Tag: 1978

This ’78 Pontiac Firebird Esprit Clocked 250k original Miles and Counting! – Jeff Koch @Hemmings

This ’78 Pontiac Firebird Esprit Clocked 250k original Miles and Counting! – Jeff Koch @Hemmings


Then and now, Pontiac’s second-generation Firebird occupied a strange spot in the car world. Mind you, we’re not talking about the spatted, stickered, and spoilered Trans Am; its place known and secure. After the summer of 1977 and Hal Needham’s good-ol’-boy Smokey and the Bandit saga, America suddenly remembered that the Trans Am was the closest thing this country still had to a muscle car, and in between the fuel crises, that shot T/A sales up 35 percent year-to-year.

No, we mean the non-T/A chunk of Pontiac’s F-body lineup, consisting of Firebird, Esprit, and Formula. An Esprit (pronounced uh-SPREE, not EE-sprit—French for “spirit”) may have been pretty, and may have shared DNA with the beefier Trans Am, but it wasn’t a showy peacock of a car, a corner-carving terror, or tire-smoking recalcitrant. There was no secret life beneath that long nose or behind that new-for-1977 split-grille beak. Nor did it have the bones of something with greater potential, or the raw material for a hot-rodder to mess around with. (Why would Jim Rockford, arguably the world’s most famous Esprit pilot, drive a car that drew attention to itself?) A Firebird Esprit was simply, in the parlance of the day, “a nice car.” Looked a little sporty, felt a little plush. But in a division that had the Ventura, Grands Prix, Le Mans, Grands Am, Bonneville, and Catalina, all of which offered two-door versions and any of which could fill the division’s personal-luxury-car quota… what sense did the Firebird Esprit make?

Consider: Pontiac painted itself as the “excitement” division of GM, and while the Trans Am (and even the Formula) may have bullseyed the target, the Esprit… well, how do you define excitement? Esprit was “The Firebird with luxury,” according to the 1978 brochure, although with a shape like that you could be easily convinced that any Firebird was infused with sporting moves. Esprit’s luxury touches included (mostly) bright and body-colored trim: all-vinyl buckets; added interior grab handles on the doors and dash; added sound deadening; rear ash trays; color-keyed “luxury cushion steering wheel” and outer door-handle inserts; brightwork on the pedals; body-colored sport mirrors with left-hand remote; bright moldings on the roof, windowsills, hood, rocker panels and wheel openings; and deluxe wheel covers. That’s $304 more than a base Firebird cost. Do rear ash trays, chrome trim, and grab handles excite you?

It’s unclear whether the buying public at large was convinced either. In 1978, a year when Pontiac sold 187,000 Firebirds (a solid 20-percent gain year-to-year across the whole Firebird line, with base, Esprit, Formula and Trans Am models all benefitting from a sales boost), nearly half were Trans Ams. Had Pontiac convinced another 300 buyers out of Esprits and Formulas and into a T/A, the numbers would have been half Trans Am, and half everything else combined.

Today, four-and-a-half decades on, Trans Ams are getting all of the attention. The chasm between Esprit and Trans Am seems even greater, both on the secondary market and at auctions nationwide. Trans Ams are seemingly everywhere. Where are you going to find an Esprit (besides, perhaps, in pieces under a restored T/A)? The Esprit is considerably more rare than the performance variant, but certainly not price-guide valued up there with the far more common Trans Ams. Yet consider: For every five Trans Ams in ’78, Pontiac built just two Esprits.

Trans Ams got Shaker scoops and 400 cubes, but the Firebird Esprit’s top engine was this Canada-built 350-cube small-block Chevy. With the four-barrel carburetor on board, it was rated at 170 horsepower. Air conditioning was an option.

Bob Lane of Yorba Linda, California, didn’t have to go searching for his ’78 Firebird Esprit because it found him —all the way back in 1979. Bob was commuting round-trip more than 40 miles to USC and home again in the late 1970s, en route to his law degree, and discovered that his econo-car ride had a terrible habit of melting its engine at regular intervals.

“My dad was a directional driller in the oil fields around Los Angeles, and a co-worker on the rig in Culver City, California, had purchased this Firebird Esprit new in Ohio in June of ’78. After he brought it to California, he decided to sell it,” Bob says. His dad knew young Bob needed a better ride, and this Esprit was it. Visions of banzai missions for cases of Coors Light danced in Bob’s young head, and when presented with the very Esprit you see here, he was elated. “My previous car was manual, with no air conditioning and plenty of mechanical issues. This Firebird was perfect for me — 6,500 miles on the odometer and only a small dent on the B-pillar from when it was hit with a baseball.”

As with any American car of the era, Firebirds could be optioned to the hilt, and this one was loaded to its wingtips. A Van Nuys-built car that was sold new in Ohio (something of a mystery, since the Lordstown plant that also built F-bodies was right there in the state), it was built with air conditioning, automatic transmission, and the top Esprit engine, a 170-net-horsepower, four-barrel Chevy 350 — an engine that was called out as a Chevy engine on the Monroney, and a considerable step-up from the standard two-barrel 3.8-liter Buick V-6. Those three options alone added $1,111 to the bottom line

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Does a car’s popularity in stock car racing naturally precede its popularity as a collectible – Matt Litwin @Hemmings


A good friend recently told me of a 1978 Pontiac Phoenix he spotted for sale near our Bennington, Vermont, office with an asking price of just $2,200. It was a four-door sedan that boasted just 40,000 miles managed by a then-optional 305-cu.in. V-8 and automatic transmission power team. Inside was a standard interior fitted with a vinyl bench seat, along with what was reported to be factory air conditioning. While the cabin looked surprisingly clean, the exterior exhibited “nice patina,” which was to say faded blue paint complemented by ample surface rust on horizontal panels. The Pontiac had not run in some time, either, as it had just been pulled from storage.

Not that its mechanical health would have been a great concern to fellow Hemmings editor Dave Conwill or me. The 305 was a veteran V-8 in GM’s lineup by the time this late-decade replacement was introduced to take over for the Ventura as Pontiac’s X-body. Even up here in northern New England, any parts that would have been required to revive all eight cylinders wouldn’t have been difficult to locate or costly to source.

Sure, it may not have looked as stunning as it once did, but at just $2,200, the thought was, “How could you go wrong?” Both of us have teens who will be license-eligible very soon, so we’re on the lookout for cheap wheels that can pass state inspection; up here, cars that meet that criteria have become quite scarce. Heck, the Phoenix itself has become a rarity, a comment I made in passing as we looked this example over. During my days on a local stock car team, I witnessed a fair share of this Pontiac’s X-body brethren get unmercifully thrashed past the point of existence.

That was during the mid-’80s to early ’90s, when local circle track racing at the entry level was still relatively inexpensive. Anyone with enough raw talent, or, at least, a preconceived notion they were going to be the next Darrell Waltrip, could have sauntered into their local junkyard and found a high number of base X- and G-body cars from General Motors that had complete, rust-free foundations to work with. Any corrosion on the body panels was a moot point—most of that would be cut away during the transformation to race car. The junker’s engine would be swapped out, so its condition didn’t matter much, either.

These once-commonly-discarded commuter cars became highly coveted after a few brilliant wheelmen figured out that the 1968-’72 GM A-bodies, which had been a circle-track stock car staple since the late Seventies, were as much as a few hundred pounds heavier than the competition. On top of that, growing interest from vintage muscle car enthusiasts was driving up the values of those models. The A-body racers were priced out seemingly overnight.

Ex–Burt Reynolds 1978 Pontiac Firebird Formula 8.2L 5-Speed


This 1978 Pontiac Firebird was acquired by the late actor Burt Reynolds in 2016 and then modified in the style of a Smokey and the Bandit Trans Am movie car. It is finished in black over black and gold leather and powered by a Butler Performance 8.2-liter V8 paired with a five-speed manual transmission. Additional equipment includes 18″ RAMC wheels, QA1 coilovers, Wilwood brakes, a custom exhaust system, a Shaker hood, air conditioning, a Cobra CB radio, a Hurst shifter, and a Pioneer stereo with JL Audio speakers. This modified Firebird was recently acquired by the current owner and is now offered on their behalf with a clean California title assigned to the owner’s LLC.

Originally finished in Platinum, the body was repainted in black with gold graphics by Restore a Muscle Car of Nebraska. Equipment includes a Shaker hood, fog lights, vented fenders, a rear CB antenna, a rear spoiler, and dual exhaust outlets. Vinyl stickers are applied to the front and rear glass

RAMC 18″ snowflake-style wheels with gold accents are wrapped in Nitto NT555R tires. The rear wheel wells are fitted with Detroit Speed mini-tubs, and QA1 coilovers have been added. Braking is provided by Wilwood calipers and drilled slotted rotors all around.

The cabin is trimmed in black leather with a matching dash, door panels, and carpets. Equipment includes front bucket seats with gold inserts and piping, along with a Hurst shifter, air conditioning, a Cobra CB radio, a Pioneer CD player, and JL Audio speakers

Burt Reynolds’ signature is present on the glove box.

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Unrestored 1978 Dodge Challenger Features the Plaidest Interior That Ever Plaided – Daniel Strohl @Hemmings


It’ll be tough to find another car quite like this 1978 Dodge Challenger listed for sale on Hemmings.com. Granted, it would be tough to find another running 1978 Dodge Challenger at all, let alone one that hasn’t succumbed to rust and neglect. But to find one still wearing its sundown stripes and with an interior positively covered in plaid, well, that’s rare. The paint looks tired, and there’s some damage around the taillamps that needs attention, but the car is unmodified and has a five-speed. From the seller’s description:

Completely original and left untouched, hopping in this Challenger is like stepping back in time. With a 2.6 liter engine and 5 speed, manual transmission, this car runs and drives like it just came off the lot in 1979. It passed our driving test with flying colors and would absolutely make an excellent daily driver. The body is in good shape, with no major damage or rust. There are some slight scuffs on the driver side, rear fender (see pictures) but that’s about it. Original orange paint, stripes and top are all in solid condition. The trunk space is clean and dry. It even comes with a spare tire! The upholstery inside is as cool as it gets. Plaid on the door panels and seats looks awesome. Slight weather wear in the backseat is all in this otherwise nearly flawless interior. Original overhead console is still functional, the original am-fm radio still works great too. This is a mechanically sound car that is ready for anything.

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The Pontiac Grand Safari was a flagship station wagon hauling on in an era of downsizing – Matt Litwin @Hemmings


By 1974, 5,000-plus-pound family cars were suddenly as impractical as the ol’ muscle car had been to newlyweds holding a freshly printed mortgage and a newborn baby just a few years earlier. Detuned as they were, the large-displacement—still a prevalent means of motivation within the market segment-remained incredibly thirsty. As a result, Pontiac’s full-size output fell to just under 145,500 cars in 1975, and only 137,216 were sold a year later.

Suffice it to say, Detroit needed a diet, and the automakers knew it well in advance thanks in large part to looming federal mandates. At GM, the first to be first slimmed down were the 1977 model-year full-size cars. Among them was Pontiac’s flagship station wagon—the Grand Safari.

The downsized wagon’s chassis was reduced from 127 inches to a svelte 115.9 inches. Much of the basic architecture, however, carried over from the previous generation: independent coil spring front suspension, rear leaf-sprung suspension, power steering, and power front disc brakes. Also included as a standard were FR78-15 radial tires that provided sure-footed control in all driving conditions.

The redesigned chassis cradled an equally new 5.0-liter (301-cu.in.) V-8 engine. It was more than the division’s new “economy” powerplant; rated for a rather capable 135 horsepower, the block, crankshaft, cylinder heads, and intake manifold—collectively—weighed 136 pounds less than the 350-cu.in. V-8. Factory literature touted the availability of a “new 6.6 litre (400/403 CID) V-8” on the Grand Safari’s option chart—technically a carryover engine revamped for ’77—that was rated for 180 or 200 hp. Californians could have opted for the 170-hp 350. A Turbo Hydra-Matic automatic was the only transmission available.

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Beautiful, Mexico-Made 1978 Ford F-150 Ranger XLT Is Quite Different From Norm – Aurel Niculescu @Autoevolution


Looking for the coolest, quirkiest, and stunning Blue Oval pickup trucks in America? Well, the Ford Era “What The Truck?” series on YouTube certainly obliges. And it sometimes expands the search to North America, not just the U.S.

Count on Solomon Lunger, the mild-mannered host of the Ford Era channel on YouTube to uncover all sorts of Blue Oval gems. He generally focuses on the F-Series pickup trucks (after all, he owns a 1970 F-250 Crew Cab nicknamed Gold Dust), but we have seen all many wonders in the past, from Luxury Pre-Runners to fabulous restomod Broncos.

Interestingly, even Solomon doesn’t know everything about the F-Series world. But he’s a quick learner and one to share knowledge. So, in the latest episode of the series, he met Rafael Garrido from the Dynasty Truck Club Inland Empire in California to discuss his rare and pride-bringing possession.

It’s a 1978 Ford F-150 Ranger XLT, but the odd thing about this sixth-generation F-Series is that it wasn’t made in America. Instead, it was produced in Mexico and according to local specifications. As it turns out, Mexican and American F-100/F-150 models from the era are not the same. This is because the Mexico-born examples were even shorter (about 3.5 in./8.9 cm) than an American Short Bed as they borrowed the chassis from the U.S.-specification 1967-1972 fifth-generation short beds.

Additionally, the entire tailgate, along with the taillights and the trim, was different, making it a bit akin to the Bumpside models. This particular ‘78, nicknamed “La Barbie” according to the owner, was discovered on Craigslist about a decade ago and immediately snatched away as a rare find. Although it still wears the original selling dealer’s plates to this very day, it’s obvious this truck went through a raft of modifications.

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Even the malaise-era Chevy Corvette is still fun to drive, and value-priced – David Conwill @Hemmings


What’s the cheapest Corvette? It’s definitely not 1953 or ’54. The low book value on those doesn’t fall much under $45,000. How about 1958, with its exuberant use of trim? It has an average retail value of nearly $51,000, so probably not. Perhaps a 1965 roadster with a carbureted small-block and an automatic? That’s still $51,500.

Prices for the early third-generation cars (“C3” to most enthusiasts) continue to trail their older siblings. A ’68 Stingray roadster has a book value of $41,800, and the coupe is only $6,700 less. Fast forward a decade, however, and some of the sting had gone out of the Stingray: Big-block engines went away after 1974, the roadster was dropped after 1975, and the Stingray name itself was last seen on a Corvette in 1976 (at least until the C7 model debuted in 2014).

The 1978 Corvette was a heavily restyled car, thanks especially to its large rear greenhouse—somewhat recalling the 1963-’67 coupes. Nevertheless, it’s still recognizably the body that arrived 10 years earlier. The similarities notwithstanding, these days the average ’78 doesn’t quite garner $14,500.

Now, in fairness, 1978 isn’t actually the cheapest third-generation Corvette. For some reason, 1976 holds that distinction—your basic Bicentennial Corvette has an average value of only $12,800. Also, the equipment and condition make all the difference: The aluminum wheels and air conditioning on our feature car, owned by Mike Richards of Peoria, Arizona, bump the average retail up by another $2,000, but it’s still an affordable car by any standard.

It’s also a capable car—despite being from the heart of the much-maligned 1973-’83 “malaise era,” when manufacturers were still struggling to catch up with emissions and safety mandates. At the time, people (mostly automotive journalists) looked down their noses at GM for keeping the basic Corvette chassis in production from 1963. The suspension architecture actually lasted right through the 1982 model year, giving General Motors plenty of time to refine it for whatever purpose it was used. Also, this is a classic car magazine, so when have vintage components ever scared us?

The third-generation Corvette’s 1960s heritage means it can be (and frequently was) turned into a capable mount for competitive road racing. The platform’s use during the brougham period of the 1970s means that it’s also capable of a more luxurious, grand-tourer type of ride. Funny folks called these disco-era ’Vettes “two-seat Buicks,” but ask yourself how much flat-out road racing you do in your muscle car, versus the amount of highway driving.

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Mustang II with a fascinating history – Larry Edsall @ClassicCars.com


Sometimes collector cars are bought simply because of their rarity and value. But sometimes they are bought because of their story. For example, Jay Leno says he doesn’t buy cars, he buys stories.

The Pick of the Day is a car with a story. The car is a 1978 Ford Mustang II, certainly not widely to be considered a collector car even if there is a small cult out there of loyalists.

But here’s the story, as shared by the private seller in Romney, West Virginia, advertising the car on ClassicCars.com:

“This Mustang II is as close to perfect as a 42 year old car can be,” the seller reports. “It has the V-6, power steering and brakes, automatic transmission, AM-FM radio, and some décor option that included the white band around the bottom with a blackout grill.”

The seller adds that the car has been driven only 4,800 miles since new, and that’s part of the car’s story.

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Drag Racing Blackbushe Airport UK 1963 – 65 – Jive Bomber @TheJalopyJournal and Bonus Bob Dylan Trivia


Some great footage of drag racing at Blackbushe Airport back in the 60’s, located by Jive Bomber this is of an interest to me as I live quite nearby.

The article is here

The video footage can be found below

The airport also hosted a huge Bob Dylan concert in 1978. A local DJ who ended up becoming quite well known on the BBC famously stated that he would “eat his hat” if Mr Dylan actually ever performed at the venue. This particular DJ guested at an event prior to the concert where I was providing the music with my mobile disco. We offered him a hat, you can imagine his response!


Hemmings Find of the Day – 1978 Ford Mustang II


The much maligned and misunderstood Mustang II is becoming a rare sight these days.

A clean example is currently for sale here on Hemmings

Seller’s Description:

1978 Ford Mustang II, Cobra II, This car is a meticulously clean, well preserved and well maintained car that is driven regularly to car shows or even to get the groceries. There is no rust anywhere and everything works including the A/C and 8 track tape player. I have owned this car since 2011. So, if you are a Mustang II fan, I believe this car is for you. 1 of 11 according to its Marti Report, This 1978 Ford Mustang II Cobra II has the optional 302 CID V8, automatic transmission, PS, PB, A/C and AM/FM 8-Track Player. The engine bay was detailed and all suspension components were replaced in 2012. Only about 12,000 miles since. Recently replaced the original urethane bumpers and front spoiler with lightweight, fiberglass reproductions. Many extra parts including original Cobra II rims and the original bumpers. My desire is to sell this car to someone who will appreciate it for what it is. No low bidders.