In the annals of the muscle car era, there’s not much that can compete with the rarity and enigma of the 1971 GTO Judge convertible. With only 17 built, there’s not many muscle cars rarer and, as recently as twenty-five years ago, it seemed that no one knew where any of them were. However, due to the growth of the hobby and documentation services like Pontiac Historic Services, we know a lot more about these interesting cars.
Of those 17 cars, only three were four-speeds, and one of them is going to be auctioned by Mecum at Anaheim on November 15-17.
The Judge originally was conceived as Pontiac’s response to the Plymouth Road Runner, but it ended up being a super-GTO of sorts, a bright-colored, stripe-laden machine with a spoiler and a lumpy idle that was a step up from the usual 1969 GTO. The Judge was successful enough that it made a return for 1970, but sales were down across the board for all brands and, besides, the Judge’s brand of psychedelia was a value that was at odds with the new decade. Still, Pontiac decided to continue offering the Judge package in 1971.
While the stripes and spoiler were still the same from their 1970 redesign, the power under the hood changed since GM lowered the compression on all its motors. In the Judge’s case, standard motivation was the 455 HO, a motor that had nothing in common with the previous year’s 455 other than the size. In the case of the new engine, it received Pontiac’s round-port heads, which previously were used on the 400 Ram Air II and IV from 1968-70. Rated at 335 gross horsepower (310 net), it initially seemed like a downgrade from 1970s high-compression motors but in actuality it was a very flexible motor that easily scored low-14s in the quarter but had the low-end torque that made it more livable than the 1970 RAIV. Plus, it could use the unleaded fuel that was eventually going to be the rule in America.
Sometime in the middle of the 1971 model year, the Judge package was cancelled; only 357 hardtops and another 17 convertibles were built. Due to the invoices that Pontiac Historical Services has access to, we now know how all 17 were equipped. This Quezal Gold Judge convertible, formerly part of the Milt Robson collection, was originally sold by Talarico Pontiac of Milford, NM and was loaded with power windows, hood tachometer, close-ratio M21 transmission, power door locks, and air conditioning.
Now that the enigma is gone, more Judge convertibles have popped up over the years, including one that is still in the hands of the original owner. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that is as desirable as this one.