1968 2nd Generation: GTO Motor Trend Car of the Year
Car of the Year
An extensive restyling distinguished the 1968 GTO from the previous
models. Most notable was the new Endura color-keyed front bumper.
The GTO was the first GM car to use the new flexible polyurethane
covering that allowed minor dents to pop out without any permanent
damage. Optional hidden headlights combined with the Endura
nose made for a very handsome car. The stunning styling, powerful
performance, solid engineering, and excellent market timing
were all factors that helped the GTO garner the coveted Motor
Trend Car of the Year award.
More horsepower was on tap for the exciting new '68 body. All
engines displaced 400 cubic inches. The standard engine rose
to 350 horsepower from 335 horsepower; the no-cost economy two-barrel
engine gained 10 horsepower for a 265-horsepower rating; the
optional HO engine stayed at 360 horsepower; and the optional
Ram Air engine also remained at 360 horsepower until March of
'68 when the Ram Air II option was introduced with a 366-horsepower
rating. That rating was probably conservative considering the
high-performance equipment which included 10.75:1 forged pistons,
forged steel crankshaft, new cylinder heads with round exhaust
ports, free-flowing exhaust manifolds, a high lift camshaft
with the corresponding high-performance valve train components,
and a revised distributor curve. The Ram Air II put 445 lb-ft
of stump-pulling torque to the pavement via the mandatory limited-slip
Safe-T-Track rear end with 4.33:1 gears.
Hood Mounted Tachometers
The coupe body style was dropped for '68. Sales were predominantly
for hardtops which sold 77,704 units compared to the 9,980 convertibles.
Optional hood-mounted tachometers were continued from 1967.
The Ram Air cars had 5500-rpm redlines compared to the standard
5200-rpm limit. The external tachs helped the GTO project a
powerful performance car image.
Super Stock & Drag Illustrated July 1968
The cover reads: World's Wildest Pontiac ARNIE BESWICKS
'68 GTO! This issue includes Arnie Beswick's 1968
GTO Funny Car Feature.
Read the complete GTO
story in Jim Wangers book "Glory Days".
Ram Air IV
GTO engines got even more exciting in 1969 with the introduction
of the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV. Considerably under-rated
at 370 horsepower, the Ram Air IV was the epitome of GTO engines.
The RA IV used many of the high-performance parts introduced
on the '68 Ram Air II along with the cold air induction system
that came with the Ram Air III. Both RA III and RA IV used driver-controlled
flapper doors on the twin hood scoops. As powerful as the Ram
Air IV was, it still used hydraulic lifters and was far more
tractable in traffic than competitors' solid lifter engines.
The RA IV didn't overheat or foul spark plugs. It was only available
with either a 3.90:1 or 4.33:1 limited-slip differential.
A late addition to the 1969 lineup was the GTO Judge. The original
intent of The Judge (although it's commonly referred to as the
GTO Judge or simply Judge; the fender decals said "The
Judge") was to combat the upstart low-price muscle cars
like the Plymouth Road Runner.
Pontiac's answer to the Road Runner was called "ET"
or "E/T" which stood for the drag racing term "elapsed
time." The car was to be based on a stripped-down, bench
seat, Le Mans coupe with a flat hood and Rally II wheels without
the trim rings. The engine was a Pontiac 350 with cylinder heads
from the 400 HO engine. Tests of the prototype E/T against 383-powered
Road Runners proved that the budget GTO could outrun the Plymouths.
Most Expensive GTO
As strong as the 350 was, it wasn't a 400, and DeLorean was adamant
about GTO's being powered by 400-cubic-inch engines. He quickly
killed the 350 E/T project and requested a car that was up to
GTO standards. Ironically, the resulting car turned out to be
the most expensive GTO, not the least expensive. The Judge option
was available on hardtop and convertible bodies. There weren't
any GTO coupes. About the only E/T parts that remained were the
Rally II wheels without trim rings.
DeLorean is credited with naming The Judge. His inspiration was
the hit NBC-TV show "Laugh-In" which had a recurring
bit with the tag line "Here come de Judge, Here come de Judge."
In retrospect, it may seem odd to name a car after a bit on a
comedy show, but "Laugh-In" was very hip with a huge
audience of young viewers - the exact people DeLorean wanted to
reach. This was an era where car companies named models after
cartoon characters, came up with names like Boss, Eliminator,
Grabber, Rebel, Demon, and Swinger, and painted them outrageous
colors such as Panther Pink, Go Mango, Sublime, Banana Yellow,
and Plum Crazy. In that light, The Judge wasn't out of place.
The initial Judge color was eye-catchingly wild. Called Carousel
Red, it was actually more of an orange. The shade was exclusive
to the Judge for the GTO line, but the same color was available
on Camaros as Hugger Orange. About the first 2,000 Judges were
painted Carousel Red. After February, Judges could be ordered
in any GTO color, but approximately 80 percent of the cars were
Carousel Red. Besides the wild color, stripes, pop-art graphics,
and hood scoops, Judges came with a massive 60-inch-wide rear
spoiler or wing.
Judge Sales Success
Judge engine choices were limited to the standard Ram Air III
or the optional Ram Air IV. Four-speeds and the Turbo Hydra-matic
transmission were available. The Judge was most frequently ordered
in hardtop form although it could be had as a convertible. Despite
a late start, The Judge accounted for 6,833 sales out of the '69
GTO total of 72,287 cars. Judge convertibles are very rare since
only 108 were produced in 1969.
Crystal Turquoise Paint Code 55 with
Trim Code 257 Parchment interior
More Inches, More Torque
The Judge was designed to help boost 1969 GTO sales, and since
it proved so popular, it was continued in 1970. Sales figures
slid to 3,635 Judge hardtops and 162 convertibles. Total 1970
GTO sales of 40,149 units were down from '69. The '70 GTO was
mildly facelifted, and mechanically, they were as strong as
ever. The economy two-barrel 400 engine was dropped, but a 360-horsepower
455-cubic-inch with an amazing 500 lb-ft of torque was added.
Extra beefy 12-bolt rear ends were mandatory when the 455 was
ordered. The 455 wasn't offered on The Judge until late in the
model year so only 14 hardtops and three convertible Judges
were built with the 455.
1970 Pontiac GTO "The Humbler" below.
1970 Pontiac GTO "The Humbler".
The Pontiac ad for the 1970 GTO reads: (We take the fun of driving
seriously.) The Humbler
Starting now, a lot of pseudo performers will be wishing they
could slither off to a nice, quiet garage.
The 1970 Pontiac GTO’s in town. New, Down-right dazzling.
So we’ve thrown modesty to the wind and dubbed it “The
You’ll get the message when you hear the new low-restriction,
performance exhaust you can order. Kind of like a 30-inch woofer
having a field day with a grumbling bass sax.
Of course, those pipes can’t make with the vibrations
on their own. There’s got to be something more than a
windup putt-putt up front. Well, The Humbler’s standard
is a 400 cube V-8. But what if you order the new 455 V-8? Or
one of the Ram Air engines? (370 horses in the Ram Air IV.)
And what if you specify the Hurst-stirred 4-speed, instead of
the standard 3-speed?
OK, Everybody’s impressed, except a few die-hards. So
we’ll point out that those big, back, fiberglass belted
boots are not there to polish the pavement. When they get hold
of a hunk of road, they hold. And The Humbler’s got two
new stabilizer bars, front and rear, just to be sure they do.
Now about that nice, quiet garage. We couldn’t think of
a cozier place for a bunch of performancy upstarts to eat their
humble pie. And obviously, desert is served.
This is The Humbler.
Move over Mountain. This is the way it is going to
Another great Art Fitzpatrick rendering. Note the dual thin
stripe white wall tires)
Increased competition, insurance surcharges, and tougher emissions
standards hit the muscle car market hard in 1971. The GTO suffered
along with all the other muscle cars. Adding to the lackluster
sales was the corporate decision to drop compression ratios
so all GM engines would be compatible with the new low-lead
fuel. The standard GTO 400-cubic-inch V8 compression ratio was
dropped to 8.2:1 from 1970's 10.25:1 which itself was down from
10.75:1 in 1969.
The Last Judge
The Judge option barely made it into 1971. Production was halted
in January after 357 hardtops and 17 convertibles were built.
All '71 Judges were 455-powered and today they're some of the
rarest, most desirable GTO's as far as collectors are concerned.
1971 was also the last year for any GTO convertibles. Including
the 17 Judges, a mere 678 GTO convertibles were produced. Poor
sales in '71 have translated to high collector interest today.
The convertible shown below is documented as 1-of-43 built with
the 455 H.O. drivetrain.
October 2004 Muscle Car Enthusiast cover car: Glen
Duncan's 1971 455 GTO convertible
PPG paint code #2339 Quezal Gold
GTO on the cover of October 2004 MCE
Pontiac GTO Four Decades of Muscle
The Pontiac GTO Four Decades of Muscle Book by Steve Statham
displays the 1971 455 H.O. 4-speed GTO owned by Gulf Coast GTO
Vice President Glen Duncan on its cover. This PPG paint code
#2334 Tropical Lime GTO was also used
by Georgia Marketing & Promotions, Co. Inc. - GMP - to model
a fine detailed replica of this GTO in 1:18 scale. On the GMP
box bottom, GMP thanks Glen and Joan Duncan for their contributions
to this project, and Eric Stevens and the 1971 GTO Judge Convertible
Registry for the research assistance.
Model Image below right:)
(Image above left:)
Frank Johengen driving Glen Duncan's Green GOAT gets a holeshot
on the T/A . Glen's 1st time at the strip with the restored
1971 455 H.O. 4-spd T/A & 1971 455 H.O. 4-spd GTO at the
1998 Pontiac Southern Nationals. Needless to say: A great Pontiac
time was had by all!
Option Status Again
A new Le Mans/GTO body was supposed to have been ready for 1972,
but a strike put it back a year. So, the previous body was mildly
restyled and used again. Since the GTO had been relegated to
option status on the Le Mans, it was available as both a hardtop
and a two-door, pillared coupe. The GTO coupe production was
very limited accounting for only 134 cars out of the year's
5,807 total. The 455 HO engine was still available and ten coupes
received it. Five more coupes were fitted with the standard
455 V8. A Ram Air system was available with the 455 HO engine
which was rated at 300 net horsepower. Customers could still
get a Pontiac Big-Cubic-Inch Block, Ram Air, four-speed GTO.
Mr. Copley's 1972 455 H.O. GTO restored by Hot Rods
& Custom Stuff
HR&CS writes: "Born in October 1963 as a $295 option
package, the Pontiac GTO put a 389-cubic-inch V8 in a Pontiac
Tempest/LeMans body, and is considered to be the first factory-built
"Muscle Car." The GTO was produced from 1964 through
1974, when high insurance rates and emmisions regulations forced
the dropping of its legendary horsepower down to a meager 200
"John Z. DeLorean, then a Pontiac chief engineer, gave
the GTO its name by appropriating the Italian racing designation
Gran Turisimo Omologato, a name associated with Ferrari. Pontiac
expected to sell 5,000 1964 GTOs, but demand skyrocketed and
GM built 32,540. Sales reached a high of 96,946 GTOs in 1966.
"Starting in 1966 the GTO went from being a package option
to its own model and remained that way until 1971. In 1970 the
GTO underwent a major design change that stayed with until 1973
when the front end was changed due to government safety regs
concerning bumpers. In 1972, due to declining sales, the GTO
reverted back to being an option package on the LeMans and Lemans
Sport, costing just $353.88. The most noticable change was in
the engine power ratings, which dropped dramatically. This difference
reflected the industry switch from an engine's gross output
(power with no accessories) to its SAE Net output (power with
accessories attached). This was supposed to be more representative
of the actual power delivered to the wheels -- although that
didn't really ease the pain for performance seekers. The 400
V8 was now rated at 250 bhp (net) while the 455 was available
in either 250 or 300 bhp versions. The model shown here depicts
the later. In 72 this model's performance was rated @ 1/4 mile
in 14.6 seconds @ 95.2 mph." (source: www.hotrodscustomstuff.com)