Posts Tagged ‘pontiac

09
Jan
20

Rockford Files Pontiac

Rockford Files Screen-Used Firebirds

Rockford Files Screen-Used Firebirds

By Jim Suva

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 jimsuva34@aol.com.

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

09
Feb
13

xXx GTO screen used Pontiac has all the gadgets you would want!

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This highly-modified 1967 GTO is readily recognized as Vin Diesel’s hero car from the blockbuster film “xXx.”  It is one of five screen-used Pontiacs that Hollywood star car builder Eddie Paul originally built. 
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To further prepare it for on-screen use, the studio’s Special Effects crew outfitted this particular car with all sorts of unique hardware to perform the various “gags” seen in the movie. Nicknamed the “Flame Car” for its flame-throwing capabilities (notice the scorched hood scoop!), it also features special spy gadgets in the dashboard, functional rocket launchers behind the upper headlights, a patriotic American flag parachute packed into the passenger seat, and a flipping rear seat that reveals a high-powered arsenal for Diesel’s “Xander Cage” secret agent duties.
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The Flame Car began life as a GTO hardtop coupe, but its metal roof is now forever gone.
“The roof was ejected — like a fighter jet’s canopy — during a crucial action sequence near the film’s finale,” says film historian and Pontiac enthusiast Thom Sherwood of Tucson, AZ. He has been the car’s proud owner since 2005, and enjoys sharing all the unique stories he has collected from the film’s crew and craftsmen.
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“I have interviewed over 75 people associated with “xXx” — from the director to the stunt drivers and everyone in-between — to document the cars built for the film and their fascinating stories.”
While he has produced a one-hour slide presentation covering his efforts entitled “Secret Agent GTO: The Pontiacs of xXx,” his ultimate goal is to publish a book which showcases these stories and the amazing behind-the-scenes photography that he has amassed.
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Meanwhile, he welcomes the opportunity to display his roaring, rolling piece of genuine Hollywood wizardry.
“Most people, when they see my car in-person, can’t believe it is the actual car from the movie,” Sherwood continues. “They are mesmerized by all the high-tech dials and switches and blinking lights inside. Unlike K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider,” or the DeLorean from “Back to the Future,” the dashboard purposely has a haphazard look to it. It was made — according to the film’s storyline — to appear as though it was hastily assembled overnight!”
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Outside, the car is painted a unique color-shifting shade called Indigo Blasberry Prizm. But look closely, and you can tell this GTO has been driven through multiple fireball explosions and has seen some hard action while the cameras rolled. “For the most part, it remains in the exact same condition as it returned stateside from filming in the Czech Republic with scrapes and bumps and all,” according to Sherwood. “It only adds to the car’s provenance.”

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Today, the Flame Car may get “fired-up” occasionally to terrorize the streets of Tucson, but it also makes appearances at out-of-state enthusiast gatherings and promotions. Arrangements to have the Flame Car attend your event can be made through Star Car Central.
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25
May
12

GHOST CAR 1939 Pontiac Deluxe Six, Wonder Woman’s invisible car?

I have seen this car in “weird car” books for years, and the idea was simple to show off the construction of the car, but the exectution is just too cool! How weird would it be to drive this down the road?

The 1939 Pontiac Deluxe Six “Ghost Car,” first displayed at the New York World’s Fair

and later at the Smithsonian Institution, was sold last year on a Saturday for $308,000.

Originally built for $25,000, the car with a Plexiglas body was the first transparent car

built in America . Another was built the following year, but its whereabouts are unknown. (Where is that car today????)

“This is the only one known to exist,” said Alain Squindo, a car specialist for RM Auctions, which held the auction for the “Ghost Car” and other specialty vehicles in Plymouth , Mich. “It’s a very original car.”

The Ghost Car was first displayed at the 1939/1940 New York World’s Fair, Squindo said. It toured a number of dealerships, and then was at the Smithsonian in Washington , D.C. for a number of years.

It has been owned by the same family since the 1980s. “They were rather sad to see their beloved car go,” Squindo said. He could not disclose the name of the buyer.

The car has 86 miles on it, picked up by being driven in and out of dealerships for displays. It was a collaboration between GM and Rohm & Haas chemical company, which made the Plexiglas. Structural metal underneath was given a copper wash and all hardware, including the dashboard was chrome-plated.
One of a kind: The 1939 motor is a Pontiac Deluxe Six which has been covered in Plexiglas, developed just a few years earlier in 1933

Billed as a vision of the future, it was made for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, where it became a sensation at General Motors’ ‘Highways and Horizons’ pavilion; and it continues to cause a stir today.

Just two were ever made and this model, which has a three-speed manual transmission, is the last of its kind.

Seventy-two years of wear: The Plexiglas does have some chips and cracks but is mostly in good condition, according to auction notes

Not for touring: The collectible is unlikely to be seen on the road

Transparent: Wires and a spare wheel can be seen through the trunk of the car

A spokesman for RM Auctions said: ‘The car is in a remarkable state of preservation.

‘It’s a testament to the longevity of Plexiglas in an era when automotive plastics tended to self-destruct within a few years.

‘Although it has acquired a few chips and cracks, it is structurally sound and cosmetically clear, showing off the Ghost Car’s innards as it did in 1939.

‘This motor still turns heads as much as it ever did. It is not, obviously, suited for touring but as a unique artifact from automotive and cultural history.’

Mechanics: The model has an L-head six-cylinder engine, coil spring independent front suspension, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes

Turning back the clock: The dial on the 1939 car shows the wear of its 72 years

At the wheel: The steering wheel features rings of chrome-plated hardware, and Pontiac ‘s insignia in red

The material went on to be used in military planes during World War II and then expanded in to signs, lighting, fixtures, trains and other cars.

Rohm & Haas used drawings for the Pontiac four-door Touring Sedan to create an exact replica body out of the transparent acrylic.

It was completed with structural metal underneath, which was given a copper wash, and chrome-plated hardware.

Sensation: Billed as a vision of the future, the car was made for the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair in San Francisco , pictured here

Following a dealership tour, it went on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington , D.C. and was reportedly there until 1947.

It was later owned by a succession of Pennsylvania Pontiac dealers. It appeared at the first annual meet of the new Pontiac-Oakland Club International in 1973 and was purchased by Don Barlup of New Cumberland , Pennsylvania . Barlup commissioned a partial restoration from S&H Pontiac of Harrisburg and sold it to collector Leo Gephart in 1979.The current owner’s father purchased it from Gephart in the early 1980s, and it has remained in the same family ever since.Not surprisingly, it has no conventional vehicle identification number; even the machined boss for the engine number is blank. 



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