim said something to the effect that even after the first Maverick hit television series where he became a star, he wasn’t sure if acting was going to be his lifetime career. At that point, 1959, he had been doing it full time for about five years. “So”, he said, “I thought, I’ll give it another five years and see what happens.”

Well, five years turned into another five years, and another five, and here we were in 1994, so I said, “What about now? Jim paused for a moment, “I think I’ll give it another five”, he said with smile.

Chuck:   To expand on Eric’s comments about the GMC stage coaches in the movie version of “Maverick” and mine about the vintage GMC truck in “Murphy’s Romance” to maintain brand identity with Jim. In the late 1980s, I think, they did a TV remake of “Maverick” wherein Jim’s character owned a saloon/gambling parlor. We wanted to maintain the GMC identity with Garner, so, working with Luis Delgado, we arranged for the building next to the saloon to have a sign that read “General Mercantile Company” with the G, M, and C letters being much larger and darker than the others so you could plainly read GMC. I always got a kick out that.

All dealings were done on a handshake basis, which is unheard of in Hollywood. Most of the dealings were with Luis Delgado, Jim’s friend and partner. Luis played Officer Billings on Rockford. Jim worked with charities where they would raffle off small roles on “The Rockford Files”. Plus the winners had lunch with Jim.

Jim S:   The Rockford Movies had GMC pickup trucks. Did Vista Group help get them for the movies?


Eric:      If it was before 1998, yes.

Jim S:   I have heard that several of the Firebirds and at least two pickups were sold to individuals connected to the show. Do you know anything about this?

Eric:      If they were sold, they were sold through a dealer, but I don’t specifically recall.

Chuck:  The vehicles from The Rockford Files were usually sold by GM at dealer auctions to local dealerships. In some cases, if someone wanted to purchase a vehicle, they would contact GM and they would set a price and if you wanted it, that is the price you paid.


I would like to thank both Eric and Chuck for their time and information on this story. They are both big James Garner and Rockford fans.


Concept cars and dream cars, sometimes turn into Star Cars!

Concept cars have always had a place in my automotive heart, as they were works of art and design first, and practical vehicles second. Because of that freedom, designers went wild and not only gave us new ideas of what a car could be, now and then they turned into movie cars.   I think you should be able to figure out which went on to fame on the screen as arguably the most famous move/tv car of them all!

Enjoy this collection of amazing cars of tomorrow, that were built in the heyday of chrome and imagination!

Nate Truman

The Age of Chrome, Aerodynamic Excess and Sheer Excitement XP-21 Firebird 1954.jpg

Jet-like GM XP-21 Firebird from 1954:
1959 Cadillac Cyclone “Motorama” dream car:
1959 GMC Firebird III – truly a product of the Jet Age! –
Little-known 1953 Cadillac Ghia Coupe: Dodge Firearrow I (Ghia).jpg
1953 Dodge Fire Arrow, designed by Ghia, with total of four vehicles built between 1953-1954: Lincoln XL-500 2.jpg Lincoln XL-500.jpg
Dressed in chrome and full of curves is this 1953 Lincoln XL-500: Oldsmobile Cutlass 2.jpg
1953 Lincoln XL-500 (the first Cutlass) was also quite remarkable: Lincoln Indianapolis.jpg
Aerodynamic and bold 1955 Lincoln Indianapolis (intended for the 1955 Turin Motor Show):
Also from 1955 is this cool and often over-looked Oldsmobile 88 Delta concept: Lincoln Futura (Ghia).jpg
1955 Lincoln Futura, designed by Ghia , Italy (which later evolved into a Batmobile): Ford Mystere 2.jpg Lincoln XL-500 3.jpg
1955 Ford Mystere: streamlined shapes and lots of chrome – Ford Mystere.jpg
This is somewhat less-known concept, but perhaps one of the most flamboyant from Ford: life dec 1955.jpg
1955 Ford La Tosca: Cadillac La Salle II Hardtop Sedan.jpg
1955 Cadillac La Salle II Hardtop Sedan : Buick WildCat III.jpg
1955 Buick WildCat III sports huge bumper “bombs”: golden rocket 1956.jpg
1956 Oldsmobile Golden Rocket had a spokeless steering wheel! –
Here is extremely rare and stunning 1957 Chrysler Diablo, also the result of collaboration with Ghia (considered the most valuable concept car from the 1950s):
Some discarded original Corvette design makeover concepts: Xp882 Z and Aero Z –
Another Chevrolet Corvette concept that did not make it was 1957 Chevrolet SS
Beautiful view of the 1963 Chrysler Turbine Car, one of many such concepts in 1960s.
1969 Chrysler 70X concept with unusual doors:

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April 2012

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nate truman

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