. The Judge was a
gimmick-ridden GTO with a wing on the back and bright orange paint and
stripes. This was at the height of popularity of Rowan and Martin's
"Laugh In" TV show. Probably at the time, the name sounded good. But
through the miracle of hindsight, we all know that the name and the car were
both lead balloons.
In the performance department,
the '68-1/2 Ram Air package was updated slightly and called the Ram Air IV
engine for '69. New heads gave better breathing and 1.65:1 rocker arms
replaced the 1.50s, to give a full .520-in. lift to the valves. Horsepower
and torque ratings were unchanged, however.
In all, 72,287 GTOs were sold.
And while the Ram Air IV engine package made the '69 GTO among the hottest
Detroit street machines, it frankly lacked the brute performance capabilities
of such competition as the Mopar 426 Street Hemi, the 427 and 428 Fords, and
all kinds of other street beasts which, by now, were as common as rubber
shorts in a gay bar.
In response to the success
of the Road Runner and other low cost alternatives to Pontiac's original
musclecar the GTO, the division started work on an alternative low dollar
performance car. By the time everyone had their say, the ET (for elapsed
time, not extra-terrestrial) had become an option on top of the cost
of a GTO. According to legend John Delorean was impressed with the car when
he saw it but thought the name ET wasn't catchy enough. Remembering the
popularity of the Laugh-In show he suggested The Judge.
The prototype was painted Carousel Red, a standard Firebird color. Sharp eyed
Chevrolet fans will recognize it as Hugger Orange. It included a stripe based
on those that Pontiac performance dealer Royal Bobcat had been putting on
their modified cars. The L74 Ram Air motor, Hurst T-handle shifter, blackwall
G70 x 14 tires, "dechromed" (no trim ring) Rally II wheels, blacked
out grill, and decals with The Judge and a gavel completed the conversion.
By the time the first 2,000 planned Judges hit the showrooms in 1969 the
stripe was modified to a three color slash that continued back to a point
under the quarter glass. In addition the decal was changed to a pop art three
color The Judge without a gavel, and the spoiler was modified slightly. A The
Judge emblem on the glovebox door was supposed to be included, but supply
problems prevented the first cars from receiving them.
Sometime after the initial run was manufactured Pontiac began offering The
Judge in any GTO exterior color, although at least half of the almost 7,000
cars were the trademark Carousel Red. Although some contemporary journalists
described The Judge as a failure almost 10% of GTOs made that year were
ordered with the package. At under $400 it was a relative bargain considering
the cost of ordering the Ram Air motor and Rally II wheels by themselves. It
certainly attracted attention for the showroom - who knows how many other
Pontiacs were sold to people dropping in to take a look at Pontiac's
Although The Judge was originally intended as a one year promotion its sales
kept it alive for the next two seasons. The 1970 version was basically the
same with the exception of a change to two "eyebrow" stripes per
side to accent the new body lines and a spoiler that no longer curved to meet
the quarter panels. Orbit Orange (a yellow - go figure) was the signature
color for the car. 1971 was the last year for The Judge, the last year for
the GTO convertible, and the first year for low compression.