Pontiac GTO Judge – 1969

When John DeLorean, Pontiac’s chief engineer in the 1960s, named the first Pontiac GTO after the Ferrari 250 GTO, it was considered almost sacrilegious. The letters stand for Gran Turismo Omologato, that is, homologated (accredited) for GT racing. General Motors had banned advertising that associated their marques with racing, a keystone of Pontiac’s strategy.

DeLorean sidestepped the ban by creating the GTO as a performance ‘option’ of Pontiac’s LeMans and Tempest models, a wily subterfuge senior management could collude with. By 1969, the GTO was still competitive, but Pontiac wanted a low-cost version, stripped of its accretion of luxury and ‘performance enhancement’ gimmickry. The Judge was born.

Almost immediately, economy was forgotten. Pontiac’s raging desire to create the ultimate in street performance and muscular image made the GTO Judge more expensive than any other version. For the money you got a true muscle car, which reached its apotheosis at the end of 1970 when the long-stroke 455 engine became an option. Its top speed wasn’t as high as other GTO Judge versions, but it wasn’t particularly temperamental at low speed either.

The Ram Air hood scoop was more style statement than functionally useful, like the rear spoiler, and for a short time it even had VOE (Vacuum Operated Exhaust) — in case people hadn’t noticed the car when you pulled up, the VOE knob trebled the exhaust volume. Self-advertisement wasn’t an issue. With its wide wheels, beefy front end and speed-whipped lines, the Judge was power incarnate in its day — and (though you could choose any colour) the Judge-exclusive, standard factory Orbit-Orange with blue/pink stripes made sure everyone saw it and knew it. As Road Test magazine noted, it was tot for people who are shy about being looked at’. The Judge was a young man’s dream.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

USA

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1969 (until 1971)

ENGINE:

6.6 I (400 cid) or 7.5 I (455 cid) 01-IV V8

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed around 130 mph (209 km/h) according to engine tuning; 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.1 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW:

The Pontiac GTO series was produced from 1964 to 1974 by which time emissions requirements had sent performance and hence sales into decline. To the surprise of GTO fans (or ‘Goats’ as they call themselves) the name was reintroduced in 2004. The GTO Judge was named in honour of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In TV show catch-phrase ‘Here comes the Judge’. Seventeen convertible Judges were made which are the rarest of all the GMs.

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