Archive for the 'rockford files' Category


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Rockford Files Screen-Used Firebirds

Rockford Files Screen-Used Firebirds

By Jim Suva


The first Rockford Files Firebird was a 1974 Gold exterior/tan interior Firebird Esprit, with a 400 cubic inch engine. All the cars used for the show came from Pontiac, a GMC division, through Visa Group, to Cherokee Productions. While filming the first season, it was decided that due to the hard driving and stunts, they needed the Trans Am/Formula suspension. So near the end of the first season, all the 1975 through 1978 Firebirds were Formulas.

In March 2002, I had a conversation with a man named Vinny Imerti who maintained the Firebirds for the TV series, as well as the Rockford movies. He sold his business, Carriage Studio Rentals, which had merged with Cinema Vehicle Services around 2002.

Vinny told me that Pontiac supplied three new Firebirds per year for the TV series. They received Firebird Formulas, and then they would remove the splitter exhaust tips and the rear spoiler. They also changed the hood and rear deck lids, and filled the drill holes from the spoilers. (I believe that Universal Studios decided to paint the Firebirds a Lt Topaz color for the 1975 model year, which was the color used throughout the rest of the TV seasons.)  This was done so that it gave the illusion, Rockford always had the same car

In 1978, James Garner was not fond of the 1979 Firebird styling, plus he knew the series was going to be ending soon.  As a way to save money, he decided to use the 1978 Firebirds for the last two seasons. 

After the last filming in December 1979, Vinny bought two of the Firebirds and James Garner bought the other one. Mr. Garner sold his 1978 Firebird Formula 400 to local TV Station WGGT (Channel 48) in Greensboro, NC. This Firebird was later raffled off by Coca-Cola on March 3, 1982. The car was presented to the winner by NASCAR Driver Richard Petty at a local Circuit City store.


The winner was a lady named Frances. Unfortunately, she chose to have the car repainted a darker color, and she had the seat covers replaced. Francis owned and drove the Firebird until she sold it in July of 1989.

A gentleman named Lloyd bought the Firebird from Frances. Lloyd was a huge James Garner fan, and he rarely drove the car. In fact, most of the time that he owned the Firebird, it was in storage. Lloyd died in 2003.

Lloyd’s daughter, Kelly, is now the owner of the Firebird. On August 29, 2009 I had the honor of meeting Kelly in person in Iowa. I took great pleasure in photographing and then actually driving the Firebird. The Firebird is all there, including the holes drilled to run recording wiring. Kelly even has a plug-in plate with five jacks for microphones. The car also has a skid plate mounted to the frame to protect the engine and transmission from any damage from stunts. This Firebird is a rig car (sound car) used for close-ups while driving. I believe it is also a stunt car. Kelly has a letter from James Garner that was sent to the Program Manager at Station WGGT. The letter identifies this car as an actual screen-used Firebird Formula 400, and that he drove this car during the filming of the Rockford Files. Unfortunately, the letter does not state the car’s VIN number.

One interesting note is that this car has power windows. The plastic plugs for the power windows in the door panels can be seen in “Material Difference”, “Love is the Word” and the “Big Cheese” episodes. This Firebird was used during the last two seasons. Pat McKinney and I are 99% sure this is an actual Rockford File Firebird.

The documentation on the Firebirds from the TV series were destroyed sometime around 2000. Since there is no longer a written list of VIN numbers for the Firebirds used on the TV series, it is hard to identify with 100% accuracy an actual screen-used Firebird.

Ross Healey located a 1976 Firebird Formula in San Diego in 2008.  After 2 years of trying to talk to the current owner, he purchased the Firebird in March 2010.  This Firebird has a letter signed by James Garner stating the vin number and the fact he drove it on the Rockford Files.  Ross also received a photo copy of an article about the original owner’s history with the Firebird.  This could be the best documented Firebird from the original tv series.  Pat McKinney purchased the 1976 Firebird from Ross a few years ago, along with all the documentation.


Pat Mc Kinney, who lives in Southern California has been lucky enough to have owned four Rockford Firebirds. He purchased the first one from a couple in the early 1980’s. At that time, Pat managed to get written documentation from Vinny proving he now owned a screen-used car. He also found a prop plate with 853 OKG on it, in the trunk of the car. He kept this Firebird for a while, and then sold to a friend, whose wife had an accident with the car. Sadly the car was totaled, but she was ok. This car and the other three Firebirds that he currently owns all came through Livingston Pontiac in Woodland Hills, CA. All four Firebirds were special-order cars with similar equipment. In fact, the VIN number of Pat’s original 1978 that was destroyed, was only a few numbers off the 1978 Firebird that he owns today.


Pat currently owns a 1977 Firebird that was a rig car. It is unique in that it was the only car that had holes drilled near the bottom of each of its fenders for sound wiring and microphones. According to a Roy Clark stunt coordinator and stunt double for James Garner, this was the only car that was rigged in this way. When this Firebird was used as a Hero car for filming of the outside of the car, painted plugs were put in to fill the holes. These plugs are clearly visible in several episodes in the 1977 season. “Quickie Nirvana” and “Requiem of a Funny Box” are two of the episodes. The Firebird is currently being restored by Pat. You can see pictures of the restoration on the Rockford Files website. There was a spoiler that was put back on the Firebird after filming. When Pat removed the spoiler, the original Rockford paint was clearly visible. Pat had a paint chip analyzed, which matched the paint on his 1978 Firebird. The color is Lt. Topaz.


Pat’s 1978 Firebird was purchase from the daughter of a stunt man for the Rockford Files. I believe the stuntman’s name was Create. This car was used in the episode “Rock in Roll will never Die”. Its right-front fender and passenger door were smashed, and sold as-is to Mr. Create. Mr. Create purchased the car for his daughter who had the car painted grey. When Pat purchased the car from her, the paint was peeling and worn off in areas. You could see the Rockford paint coming through. This Firebird will be his next restoration project. The car also has low mileage, making it easier to restore than his 1977.

78 Rockord

Because of the Firebirds that Pat owns, we now have resources to help identify the Firebirds that were used on the TV series.

I asked Vinny about the two Firebirds that he supplied for the Rockford Files movies. He told me that he and his partner tried to sell the cars. He told me that the Firebirds were repainted and made into something completely different. In fact, I saw one of these Firebirds on e-bay in October of 2002. It is painted a bright gold color.

Rockford's Firebird
Interior 1
Firebird in front of trailer

The three movie Firebirds were a 1977 and two 1978 used cars. They rebuilt them and painted them. In fact, Vinny said they were actually painted the wrong shade, but no one noticed. He said that everyone always remembered the 1978 Firebirds, which is why they were rebuilt that way. These Firebirds had the standard interior with power windows.

Vinny said it was a pleasure working with James Garner. He was really a great guy!

If anyone has any other information about any original screen used Rockford Files Firebirds, please let me know at

I hope that this information will help other Rockford Files fans!


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.


Rockford Files had more than one Star car, his house had wheels too!

Jim Rockford’s Trailer

By Jim Suva


The trailer used as Jim Rockford’s mobile home is a 1959 Nashua House Trailer. They used one trailer for exterior shots, mostly at Paradise Cove, Malibu. According to Rob Howe the interiors of the trailer were built on Stage 23 at Universal Studios.  It had the exterior trailer skin on one side(the front), but not the full length of the front side.  It was a set.  The fourth wall was removable, since most of the shots were shooting from behind Rockford’s desk toward the door.  When Jim sat behind the desk and the camera was on him, the fourth wall would be set up behind him with the pictures on it.  Picture above is from The Official James Garner Facebook Fan Page.

Here is an add for the trailer from 1959.


Pat Mc Kinney is probably the most die-hard fan of the show The Rockford File. Pat owns three original screen-used Firebirds from the TV series, plus crew jackets and other props from the show.


This past spring Pat came across a 1959 Nashua trailer, very close to the original that was used on the TV series. It belonged to a customer that Pat was working for at the time. Pat saw it out of the corner of his eye and asked the owner if he realize he had a trailer identical to Jim Rockford’s. The owner asked Pat if he would like to look inside. Of course Pat said yes! The owner’s daughter was living in the trailer at the time. Once he looked inside he could not believe his eyes! It was set up just like Rockford’s trailer! Pat gave him his business card and told him if he ever wanted to sell it, he would be interested.

Two months later the owner called up Pat and told him his daughter was getting married and moving out. He wanted to get a new trailer for his back yard. He told Pat the trailer has been in the back yard since it was practically new. Needless to say Pat jumped at the opportunity.

In June 2011, Pat had the trailer moved to a storage facility near his home. It arrived there in perfect time to be part of the 1st Annual Rockford File Fest. Below are some pictures of the trailer, taken at the Fest. It was so cool to actually walk inside this trailer and feel like you were in Jim Rockford’s home!

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Pat’s plans at the time were to repaint the trailer and redo the interior to look exactly like the trailer used on the series. Pat believes the front door and windows were actually moved forward, to make the trailer on the show more accessible. Pat’s trailer has the extra window near the front of the trailer, which needs to be relocated to the kitchen area. Pat has been collecting items that matched those used on the show. Pat met with Robert Zilliox, the set designer from the series and the movies. Robert is currently looking for his pictures from the actual set to help recreate the trailer. Pat’s intentions are to use the trailer at all future Rockford events.

However, Pat is currently at a crossroads. He wants to complete the restoration of his 1977 Firebird, and has two more Firebirds to go. Since the economy is not doing well, Pat would like to see if any Rockford/James Garner fans would be interested in donating funds to help keep the trailer in storage, or to help with the cost of recreating the Rockford Trailer.

Please contact Pat at if you would like to donate to the restoration fund, or would be able to help recreate this trailer.

This could be a great opportunity for the fan’s of The Rockford Files to help recreate a piece of television history!


Rockford Files’ Roydon Clark

 Nate Truman

Well, heres some great info on Rockford Files by Jim!  Now where are the super fans for all the other shows?  Send me links to great informative stuff about star car shows, and you may see your work right here!

Rockford Files’ Roydon Clark

Written by Jim Suva


Picture by Paul Santo
I met Roydon Clark on July13, 2011 at the 1st Annual Rockford Files Fest. Through Rob Howe, I later had the opportunity to talk to Roy on the phone and ask him some questions about the
Rockford Firebirds and GMC pickup trucks.

After speaking with him, I have to say that Roy is one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. I really enjoyed talking to him. In case you don’t know about Roy, he is a stuntman that has worked with John Wayne and many other top stars over the years. His best known work is with his good friend, James Garner.

Roy worked as James Garner’s stunt double since the days of the original “Maverick” TV series. He talks to him two or three times every week, and they remain good friends to this day. On “The Rockford Files”, Roy was not only a stuntman, but also the second unit director. He worked with getting the Firebirds and trucks for the show, and was in charge of setting up the Firebirds.

Roy confirmed that the Firebirds used on the show were Formulas, slightly altered to look like the Esprit model. Jim and Roy met with race car driver Parnelli Jones, for advice on what kind of tires and tire size should be used on the Firebirds. Parnelli Jones was working for Firestone at the time, and Roy believes they chose the wider Firestone tires.

Around the third season, Roy started to help set up one of the three Firebirds that Pontiac gave them as a sound car each year. This car was used a rolling sound stage. They mounted electric plug connections on the corners of the car and trunk. They mounted cameras on the hood or the doors for their cross-over shots. James Garner would be the director in the car and start the scene. Mr. Garner actually drove the Firebird as the scene played out. (Today the car would be towed, or on a platform.) Once the scene was over, James Garner would pull up to the director and they would plug into the Firebird and check out the scene. With the car wired like this, a scene in the parked car could be done easily, since all the microphones and wires were already mounted in the car.

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One of the safety items that Roy came up with later in the series was using inner tubes in the vehicle tires, since there was a lot of flexing of the tire sidewalls. This was a result of all the high-speed cornering.

The GMC Pickup trucks used on the show were set up by Vic Hickey Enterprises, using their equipment such as roll bars, spare gas tanks, winches, push guards, and lights. Roy believes James Garner helped design the truck. From what I have been told by others, James Garner loved to drive the trucks; after all he was an off-road racer!


Roy calls James Garner “Jimmy.” As he told me, “Most of the J-turns done on screen were with Jimmy behind the wheel,” although Roy did some on the show as well.

Roy used to buy a new Firebird each year the show was on. As he said to me, “What better way to know a car, than to drive it every day?” Of course, Roy did get a special deal from Pontiac. He said, “Pontiac Firebirds made me a better driver.”


Picture by Blake Delgado

I remember Roy speaking at Paradise Cove. He said he used to tell the other stunt drivers not to try to keep up with James Garner. He was just too good, and he loved to have fun with the Pontiacs.

Roy told me that when the transporter with the Firebirds pulled up at a filming location, people passing by would stop to check out the cars. In fact, the cars were almost as popular as the stars of the show!

Roy remembers filming at Paradise Cove at the end of each filming week. So when he came back to Paradise Cove this past July, it brought back a lot of memories. He feels he has been blessed in his life. He started as a kid working on a farm in Pennsylvania with migrant workers, and today he is one of the best stuntmen in the business.

Roy Clark and James Garner: two really nice guys!


ROCkFORD Files TV movies 1994 the remake

Every starcar should have a fan as dedicated as Jim for smoking out the info and writing great articles about the star cars they love!

Contact Jim if you know there whereabouts of the truck used in the show.  Heres some more info on the Rockford Files remake in 1994.

Nate Truman

Rockford Files 1994

Written by Jim Suva


Picture by Paul Santo

In 1994, “The Rockford Files” was coming back to TV in a series of 8 movies. These movies were broadcast on CBS. Now Pontiac was out of the TV and Movie car product placement by this time.  But because of their great fondness of the show, General Motors sent out two Pontiac Trans Am convertibles to be used as Jim Rockford’s car. These Trans Am’s were specially equipped cars, and were prepared at a local Chevy-Buick-GMC dealership.

James Garner decided that he want to go with the 1978 Firebirds for the movies. Pontiac was not very fond of this idea. They want to promote the new TA convertibles. Personally, I think James Garner made the right decision. The 1978 Firebird will always be Jim Rockford’s car. GMC did provide the pickup trucks used on the movies. That is why Jim switches off between the Firebird and the new GMC Z71 pickup truck, he helped promote the trucks.

Steve Hellerstein, the Universal Studio’s transportation coordinator for the Rockford movies, contacted Cinema Vehicle Services. It was their job to recreate the Firebird.  Steve Hofmann and Steve Reich were given the task.

They used local Car For Sale magazines, since the Internet at the time was not nearly what it is today! They located three Firebirds in the Los Angele area. They purchased a Red Bird, a Formula and an Esprit. None of these Firebirds were the right color or had the right color interiors. Because of the appeal of “The Rockford Files” and James Garner, General Motors went the extra mile in helping locate parts to restore these Firebirds, Steve Reich told me. He would call up GM with a list of parts and they would use their locator system to track the parts down for them. As an example, GM located three rally wheels at a dealership in Ohio. They would give Steve the name and phone number and he would order the parts from them directly. One item, a wheel well trim piece was sent direct from a display at the Norwood Ohio assembly plant.

Steve remembers that the interior pieces were custom made from a company in Kentucky. To recreate the color of the Firebird, CBS used the episode of “Lions, Tigers, Monkeys and Dogs” from the last season. They used Medium Camel Tan from a screen capture. Unfortunately, this color appears differently on screen, depending on the individual TV color settings. The correct color, we now know, is Light Topaz, which Pat McKinney matched from two of his screen-used Firebirds.


Of course today there are a number of companies that make reproduction parts for Firebirds, now that they are considered classic muscle cars. That would have made Steve Reich and Steve Hofmann’s life a lot easier.

Rockford's Firebird
Picture by Paul Santo

The GMC Pickup trucks used in the Rockford Movies were prepared at Rydell Chevrolet in the San Fernando Valley. Steve Reich told me that this dealership’s location is closed. Vista Group again coordinated these trucks for the show through General Motors. Steve told me that each of the GMC Z71 pickups had the 5.7 V8 engines and were fully loaded.

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Steve Reich has another interesting story. Back in 1994, Pontiac Racing contacted Steve about giving James Garner a custom-made black leather jacket. According to Gary Claudio, who worked for GM, the jacket had the Pontiac Racing logo on the back. The jacket also had the Pontiac Racing logo on the left chest area. Gary believes the arms of the jacket had the black and white racing flag checkerboard design on the sleeves. This jacket was custom made with hand stitching and “James Garner” was embroidered on the inside lining. Since James Garner was bringing back “The Rockford Files”, GM decided this would be a nice gift for all of the years of loyalty to Pontiac and GM. The jacket was designed and made by Jeff Hamilton. Only six of these jackets were made.

Gary Claudio was originally supposed to fly out to LA and present the jacket to James Garner, but something came up, so he sent the jacket to Steve Hofmann, who gave it to Jim on the set of The Rockford Files movie. Jim immediately put it on and was very happy with the gift. James Garner was schedule to appear on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” to promote the first Rockford Movie. NBC did not want Jim to wear the Pontiac jacket on the show because of the Pontiac logos. Free publicity is not a good thing! Jim said, “I am wearing it on the show, or I am not going to be on the show.” Guess what? Jim wore it on “The Tonight Show”. What a classy guy!

I confirmed this story with Gary Claudio. He told me that at the Indy 500 that year, he met with Jay Leno. Jay confirmed the story. In fact, later that same day, Gary met Jim in the Chevy Hospitality suite at the track. Jim was proudly wearing the jacket, even though some of the Chevy guys were giving him a few odd glances. Now that is loyalty!

Steve Hofmann and Steve Reich currently work for Film Vehicle Services. Both of these gentlemen are true Rockford Files fans. As another fan, I want to thank them for all the trouble they went to, to bring the Firebird back for the Rockford Movies. By the way, James Garner made sure that they each received a Rockford Files watch for all their hard work. Steve Reich still has it at home in the original box.

If anyone has information about the GMC Z71 pickups from the Rockford Movies, please contact me at


Rockford Files shooting locations, then and now!

I have to admit I am a sucker for fan stuff like this!  Being able to stand in the very place where movies or shows that I loved actually shot is just a fun “touchstone” to bring me closer to the action that I remember seeing on the big and little screen!  Below is super Rockford fan Jim Suva’s write up on his trip to Rockford Files locations!  The Herbie owners are planning a three day event to do pretty much the same thing for their Sothern California locations next month, so any group of fans can pull this sort of thing off, and if you do, well tell me about it with great info and photos like Jim does!  Enjoy! 
Nate Truman

Rockford Files Locations


Written by Jim Suva

In July 2011, Pat McKinney and I went to find the locations that were used on The Rockford Files.  Below are some of the locations we found.

Here is the original location of Jim Rockford’s trailer in the parking lot by the Malibu Pier on Pacific Coast Highway.

The first two pictures are from the show.  Last two are 2011.

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First picture below is Lankershim Blvd. in 2011.  A number of scenes of Jim driving down this street have been used. The second picture is St Charles Boromeo.  The inside of the church was used while filming “Find Me If You Can”.  The church is located on the corner of Moorpark and Lankershim Blvd.

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“The Real Easy Red Dog”  First picture is from the episode.  It shows the Services entrance to Ruehmanm Pontiac in 1975. The next picture is of the dealership today.  It now sells BMW’s.  The third picture is the house where Stefanie Powers character lived in 1975 and the fourth is 2011.

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Jim entering the house and the side view of 4265 Denny Ave. North Hollywood.

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“The Trees, the Bees, and T.T. Flowers”  The church is located on the corner of Cahuenga and Whipple in Toluca Lake.  The first two picture are from 1976.  The third picture was taken 2011.

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“Beamers Last Case”  This is Tony’s Body Shop located at 4730 Blix Street in North Hollywood.  First picture is from 1977 and the next two are 2011.

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Here is Jack Kelly’s characters home at 4365 Forman, Toluca Lake.  First picture is the gate to the property in 1977.  The next picture is the gate 2011.  Third picture is the driveway 1977.  Fourth is the driveway 2011.

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“Hotel of Fear”  Here is the Mob Bosses Nova’s house located at 4256 Navajo, Toluca Lake.  First two pictures are from 1977 and the last two are 2011.

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“Rosendahl and Gilda Stern are Dead”  The intersection is at Cahuenaga and Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake.  This is where Abe Vigoda and Robert Loggia’s characters met.  The first two pictures are from 1978 and the last two are from 2011.

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This is Rocky’s House located at 3654 Lankershim Blvd., Studio City.  The house has had an addition built on the front of house.  It now has a row of trees in front.

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This is Bob Morse’s Beach Cafe, Paradise Cove.  It use to be called the Sandcastle.  It has changed quite a bit over the last few years.  Jim Rockford’s trailer use to be parked in the parking lot.    That part of the  parking lot is now a sandy beach with tables.  Below are pictures of Paradise Cove, July 13, 2011.

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I hope you enjoyed these pictures.  It is always nice to see what the locations look like today.


The Rockford Files Fans get together for their first Festival!

My pals Pat McKinney and Jim Suva you can say are big Rockford files fans.  We connected because of their Rockford files screen used cars, but obviously if you get the car, well you love the show it came from!   So below is Jim’s write up of the fans first big get together!  Read on!

Nate Truman Founder

Rockford Files Fest – 2011

Written by Jim Suva

On July 13, 2011, the 1st Annual Rockford Files Fest was held. In April I began to make arrangements to meet Pat McKinney and Brett Papworth. Pat and Brett are friends who helped me with my research of the Rockford Firebirds. Since my family and I were coming to the Los Angeles area during the second week in July, it seemed like a great idea to meet them in person! I then told Rob Howe that we were coming. Rob runs the official James Garner Fan Page on Facebook. He took this prospective meeting, which was going to include lunch at Paradise Cove, and transformed it into the 1st Rockford Files Fest. A Fest had been discussed for years on the Yahoo Rockford Files Group, but somehow that never became a reality. Until now.

Rob used to work on the set of the series during the last two seasons. Through the Garner Facebook page and his contacts with the show, he combined Rockford crew members and fans. This year’s Fest had a very limited budget and was really a trial run for next year’s Fest.

The Rockford Files Fest was held in two parts, in two different locations. The first part was held at Pat McKinney’s house, where we met at 10 a.m. Pat owns three (yes, that’s right, three) original Rockford Firebirds from the TV series. He has a 1976, a 1977 and a 1978 Firebird Formulas that were all driven by James Garner.

Pat also displayed his collection of Rockford Files memorabilia, including photographs, an original screen-used license plate, a telephone answering machine, a phone, a clock and a pencil holder, similar to the ones used in the series. Pat was nice enough to let us actually touch these items, and pose for pictures with his Firebirds!

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Pat also has a collection of Rockford crew jackets and hats. These items were given to the Rockford cast and crew by James Garner during the filming of the series and the movies. What a classy guy!

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The 1977 Firebird gets to stay in the garage, out of the sun. It is the actual sound car from the fourth season. You can see the plugs in the fenders where wiring and cables were run. It’s a beautiful car!

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The 1976 Firebird is the only known car that has a letter signed by James Garner documenting the VIN number. It also states that he drove this Firebird on The Rockford Files.

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The 1978 Firebird was used in the last two seasons of the series. As you can see, it still needs a little TLC!

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Pat will be restoring these Firebirds as time and finances allow.

We also stopped by a nearby RV storage facility where Pat’s newest project is parked. He was given a 1959 Nashua trailer, which is the same kind of trailer Jim Rockford lived in during the series. Pat is hoping that with the help of Robert Zilliox, he will be able to paint and decorate the trailer to match Jim Rockford’s trailer. Robert Zilliox was the set designer from The Rockford Files. Robert has pictures of the interior of the trailer and the designs used on the show.

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We are hoping to have all of Pat’s collection items at the 2nd Rockford Files Fest!

The second part of the Fest was held at Bob Morse’s Beach Café. This is the old Sandcastle Restaurant that was the site used for both the TV series and the CBS movies.
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We met at the restaurant at 1:30 p.m. Rob made sure that we were sitting at tables where the original trailer sat. This area has been transformed into a beach area and has tables with beach umbrellas to keep the California sun off, our heads. The parking lot has been removed a few years ago. It was very cool to be sitting in that exact location!

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Once most of us arrived, Rob held a brief introduction, welcoming us and introduced the Rockford crew and the fans. Everyone received a T-shirt that was designed by Sheilagh Howe. The T-shirts were black because that is James Garner’s favorite color. Pat McKinney also gave out Rockford Files hats, that he had made to many of the attendees.

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Unfortunately, James Garner was not available to attend. Jim did send his personal car along with his driver, Chester Grimes. Chester has appeared on The Rockford Files several times in different roles. Note the Cadillac’s license plate! Obviously, a combination of his two favorite characters!


Roy Clark, Jim’s stunt double since his Maverick days, was kind enough to attend. Rob introduced Roy and he held a very nice speech. Roy also entertained us with several stunt stories, and about one particular stunt that he did in the episode “Battle of Canoga Park”

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Roy was nice enough to go around to the different tables and he spoke with everyone. I was even fortunate enough to have him sign the visor of my Firebird! Roy also brought a great poster signed by James Garner, as well as a Rockford crew jacket.


Rob introduced Jon Winokur, who relayed a special message from James Garner. Jon is co-authoring The Garner Files, the story of James Garner’s life. It will be published in November, 2011.


Also in attendance was Blake Delgado, the son of Luis Delgado, Jim’s best friend for almost 50 years. You might remember Luis playing Officer Billings. Robert Zilliox, set designer, and Diane Adler, film editor, were also there. They signed autographs and had pictures taken with the fans. Unfortunately, my family left before Don Wilkerson came. He was an assistant director and was responsible for getting Rob Howe on the set. Ed Robertson also joined us. He is the author of Thirty Years of The Rockford Files. This book is my Rockford bible!


A very special treat was Paul Santo’s restored 1977 Firebird, painted in the correct Rockford color. He parked close by in the parking lot (management wouldn’t let him drive it onto the sand! I wonder why?) Many many pictures were taken of Paul’s Firebird. It was so cool to have the Firebird in Paradise Cove again.

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Roy Clark’s son Dennis and his grandson stopped by with a truck that was used as background truck in several episodes. Of course, the truck had different paint jobs in those episodes.


James Garner was so appreciative of his fans that he signed three items to be raffled off at the Fest. He signed a Rockford hat, a pilot script, and a Rockford T-shirt. Below is a picture of the lucky winners with their prizes! They received their prizes in custom Rockford Files Fest bags, also designed by Rob and Sheilagh.


We had a wonderful time! We wished it could go on forever!

For more pictures please visit The Official James Garner Fan page on Facebook.!/pages/The-Official-James-Garner-Fan-Page/137716439595713

We are already starting to plan a bigger Rockford Files Fest for next year. All will be invited, so tell your friends! Please check back for updates on next year’s event.


rockford files pontiac firebird esprit – all you need to know!

1970-1981 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

Sometimes I just have to let someone else write a blog, because they covered a star car subject better than I would ever do!  Below is a great write up on the Rockford Files cars that covers pretty much everything you would want to know!  Let’s go practice some Rockford files “J” turns!

by Anthony Cagle on February 08, 2011

You may not ever have heard of this car, but many of you over a certain age probably already know of it. The Firebird, arguably, rarely gets quite the attention that the Chevrolet division’s sister car, the Camaro, does but it has a nice lineage and it produced quite a few memorable cars–even though a lot of them appear here at Car Lust rather than in the big muscle car magazines and web sites. 1974Rockford

I always preferred the Firebird to the Camaro myself, for whatever reason, and the second generation has always been my favorite, especially the later ’70s. Again, for whatever reason, the first generation’s styling never quite did it for me; it just looks to me like something that was thrown together quickly to get something into the pony car market (this is all apart from the performance which was generally stellar). The second generation’s styling just seems to have been well thought out with clean lines, good proportions all around, and manages to seem elegant, powerful, and sporty all at the same time. They look good from any angle. Although I adore my Mustang II the Firebirds from that time remain my absolute favorite car.

Now, as to this car’s notoriety, fans of NBC’s The Rockford Files (1974-1980) will recognize it as the car driven by Jim Rockford played by James Garner. I don’t recall watching the show that often, but I remember the car. Oddly, all these years I’d remembered it as a Camaro, too, which shows how much I really paid attention back then. Recently, however, PBS has been doing a show called Pioneers of Television and the latest segment was on crime dramas which featured The Rockford Files, and it prompted me to finally put pen to paper fingers to keyboard and extol the virtues of yet another brilliant, if under-appreciated, 1970s car.

The Esprit was in reality a trim version of the basic Firebird. As our fearless leader has noted, the second generation redesign of the Camaro and Firebird, along with some other models, was a significant departure from the hunky and blocky muscle cars of the ’60s. It had far more of a sleek and understated European look to it, something it shared with the much-maligned Vega. While today we tend to associate that generation with mullet hair-don’ts, at the time I think they were meant to appeal more to the up and coming leisure-suit-and-martini crowd rather than the t-shirt-and-beer set.1975Rockford Like other models, the Firebird came in several trim and performance levels depending on the market niche each was appealing to: apart from the base, there was the Esprit, Formula, and Trans Am versions, largely upgrading the power and handling options for each step up although emphasizing different features for each, the latter two being the high-performance models. 

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

Pontiac offered a number of engine options throughout the ’70s, including the vaunted 400 and 455s–neither of which could be had on the Esprit. Instead, Esprit buyers had to make do with small-block V-8s: Pontiac’s 301 and 350, and Chevy’s 305. While not barn-burners, they provided pretty good oomph while still going easy on the gas mileage. On the other hand, this also forced the producers of the show to be, as we will see, ‘”creative” in their depiction of Rockford’s “Esprit”. In sum, the Esprit was, to coin a phrase, the Thinking Man’s Firebird.

James Garner had made his TV acting name more in Westerns up to that point, having starred in the 1976Rockford wildly successful Maverick in the late 1950s. On the other hand, Garner was equally famous for his role  in the 1966 film Grand Prix. The film, popular in its time, has attained cult status for its superb and realistic race footage and the use of actual F1 drivers. Garner was into racing, but wasn’t much of a driver before the film. By all accounts, he learned the craft exceptionally well and did most or all of his own driving, earning acceptance from the real drivers. Garner went on to be involved in various racing contexts, but made his name largely through offroad racing. By the time of Rockford he was an accomplished race and stunt driver in his own right.

The choice of the Esprit as Rockford’s car was deliberate for a number of reasons, some of which Garner had input into. The series was unique for the genre up to that point in that Rockford was very much a flawed “hero.” He lived in a trailer on the beach, wasn’t exactly a hard-bitten PI in the form of Phillip Marlowe, and he certainly wasn’t wealthy, not to mention being an ex-con; very much in the vein of the 1970s anti-hero which gained popularity at the time. As a 40-something, Rockford would have been attracted to the Esprit for its relatively upscale appearance and creature comforts, while having enough power and handling prowess to get him out of whatever scrapes he got himself into. As an accomplished driver himself, Garner preferred the exceptional handling of the Firebird/Camaros. In fact, Garner did nearly all of the stunt driving himself, not because he was the star and wanted to, but because he was one of the better stunt drivers at the time.

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

1977fb-esprit-5 As for the cars, the first season a real Esprit was used. Some modifications were made to the car, notably using the show’s own paint. The producers wanted to maintain a consistent color through each season and the vicissitudes of the automotive market often dictated subtle changes in colors from year to year. So they mixed up their own paint and used it throughout the series. Interestingly, they changed cars each season to reflect the new models which you can see in the series of photographs presented here which I’ve placed in chronological order. After the first season, however, they stopped using actual Esprits and turned to the Formula version of the Firebird due to its enhanced power and handling characteristics. So, each season they would buy a bunch of Formulas and rework them to make them look like regular Esprits.

Observant viewers would have caught the model year changes, especially the 1977 change to four square headlights and the new “beaked” look of the grille area. The producers tried to maintain the fiction that Rockford was still driving the same car throughout the series, but this would have fallen completely flat in 1979 when the front fascia went through a major change; rumor also hath it that Garner didn’t like the look of the redesign. Instead, they purchased a few ’78s and used those (in addition to some others they got from GM) for the remainder of the show’s run.

The program ended in 1980 and after 1981 GM switched the Camaro and Firebird to a new body design 1978Rockford and dropped the various flavors of Firebirds to the base model, S/E and Trans Am version. I was never really taken with the new design and haven’t caught the fever since; it always kind of struck me as being more of a “boy racer” look rather than the more elegant grand touring look of the second generation.

Esprits aren’t that easy to find these days, since they were more of a niche market than the other versions which made them not very numerous to begin with and a lot of people didn’t bother to take care of them since they weren’t really viewed as the Firebird to have, despite its evident popularity because of the TV show.

A similar model, the Camaro’s Berlinetta version, is also a personal favorite (that’s actually what I was thinking Rockford drove), though I haven’t really been able to work up enough data to do a post on it. Both, I think, sum up much of what was good about the 1970s in terms of car design: very nice styling, decent performance, and a comfortable driving experience for those who regularly drive their cars into swimming pools as well as to and from the office each day.

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

–Anthony J. Cagle


Rockford Files car on display in South Dakota!

Museum’s Screen Used Rockford Files Firebird

Nelson Garage’s Rockford Files Firebird

Written by Jim Suva


Nelson’s Garage is a museum located at 629 Main Street, Deadwood, South Dakota. This museum is on the main floor of the Celebrity Casino Hotel.  Nelson’s Garage is owned by brothers Don and Robert Nelson.  In November 2003, Don Nelson informed me that they were putting a screen-used Rockford Files Firebird on display in their museum.

This Firebird is a 1978 Pontiac Firebird Formula. It has a 350 cubic inch engine with a 4 barrel carburetor, automatic transmission, AM/FM radio, power steering, power brakes, power windows and air conditioning.

The Firebird was purchased through a prop house that has a relationship with Cinema Vehicle Services. According to Robert Nelson the Firebird has patched holes in the trunk lid and fenders. These holes were filled in after the standard rear spoiler was removed. This car also has two letters of authenticity from Cinema Vehicle Services. One letter states that this car was used in the filming of the “Rockford Files”, the second states that the car was used in the television shows “Rockford Files” starring James Garner. Both letters contain the VIN number of the Firebird and are signed by the President of Cinema Vehicle Services.

The Firebird has been on displayed for a number of years now. Robert said, “People who appreciate and know the car best are typically the people who used to watch the TV series. They love the car!” In fact, a lot of people who visit their property are retired, and that is why they felt the car would be such a good fit.

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The Rockford car has been well taken care of. It is rotated with other cars on display and is serviced regularly. When the car is not on display, it is serviced and stored in a heated warehouse. I believe this one of the last Firebirds that James Garner drove as Jim Rockford. This is a nice piece of TV history and it is in very good condition.

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