Blogs at Amazon

« Nissan Cube | Main | Infiniti G35 Coupe »

Pontiac GTO Judge

Gtojudge1 Has there ever been a badder, more intimidating, more colorful name for a car than "Judge?" With apologies to Boss Mustangs and Plymouth Road Runners, I think "GTO Judge" is the unquestioned champion in this category.

Pontiac's dead-serious GTO had kick-started the muscle car revolution in 1964. Big, fast cars were around before the GTO--the Chrysler 300 letter-series cars were among the most famous--but the combination of the 389-cubic-inch Pontiac V-8 with the attractive intermediate-size Tempest body proved irresistible. The Ford Mustang sparked the pony car class later that year, and suddenly performance cars were hot. Nearly every carmaker had a muscle car in its lineup--even AMC got into the game with the S/CRambler--but in a sea of Cyclones, Chevelles, and Chargers, the GTO stood out as the first, the most famous, and one of the best-selling.

Gtojudge3 When Pontiac revamped the Tempest and Le Mans intermediates for 1968, the GTO received the new body--and it was a knockout. The original GTO was perhaps a bit more distinctive, with its knife-edged creases and vertically stacked headlights, but the 1968 GTO grew some overtly muscular curves, an Endura body-color bumper, and natty hidden headlights. Improvements came under the hood, as well, in the form of 350 horsepower from the stock 400-cubic-inch engine and a freer-flowing Ram Air II package.

The Judge arrived in 1969, with the express intent to make clear which muscle car was presiding over the law of the streets. Armed with a flinty gaze, a high-horsepower gavel, and a hair-trigger temper throttle, the Judge brought both the hardware and the wacky humor that made late-1960s muscle cars so compelling. The name led to some clever advertising lines, there were over-the-top graphics, and of course the wacky hood-mounted tachometer. After all, you'd hate to have the tachometer actually in the car with you. The hardware, though, was dead serious. Well, the Judge came standard with the Ram Air III 400-cubic-inch engine and had the Ram Air IV optional--both were conservatively rated, at 366 and 376 horsepower, respectively. That power was matched to a special Hurst shifter and funneled through a heavy-duty suspension and wider tires. With 0-60 times in the 5-second range, this Judge was one to fear.

Gtojudge2 Pontiac eliminated the hidden headlights and refined the suspension in 1970, but the biggest change was the addition of the 455-cubic-inch engine. The 455 didn't actually generate more peak power than the Ram Air 400s, but it was a torquier, smoother engine. From here, however, it was downhill--the GTO was not immune to the same market forces that killed off its muscle car siblings. Sprialing insurance costs, pollution regulation, unleaded gas, and fuel shortages forced the Judge to leave office and reduced the GTO to shell of its glorious past.

The GTO lives on, of course--both as a recently produced performance car, and as the legend that kicked off a golden era in American performance cars. The Judge can't claim the innovation of the original GTO, but it is a definitive example of the power and irreverence that defined the top American muscle cars of the late 1960s.

As for the commercial below--well, that irreverence is on full display. Paul Revere and the Raiders dressed in judges' wigs? Fantastic.

The top image is courtesy of damax.com; the second and third images are courtesy of Flickr users Mike Mertz and Snow Cruiser.

--Chris H.

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00e54ed05fc288330105357d95d1970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Pontiac GTO Judge:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

In my opinion, the GTO was the best and classiest of the muscle cars of that era. I never had the good fortune to own one, but my brother had a '66 convertible with 3 deuces,four speed, Positraction and 4.11 rear end. I kept it for him for about 4 months, and whilst he was banging through rice paddies in Viet Nam I was banging through the gears in my home town. Crap! I'm gettin' a rush just thinking of that time. Wow!
Oh, great post, by the way.

I was in high school when this great looking car came out. I remember well, the "Here cumz de Judge" line from Sammy Davis Jr on Laugh In. I always wondered if he got paid for that rip? This has the same graphis and cartoonishness we got back then like "Bees" and "Road Runners". And let's not forget the little Gremlin guy on some of those little beasties. Were times simpler then or just us?

A guy down the street from my parents has one of these, and he would take it out from time to time on weekends. In the bright orange, it was impossible to miss. his is the 1970 455 IIRC. Impressive car, great low rumble as it idles by through the neighborhood.

--Big Chris

yea i had a chance to roll in this sweet ride a few times. one time inna 4th of july parade. [edited]

The GTO Judge is one of those cars that I respect, even though I'm not particularly excited by it - it's a little big for my tastes, and I just can't get over that rear end. That said, it did what it did exceptionally well, and it did it quite unapologetically. There was definitely no "appease the masses" V-6 available for that thing.

The commercial... Gross Gott, that was terrifically terrible. Nowadays, not only are most of the cars pretty ordinary and competent, even the commercials are professional and devoid of soul. I mean, the last car commercial I remember is this annoying one for the RAV4 where there's some yuppie Starbucks background musak band singing "First there was a mountain, then there was no mountain," over and over and over again. I only remember it because, even as far as car jingles go, it reaches a new apex of inanity.

At the time this commercial ran, my father had just been elected judge. Between "The Judge will RULE!" and "Here come de Judge!" we had a lot of fun with it.

"Here come da Judge" was from a Pigmeat Markham routine.
It predates Pontiac's use of the mark.

Surprised you didn't mention the Rowan & Martin's Laugh In tie-in with the name. Glad at least a commenter got it. I'm old enough to have had both a, "Here Comes da Judge" t-shirt and a "Sock it to Me, Sock it to Me" t-shirt. Unfortunately, I was in grade school, so I'm not old enough to have owned a Judge.

A friend told me the The Judge moniker came from the 3-speed transmission. The speeds were Fast, Faster and Good Morning Judge.

I have had numerous GTO's of all years and now have a real 69 GTO Judge in Carousel Red.. I can attest that they definately do not get missed when they are out on the town. I get far more thumbs up gestures than I ever did in any other muscle car I've ever had. (Including a blown 69 Camaro Convertible) Many people have fond memories of them being fast and wild back in the day, and kids think it is the General Lee.

My apologies if this is too off-topic, or if you've covered it lately; I myself am a Charger/Super-Bee fan, but acknowledge the artistry of the Olds 422.

My question is this: how would you say the 442 stacks up to the GTO, especially considering that at least some sources say the Olds was a reaction to their brother Pontiac offering?

A friend-from-high-school's father (long time ago) had a 442; white with blue stripes. Magnificent.

This car was a sensation when it was released. "Here Comes the Judge!

Oh Yes mama!
I love that car!

One of my favorite car. I love muscle cars.

HI I HAD THE LUCK TO OWN TWO 1969 GTO JUDGES. BOTH HAD RAMAIR III
ENGINES AND A 4 SPEED, BLACK INTERIOR AND ONE WITH BUCKETS THE OTHER WITH A BENCH. THE ONE WITH THE BENCH I WRECKED( HIT A BRIDGE
AFTER I FELL ASLEEP) THAT ONE ONLY HAS A FEW PARTS LEFT.
THE OTHER ONE I STILL HAVE AND ARE IN THE PROCESS OF RESTOREING.
BOTH CARS ARE ORANGE. I GUESS I NEVER GOT RID OF THE GTO JUDGE
SICKNESS. I HAVE BLOWN THE JUDGE ENGINE SEVERAL TIMES BUT ALWAYS
KEPT THE ORINGNAL TO REBUILD. PUT PROBABLY 4 OR 5 DIFFERENT ENGINES
IN THIS CAR SO I COULD KEEP DRIVING IT. I ALSO HAVE 3 OTHER GTO TWO 69 S AND A 70. 68 LEMANS HT WITH A 69 DASH IN IT. BEFORE YOU SAY THEY DIDNT DO THAT! WELL THEY DIDNT I DID DONT ASK MY WHY, FIT PRETTY GOOD. I AM ALWAYS GOING TO BE A GTO NUT EVEN AS A AM GETING CLOSE TO THE 60 MARK. MAYBE SOMEDAY A FEW THINGS WILL BE FOR SALE BUT NOT NOW, HOPING TO RESORE MOST OF MY CARS. ANYWAY THOUGHT YOU WOULD LIKE TO KNOW A LITTLE ABOUT AN OLD TRUE GTO NUT. THANKS
MARV

My life will not be complete until the day I get my judge.
Bright orange oh yeah !

This my favourite look for the Pontiac GTO. I've always hated the vertically placed headlights. By the latter years of the 1960s and early 70s, they changed the look for Pontiac, and I'm glad.

So, does anyone have info on the 1969 Carousel Red Gto that WAS NOT a judge? They did make them, and I was wondering how many of them were left around...I have talked to a few people and heard they didnt make very many of them and that the ones left are worth some money. Interesting..

I am fortunate enough to own several Judges. The one Judge that is my driver happens to be the holy grail, a Carosuel Red 1969 RAIV Judge with 4spd and 4.33 rear axle. The other Judges I own are all projects which hopefully will get restored someday.

They did make some regular GTOs with special order paint Carousel Red. I know about several of these cars but the exact production number is unknown.

I just love these cars. I wish I knew where I could get one myself!

I bought a Muncie 4-spd transimission from a friend who said that it came from a 1969 GTO Judge, does any one know anything about this trans the case # is 3925660 the side cover is 3950306 and the tail housing is 3846429 the shifter has thew reverse lock out bar. thanks

"Here comes The Judge, here comes The Judge, order in the courtroom, here comes The Judge!"

Interestinly enough, the top photo is actually a '68 Goat with a Judge appearance package. Or a '69 with a '68 front fascia...

My dad bought a black on red '68 when I was a kid; 4-speed 400. Magnificent. I worshipped that car - it turned heads everywhere we went. He sold it the year before I got my driver's license.

B3NN3TT, that car looks like a '69, since there aren't any vent windows. The body seems more rounded, too. It could have been a more plain GTO made to look like a Judge. It's a "FrankenJudge" LOL!

I don't know how bad the GTO could be, my 5'1" mother drove (owned) one. It had 3 duces, Hurst shifter, and a competition clutch. It could go, but didn't stop for beans. It was a fun car.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In.

Pictured above: This is a forlorn Chevy Vega photographed by reader Gary Sinar. (Share yours)

Powered by Rollyo

Car Lust™ Contributors

November 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
            1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30