After being the leader in the muscle car space for the past seven years Pontiac’s GTO was under heavy competition by 1970. Indeed, two of the guiding lights for the Pontiac GTO were John Delorean and Jim Wangers. By 1970 they both were gone. That’s probably why the GTO stumbled in sales in 1970. Chevelles, Buick Gran Sports and Oldsmobile 442s were all equipped with big blocks. Times were changing and the GTO was playing catchup. It was almost like they were trying to keep it a secret when Pontiac came out with the 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Convertible.
For a long time the 1971 GTO Judge Convertible was as mythical as Bigfoot. People would often talk about them but you never saw one anywhere. I remember the excitement when one of my friends thought he’d spotted one in a local shopper. But upon investigation we discovered it was a clone. It wasn’t until this one was discovered in the mid-1990s and restored by Pontiac expert and noted restorer Scott Tiemann at Supercar Specialties that Pontiac would have a restored example to believe in.
Because of its provenance this 1971 GTO Judge Convertible is one of the best known muscle cars in the world. Documentation includes a full PHS package, including a copy of the original invoice, window sticker and other related pieces. This car is a multiple award winner, having won Best of Show at the GTOAA Nationals and the Muscle Car Restorations and Performance magazine Award of Excellence. RK Motors Charlotte in North Carolina is currently offering this ’71 Judge Convertible for sale. Their reputation for selling high quality muscle cars of provenance like this one has boosted them to a preimenent position in today’s collector car market.
With John Delorean and Jim Wangers both gone from Pontiac 1970 sales figures for the GTO were at a low ebb. Sales for 1970 were 32,737 GTO hardtops, 3,615 GTO convertibles, 3,639 Judge hardtops and 168 Judge convertibles. This was a significant decrease for the car that had launched the muscle car era just seven years earlier. The GTO finished the year in third place in the intermediate muscle cars category behind Chevrolet’s Chevelle SS and Plymouth’s Road Runner. GTO was losing market share because every automotive brand was now featuring a variety of muscle cars. Another factor behind the declining market share was the rising cost of insurance premiums for factory-built supercars such as Pontiac’s Judge, Ford’s 428 Cobra Jet Mustangs and Chrysler Corp.’s Hemi-powered Challenger/’Cuda twins. Then came the wider use of unleaded gasolines which forced manufacturers to lower the compression ratios, and thus the horsepower on the big block engines.
Pontiac fixed the big block deficit for 1971. They took the 455 and mated it with RA IV type performance parts. Every GTO Judge built in 1971 came with this incredible 1971 455 HO engine. It was the second fastest GTO ever tested. Only the revered Ram Air IV posted faster quarter mile acceleration during PMD testing. This power plant was rated at 335 hp, with 8.4:1 compression and 480 lb-ft of torque, on a single four-barrel carburetor. They came with power front disc brakes with rear drums. Tiemann dressed the block in Pontiac Blue and used correct items like “197” heads, an aluminum dual plane intake manifold, and a single Rochester Quadrajet carburetor. Even the hoses, wires, clamps, and hardware are accurate to the smallest detail. Correct inspection marks and indicators have been accurately replicated on the firewall and various engine parts, and as you can see in the photos, are still 100% visible today. The Turbo Hydromatic 400 translates power to a correct 12-bolt rear packing 3.55 gears, which were standard with 455/automatic Judges.
Unfortunately this wonderful engine came too late. Musclecars were dying. Slow sales led to the cancelation of the Judge option. The cancelation was announced in mid model year, February 11, 1971 giving an order cut-off date beginning Feb 15, 1971.
Sales dropped again in 1971, with 9,497 GTO hardtops, 661 GTO convertibles, 357 Judge hardtops and 17 Judge convertibles leaving the factory for a total of only 10,532 units. On Feb 11, 1971 the Judge option, Code 322 was cancelled, ensuring a very small production run for model year 1971. Now the ’71 Judge is among the rarest of all muscle cars.
Things get really intense when you reduce the focus down to the convertible model. Of the 17 Judges built all 17 were special order cars. This was the last year that the GTO was a separate series with its own 242 VIN number. The Judge option package cost $394.95. For the 1972 model year, the GTO became an option package on the LeMans.
Now the ’71 Judge Convertible is among the rarest of all muscle cars.
Here are the published options for this ’71 Judge:
WT1: The Judge package
M40: Turbo Hydramatic transmission
PK5: G70x14 white letter tires
U58: Stereo AM/FM radio
U57: Stereo 8-track tape player
D55: Center console
D35: Body color outside mirrors
N41: Variable ratio power steering
JL2: Power brakes – front discs
Y96: Ride & Handling package
W63: Rally gauge cluster w/ clock
U85: Hood-mounted tachometer
Of course it also has the LS5 455 HO big block motor and WU3 Ram Air Hood. The Judge had Ram Air decals to show off its pedigree.
This car has been SOLD.
This was the lead story in the Cars On Line.com newsletter this week. Check all the listings in the most recent newsletter.