Being first is relatively easy; staying first isn't. Nobody in '60s Detroit knew that better than Pontiac, especially when it came to muscle cars. After all, Pontiac had created the breed in 1964 with its GTO, which within four short years faced a slew of competitors, all ready to unseat it as king of Muscle Mountain. Pontiac struck back with the fully redesigned 1968-1969 Pontiac GTO & Judge.
In many ways, it was the best yet. The pillared coupe body style was gone, but convertibles and hardtop coupes returned with clean, muscular new styling dominated by bulged bodysides, fast-sloping hardtop roofline, and a big bumper/grille with newly hidden headlamps. The nose was sheathed in body-colored Endura plastic, a material Pontiac had been playing with since 1964, able to ward off low-speed impacts without chipped paint or dented metal. Pontiac demonstrated its value with a TV commercial showing white-coated "testers" gleefully hammering a GTO's nose to no ill effect.
Enhancing this new appearance was the three-inch-shorter, 112-inch wheelbase applied to all '68 GM intermediate two-doors (four-doors spanned 116 inches). A strong new full-perimeter frame enhanced rigidity and even handling, though it contributed to curb weights some 75 pounds higher than '67. Engines were evolved from the previous roster of 400-cid V-8s. First came a 350-bhp base unit, followed by a 360-bhp H.O. option. To the latter could be added new Ram Air II induction, basically the previous Ram Air I setup with two functional hood air intakes, as on the '64 GTO, instead of one.
Later that year, a special tunnel-port engine with revised intake manifold became available, rated at 366 bhp. Last-and least -- was a two-barrel "economy" V-8, continued from '67, making 265 bhp on regular gas. Fewer than 3,300 of the nearly 88,000 GTOs built for '68 were so equipped. That grand total was 10 percent better than GTO's 1967 volume, and the new styling was surely a factor.
Pontiac created a strong performance vehicle in the 1968-1969 Pontiac GTO and Judge. Read more about the car's powerful performance features on the next page.
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