Which GTO variant is the one to get?
Intent on taking your love for Pontiac to the next level? Well if you’re heading to Mecum’s Indianapolis Auction you won’t have to look far to find a Judge. More than a dozen of the iconic Pontiac GTO muscle cars will cross the block May 15–20. We found ourselves particularly attracted to the four Judge variants listed below. Let us know in the Hagerty Forums below which you’d most want in your garage.
Wearing modest Palladium Silver paint and lacking the eye-popping sticker packages seen on many of its Judge siblings, this 1970 GTO is considerably understated. (Until lines up at the drag strip.) While GM’s Chevrolet, Buick, and Oldsmobile divisions favored high-displacement engines in their 1970 muscle machines, Pontiac stayed the course with 400-cubic-inch power plants as engineers believed shorter stroke and higher RPM would be an advantage off the line. They were right.
The Judge’s base engine was a 350-horsepower V-8, but for an additional $558 (about $3650 today), buyers could opt for the more powerful Ram Air IV. The 370-hp IV employed the Ram Air II’s radical camshaft, used an aluminum intake manifold and free-flowing cast-iron exhaust headers, and was fed by an intake system sealed to twin hood scoops that were operated by a switch under the dash. In addition to its superior power, the car was equipped with special suspension and brakes, and it proved to be one the best-handling muscle cars of the era.
Pontiac built only 627 Ram Air IV four-speed hardtops in 1970, and this relatively rare numbers-matching example has been restored to near perfection. Plus, the odometer reads only 25,000 (thought-to-be-original) miles. We’re guessing most of those came in quarter-mile bursts.
1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Pilot Car
Estimate: $75,000–$100,000, no reserve
The Judge’s front styling was revised again for 1971, the last year the GTO was a separate model. Pontiac fitted the 455 with round-port heads from the Ram Air IV, which increased air flow. The resulting 455 HO (High Output) engine produced 335 hp and 480 lb-ft at just 3600 rpm.
One of five GTO Judges on offer from the Surf City Garage Collection, this one rises to the top because of its historical significance. The “Pilot Car” was the first-known GTO Judge Hardtop produced for 1971 (serial #1000019), and it was released to Pontiac’s Engineering Development team, which used it to evaluate production procedures and the final product. It is in remarkable mostly-original condition and still wears its original Cardinal Red paint and black interior.
One of only 168 (or 174, depending on the source) 1970 Judge convertibles built with a 400-cu-in, 366-hp Ram Air III engine and four-speed manual transmission, this Pepper Green example has fewer than 100 miles on the clock since undergoing a rotisserie restoration.
Special ordered and highly optioned, it is equipped with a rare GQ9-code 4.33 heavy-duty rear end, as well as power steering and front disc brakes, bucket seats with center console, Hurst T-handle shifter, and 8-track stereo.
With its original matching-numbers Ram Air III engine, stunning design, fresh mechanical tuning and detailing, and a long list of options, this GTO carries the highest pre-sale estimate of all the Judges on offer at Indy—and rightly so.
When most people think of the Judge, this is the color (and quite often the model) that comes to mind. Decked out in RM Carousel Red, which looks an awful lot like Hugger orange, this first-year Judge has been beautifully restored with notable contributions from paint expert Jay Webb and former Boyd Coddington interior specialist John Espinoza. The car was obviously done right, since it has scored an increasing number of presentation awards since its restoration, including being named Gold winner at last year’s GTO Association of America Concours.
Beneath this Judge’s nostrils is a matching-numbers 360-hp Ram Air III V-8 mated to a four-speed manual transmission and Safe-T-Trac Positraction differential. Options include hideaway headlights, tinted glass, AM radio and 8-track, center console, and hood-mounted tach.
A 1969 Judge in #3 (Good) condition averages $130,000, which is $5K higher than the top end of the pre-sale estimate. Perhaps Mecum is taking a conservative approach, guessing that much of the Judge money will be long gone by the time this beauty crosses the block on Saturday. A handful of potential bidders might prove otherwise.