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1970’s Hangover: The “Travolta Fever” Pontiac Firebird, By George Barris

1970’s Hangover: The “Travolta Fever” Pontiac Firebird, By George Barris

When I first saw the picture I thought it was a bad Photoshop. Seriously, even in the most drug-addled section of the 1970s, someone had to take one look at what they were doing and realize it was wrong. Just look at the poor thing: the flares aren’t even retro-cool, the paint is the worst thing I’ve laid eyes on since the “Corvette Summer” car and then there’s the Porsche Turbo-style wing that adorned all of the “upper-end” F-cars, including the Chevarra and Yenko Turbo Z. It doesn’t have marker lights, or an actual place to put the glass in for those T-tops. And just wait until you get a load of the interior.


The actual origins of this car are pretty murky. While it plainly looks like a 1979-1981 Firebird overall, and has the bigger back window that F-cars got in 1975, there are sites that claim that the car itself is actually a 455-powered 1971. Whatever the case, the famed car customizer George Barris managed to get his hands on it and transformed it into…and I swear I’m not making this up…”the ultimate macho machine” for Travolta. He also had a second Firebird built to nearly the same specifications…this is the yellow-and-brown car in the Steve Martin film “The Jerk”.

The outer visuals are one thing, but the interior is something else, and if anything, is even more horrifying. With the success of Travolta’s “Urban Cowboy”, Barris had a moment of inspiration and re-did the interior of the Pontiac. If you look on the Revell model kit’s box, you can see the original interior, which was color-matched to the rest of the car.



After Barris was done, the interior took on a slightly more…uh…”cowboy” feel.



The Travolta Fever car is still around, and was last up for sale on eBay in 2007. I don’t know if Travolta ever drove this thing at all. But considering that one of his current rides is a Boeing 707, I’d suggest that he stay as far away from this Firebird as humanely possible.


(Photos copyright of their respective owners)

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27 thoughts on “1970’s Hangover: The “Travolta Fever” Pontiac Firebird, By George Barris

  1. Tedly

    It’s bad enough I put the yellow one in the Girls With Cars thread awhile ago, at least there was Dorothy Stratten to distract from it.

    This… Oh this… This is so unfair to spring on someone first thing in the morning.

    Did Barris have no shame?!

  2. loren

    I’m gonna guess that Revell needed something to sell…while all the kid’s quarters were disappearing down video game slots instead of being spent on model car kits…worse than John Travolta needed a George Barris Firebird to look cool in. As for that ’71 455, I remember the Barris Fireball 500 car with the “426 Hemi” that was said to look more like a 318 once you lifted the hood…uh huh. But this is from about when I met the man (George), driving a bright-yellow Olds station wagon with an opera-windowed vinyl top, yeah it was the late-70s and that’s where cars were at. Some may look down on ’82 Camaros and ’84 ‘Vettes now, but those cars saved us from…this.

    Still, I loved Barris as he always had something interesting out at the ISCA shows. A very creative guy.

    Travolta was still fresh enough from Welcome Back Kotter that he was not that serious of a character yet anyhow.

    1. ColoradoKid

      … as to Revolta Travolta …. he still aint … a serious character that is … not with his affiliations [ 😉 ] and grade B acting . More a characterization of an actor rather than being an actual actor … and again … there’s that highly questionable at the very least affiliation/affliction of his … [ Hint .. in case you missed it ; ” The Master ” ]

  3. ColoradoKid

    Good god ! Thats a hell of a thing to stick in someone’s face first thing in the morning !

    The very epitome of 70’s wretched and vulgar excess and the perfect reminder as to how badly [ with the rare exceptions ] the 70’s sucked overall !

    Sheesh … sometimes ole George really got it right …. but then there’s the others like this where he got it really really wrong !

    As to the worst part ? …. there is no ‘ worst ‘ part . Its all hideous from stem to stern … interior to exterior and anything in between

    And errr …. Bryan … you owe us [ something good today ] … big time !

    I end with a quote from that great American philosopher ‘ Charlie Brown ….

    ” Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ……. “

  4. Turbo Regal

    I got this car as a model kit for my birthday when I was 12 along with the Charlie’s Angels’ Chevy van kit.

    Barris did some pretty wacky customs with celebrity tie-ins like the “Sonny and Cher” Mustangs.

  5. Lee

    “In the late 1970’s, Travolta’s career was flying high with the popularity of the Saturday Night Fever and Grease films. They wanted to create a special car that would fit Travolta’s superstar image while tying in Saturday Night Fever. The Travolta Fever show car was built to further promote John Travolta and his career. (The name, Travolta Fever was also used as the title of Travolta’s 1978 pop music album.)

    Revell produced and sold scale model kits of this Barris customized Firebird making John Travolta’s ‘Firebird Fever’ one of the first celebrity car model kits ever offered by Revell.”


    I looked at the black and white and though..hmm, I dunno, looks okay…then I scrolled down…Oh why did I scroll down…my eyes…they burn…damn you! damn you to automotive hell! May your eternal damnation be driving a Yugo on the autobahn for the rest of eternity!

      1. ColoradoKid

        ….. yeah well … you’re right ! It is all our faults for going past the headlines knowing damn full well what was probably coming next

        [ Seriously … Travolta + Car ? Any car ? No way that was ever going to end well ]

        But I still say you owe us Bryan ! That much punishment .. self inflicted or not … is deserving of a bit of mercy … and I don’t mean as in a Mercy Seat … 😉

  7. CharlesW

    im gunna leave this right here

    Barris has been despised for quite a few years over in the DeLorean community as well for this same thing. Here is the Barris Formula:

    1. Obtain unused licenses from old, shelved studio properties.

    2. Build at least 1 replica so he can claim to have actually *built* “X” vehicle.

    3. Parade the original and replica cars around as his “creation” and help further muddy the vehicle’s origin of build and design. This includes, but is not limited to his Website, Car Shows, and Interviews.

    4. Profit! Barris gets credit as well as gets to try and claim profits from the licensing as well.

    Over the years Barris has done this with numerous cars including the Back to the Future DeLorean DMC-12, the Green Hornet’s “Black Beauty” Chrysler, The A-Team’s GMC Van, and of course the Monkeemobile GTO. Once he gets the licensing he’ll build at least 1 replica car so he can toss out the vague claims about having “built” them. As many of these properties became the subject of franchise reboots in Hollywood, Barris had his licenses repealed. Much evidence of this can still be found at [www.archive.org] when you see the changes that have happened over the years at his website, and which cars he used to lay claim to.

    Barris has had some serious legal trouble in the past with fraudulent cars. One of which was a replica Batmobile that was presented as the original car. It was obtained by a car museum in Florida where it was eventually sold to a private collector who paid well over $350K for it. A short time later during a restoration of said vehicle a VIN tag for a 70’s Oldsmobile was found. Hilarity ensued with a lawsuit slapped against both the Museum as well as Barris himself. The plaintiff of course won.

    Another interesting story comes from within the DeLorean community itself. A well known owner of a BTTF replica (long before Videobob) was contacted by Barris to show the car at a public event in the area. the owner of the car did not have a problem doing so as long as the vehicle was NOT presented with any claims to be a car that was used in any of the films. Barris shot back with an angry, profane tyraid that if said owner didn’t let him use the car he would contact Universal and sue him in court for copyright infringement, have his car confiscated, etc. What Barris didn’t know what that this owner had already received approval from Universal to build a BTTF2 replica provided two specific restrictions were followed: 1. The car could NEVER be presented as a screen-authentic car, and 2. The copy-written Mr. Fusion logo could not appear on the DeLorean. They compromised with a modified version which Universal also gave their blessing with on paper. When Barris was told all this and even had names of the original builders and contacts at Universal dropped on him, he got scarred and ended the conversation. Until this owner comes forward, I won’t mention his name, but chances are if you’re involved with the DeLorean community you probably already know who I’m talking about.

    George Barris is a sham. Most of the customizing of the cars was actually done by his brother many, many years ago before he died. After that, Barris was pretty much making a living riding the coattails of everyone else.

    1. ColoradoKid

      Agreed for the most part … except … well … being despised by the DeLorean community could be perceived as a major compliment … seeing as how y’all have been taken in by the single worst automotive con artist in recent history …selling one of the worst bits of automotive dreck ever ill conceived …. only to be overtaken perhaps by Elon Musk and Co. once his story is all said and done .

    2. 75Duster

      Thanks for the insight CharlesW, as I’ve always had my reservations about him, you pretty much just confirmed it for me.

    3. Burner303

      I’m confused on something. Why would the guy who built the BTTF replica have to get approval from Universal(if he didn’t HAVE to, why did he at all?) to build a replica of a car from a movie? That doesn’t make sense to me. If I watch a movie, think a star car is awesome, who’s gonna stop me from turning my car into an exact replica? It’s my car and I can do what I want with it. And the guy couldn’t actually put the Mr. Fusion logo on the car? WHAT?

      The only way that this could make any sense is as if the car was used as a promotional attraction for a business, like a restaurant or Star Cars like museum. I guessing that this has to be the case.

  8. Milkovich

    If you could get the interior back to the original revell box/promo shot, I’d be all about it. Even the Porsche wing.

    The saddle console though? Yeah, not so much.

    1. BeaverMartin

      I may be in the minority here, but I agree with you 100%! I kinda dig the over the top 70s’ excess. Makes me want to throw on a leisure suit, platforms, and a gold chain. “Making it” Baby!

  9. anthony

    Ive read stuff about Barris too. Didnt he say he built the Monkeemobile but he didnt. Was the Batmobile sold at Barrett Jackson real? He seems like a crook and a sham.

    1. Lee

      Yes it was real – it sold for over $4 million. It was the car used in the TV series – once the Lincoln Futura that Barris bought for $1.

      1. ColoradoKid

        ….but he absolutely did not have anything to do with the MonkeeMobile . That was 100% Dean Jeffries regardless of any claims ole George may of ever made

        1. Lee

          Are you sure Barris claimed to be the builder of the MonkeeMobile?

          When the TV was over, by contract, Jefferies was offerred both MMs for $1000 each. He declined. Of the 2 cars, one was the TV show car and the other was the “show car” that toured around. It was this car that Barris bought and then promoted at shows and events.

  10. Matt Cramer

    The interior might have been tolerable if it weren’t for putting the ginormous fur trimmed saddle over the shifter. Er, and if it had been in a ’70s Cadillac Eldorado with toro horns on the hood.

  11. Tom P

    It is embarrassing enough to me that i’ve got that model, can’t imagine admitting i’ve got the real car! Have the Charlies Angels van too. A Chevy even though the show was all Fords.

  12. Mike Brooks

    Charles W is right. Barris is a fraud! Let’s not forget his false claims of creating the General Lee too! He was hired to build a couple replicas for the autorama circuit. The cars looked horrid. From then on, he claimed to be the originator of the GL.

  13. Scott Liggett

    The cowboy interior came after Urban Cowboy, I bet. Hideous on every level. Probably collecting dust in a back corner of Travolta’s airplane hangar.

  14. Matthew Rynard

    Barris has most likely even touched a car in decades, well hopefully.
    His reputation was built in the 1950’s, along with his brother.
    Any time after that it’s pretty sad.
    GB is nothing more than a windbag.if you see him at a show or whatever you will quickly realize that he should have been in a home many years ago.
    He basically knows nothing about cars.
    I was rather embarrassed several years ago when he did that thing with Jimmy Shine.
    I thought JS was the shit till that “Build a automotive abortion in 72 hours” show was presented.

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