The Humbler arrived on the scene for '70 with even more to offer than the ‘69 GTO. Still on the option list were hardtop coupe and convertible bodystyles, The Judge package, Ram Air III and IV power, and eventually 455 cubic inches of Pure-Pontiac performance.
Coupled with the performance and styling that had been converting America's masses into Pontiac people for more than a decade, '70 promised to be another history-making model year for the Wide-Track division, whose fresh advertising tagline boldly proclaimed, "This is the way it's going to be. "
Tom Stutzman of Atlanta, Georgia, is one of these Pontiac folks. His late father became a Pontiac enthusiast in the '60s and shared his passion with his son until his passing in 1996.
Young Tom always drove Pontiacs, which, in a way, helped shape some of the events in his life. In the early '80s, while driving his SD-455–powered '75 Grand Ville convertible, he met a young lady named Debbie whose primary mode of transportation was a '77 Trans Am. Tom and Debbie went on many dates together in both cars but ultimately sold the Trans Am to wed and start a family. The Stutzman's daughters, Samantha and Katelinn, are Pontiac people thanks to the dedication their parents have to the hobby.
Tom and Debbie have amassed a collection of the rarest of the rare Pontiacs, which brings us to our feature car. Tom has become known for collecting desirable early GTOs and Firebirds, which sometimes means that these vehicles find him when they come up for sale. Drop-top Judges don't exactly grow on trees, and a collection of rare GTOs would be incomplete without one, so a conversation Tom held with Gary Cave in 2003 set events in motion that filled the void in the Stutzman's growing collection.
"Gary was selling this Judge on behalf of the owner's widow, " Tom recalls. "I offered what I thought was a reasonable amount, but wound up paying over market value for it at the time. " Tom admits that despite paying a premium for the car, meeting the seller and learning the vehicle's history removed any anxiety he initially had regarding the purchase...
In the summer of 1970, George Smith of Hudson, New Hampshire, received his high-school diploma, and his parents proudly presented him with a brand-new GTO Judge convertible as a graduation gift.
One day a month or so later, George drove downhill approaching a four-way intersection when a distraction caused him to rear-end the car stopped in the lane directly in his path. The collision wasn't terribly severe, but the impact crumpled the new GTO's fascia, hood, and fenders.
A week after the accident, George approached the same intersection (driving a different car) and noticed a '70 GTO hardtop stopped at the light. He pulled alongside the vehicle and exchanged pleasantries with the fellow Goat owner when that GTO was suddenly rear-ended by a vehicle traveling at a very high rate of speed.
Unfortunately for the hardtop, the damage was severe enough that the car was declared a total loss. George, however, seeing an opportunity to make his Judge whole again with the undamaged front clip from the otherwise totaled hardtop, tracked it down and bought the sheetmetal he needed to fix his Judge convertible.
Yellow grease pencil factory markings were documented before the restoration commenced, an
At some point after George's ownership, the rare ragtop (1 of only 168 Judge convertibles built in '70) received a quickie respray in a mid-'80s shade of neon teal green and the factory code-250 Blue interior was dyed black. The original points distributor was replaced by an HEI unit and the very desirable ram air exhaust manifolds and air pan were replaced by tube headers and an aftermarket chrome air cleaner. The Judge was otherwise intact, and more importantly, was still motivated by the original and very complete numbers-matching drivetrain.
The delectable droptop was transported from Baltimore to Atlanta, and confined to its chambers alongside its other GTO brethren until it was dispatched to Barnes Classic Restorations in Piedmont, South Carolina, for a top-shelf restoration. Lee and Donna Barnes don't necessarily specialize in any specific make and model, but they have an affinity for GTOs and have earned a reputation for turning out some of the sharpest A-bodies in the Southeast.
Lee and his staff disassembled this Judge, and media blasting revealed bare sheetmetal solid enough that no major panels required replacement. The fact that this Judge's original owner was able to repair it with donor parts from an equally new '70 GTO could be considered a happy accident since the date codes on the fenders are consistent with the build dates stamped elsewhere on The Judge.
Spies Hecker products were used throughout the process, with extensive block-sanding between every two coats of primer. Lee estimates over 700 hours were spent straightening and aligning the body panels.
Once the panels were deemed laser-straight, three coats of color were applied, followed by three coats of clear. A thorough block-sanding with 600-grit paper knocked down any orange peel prior to application of the final three coats of clear. Final wet-sanding was completed by graduating from 1,200- to 3,000-grit paper, followed by a final machine polish with 3M products.
To complement the mirror-like deep-blue finish, all of the exterior stainless trim was sent to Automolding USA in Clarkesville, Georgia, for straightening and polishing, and the chrome-plating chores were handled by AIH in Dubuque, Iowa. Exterior eyebrow graphics and decals sourced from Stencils & Stripes add the crowning touch to The Judge's flamboyant persona.
This officer of the court's Code-250 Blue Comfort Weave was replaced with a reproduction covers from Legendary Auto Interiors. Just Dashes recovered the pad, which is filled with gauges restored by Instrument Specialties. Overhead, a correct Code 1 White convertible top sourced from Electron Top keeps the weather out. Lee credits Vick Calvert of Carolina Trim for all of the top, interior trim, and upholstery installation. Rounding out the interior options are AM/FM radio, deluxe seatbelts, tilt wheel, console and floormats.
The code WS Ram Air III 400 engine was standard issue in ’70 Judges and rated at 366 hp. T
The WS-code Ram Air III 400 was sent to Carolina Machine in Johnstone, South Carolina, for a rebuild to stock specs. Once freshened, buttoned up, and fit with a Gardner reproduction exhaust system, it posted net 355 hp on the chassis dyno, which, accounting for parasitic losses, is a bit stronger than the factory's gross 366hp rating might suggest.
Moving from the bellhousing rearward, a Hurst-shifted M21 gearbox sends power aft to the 3.90 Safe-T-Track axle. Correctly detailed spiral shocks keep axle motion in check, while replacement springs suspend The Judge as Pontiac intended. It meets the pavement via reproduction G70x14 Wide Oval tires on Pontiac Rally IIs.
After the restoration, the Stutzman's Judge ruled at the 2013 POCI/GTOAA Co-Vention, scoring 673 points out of a possible 700 against GTOAA's judging standard and 396 out of 400 possible in POCI scoring.
Tom says it's destined to remain strictly a show vehicle for the time being, but the Stutzman family has several cool Pontiacs to choose from on cruise night, so it's not challenging to keep wear and tear to a minimum on the ultra-rare restored cars.
This '70 Judge convertible remains special to Tom: "It's the second Judge that I had purchased and the first four-speed in my collection, " he says. Asked what he likes best about it, he says, "The Judge stripes just make me smile! "
Finding the right GTO Judge convertible is challenging enough. Finding a four-speed GTO Judge convertible in a desirable color combo with the original drivetrain that had collision damage repaired with sheetmetal from a second brand-new GTO is fate. Court is adjourned.
Tom would like to thank friend and mentor Jerry Burge for his help and support with Tom's Pontiac collection.
Model-year ’70 GTOs featured a new Endura nose bearing strong resemblance to that year’s F
This Judge’s stripes might raise a few eyebrows, but car owner Tom Stutzman says they are
The pedestal airfoil was similar, but not identical, to one used by Oldsmobile. The design
Code-JL Rally IIs measuring 14x6-inch wear correct G70x14 Wide Ovals. Note that the tire i
Bucket seats were standard in all ’70 GTOs, but a T-handle shifter was part of The Judge p
Correct tags, stamps, and markings, along with meticulously detailed hardware and accessor