We miss Pontiac. Named after the Ottawa chief and the city where the company started, Pontiac rarely built the prettiest cars, but many of General Motors’ most exciting models wore the red arrowhead emblem. After all, Pontiac was the standard bearer for GM high-performance from the early 1960s onward
The brand may be gone, but the Pontiac faithful haven’t forgotten. From significant drag racers to rare top-spec muscle cars and even movie icons, Pontiacs have been some of the most valuable American cars to cross the block at collector car auctions. Here are the 10 that claimed the highest prices.
While the 1970 Judge Ram Air IV isn’t quite as rare as the 1969 version, a production number of 17 still makes it a dream car for the Pontiac faithful. With the four-speed, impeccably-restored condition, and Pepper Green paint, it was a star at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale 2018 and unsurprisingly brought a monumental price.
While not the Bandit's actual car on screen, this 1977 TA 6.6 was nevertheless used as a promo car for the film before being signed over to Reynolds himself. He kept it until 2014 when, at an auction chock full of memorabilia from the mustachioed actor's long career, the car blew its $60,000-$80,000 presale estimate out of the water and sold for high enough to land it at number 8 on our list.
The driver of the Packer Pontiac Catalina “Swiss Cheese,” Howard Maseles, also owned this car, which ran as low as 11.73 seconds in the quarter-mile. That three of these cars have sold at auction in the last 10 years for a bit shy of half a million dollars confirms their status as among the most collectible Pontiacs of them all.
Only a few bids behind the Mickey Thompson car was this Catalina “Swiss Cheese” that was sponsored and raced in period by Packer Pontiac of Detroit to an NHRA C/Stock record. Just 14 of these cars were built, and this was represented as the best one still around.
Pontiac made a delightful Super Duty version of the Catalina. GM used alloy body panels, but this time weight savings were next-level holes were drilled in the frame. This inevitably led to them being named the “Swiss Cheese” Catalinas, and with further removal of sound deadening materials, Pontiac was able to put the Catalina on a 700-pound diet. This car is one of two delivered to drag racing legend Mickey Thompson, who used it as a promo and backup car while campaigning the other. It was therefore spared much of the wear and tear of repeated quarter-mile runs.
It doesn’t get much cooler than a fast wagon, and it doesn’t get much faster than the old Tempest Super Duty. Pontiac made six coupes and six station wagons with the ground-pounding SD engine for drag racing purposes. Like the coupe (next on our list), the Tempest wagon was fitted with alloy body panels as well as a transaxle. And like the coupe, there is only one example of the wagon left.
Pontiac stormed the drag racing scene in the early 1960s with its Super Duty engines that were designed to push a car as fast as possible in a straight line and withstand the abuses of doing so. The engine was essentially a 389 enlarged to 421 cubic inches, fitted with dual four-barrel carbs and aluminum headers. The body was lightened with aluminum-alloy panels, and for traction Pontiac fitted a unique transaxle design that featured a clutch for launching instead of a torque converter. Just six Super Duty Tempest coupes were built, but this is reportedly the only one left.
What Steve McQueen is to the Ford Mustang, Burt Reynolds is to the Pontiac Firebird. The Firebird is so closely attached to Smokey and the Bandit that we commonly refer to late ’70s Firebirds as “Bandit Era” cars. And even though Reynolds and his mustache aren’t exactly uncommon sights at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale, the Trans Am originally used as a promo car for the movie in period naturally caused a stir when it showed up in 2016. The premium for a Bandit car actually associated with the movie amounted to roughly 14 times what an ordinary Trans Am in this condition would expect to bring.
The standard engine in the 1969 GTO Judge was a 366-hp, 400-cu-in Ram Air III engine. The Ram Air IV was something entirely different. While only rated at 370 hp, it is widely believed that the actual figure was higher thanks to special heads, aluminum intake, and hotter cam. The Ram Air IV was an expensive option with a conservative horsepower rating, so few customers opted for it on top of the $332 Judge package. In fact, while Pontiac built more than 72,000 GTOs for 1969, only five were Judge Ram Air IV convertibles.
This car, which RM sold out of the Milton Robson collection, ticks all the right boxes and then some for Pontiac fiends. In addition to the engine and body style, it has a desirable four-speed, Safe-T-Track differential, covered headlights, power steering and power brakes, plus it was the only one finished in Starlight Black. It was a benchmark price at the time, but it bought a real unicorn.
Many concept cars manage to be quite pretty. Others are decidedly futuristic. The 1954 Pontiac Bonneville concept was one of the few that managed to be both. The Harley Earl-penned lines were mostly conventional and not unlike an early C1 Corvette, but with features like a Plexiglas roof and gullwing doors, along with a spare tire cover that looked like the rear of a jet engine, it was radical enough without going overboard. The first Pontiac to carry the soon-to-be famous Bonneville badge and the first two-seater Pontiac, it also foreshadowed Pontiac’s transition to a more performance-oriented image. Barrett-Jackson first sold it in 2006 for $2.8M to collector Ron Pratte, who in turn sold it in 2015 for this price. Only one more 1954 Bonneville—painted bronze—was built. It currently resides in a private collection.
One of the more famous Dean Jeffries customs was the 1966 GTO used for The Monkees television show, aptly named the Monkeemobile, and two were built for the show. George Barris later owned this one, restored it, and further customized it with a few more small touches. With two of the most famous names in the custom car world attached to it, along with the connection to the Monkees, who have sold more than 75 million records in addition to the famous TV show, the car was bound to sell for a lot of money.