• This Month's Issue

    1st on the Track, 2nd on the Block: Why a Brabham F1 Beat It By $350k

    Legal Files: Two Costly Arguments for Agreed-Value Insurance

    $161k Koenig Testarossa: Enzo's Rolling, But Bidders Liked It

    190SL Face-Off: Condition and Color Contribute to $82k Gap

    Read More
  • SCM Platinum

    Over 200 cars that sold at auction covered in every issue of SCM. Our market reports include detailed information about the vehicle, including VIN, condition, options, and expert analysis from SCM's auction reporters.

    SCM Platinum is the largest database of collector cars sold at auction. Over 150,000 vehicles, including over 59,000 with detailed write-ups from our auction reporters.

    Now optimized for your mobile devices!

    Read More
  • Sports Car Market Magazine

    SCM is renowned for its unbiased coverage of the most prominent auctions around the world. Every issue of Sports Car Market is packed full of information you can't get anywhere else at any price. Find out the pro's secrets — what to look for and how much to pay for the classic of your dreams.

    Read More
  • Glovebox Notes

    SCM doesn't just cover collector cars. Every week, SCM reviews a brand new car online and in our newsletters, and there are new reviews every month in the magazine. Thinking of buying a new car? Check out our reviews!

    Read More
  • Insider’s Guide to Concours d’Elegance

    The 2014 guide includes a calendar of events and detailed descriptions of 21 featured concours.

    Read More

Recent Profiles

load more / hold SHIFT key to load all load all
MR10_r107_36-DarinSchnabel

Milt Robson’s triple-black 1969 GTO Judge is a triple-threat of collectability. It has the powerful Ram Air IV V8 engine. It has a 4-speed. And it’s a convertible. It is one of the rarest 1969 Judges in the world.

For 1969, the real beast GTO engine option came in the form of a Ram Air IV, which was rated at 370 horsepower.

A very significant option package made its debut on the 1969 GTO. Named for a popular anti-establishment catchphrase on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” “The Judge” was originally conceived as a way to combat the budget-minded muscle cars coming from Ford and Plymouth.

When it debuted, The Judge package was a $332 option on top of the cost of a GTO hard top or convertible. It included the 366-hp Ram Air III V8, a rear spoiler, Rally II wheels (minus trim rings), three-colored side body stripes and “The Judge” decals.

With the optional $389.68 Ram Air IV engine, Car and Driver piloted a 1969 Judge through the quarter-mile in 13.7 seconds at 103.6 mph. When the model year was over, Pontiac had sold 58,126 GTO hardtops, 7,328 GTO convertibles, 6,725 Judge hard tops and 108 Judge convertibles. The grand total was 72,287 GTOs. But there were only five 1969 GTO Judge convertibles with the extra-cost Ram Air IV V8, and this is the only one that came in Starlight Black.

It was a very desirable combination of features, including the close-ratio four-speed manual transmission ($184.80), heavy-duty Safe-T-Track differential ($63.19), covered headlamps ($52.66), three-spoke wood-style steering wheel ($34.76), power disc brakes ($64.25), console ($55.82) and power steering ($105.32). Total cost when new was $5,147.27.

This is the most valuable car in the Robson Collection. It is also one of the most significant examples of its kind, with provenance from new, outstanding documentation and virtually perfect condition.

{analysis}{auto}2974{/auto}This Ram Air IV Judge convertible, Lot 250, sold for $682,000 at the RM Auctions Robson Collection Auction on November 13, 2010.

To the uninitiated, this result for a GTO must seem completely ridiculous. To be fair, even those of us who follow Ram Air IV GTOs were a little surprised at how much it sold for—especially given the state of the economy. RM’s pre-sale estimate of $750,000 to $1,000,000 certainly sparked debate among the Pontiac faithful, and selling a Ram Air IV Judge convertible at no reserve was indeed a bold move.

But to better understand this sale, one must first attempt to grasp two distinct markets that merged in this car: that of Judge convertibles and that of Ram Air IV Pontiacs, aka “round port” cars.

First let’s touch on Judge convertibles. A total of just 292 were produced during the three years (1969, 1970 and 1971) of production. This low number, along with the fact that Judge convertibles are unquestionably the ultimate GTO, has always made them highly desirable. When one narrows down to things such as color and transmission selection, that 292-car total starts to have a real impact on value.

Big horsepower, tiny production

Attrition is high among all muscle cars, and many of the 292 GTO Judge convertibles cars are now in the ownership of Mother Earth. But it gets even trickier. For serious collectors (such as Robson), the squelch gets adjusted even further on this particular frequency. They want the famous Ram Air IV engine, which is the 426 Hemi/LS6 454 of the Pontiac world.

The Ram Air IV, although rated at a mere four horsepower more than the standard Ram Air III engine, was actually quite different and added up to a lot more than more horsepower. It was fitted with a hotter cam, a better rotating assembly, a two-piece aluminum intake manifold, and the all-important round port cylinder heads that replaced the Ram Air III’s rectangular port castings.

And if you thought 292 Judge Convertibles over three years was a tiny number, consider that the Ram Air IV was only available in 1969 and 1970, during which a total of just 24 Judge Convertibles were ordered with the option: five in 1969 and nineteen (although some argue 18) in 1970. One can see where the mystique of a Ram Air IV Judge Convertible comes from. They are indeed the Hemi ‘Cuda convertible of the Pontiac world, and they are equally rare as Chevrolet’s famous 1970 LS6 454 Chevelle convertibles.

Original engines ever rarer

Now, here is the real rub with Ram Air IV cars: Very few have their original engines. While this is usually a huge deterrent in most muscle cars, Ram Air IV buyers have generally accepted that most of these cars lost their original blocks as a result of having a notorious aversion to high rpm. It usually makes them throw up—and you can’t just tuck rods and other engine parts back in.

The market for 1970 Ram Air IV Judge convertibles is well established. In May 2008, a 4-speed car with a non-original engine sold at a Mecum sale for $378k. In October 2009, a numbers-matching car with an automatic transmission sold at Mecum for $371k, and I profiled it in the February 2010 issue of SCM.

And Robson’s own non-original engine, 4-speed car sold for $308k at this sale just prior to the subject car hitting the block. These sales show that 1970 Ram Air IV Judge convertibles have stabilized in the $300k-400k range today, and that is proof that their significance still attracts willing buyers. And remember that almost four times as many 1970 Ram Air IV cars were built than 1969 versions.

Yes, 1969 Ram Air IV Judge convertibles are a whole ‘nother ball game.

Of the five that were built, all were 4-speeds. I don’t know of any that survived with their original engines. And rarely do any of them come up for sale. To be honest, I can’t remember ever seeing one offered at public auction.

As such, this car is uncharted territory. I inspected the Robson car shortly after its restoration was completed during the 2005 GTOAA National Convention. There just isn’t a better color than black for a badass muscle car, and all else equal, a black car usually brings a 20% premium.

A value-setting car

There are some nits to pick: Robson’s car, 6 years from restoration, lost some of its snap, although this is nothing a good resto shop couldn’t correct in a few days. And many new buyers can’t get their heads—or checkbooks—around a muscle car with a heart transplant.

All that aside, rumor has it that Robson was approached with a $1m offer for this car a few years ago. Factoring in the decline in muscle car values since then, the price paid for it as this auction works out to just over a 30% discount from the peak—which is right in line with a lot of other high-end muscle cars.

 
The bottom line is: If you want sand, you go to the beach. And for the first time in many years, Milton Robson opened the only beach in the world—and the price of admission was up to the people that came to play. Which means we must declare that the current market price for one of the five 1969 Ram Air IV Judge convertibles to be just under $700k. And I call that a spot-on sale for Robson, and a well-played buy for the end user, who saw it as an opportunity to add a spectacular and rarely available GTO to his or her stable. My congratulations go to both.{/analysis}

Recent Blog Posts

  • Every Day is Alfa Day – Exercising the Duetto and the GTV +

    When it comes to driving old cars, some weeks are better than others. Between producing the magazine, running the business, traveling and doing non-car activities with Bradley and friends, the days fill up quickly. That’s why I am so appreciative when things fall together and I'm able to get serious Read More
  • This Week's Classic Mystery Photo +

    The monthly Mystery Photo has been an SCM tradition for 25 years. Each week, we’ll share one of our “greatest hits” photos from the past and give you a chance to provide a new witty and provocative caption. Each week’s winner will be announced in the Newsletter. Share your caption Read More
  • The Making of a Next-Gen Gearhead +

    Bradley’s first crash wasn’t his biggest one, but it was a wake-up call. When you go down on a motorcycle, even on a little one and in the dirt, you go down hard. We talk a lot about how to get kids involved in our world of cars and motorcycles Read More
  • Nutso Off-Roading Through the City (With Bikini Girls -- Mildly NSFW) +

    Read More
  • This Week's Classic Mystery Photo +

    "Tell the herd to relax. It's not a Jaguar." — Julian Shoolheifer The monthly Mystery Photo has been an SCM tradition for 25 years. Each week, we’ll share one of our “greatest hits” photos from the past and give you a chance to provide a new witty and provocative caption. Each Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4

Collector Car News

  • Meet Keith Martin at the Hilton Head Island Concours +

    The Hilton Head Island Motoring Festival & Concours d'Elegance returns to South Carolina October 24-November 2. SCM Publisher Keith Martin will serve as a concours judge and participate in Friday's Motoring Festival Driving Tour. View the full event details here. Get tickets here. Read More
  • Barrett-Jackson Breaks $33m in Las Vegas +

      Barrett-Jackson rocked Las Vegas with another record-setting auction at the Mandalay Bay Event Center on September 25-26. During the three-day event, Barrett-Jackson hosted the largest number of consigned vehicles in the auction’s Las Vegas history with more than 700 vehicles and more than 339 collectible automobilia pieces crossing the block Read More
  • Auctions America Presents "Bid Anywhere" Online Sale +

    Auctions America has announced its own online collector car auction. The sale is called Bid Anywhere and will launch Friday, November 21. A 1991 Ferrari Testarossa is among the offerings. Read more at www.auctionsamerica.com. Read More
  • Ferrari F40 at Bonhams' Zoute Sale +

    A 1989 Ferrari F40 once owned by Formula One star Nigel Mansell (estimated at $760k-$1m) headlines Bonhams' Zoute Grand Prix sale on October 10. The sale will take place in the picturesque Belgian seaside resort of Knokke-Le-Zoute in conjunction with the Zoute Grand Prix Rally and Concours d'Elegance, October 9-13. Read More
  • Rally on the Roof Car Show +

      The Rally on the Roof Car Show will take place Saturday, October 11 in downtown Houston at the Toyota Tundra Parking Garage. There is room for 200 cars on the open-air roof of the parking garage, which is located next to the Toyota Center. The purpose of the event Read More
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4