Bold School: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
Question: how much alike are a car and a judge? Answer: not much at all, unless the vehicle in question is the 1969 Pontiac GTO. In either case, when one comes around you rise to your feet, out of pure respect for who’s presence you are in.
One of the most popular TV programs in 1969 was Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, a prime example of the classic variety show. A recurring skit featured a character known as the Judge, who was announced by the cry “here come da judge!” For reasons unknown, the marketing execs at Pontiac decided it was a fit name for a new version of the already legendary GTO.
The Judge was at first intended to be a stripped-down vehicle that could compete, price-wise, with the Plymouth Road Runner. At some point during the production process that changed, and instead of being a watered down auto, it became something else entirely: a demon on wheels that was powerful, fast as hell, and not to be trifled with.
Its base engine was the 400 cu in Ram Air III that turned out 360 hp at 5100 RPM, thanks to its 301/313 camshaft. The cam made the Judge somewhat temperamental at legal speeds but practically unbeatable on the strip. But for ultimate performance, and additional $300 could buy an upgrade to the Ram Air IV, which remains to this day one of the baddest engines ever to come out of Detroit. With its rounded port cylinder heads, high-flow exhaust manifolds, and indestructible internal components, it could generate over 370 hp. The magazine Muscle Car Review took one out for a spin and clocked it going from 0 to 60 in 5.7 seconds, with a quarter mile speed of 104 MPH. Einstein said that nothing can go faster than a ray of light. The Judge came close to proving him wrong.
In 1969, paying off a Judge would set you back $3161 for the base model. A convertible top brought the total to $4,212. If you have one of the five still known to exist, you need not worry about your retirement or your kid’s college tuition. That’s assuming you consider those things to be more important than owning an irreplaceable symbol of everything a muscle car should be. It’s your call.