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1970 Pontiac GTO Judge - Rare Find

HOT ROD logo HOT ROD 2015-04-01 Jerry Heasley

1970 pontiac gto judge © Provided by Hotrod 1970 pontiac gto judge

"As soon as I pulled in the driveway, my brother-in-law asked me, 'Where's your trailer?' I said, 'For what?' And he said, 'Well, for the GTO.'"

Brad Shaffer had wanted this car since before he had a driver's license. He's 58 now. His enthusiasm for muscle cars goes back to this 1970 Pontiac GTO Judge.

"I've always been in love with that damn GTO."

The engine is the matching-numbers Ram Air III 400. Mice ate up the foam around the carburetor. © Provided by Hotrod The engine is the matching-numbers Ram Air III 400. Mice ate up the foam around the carburetor.

Brad lived in Albuquerque. His older sister, Diana, married Russ Twedt. Russ and Diana lived outside the little town of Rudyard, Montana, on a wheat farm.

Russ bought the GTO, a Judge with a RA-III 400 and a four-speed transmission, brand new and "drove the heck out of it."

Russ blew the clutch in the 72,000-mile GTO and shoved the car in the barn

Russ dated Brad's sister when they were going to Montana State University. They got married and continued to drive the Judge. Then, 22 years ago, Russ blew the clutch in the 72,000-mile GTO and "shoved the car in the barn," says Brad.

"I'd usually go up there on summers and help with the wheat harvest," he remembers. "And every time I'd go up to the farm I'd pull the tarp off that thing and stare at it and just wanted it to live again. I'm a die-hard Ford guy by trade, but I always had a soft spot for that GTO to be sure."

Brad managed to take one photo of the GTO Judge, covered with dust, in the barn where it resided for 22 years. © Provided by Hotrod Brad managed to take one photo of the GTO Judge, covered with dust, in the barn where it resided for 22 years.

As much as Russ loved his old GTO, he did not have the time or expertise to restore the car. As the years passed, the GTO filled with mice. Brad says, "My brother-in-law thought it would be a good idea to open the windows so the barnyard cats could get in there and kill the mice. Well, guess what? They got in there all right. They killed the mice, but they had litters of kittens and they used it for a gigantic cat box. So the smell was really bad."

When every effort failed to buy the Judge, Brad finally offered to restore the vintage Pontiac just to save it and give it back to Russ and his sister. Nothing worked. The answer was still no, the car was not for sale.

"Unfortunately, it was my sister's passing away this summer that did it. She was an artist by trade, and she always felt like the restoration work I do with cars was my form of artwork, which I appreciated."

Brad said it "just sort of blew me away" when Russ told him one of the last things Diana said was she wanted her brother to have the GTO. Choked up, Brad told Russ, "Listen, that GTO is your car. It's your baby. You keep it. I appreciate what my sister said, but you keep that car."

Russ realized he would never get around to restoring the GTO. He also believed what his wife said, that her brother really loved that old GTO. The two made a deal. Brad did not want Russ to give him the car. Instead, Brad paid a "fair price" for the old car. Then, he would restore and return the GTO to Montana for Russ to drive for the summer.

Inside, cats eliminated the mice, but then turned the interior into a litter box. © Provided by Hotrod Inside, cats eliminated the mice, but then turned the interior into a litter box.

"He can do all the car shows that he always wanted to do, but never did," says Brad. "And then I'm going to take it home, and he's welcome to drive it anytime he's in town."

Finally, the last part of this deal is Brad will pass on the car to his son, who is already a car enthusiast like his dad. His son will hand the car down to his son, who, Brad laughs, "doesn't know it but will also be a car guy."

Luckily, rust is minimal, in large part thanks to the dry climate in Montana. The car was stored on a dirt floor.

"There is a little rust in the cowl, and that's about it. The undercarriage is cherry."

Already, he says, some "GTO expert came in the shop raving about the weird color" of Palisade Green. Brad sent the car to Luce Customs in Albuquerque to begin a frame-off restoration.

Brad Shaffer’s GTO is a keeper for life and two more generations. © Provided by Hotrod Brad Shaffer’s GTO is a keeper for life and two more generations.

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