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The GTO: From Tempest to Judge

Classic Pontiac GTO Muscle Cars From The Tempest To The Judge

The Pontiac GTO came out of a time when the car industry was greatly evolving. As General Motors laid down a proclamation that its divisions could no longer brand cars geared towards the racing market (an assumed attempt to clean up their image and make them a brand for every American), Pontiac needed to think quickly and change their intended market.

Having been entrenched in the racing industry for years, Pontiac was already in the process of developing bigger and better racing machines when GM made this change of direction. Instead of giving up on the ideas of bigger and better, Pontiac decided to change their branding from “racing” to “street”, and marketed the power of their vehicles with better street performance.

In 1963, Jim Wangers, John De Lorean, and Shane Wiser teamed up to develop what would become the first GTO (named after the Italian racing acronym for Gran Turismo Omologato), an option at that time that graced the “Super Tempest” and later, the Le Mans, the Royal Pontiac and many, many more.

  • The GTO option on the Tempest was available in 1964 on the Sports Coupe, the Hardtop Coupe and the Convertible models. The available engine model with the GTO package was the 389 V8 with 325 bhp and 4800 rpm and 428 lb-ft at 3200 rpm.

  • The GTO option for the Le Mans was available to the public in 1964, but at the insisting of the sales manager, was a limited release (5000 models). The 5000 models sold out quickly, and production boomed, eventually selling over 30,000 models to buyers in the general public.

  • As the next GTO option available to the public, the Le Mans could get from zero to sixty in 5.7 seconds, could tackle in 14.1 seconds, reaching a top speed of 104.2 in that time. The engine was a 389 cubic inch, 348 horsepower machine that only brought the total cost of this muscle car up to $2,851.

The GTO eventually became a brand in its own right, becoming more than just an option on existing models. But one of the most popular models of the GTO ever released was affectionately known as “The Judge”.  The Judge was originally intended to be a low-cost model that would compete with the Plymouth Road Runner, but while it was in development, designers decided to make it at top notch street performance car. The Judge package on the 1969 GTO included the Ram Air III engine, styled wheels, a Hurst shifter, wide set tires, a rear spoiler, and special decals. The Judge originally came on in “Carousel Red”, but was offered in other colors later on in the year.

1974 saw the end of an era for the Pontiac GTO, but the car was revived in 2003 with a special edition based on the Holden Monaro’s Omega. GM chairman, Bob Lutz, encouraged the revival of the GTO, and endorsed the model being outfitted with the Corvette’s LS1 V8 engine and option of 6-speed manual or 4-speed automatic transmissions.

GM manufactured 18,000 of the new GTO model per year, through 2006. The last model of the GTO came with a 6 liter LS2 V engine that got 400 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. The transmission was an electronic Hydra-Matic 4L65-E four speed, or an optional manual Tremec T56 six speed. The 2006 GTO could get from zero to sixty in 4.7 seconds, and handle the quarter mile in 13 seconds flat.

If you are the proud owner of one of these historical cars, you know the importance of maintaining and protecting this performance machine. Whether you use your Pontiac GTO for racing, street performance, or you store it and show it in mint condition, you know the value of insurance and how it can protect your investment. Give Classic Auto Insurance a call today to find out more about our competitive muscle car rates, and see how much money we can save you on your classic car insurance policy!

About the Author

is Vice President of Classic Automobile Insurance Agency, Inc. Classic Automobile Insurance Agency has been protecting collector, classic and exotics since 1992.

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