All Rise for the Judge: $1.1M Ram Air IV is world’s most expensive GTO


It’s always nice to have choice when you’re shopping, and Mecum’s 2023 Kissimmee sale, the world’s largest collector car auction, certainly delivered this year.

Take a look at these numbers: 211 Camaros, 119 Chevelles, 60 Pontiac GTOs, 43 Porsche 911s, 23 Hemi Mopars, 16 Boss Mustangs, and five genuine Shelby Cobras, all among the 4000 vehicles to cross the auction block over the past 12 days. Consignments ranged from bad (like this 1987 Renault Alliance) to badass (like this Ford GT40) and from weird (like Elvis’s rickety old airplane) to wonderful (like this handsome Chrysler Ghia ST Special).

We’ll be crunching numbers and sorting out trends from Mecum’s Kissimmee mega-sale and the Scottsdale auctions in the coming weeks, but Kissimmee’s immediate aftermath does offer one clear theme: Despite the market’s recent cooling, demand for top-tier American muscle, even from long-defunct brands like Pontiac and Plymouth, is still high and records are still breaking.

One such record was the $1.43M price for a Hemi-powered, four-speed Dodge Charger Daytona, the same car David Spade bought for $900K in 2015. One of 19 Mopar Wing cars (Plymouth Superbirds and Dodge Daytonas) offered in Kissimmee this year, it broke a record for the model set just last May when the market was still accelerating.

Even more remarkable, though, was this 1970 GTO convertible. At $1.1M, it’s one of the most expensive muscle cars ever sold at auction and the most expensive GTO, period. Well, Pontiac GTO, anyway.

1970 Pontiac GTO convertible Mecum Kissimmee 2022

This Orbit Orange droptop was the star of a nine-car collection that consisted of nothing but Ram Air IV “Goats.” And for Pontiac folks, IV is a magic number. “Ram Air” designated the hot 400-cubic-inch V-8s in Pontiac’s GTO and Firebird starting in ’67, followed by an improved Ram Air II in ’68, and then a Ram Air III in ’69–70. Then, the IV took things furthest in 1969 with redesigned intake ports and special aluminum intake. The 1970 Ram Air IV engine nominally posted just four ponies more than the Ram Air III (370 hp vs. 366), but it was almost certainly underrated on purpose.

A Ram Air IV was the fastest GTO you could buy in 1970 as well as the most expensive, so few were built. The orange record-setter is one of just seven convertibles fitted with an automatic (another ten cars got a four-speed manual).

It’s also a Judge, which. If you’re not old enough to have been watching TV half a century ago, know that this was a package named after a skit on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. GTO Judges came with a Ram Air 400 engine, Rally II wheels, Hurst T-handle shifter, a rear spoiler, and of course, those graphics. Other options on this car include a Formula steering wheel, hood tach and tinted glass.

But what truly got the muscle car maniacs—and bidders—oohing and aahing is this car’s triple threat: Ram Air IV engine, Judge package, and convertible body style.

1970 Pontiac GTO convertible Mecum Kissimmee 2022

In addition to its gotta-have-it specs, Mecum’s was reportedly used as a factory exhibition car, and eventually received a restoration good enough to win several concours awards in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

The condition #1 (Concours) value for a 1970 Ram Air IV GTO Convertible in the Hagerty Price Guide is $562,000, and others have sold in the past for big money, including one for $682,000 back in 2010. But $1.1M is nearly twice that #1 value.

The eight other Ram Air IVs out of this collection (all coupes) had estimates near or under $300K, but Mecum perhaps wisely didn’t put an estimate on this convertible. Only one Pontiac has sold for seven figures before, and that was the 1954 Bonneville Special, a one-off Motorama concept car, that brought $3.3M in 2015. In the world of muscle cars, meanwhile, seven-figure price tags are usually reserved for Hemi ’Cuda convertiblesZL1 Camaros, or movie star Mustangs. Not anymore.

We’ll be taking a closer look at more of the most interesting cars from Mecum Kissimmee 2023 later in the week, so keep an eye on this space.

1970 Pontiac GTO convertible Mecum Kissimmee 2022

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    It’s nice to see Pontiac get some respect although I could never imagine spending that kind of money on any car. It’s always amazed me that 60’s Camaros are selling way above Firebirds but my prejudice makes me think Firebirds look better and perform as well.
    This GTO is obviously something special in every way, now you just need the balls to take it for a ride without worrying about it.

    My guess would be…if you can spend 1.1m on the car…your pockets are deep enough and your balls are big enough to take it for a spin

    I agree with Joe not even a 4-speed so I had no interest in it. But still a VERY nice car, but that is too much money for it, but that is what happens when 2 bidders really want it, after all where are you going to find another one

    Another billionair driving up the prices of these muscle cars that the average Joe can never now afford, but the same exact cars us baby boomers bought back in the 60/70s for $3 to $4k new. Look at those filthy rich duffs spending millions at the Mecum auction too. Pretty sad what this has come to.

    When was the last time a working-class (Remember them?) person could buy such a car? I’m going with 1980.

    I’ve followed the market for decades, but some of the cars – and this was one – surprised me with the money they brought. I’m a bit amazed at auction prices for Chevelles and GTOs in general, but maybe it’s testament to the power of nostalgia, and I suppose familiarity; everybody knows what a GTO is, and Chevelles were everywhere back in the day.

    wow some people are stupid, sorry I should have said some people have more money than sense. While I am not bashing the car in any way, it is desirable and rare, and in nice condition, but I’s sorry 7 figures for a GTO?

    7 figures for any car is just too much period. Classics, Muscle cars, and Hot Rods were meant to be driven. For me it’s Cruise Nights and Car Shows for Car Guys and Gals. Nothing like 200 cars parked in a field of grass each one looking like it’s going 100 MP

    7 figures for any car is just too much period. Classics, Muscle cars, and Hot Rods were meant to be driven. For me it’s Cruise Nights and Car Shows for Car Guys and Gals. Nothing like 200 cars parked in a field of grass each one looking like it’s going 100 MPH.

    Any worse than the “Road Runner” or the “Super Bee”. It was a product of the times and Pontiac’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of the “Laugh-In” TV show. Looks as if their attempt succeded.

    This is a generic unit body GM car, built in 7 figure numbers over several years. The only thing that separates this from any other unit body GM convertible is the engine and trim. It is easily copied, even using now available new unit bodies. What about this really makes it worth $1,000,000? I am a collector, and I do understand the hobby and the need to possess a particular car, but the reality… I am really glad that the old ’70s muscle cars hold no interest from me.

    All of the “A-body” GM cars from 1964 to 1988 we’re body-on-frame construction, not “unit body.”

    A few people with nothing more to do with their money, None of this is reality for the common Joe who worked hard all their life to support a family and do without the cars they enjoyed in their youth. The classic car market if now only for the rich and wealthy. The people who loved it for the era in which they lived have been left out in the cold with todays prices regardless. If you were out of the market until recently you can no longer get in even with project prices these days. I owned many, 9 Camaro’s 3 69’s, 4 Stingrays, 3 C-2’s and a myriad of others , 50 plus over the years when they were a dime a dozen. 6 children later I no longer own a classic nor ever will again. I am now retired and have the time but not the finances needed to jump in. The desire to have a classic never goes away unfortunately!

    I felt the same way Steve and I only had a few Chevy’s. When I retired 13 yrs. ago I bought a 1965 Rambler Ambassador 990 the car my parents had and the one I learned to drive on. Cost me $4K and now I have about 13K into it. My Grand kids love it and I get Thumbs up all the time. I know it’s not a GTO or Chevelle but you still get that feeling and your driving it not just showing it off.

    I’m with you. The car I was using with my learners permit was Dad’s 1969 Wildcat 4 door hardtop. In the last year I’ve seen a few sitting and for sale. All 3 were 2 doors and local. A LeSabre, a 2 blue Wildcats. Yeah 2 in blue less than 20 miles apart. I’m looking at rusted projects but compete cars with motor and transmission for 1500$ and $2500$. And a tow. I’m getting older and would love to do it with my grandson. But not sure he would want to. His crew and all about euro cars and turbos. Historic and really great cars in our minds are not for sale at collectors auctions. Sitting in a backyard rusting away.

    I couldn’t have said that better! I’m happy for the cars today, and that people value them so high! The only thing good about the high prices, is that there won’t be 20 other people beating the crap out of them and doing stupid things to them! Day 2 stuff is cool, but shit like cutting a sun roof is ignorant! But I’m with you on sad that they’re out of our reach, and can only live on memories! Just remember we got to live that era when they were affordable, and gas was cheap! Now these guys have to pay millions to experience what we did! Long live the muscle cars!!! 👍

    Glad that you clarified Pontiac GTO, because the most expensive GTO – as far as I know – is the Ferrari 250 GTO, most recently sold for $70 million. Mind boggling!

    Just finishing high school and I think I was making a whooping $1.60 or so an hour. Tried to get a much over time as possible,,,,,,,time and a half….big bucks to keep gas in my ’60 Chevy Impala. Only could dream about such cars. Million bucks for an old GTO, who knew?

    Wow, a lot of negative comments. What makes this car worth seven figures, the same thing that makes Bitcoin trade @ $16-$69K, the Market! As for me, I think it’s a fantastic looking hunk of American Muscle and love to see American iron ring the bell.

    Some people have money to burn, good for them. But I think even if I was rolling in it, I’d prefer a super fast resto-mod to this. With a supercharged or turbo LS in it and 6 speed stick.

    So if something this rare went for $60k, what would the comments be? The buyer will make a killing when they sell it…..

    You had a few people, with the money, that wanted this car. Probably someone’s dream car. Just being a Judge convertible put it in really rare niche. RA IV – an engine only produced a couple years in very limited quantities. This is the kind of car many might assume was never built, and the only ones they might have seen were clones.

    Yes, some pay crazy amounts that I never would. But if they wanted it, and enjoy it, they made a smart buy.

    I remember back in the mid 70’s calling on an ad for 2 days. 1971 GTO Judge convertible, 455 HO. When I finally got through, it was a friend playing a joke on him.

    Wow. Appreciating the love for Pontiac muscle. However, as the original owner of a lovingly preserved and cared for 1973 Trans Am I’m biased.

    As an automotive engineer who grew up with the muscle cars, I am aware of the handling and braking limitations, and, thus, have no interest in them. They are one trick ponies with straight line acceleration being their only strong trait.

    My collection consists of smaller cars with less power but better handling and braking, to better enjoy the twisty, hilly roads where I currently reside. Throughout my life I have always tended to purchase cars that were less mainstream.

    Obviously straight line is another story, but I am thinking my ’78 Spitfire would find its way against such a car in a tight twisty road course. Those 60 or so horse power are awesome with your butt 5″ off the road

    My wife and I just had that discussion today, driving in crazy traffic – “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow”

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