Muscle Cars Pontiac

1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Convertible

Fellow gearheads – all rise for the honorable 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Convertible! We have not covered a lot of Pontiacs lately, and we thought that was unfair, as Pontiac was a great brand. This one is more than worthy of attention, although you may not have ever known it existed. The GTO Judge was a very mean judge, and let everyone know it.

1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Convertible

1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Convertible – The Car That Almost Wasn’t Made

For those that are not aware, the GTO has a pretty interesting back story. In 1963, GM’s management had banned many of the divisions from involvement in factory sponsored auto racing, unlike the other big brands at the time. As a result, Pontiac started focusing on street performance, and worked to build a brand that way. Three Pontiac employees were responsible for creating the GTO. John DeLorean (the founder of DeLorean, the famous car from the Back To The Future movies) along with Bill Collins and Russ Gee were the three employees that made this happen.

They started with the basic, reliable, Pontiac Tempest and added a bigger engine. Pontiac, along with other brands at that time, liked to take one car that was selling well and add packages to it to create a new car. This saved on cost, allowing them to use one part across many models. For example, using the Tempest as a base, they switched out the basic 326 V8 which was standard in the Tempest for other choices. This included options such as the 389 tri-power from the bigger and heavier Catalina and Bonneville sedans. This  made for a much faster car, which was meant to compete with the upcoming sporty Ford Mustang and Ford Falcon.

GTO Judge

GTO –  Also called the “GOAT”

However, this was a problem. GM had a policy that limited mid-size cars like this to a maximum displacement of 330cid. The General Manager at the time was approached with the idea of creating something that would compete with the other brands to dominate the streets. After hearing the idea, he very hesitantly approved it. The Sales Manager at Pontiac also hesitantly approved, although he thought they would have a hard time finding a market for such a car. As such, the approval was based on a maximum initial run of only 5,000 cars, The success of the GTO changed history, as that policy was dropped after the success of the GTO as a muscle car.

Since they wanted to distinguish this package, they had to come up with a new name to prevent diluting the Tempest brand. John DeLorean had an inspiration that came from the Ferrari 250 GTO, which was a successful race car. GTO is actually an Italian abbreviation for Gran Turismo Omologato.  This roughly translates into “officially certified for racing the grand touring class”. This was actually quite ironic. In reality, the GTO was never certified to race in any class, so they internally called it the “Grand Tempest Option”. This made sense, since it was based on the Pontiac Tempest. Even more ironic is that although it never officially qualified as a race car, the GTO is still one of the fastest cars ever made by Pontiac.

1970 Pontiac GTO Judge

1970 Judge and Jury

With all of that done, the GTO line of cars was off and running, and they were doing well. Pontiac jumped into the muscle car game and showed everyone what they could do. Fast forward to 1970, when the battle for muscle car dominance on the streets had become an all-out war. Each brand was bringing their best game to the streets. The GTO was doing well, but there were always battles waged, just like now. If you want to start a big battle, get 12 gearheads together in a room or forum and ask them which muscle car was the best of all time, You are very unlikely to reach any sort of consensus..

Since this was a problem back then too, Pontiac needed to make sure everyone knew who was winning the war. As such, a new sub-package was offered to make certain there was no question as to which car reigned supreme. The GTO Judge was created to “judge” which line of cars was biggest, baddest, and meanest on the streets. You can probably imagine the verdict this “Judge” rendered.


1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Convertible

Beauty and Brawn All In One

The Judge was an option package on the GTO. The Judge option had numerous options that could be chosen as well. There were different engines, transmissions, stripe packages, and other options available.  Back in those days, you could literally walk into a dealership and ask for an “order form”. This form listed all the options available, along with the price for each selection. As a buyer, you simply checked the boxes for what you wanted. The dealer would tally up the total price, and you would pay a deposit on the car.

The completed form was then sent to the factory. At that point, the car you chose would be custom made just for you. Someone seems to have custom ordered this beauty in that way. It was built on February 3, 1970 in Maryland. The unique color combination chosen was this beautiful Pepper Green paint, black interior, yellow stripe package, and a white convertible top.

You don’t often see a white top over black interior with a green car, so that alone was unique. Most people would have chosen a black top with the black interior. The purchaser also selected the boxes for the Ram Air IV package, 400 ci V8, and manual 4 speed transmission. This was a rare combination of options, to say the least.

1970 Pontiac GTO Judge

Ultra Rare Goat Drop Top – 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Convertible

It seems that there were very few people in 1970 that wanted this set of choices. A 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Convertible is not something you see every day. The GTO Judge package is in itself rare. It is even less common to see one in convertible. Add to that the color combination, the Ram Air IV package and the 4 speed manual, and you have a scarcely scene dream car. There were only 24 GTO Judges produced with this particular combination of options in 1970, so this is a really rare car.

The Pepper Green 1970 GTO Judge you see here has a complete set of paperwork from the Pontiac Historic Services, the original build sheet, and the Pontiac Division Window Sticker. This GTO Judge is a well documented and numbers matching car. As such, it sold in 2018 at auction for an astounding $440,o00 USD. I am glad to see it is alive and well and being preserved for the future.

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