Old-School Muscle Revisited: The 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Makes a Compelling Case
Mecum Auctions will be offering the convertible, which is one of only 168 examples built during its model year, as part of their upcoming auctions.
State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, will host Mecum Auctions' selection of heavyweight collector cars from March 28 through April 1. One of the high points of the classic muscle car era will be represented in the Saturday sale, which includes a rare Pontiac GTO.
Certainly, automotive historians agree that 1970 was the most dynamic year for this breed of automobile, whose power and tire-smoking straight-line performance would not be revived by stateside manufacturers for more than four decades, despite its power and tire-smoking straight-line performance.
In 1971, the party was certainly over, as tightening emission regulations and the looming global oil crisis consigned America's muscle cars to history. However, Pontiac would not conclude its GTO legacy with the Judge until after the GTO legacy was concluded. It is one of only 168 examples of the 1970 GTO Judge convertible to cross Mecum's auction block.
“The Pontiac GTO Judge option, offered for three model years beginning in 1969, was the perfect intersection of performance and pop-art culture,” explains John Kraman, Mecum Auctions' lead TV analyst. “The Judge package showcased the GTO as a trendsetter that not only kept up with the times but actually led the charge.”
There was an era when Pontiac's GTO was created by John Z. DeLorean, long before the maverick's snake-bitten DMC-12 debacle with his snake-bitten, snake-bit DMC-12. Despite the fact that history is on his side, it is his creation, the 1964 GTO, that is credited with being the first purpose-built muscle car ever produced.
Gran Turismo Omologato is nothing like the Prancing Horse's Gran Turismo: pure Detroit marketing from the 1960s. As a matter of fact, Pontiac's top performer earned both admirers and detractors the affectionate nickname "Goat."
The Atoll Blue exterior is matched by the interior, which features amenities like factory air conditioning and an eight-track tape player. Mecum Auctions
The model has the "standard" 400 ci Ram Air III V-8 engine, according to Rich Report. Despite the official figures of 366 hp and 445 ft lbs of torque, the actual output is widely considered to be lower. There was also a 455 HO Ram Air IV version available. It was at the top of the Pontiac class of 1970, competing on both the street and drag strip against other standouts like Mopar's 426ci, Hemi-powered monsters.
Despite its official output of 366 horsepower and 445 ft-lbs of torque, the 400 ci Ram Air III V-8 engine is largely regarded as underpowered.
The example on offer was built at Pontiac’s assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., and delivered new to Maser Pontiac-Cadillac in Dodge City, Kan. Comprehensively restored to original specification by Bright Built Hot Rods of Salina, Kan., it features rally gauges and tachometer, factory rally wheels and Firestone Wide Oval white-letter tires.
Kraman offers some additional details about the vehicle, saying, “This restored 1970 Judge convertible has the desirable four-speed transmission and factory air conditioning, along with other rare options including an eight-track tape player. Combined with the attractive Atoll Blue exterior and matching interior, and with numerous show awards to its credit, this is a serious muscle car that represents an investment-grade opportunity for collectors.”
Importantly, it retains its matching-numbers drivetrain and original suspension, and is also equipped with a Positraction G80 3.23:1 rear end. Its accolades include the 2011 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals Concours Silver Award and the GTO Association of America’s 2012 Concours Silver Award.
Presented with documentation that includes a copy of the window sticker, this car is a colorful time capsule of the Flower Power era. To that end, it’s purported to have been named for the “Here Comes the Judge” catchphrase from Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In, America’s most popular TV show at the time, which must have inspired some Pontiac ad man late one Monday night. As for what the Judge will potentially sell for, the jury is still out.