Sure it says "Million Dollar Babies" on the cover, but does that refer to the combined value of all three exceedingly rare, expertly restored Pontiacs? Is it just two of them? Or dare we say one? Well, no million-dollar Pontiacs have changed hands yet that we know of. However, if the market continues as it has, the possibility that each of these Indians could soon draw the type of cash once reserved for primetime reality-show winners may not be so farfetched.
But what does this mean to the rest of the hobbyists who own and enjoy more-mainstream Ponchos? If a '70 R/A-IV convertible Judge sells for $410,000, as a previous HPP feature car ("Resto Rescue," Feb. '06 issue) recently did at auction, then how much is your GTO worth?
Or better still, how much will your next restorable project cost? You know that candidate all too well: It has an engine of unknown origin that runs on seven cylinders, rear quarters that provide trunk access without a key, and an interior that has been condemned by the rodents who moved out in protest. So how much? $30,000? $40,000? $50,000? Probably not. Just because it says GTO on it doesn't mean its value will climb to the stratosphere, regardless of its condition. Here's why:
A Ram Air IV, convertible Judge that sells for $410,000 does so for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are rarity, hi-po drivetrain, desirable body style, and legend status with the Pontiac faithful. And let's not forget that it most likely has been treated to a nut-and-bolt concours restoration, which may have approached or exceeded $100,000 by itself. So anyone selling a restorable GTO that is sitting on four flat tires and currently serving as a soil-reclamation project should be realistic regarding its value.
For all other hobbyists, your show car, driver, or project Pontiac will probably not increase in value in equal step with rare Pontiacs. However, it is certain that the high-roller cars getting all the attention will provide a trickle-down effect in value and popularity for those of us who own less collectible spawns of PMD than someone like Milton Robson.
You remember Milton; many of his desirable Pontiacs were featured in the July '06 issue ("Inside the Secret Stash"), but HPP saved the cream of his collectible crop for this issue. "The rarity of a car is what I look for, especially convertibles," Milton told HPP. And they don't get much more rare than this. Feast your eyes on his '69 Trans Am R/A-III convertible, 1 of 8; his '69 Judge convertible, 1 of 5 with a R/A-IV; and his '70 Judge convertible, 1 of an estimated 14 with a R/A-IV and a four-speed.
If they ever hit the auction block, Milton's triple-crown of pristine ultra-rare Pontiacs could lead the way for tracking values at auctions online or in the hobby. However, you can enjoy learning about this holy grail of Pontiacs on the following pages right now for about $5, less if you're a subscriber.
Though neither you nor the HPP staff may ever get the opportunity to possess rarities like these, keep in mind that any Pontiac you own and enjoy shares its DNA, if not its price tag, with these beauties. Ultimately, the best Pontiac in the world is the one that you enjoy most.
Here's the Trans Am circa the '70s in a photo provided by then-owner Ted Gallas.
Though Milton had owned an automatic Trans Am convertible that was featured in HPP back around 1989, this is the first of the four four-speed T/A convertibles built and is the only triple-white car. And as we learned in the July issue, Milton prefers four-speed cars.
The WS4 Trans Am option provided a 335hp R/A-III engine; high-effort power front disc-brakes; variable-ratio power steering; Custom Sports (wood) wheel; floor-shifted, three-speed manual trans; the Ride and Handling package; 3.55:1 Safe-T-Track rear; hoodscoops; fender air-extractors; rear spoiler; special blue stripes and graphics over Cameo White paint; and 7-inch wheels with F70-14 white-letter tires. Other options on this particular Pontiac are the aforementioned four-speed; pushbutton AM radio; Deluxe seatbelts with front and rear shoulder harnesses; Rally II wheels; console; tinted windshield; Walnut shift-knob; and custom interior trim.
Uniquely, this T/A generated three invoices. It was originally ordered by Pontiac executive Tom Goad to be used as the pace car for Road America and was shipped to the Pontiac Division Central Office on June 23, 1969. Then it was invoiced to the Pontiac Zone office in Pittsburgh on December 22, 1969. Ultimately, it was invoiced to Arnold Pontiac, the delivering dealer, in Houston, Pennsylvania, on April 24, 1970. Suggested retail was $4,609.34 on the first invoice; $4,736.52 on the second; and $4,677.02 on the third. The first titled owner eventually traded it in on a '73 Dodge van, and the rumor is it was later sold at a dealer auction. Wonder how much that Dodge van is worth today, eh?
After passing through another owner(s), the T/A was sold to Ted Gallas and George Marble of Ohio. Following an article on T/As published in the April '78 issue of Hot Rod magazine that stated two convertibles were built (we now know eight, of course), Ted wrote in to verify his T/A as one of the two convertibles, and he even provided the VIN. The letter was printed in the Aug. '78 issue, and he stated he bought the Pontiac with a non-stock engine in it to use as a race car. A photo of the car appeared in the Sept. '79 issue with a follow-up letter from Ted Gallas. The advice of the editor was to restore the T/A and keep it. HRM later reported that the Trans Am showed up at the Car Craft Street Machine Nationals and "stole the show."
In December 1991, it was purchased by Dick Bridges from a private collector in North Carolina. "The T/A was complete, drivable, and in presentable condition, but it was no show car," Dick said. Scott Tiemann performed a concours restoration on the T/A that now features a correct engine right down to the date codes. It was completed by January of 1994 and competed at the Detroit Autorama.
Dick loaned the T/A for display at Floyd Garrett's Muscle Car Museum until he sold it in early 2001 to a car dealer in Connecticut. It was bought soon thereafter by collector Rick Mahoney of Pennsylvania, and Milton purchased it in 2003.
Special thanks to Don Keefe for his help with the '69 Trans Am-owner history prior to Dick Bridges.
Looking at this '70 Judge, would you believe its restoration, done at Milton's shop by Tim Wallace, was completed way back in 1991? It just goes to show that 15 years of pampering in a temperature-controlled atmosphere can preserve a properly restored Pontiac.
"I bought this Judge in 1989 out of Medford Oregon. It was all-original," Milton recalled. "One of my employees, Jake Payne, known as JT, flew out and actually drove it back to Georgia but not before making a stop in Las Vegas."
JT probably had a great time piloting this Judge cross-country since it was originally built to go fast while coddling its driver. An eye toward take-no-prisoners street performance is revealed in its drivetrain and suspension options. A round-port Ram Air IV engine with 370 hp on tap was specified, along with the mandatory M21 close-ratio four-speed (with a R/A-IV, a Turbo-hydromatic was also available but not a three-speed manual trans) and the heavy-duty 3.90-geared Safe-T-Track rear. Variable-ratio power steering made for quick turns, Ride and Handling springs and shocks kept the drop-top flat in the corners, and power disc brakes brought the white-letter tires to a stop. By comparison, standard with the WT1 Judge option for '70 was a 366-horse R/A-III engine; three-speed manual trans with Hurst shifter and T-handle; 3.55 rear; Rally II wheels sans trim rings; and G70-14 blackwall tires.
In the looks department, it's tough to beat this Cardinal Red body resplendent with Judge graphics, eyebrow stripes, blacked-out grilles and hood ornaments, and rear spoiler. This one also features the front spoiler.
A matching red interior featuring an abundance of comfort options adds to the value. It's possible that since A/C wasn't available with a Ram Air IV, the original buyer decided on the next best thing: a seldom-seen option called Power Flow Ventilation. Little fans inside the dash, which are controlled by a switch, help draw more outside air through the ducts and blow it into the passenger compartment through the vents.
Other options included Rally gauges with tach and clock; power driver's seat; 8-Track AM/FM stereo with windshield antenna; underhood and luggage lamps; remote mirror outside; mirrors for both visors; console; heavy-duty battery; and door-edge guards. The suggested retail tally in 1970 for all this power and luxury was $5,448.40.
Rut Johnson, a friend of Milton's, originally purchased this '69 Judge convertible from Chapman Motor Company in Gainesville, Georgia, Milton's hometown. About 18 years ago, Milton and Rut were reminiscing about the Judge, and they started wondering what happened to it. Then, it resurfaced in the early '90s. "I heard about a black R/A-IV Judge convertible for sale in Phoenix, Arizona," said Milton. "So I called on it and set up a time to fly out and look over the car. When I got there, the owner didn't want to give me the time of day! I asked to see the PHS documentation, and he said that he couldn't find it. After checking out the car, I took down the VIN and sent away to PHS for the information."
The PHS documentation revealed that the Starlight Black Judge convertible with the L67 370-horse Ram Air IV and four-speed trans was in fact ordered through Chapman Motor Company. Milton had found the car. "I immediately called the owner to buy the Judge, and he told me that it was already sold, which I had suspected by his actions," Milton said. However, the owner did provide the name of the buyer, so Milton got in touch with the new owner, Steve Ames of Ames Performance Engineering. The two collectors became friends over the ensuing years.
"When I got the Judge, it was in primer, but the underside was very clean, there wasn't even any scale on the frame or floors," Steve said. "I told Milton that he would have the first opportunity to buy it if I ever decided to sell it." After about 10 years of sitting in storage at Ames, Steve finally decided that he probably wasn't going to restore the Judge since he already had the first Ram Air IV four-speed convertible Judge. So in 2000, he offered it to Milton.
Though the Judge was in obvious need of restoration, it was extremely rare and was nicely equipped from the factory--WT1 Judge option, Ram Air IV engine, and hideaway headlights notwithstanding. It had a close-ratio four-speed and a 3.90 heavy-duty Safe-T-Track rear, not to mention power disc brakes. Creature comforts included an 8-Track; visor mirrors for driver and passenger; Deluxe seatbelts; Custom Sports (wood) wheel; remote deck-lid release; front and rear floormats; underhood and luggage lamps; pushbutton AM radio; door-edge guards; remote rearview mirror; Rally gauges with tach and clock; console; power steering; and tinted glass. The suggested retail price in 1969 was $5,147.27, though we bet Milton had to pay a bit more than that when he bought it.
Once it was back in Georgia, Milton had the Judge concours restored by Gilbert Propes in Cornelia, Georgia, over a four-year period, with the paint and bodywork performed by Jerry and Brian Williams, also in Cornelia. The Judge now features a correct and properly date-coded drivetrain. "This is the best and rarest of all the Judges," Milton said. "It's the only black-on-black R/A-IV four-speed Judge convertible built!"