Curbside Classic: 1977/78 Firebird – Jim Rockford’s Kissin’ Cousin?

77-78 Firebird front 3 quarter

I think it’s time for a bit of seventies F-body love. In fact, I’m betting that between the California sun and those classic F-body curves in front of you, the “Rockford Files” theme song pops right into your head. I know the color isn’t correct, but the picture includes all the correct visual cues for a TV detective car. A low profile trim level? (to help avoid detection during a tail). Check. Styled steel wheels? (stylish, yet inexpensive to replace should you need to cross a median). Check. Rakish lines? (To catch a ladies eye). Check.

BTW, we’ve touched on that famous gold Firebird before here at Curbside Classics. If you’d like to review them, here are the links: Rockford Firebird 1 and Rockford Firebird 2.

San Pedro

LA locals may point out that this Firebird is in San Pedro, rather than Malibu (home to Jim Rockford). A fair criticism, but San Pedro is within the city limits of Los Angeles, lending local color and grit.

Malibu

For most of us in LA, Malibu is a fantasy locale. While we can drive there on any weekend, it’s located many miles from the working folk, and traffic sucks 24/7. Malibu is where they shot Baywatch, and Baywatch starred the Hoff, and the Hoff used to drive a glitzed-out Trans Am. To me, the Trans Am from 1977 represents Malibu today: Flashy, overblown, and impractical.

Now in contrast, San Pedro is home to working folk, who eke out a living working on the docks or over in the Long Beach industrial parks. You’ll find union men and immigrants in San Pedro and places like Slavko’s Harbor Poultry shop and the Croatian Cultural Center. San Pedro people drive nice, honest cars, like this Firebird.

77-78 Firebird side

Perhaps thanks to our California sun, these pictures do not do this car justice: This is no parade queen, with a recent repaint and a covered garage at home. This well may be our Firebird’s permanent parking space, since more than a few boat owners in the San Pedro Marina reside in their Catalina Sailboats and Boston Whaler Cabin Cruisers. Up close, the paint is falling off this car, and entropy has chewed up the trim around the side glass. Still, it’s a testament to the Firebird’s clean lines that it still looks good at twenty paces. In the fashion industry, they would say the F-body has “good bones.”

77-78 Firebird rear

Based on the six digit blue plate, I’d say the car has been in California all it’s life, and its overall condition supports that thought. Corrosion is starting to cut through the panel between the trunk and the rear window, but repairs could easily prevent further damage. I’d like to see the owner brush on a little rust neutralizer. Easily found at a nearby marine supply store, this simple treatment would maintain body integrity, barring rain water from the bare metal inside the body cavities.

Keeping with our detective theme, I’m looking at that warehouse to the East, and wondering if maybe our TV detective headed over there to check up on some bad guys. Peeking around the corner of the building, or through a small opening in a painted over window, perhaps he’ll spot a hostage tied to a chair, or his current nemesis passing bribe money over to the local councilman.

77-78 Firebird interior

If so, he’ll be happy to return to the Firebird, and slide back into this excellent cockpit. While the Camaro and Firebird share a common cowl, I’ve always preferred the Firebird’s classic dashboard with round gauges to the Camaro’s wraparound binnacle. This interior suffers from the typical 1970s “plasticky” construction, but includes several nice touches like a center console, three spoke steering wheel and remote control sport mirrors. Once again, no flash and glitz, just the good fundamental basics GM baked into this car upon its inception.

1977-Pontiac-Firebird-Esprit

In addition to the nostalgic connection to one of my favorite 1970’s TV shows, this particular Firebird also comes equipped my way. I see no need to slather on spoilers and scoops, and given the clean lines of the F-body, I’d go for the base car. Underhood, I’d settle for a small displacement V-8 or even a straight six. Either engine can be massaged to provide the power I’m looking for, and in my town, big motors just equal big fuel bills. There’s just not enough open road to justify the horsepower. I’d probably prefer a five-speed manual, but give me the pink slip on this one, and I’ll work out my transmission issues on my own.

Palos Verds

Despite my appreciation for this car, these pictures sat tucked away on my hard drive for a couple of months. Here in California, it’s easy to get jaded and start taking things for granted. Between the sunshine, beaches, and Curbside Classics on every corner, we’re always looking for the spectacular, rather than the good stuff right in front of us. But upon reflection, this car is the perfect thing to share on a Thursday morning. Enjoy, and see you soon, D/S.