Built at the Oshawa, Ontario, plant and sold new at Elliott Motors in Belleville, Ontario, this 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge is particularly well appointed.

The list of desirable features is headed by the WS-code 400/366-hp Ram Air III engine, here mated to a 4-speed manual and augmented with a sport handling package, power steering and power brakes.

A full-width rear spoiler, hood-mounted tach, multi-hued graphics and painted Rally II wheels visually distinguish this Orbit Orange Judge, which also features bucket seats and console, remote driver’s mirror and a Formula steering wheel. Thanks to its Canadian origins, this rare machine also benefits from GM Canada’s famously thorough documentation.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Pontiac GTO Judge
Years Produced:1969-71
Number Produced:3,797
Original List Price:$3,815
SCM Valuation:$50,000-$70,000 (coupes), $130,000-$140,000 (convertibles)
Tune Up Cost:$150
Distributor Caps:$20
Chassis Number Location:VIN plate driver's side instrument panel behind windshield
Engine Number Location:Onfront of block below left cylinder head
Club Info:GTO Association of America
Alternatives:1968-70 Plymouth GTX, 1968-70 Dodge Coronet R/T, 1968-72 Oldsmobile 442 W-30, 1970-72 Buick GSX
Investment Grade:B

This ’70 Judge, Lot F298, sold for $50,880, including buyer’s premium, at Dana Mecum’s 25th Original Spring Classic Auction on May 12, 2012.

When John DeLorean, Jim Wangers, and other like-minded car guys at Pontiac unleashed the GTO in 1964, the buying public couldn’t get enough of it. Even as other competitors came on the scene, the GTO remained firmly on top of the sales ladder.

But that started to change in 1968. The second-generation GTO, which debuted that year, was a great car, but the surprise of the automotive world in ’68 was Plymouth’s Road Runner — a low-cost machine that gave up many creature comforts while delivering plenty of go. And the GTO was beginning to show its middle-age spread as it gained weight and expense with features such as power windows and plush interiors. That still appealed to a wide variety of muscle enthusiasts, but those who could not afford a GTO, or who wanted maximum performance in a lightweight package, were all over the Road Runner.

Regaining lost ground

Those same car guys who created the GTO in 1964 were keenly aware that something needed to be done. Retired Pontiac engineer John M. Sawruk wrote in a 2005 story in Pontiac Enthusiast magazine: “Truth be told, GTO sales were already falling from their high point without the emergence of the Road Runner. To counteract the Mopar threat, Herb Adams built a proposed lighter-weight, lower-cost car. This car would ultimately be called ‘ET’ (Elapsed Time). Its color, Carousel Red, would ultimately be used on The Judge… It had a 350 HO, hood tach, (and) a second tach housing on the right side of the hood for cold air induction. When all is said and done, it was lighter than the standard GTO.”

Pontiac’s sales department did not approve of the ET, because it would erode regular GTO sales and, most importantly, the GTO’s healthy profits. Jim Wangers remembers, “John DeLorean shot it down, declaring, ‘No GTO on my watch would ever be powered by anything less than a 400-cubic-inch engine.’”

Here comes The Judge

Some of the graphics and equipment proposed for the ET found their way onto The Judge option package introduced in 1969. Originally the ET name was going to be used, but John Sawruk recalls: “However, one morning after watching ‘Laugh In’ on TV, John DeLorean came in and announced the car’s name was to be ‘The Judge.’”

Naming a GTO model after Flip Wilson’s skit on the hugely influential Rowan and Martin’s “Laugh In” TV show was as much a stroke of genius as naming a Plymouth after an untouchable cartoon character. Many phrases from “Laugh In” had become part of the vernacular, and The Judge latched on to that phenomenon perfectly.

The Judge was hardly a Road Runner competitor. In fact, the package added $337 to the cost of a standard GTO, making The Judge their most expensive model. But buyers got a ton of goodies with The Judge, including the 366-hp Ram Air III 400-ci V8, a well-appointed interior, upgraded suspension, and the unique spoiler and graphics package.

Introduced later in the model year, The Judge bolstered sales by 6,725 units in 1969, and it put the GTO back on the cover of enthusiast magazines, and back into the minds of potential buyers.

Even though muscle car sales of all makes were down dramatically in 1970, and the GTO still finished third in total sales behind the Chevelle and Road Runner, The Judge attracted 3,797 buyers who might have gone elsewhere. The new screaming Orbit Orange paint was only available on The Judge and was the default color for the ’70 model.

The Canada car advantage

Our featured Judge is a ’70 in Orbit Orange. The fact that it was built in Canada has huge advantages for any potential buyer. Ask General Motors for any information on a car built in the ’60s, and you’ll be told that data do not exist. But General Motors of Canada has as much documentation as you could possibly need on any vehicle they built. So any buyer can rest assured that this Judge is the real deal, which can often be very difficult to prove on U.S.-built GM vehicles.

By far the rarest models of The Judge are the convertibles, with just 293 built over three years. RM Auctions sold a ’69 ragtop with the rare Ram Air IV engine for $308,000 in 2010, but that was an anomaly, and I doubt that price would be repeatable today. The hard tops are much more affordable. The Ram Air IV engine typically adds at least 50% to the price, while 4-speeds are generally worth up to 20% more than automatics.

Mecum sold two Orbit Orange 1970 Judges at Indy this spring, both RA III 4-speeds, including one of outstanding quality that has been in the same family since new, and which sold for $78,650. Our nearly identical feature car looked very nice and had the famous Canadian documentation, but was not as exceptional as the other Judge. At $51k, this was right on the money at the current going rates. 

Still, the prices on both Judges were soft compared with just a few years ago, especially for two cars with impeccable credentials. The Judge is one of the most landmark GTO models, and to my mind this was a well-bought icon that can only appreciate in the coming years.&nbsp

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