In 1969 Pontiac introduced "The Judge" as an answer to Plymouth's budget muscle car initiative.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd.

As might be expected, the 1968-1969 Pontiac GTO and Judge was still a fierce performer: Motor Trend's Ram Air II example clocked 6.5 seconds 0-60 and blasted through the standing quarter-mile in 14.45 seconds at 98.2 mph. But that was little better than what the '64 had managed, mainly because the GTO had gained some 500 pounds in the interim. Worse, a MoPar Hemi or 427 Ford Torino could show "The Great One" a clean pair of heels, all else being equal -- which, admittedly, it seldom was.

Plymouth started a new game in '68, the "budget muscle car," and the surprisingly high sales of its whimsical Road Runner prompted rush replies from rivals for 1969. Pontiac went its own way with "The Judge," a $354 option package for that year's mildly facelifted GTO. The name echoed a bit on the popular "Laugh-In" TV show in which a judicially robed Sammy Davis, Jr., intoned "Here come da judge." It also dovetailed with Pontiac ads portraying GTO as the final arbiter of street performance.

Performance The Judge definitely had, as the package included a new 366-bhp Ram Air III engine. Optional was an equally new 370-bhp Ram Air IV, also available on other GTOs, that used a cold-air box around the carburetors, fed by twin flexible tubes leading from openings in the grille. A late-season (and rarely installed) Ram Air V option reverted to hood intakes, but with driver-controlled flaps. As usual, three-speed manual with Hurst T-handle floorshift was standard, but connected to a 3.55:1 axle; four-speed and Turbo Hydra-Matic were optional, as were 3.90 and 4.33 axle ratios. With just 10.1 lbs/horsepower, The Judge delivered -- 0-60 in just over six seconds, standing quarter-miles of 14-14.5 seconds at 98-105+ mph.

The exterior was just as cop-baiting: psychedelic orange paint, black grille, tri-color bodyside striping, spoked "Rally" wheels, "flower power" name decals, and a five-foot-wide decklid spoiler on three short struts. As on standard GTOs, options included power brakes with front discs, hood-mounted tachometer, and comprehensive Rally instrumentation.

Despite its playful persona and higher standard power, The Judge found few takers. Worse, total GTO sales skidded by over 15,000 for '69. Like every muscle machine, Pontiac's was being slapped with burdensome insurance premiums, plus more federal safety and emissions rules that threatened to quench its fire -- which they ultimately did. Thus would The Judge depart after 1971, followed by the basic '68 GTO design after '72, and (belatedly) the GTO nameplate itself after '74.

Pontiac has yet to revive either Judge or GTO, and we ought to be grateful for that. Great memories should not be diluted by pale latterday namesakes.

Go to the next page for 1968-1969 Pontiac GTO and Judge engine and production specifications.

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