Jim Rockford's Firebird pulls a "J" turn into the Wellborn MuseumStrictly speaking, most muscle car hard-liners don't believe the Big Three produced cars after the 1972 model year. And for the most part they are right. One brand in particular held the candle out longer than most any other- Pontiac. Their most desired Pony Car didn't even debut until 1973 when the 455 Super Duty hit the scene. In TVland, Dodge was resting on the laurels of their 1969 Charger ten years later, with the premier of the Dukes of Hazzard in 1979. Pontiac kept Jim Rockford in a fresh set of wheels. As a Private Investigator, James Garner's character couldn't pull off the Hemi Orange and welded doors look. I am guessing the giant "01" on the doors and Stars and Bars emblazoned on the roof would be easy to make when he was attempting to tail a bad guy. Jim Rockford drove a street sleeper, this very 1978 Firebird Esprit for the majority of the series AND in the made for TV movies 1994-1999. Un-adorned by a screaming chicken on the hood and white walls, the bad guys would never suspect the performance driving Rockford was capable of.
Tim Wellborn wanted this car for the museum for its contribution to muscle car culture. "The Rockford" or the J-turn has left a mark on popular culture as much as the General Lee jumping over a dirt pile while Bo and Luke screamed YEE-HAW! When trying to evade someone tailing him or when otherwise cornered, Rockford would shift into reverse, speed up backwards in a straight line and sharply turn his wheels. This maneuver would spin his car around 180 degrees and he would then quickly shift back into forward gear, speeding off to escape while maintaining a straight course the whole time. The most recent episode of Top Gear USA, "Hollywood" as Tanner Faust and the boys as they put their TV star stand-ins to the test to see who can do "The Rockford" the best. Check the embedded video as the man himself evades a C5 Corvette in the 1994 television movie. And yes, Mr. Garner does all his own stunt driving.
Top Gear 2: Hollywood Cars. [Internet]. 2011. The History Channel website. Available from: http://www.history.com/videos/top-gear-2-hollywood-cars [Accessed 21 Sep 2011].