Here Comes The Judge

The Pontiac GTO Judge —
one of the most iconic
muscle cars of the late
1960’s; offered in both
Hard-top and Convertible.

It was intended
to be an inexpensive,
stripped down GTO
model but with a bit
more gitty-up……

.. it came with a spoiler,
a 366 horsepower Ram
Air III engine, rally wheels,
wide tires, and a Hurst
shifter, and of course,
the Judge decal package.

Pontiac wanted to offer
the package to go up
against the Plymouth
Road Runner, and it was
originally only available
in Carousel Red
(a sorta orange color).

Yet, against all expectations,
the GTO Judge somehow
captured the buying public’s
imagination and sales soared.

More than 6,800 were
sold the first year, and
Pontiac relented mid-year
in offering the Judge in
all the GTO colors.

In 1970, an additional engine
option was added in the 370
HP RAM IV engine, and some
additional colors; about 3800
were produced.

Unfortunately, pressure on
the muscle car market in
general was being brought
by a combination of high
insurance company rates,
rising gas prices, and
increasing production
costs — and a decline in
demand for and the
manufacture of large
horsepower cars like
the GTO Judge resulted.

1971 was the GTO
Judge’s final year….
and only 357 were
produced before it was discontinued in February of that year.

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!! HOY !!!

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Pontiac’s Prototypes

1977 Pontiac Phantom

“Driving
Excitement ?

Sure……

I’ve always
had a
soft spot
in my
driving heart
(head)
for
Pontiacs..

1988 Pontiac Pursuit

… to me,
as a kid
growing up
in the 1960’s,
the “Wide
Track Sporty Pontiac”
was the image
of what an automobile
should be and would
represent in the future.

Fun, style, handling,
and power.

1963 Pontiac Scorpion XP-758

No matter how
hard GM seemed
to try to wash
out the
distinctive
qualities of
the brand
over the years,
Pontiacs always
looked pretty
much LIKE a
Pontiac.

1959 Pontiac El-Tigre XP-92

The marque
was started
in 1926 as a
General Motors
stable mate to
a car make
called the
“Oakland”
(discontinued
in 1931) and was
outselling it within
months of it’s
introduction.

1959 El Catalina

Until the
mid-1950’s,
Pontiac wasn’t
really known
for it’s good
looks or it’s
performance,
necessarily…

1970’s Pontiac Banshee XP-833

It was simply
known
as a rugged,
dependable
and relatively
inexpensive car.

1956 changed
all of that-
along with
marketing
strategies,
lead engineers,
and even
a new general manager.

1956 Firebird II

Soon, a new 1957
Bonneville was selling
for more than a Cadillac –

– and their old fashioned
stodgy image was changed
almost overnight into
” America’s Number
One Road Car “.

And Pontiac designers
continued to set this
tone, well into
the early 1970’s.

1990 Pontiac Sunfire

That new emphasis
on style and engineering
meant the development
of several prototypes
to keep ahead
of coming trends —

— so, today’s post
includes several of
Pontiac’s most cutting
edge designs from that
prolific period .

!!! HOY !!!

1956 Pontiac Club De Mer

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1956 Pontiac Club de Mer

Folks not of my generation
might just think of “Pontiac”
as a defunct line of cars
that were not unlike the
rest of the General Motors
stable of automobiles in
the 1980’s and later.

And for the most part,
except for several
exceptional stand-outs
that we will eventually
get around to talking
about here on the
Muscleheaded Blog,
it was true for that
time period.

But, at one time, especially
during the 1950’s and 1960’s,
Pontiac blazed a lot of it’s
own trail as far as styling
and performance were
concerned.

Obviously, General Motors’
influence/ownership still
meant the use of a lot
of cross-platform molds,
dies, parts, etc.

In the late 1950’s,
designers and Division executives
had determined to come up with
a sportier image for Pontiac –
and the cross platform issues
would be addressed using cutting
edge technology and futuristic
concepts.

In the past, Pontiac always had
certain special features that
made them stand out from
the crowd-

– take the “Silver Streak” found
on Pontiacs from 1935 to 1956 –

– five-banded, chromed
metallic trim pieces that ran
down the hood and trunk of
it’s various models.

On our featured car today,
you can see a different version
of this feature – running in
double bands down the front
of the hood, representing a
new era for Pontiac.

This is the XP-200-
or as it was known to
car enthusiasts,
the 1956 Pontiac Club de Mar .

It was a ‘one-of’, purpose-built
experimental 2 door roadster
designed by Harley Earl and
built for the 1956 Motorama,
with a stainless steel unibody,
a rear mounted transaxle
and a brand-new engine – the
soon to be legendary overhead
valved V-8 “Strato-Streak”
( 287 c.i. ) making about 300
horsepower with twin 4 bbl carbs.

A lot of this set-up went into
future Pontiac models,
like DeLorean’s 1961 Tempest .

(whose body wasn’t stainless
steel, but was a monocoque
like the XP-200, and it had the
same 4 wheel independent
suspension system and transaxle.)

The car was beautiful, powerful,
and expensive to build –
and the corporate suits at GM
saw in the XP-200 too much
competition for the Corvette –
so, the Club De Mar was
relegated to the world of
retro-futuristic project cars
never to see mass production.

However, several attempts at
recreating cars from the
original design have been
made over the years, so don’t
be totally shocked if you see
one at a car show or such.

Just remember – the original
was a victim of GM’s infamous
‘kill order’ – in which cars like
these were crushed after their
useful show life was over.

!! HOY !!

The Pontiac Star Chief Custom Safari

Every one who grew up
in the United States has
some kind of happy
memory when it comes
to automobiles.

I have lots of them,
which is one reason
I love cars so much,
I guess.

It might also explain
why I’ve owned so many
of them over the years.

The 1955 Pontiac Star
Chief Custom Safari brings
back images of a dear Aunt,
who owned the car until she
died in the 1970’s.

I remember she’d come
to visit, and I’d climb right
into the front seat of that car,
and admire the absolutely
beautiful control panel —
otherwise known as a
dashboard.

Hell, what did I know –
– I wanted to be a spaceman –

– and this thing was
retro-futuristic in the
coolest sorta way.

I’d make believe I was gonna
drive/fly the thing —

Houston, we are
go for launch.

Sure, I know the formula—
Pontiac = Cool.
Star Chief = Cool.
Station Wagon = Not So Cool.

But you know,
despite the math….

I’m still pretty damn
sure it was the
grooviest looking
grocery carrier
that was ever conceived
by Detroit.

Keep your Chevy Nomads –

-the Pontiac had touches that
totally outclassed it’s kissing
G.M. cousin.

In 1955, Pontiac unveiled it’s
new 180 horsepower O.H.V
287 cubic inch V-8 —
as well as a new body and
interior for the Star Chief,
including that ultra cool control
panel we talked about earlier,
which was featured in the 1955,
1956, and 1957 models.

The ride was
soft and quiet.

The interior was
plush and luxurious.

It’s exterior lines
screamed Pontiac.

And the fact that not
even 9100 of these
were even sold during
the car’s three year run
makes me wonder what
the hell what was up
with car buyers
at the time-

— but my Aunt always
did have her own
sense of style, and
wonderful taste.

!!! HOY !!!

The 1954 Pontiac Special

poGreat vintage cars
is one of those subjects
that I always wanted to include in a semi-regularly scheduled blog feature,
but I never really got around to doing it….

Sorta like a cool car of the week kinda thing.

Probably still not gonna be a regular feature, but —

My friends….
here’s our Car of the Week.

The 1954 Pontiac Bonneville Special.

a2This was Pontiac’s first attempt at a two seater—
a purpose built concept car,
designed by Harley Earl,
and hand built out of fiberglass,
with a plexi-glass roof, and ‘gull-wing’ panels.

There were some design elements
that the Bonneville Special
had in common with the 1953 Chevrolet Corvette
released the previous year,
like the recessed headlights molded into the body–

… but the rear of the car,
especially the faux jet-engine spare wheel cover,
looked like nothing that had come before.54bon

This was the “jet-age”,
and Earl used every trick in the book
to get a sleek, aerodynamic look into the cars design.

Powered by a high output in-line 8 cylinder 268 c.i. engine,
( Earl wanted to use Pontiac’s brand new more powerful V-8,
but GM exec’s wanted to keep it a secret until the 1955 model year ),
the car made about 23o horsepower,
and had a top speed of around 110 mph.a1

There were two built,
one in emerald green,
and one in metallic bronze —
— both of which are still extant.

The bronze Special is still in the hands of the original owners.

The emerald green Special sold at auction
for nearly 3 million dollars in 2006.

54-bonnevillespecial