The Pontiac GTO debuted for the 1964 model year, but its beginnings were shaped by events nearly a decade earlier. The tragic crash at LeMans in 1955 that took the lives of racing driver Pierre Levegh, more than eighty spectators, and injured more than 180 others led the members of the Automobile Manufacturers Association to agree to refrain from competitive racing. The AMA members inked an agreement to that effect in 1957. Each manufacturer then began supporting privateers and others with backdoor assistance, parts, cars, and the like.
Through the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pontiac had based a great deal of its marketing on performance and competition, so much so they called themselves the “Performance Division.” General Motors had banned all of its divisions from motor racing involvement, but looked the other way when Chevy, Olds, and Pontiac provided racers with “unofficial” support. When GM reiterated that there was to be no involvement in competition, Pontiac had to find a new way to attract the youth market. A new car based on a mid-size model, but stuffed with big power seemed like just the thing, and it would be called the Pontiac GTO.
Pontiac managers John Z. DeLorean, Bill Collins, and Russ Gee figured they could create a high-performance street car by stuffing the potent 389 cubic inch V8 into the Pontiac Tempest in place of the standard 326. At the time, GM had an internal edict that limited displacement in mid-size A-body passenger cars to 330 cubes, but the trio would skirt that regulation by claiming it did not apply to option packages. The 389 was fed by a Carter AFB four-barrel carb, was dressed with chrome valve covers and air cleaner, exhaled through dual exhaust, and made 325 horsepower. An optional “Tri-Power” setup with triple Rochester two-barrel carbs was rated at 348 horses. The new car could be had with a two-speed automatic, or three- or four-speed manual transmissions with a Hurst shifter. The suspension got stiffer springs, fatter front sway bay, and wider 7.50 x 14-inch wheels wrapped in redline tires. Mr. DeLorean dubbed the car the Pontiac GTO, much to the chagrin of Enzo Ferrari.
The Pontiac GTO was a massive success. Initially forecasted to sell only 5,000 units, Pontiac managed to move out 32,450 GTOs. The die was cast.
In 1966, the Pontiac GTO became its own model. For the 1968 model year, the GTO received a full redesign, along with all the other GM A-body platform models. Wheelbase shrunk a bit, as did overall length and height. The headlights were no longer stacked, but oriented horizontally. The chrome front bumper was replaced with a painted Endura flexible impact bumper ahead of looming government safety regulations.
The Pontiac GTO for 1970 would be the pinnacle of GTO performance, at least until the Holden Monaro-based GTO of the mid-2000s. General Motors removed the displacement guidelines for A-body platform vehicles, resulting in a number of available drivetrain combinations. The Judge package offered the Ram Air 400 as standard equipment, but the 400 cubic-inch Ram Air IV engine option proved to be the most potent (at least on paper), as it was rated at 370 horsepower. Suspension upgrades included a new rear anti-sway bar, a stiffer front anti-sway bar, and optional variable-ratio power steering.
Our feature 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge convertible started life as a factory exhibition car. It is finished in brilliant Orbit Orange with a black vinyl convertible top over a black vinyl interior. This GTO is powered by the 370-horsepower, 400 cube Ram Air IV engine backed by a Turbo Hydramatic 400 three-speed automatic transmission, one of only seven Ram Air IV GTO Judge convertibles so equipped. Other equipment includes power brakes with front discs, power steering, a hood-mounted tachometer, custom seat belts, AM-FM stereo with 8-track player, a Formula steering wheel, and console. It has been the recipient of a body-off rotisserie restoration resulting in numerous awards including show wins at the 1998 Meadowbrook Concours, 2000 Ault Park, 2004 Cranbook, and 2009 Milwaukee Masterpiece. This GTO also won Pontiac/Oakland Club International Junior Gold in 1999 and Senior Gold in 2000. Pontiac Historical Society documentation is included in the sale.
This rare Pontiac GTO will cross the Mecum Auctions block at their Kissimmee, Florida event happening January 4th through the 15th.