Barn Find Judge: 1969 Pontiac GTO

If you’re a product of the 1950s/60s, you likely remember Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and the Sammy Davis, Jr. bit, “Here Comes the Judge!” Pontiac’s marketing people were so smitten with it and the authoritarian message it conveyed that they named a super-performance version of the GTO out of it. The GTO Judge was a three-year model from 1969-71 and was usually recognizable by its bright Carousel Red (aka orange) paint and Judge graphics all over it (although other colors would follow). This ’69 edition is a barn find and looks to have been living there for years after an apparent front-end altercation. It’s a project for someone with a lot of vision and can be found in Hartford, Alabama. The bidding here on eBay has reached $4,400 but the seller has set a reserve that’s yet to have been met.

Though initially conceived as a budget competitor to Plymouth’s popular Road Runner, the brass at Pontiac decided to go for an ultimate street performance and image car instead. Ad campaigns used slogans like “All Rise for The Judge” and “The Judge Can Be Bought.” For $337 over the regular GTO price tag, The Judge option got youthful buyers the Ram Air III 400 cubic inch-366 hp V8, styled wheels, a Hurst shifter with a unique T-shaped handle (on the 4-speed), wider tires, a rear spoiler, and all sorts of decals.

If all that wasn’t enough, another $390 got you Ram Air IV with its radical new cam and a conservative horsepower rating of 370. You may recall that GM’s intermediates were limited to a displacement of 400 cubes at the time – that is until the brass relented and permitted the new 455 to go into GTOs in 1970. For its first outing, The Judge had a production of 6,833 cars (all but 108 were convertibles). The numbers dropped to 3,959 the next year, and to 374 in 1971 before being discontinued (insurance companies had put the squeeze on performance cars by then).

This ’69 Judge is probably no worse now than it was when the seller bought it in 2008. He pulled it out of a junkyard, brought it home, parked it under a lean-to, and there it’s apparently sat all these years. Because it was likely in an accident, the front clip is gone and only a salvage title is available. The trunk lid has also disappeared and a replacement door has been installed on the passenger’s side of the coupe. The engine is not original to the car and the seller doesn’t indicate if it’s correct to the model or even production year. Equipped with an automatic transmission, he can provide no information about its condition or that of the rear end.

As you can see, what isn’t bent is rusty and the interior is in bad shape, too. It looks to have been picked of things like door panels. We’re told this is likely an early production Judge because it doesn’t have the customary Judge emblem on the glove box that came later in the ’69 production run. While what’s left of the car is rough, the seller says it rolls freely and could be manhandled onto a trailer. These can be very valuable automobiles in prime condition, but the cost of restoring this one may not be practical nor may there be much to gain in the parts category besides the VIN.

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Comments

  1. Steve Bush Member

    Certainly not the worst barn find and might not be totally gone but the seller should consider himself lucky if he gets much more than the current bid for it. After all, he almost certainly paid less than $500 for it and did nothing with it for 13 years. Hopefully he had some common sense and set the reserve at perhaps $5k and not something crazy.

    Like 8
  2. George mattar

    Steve Bush. I agree with you, but 69 Judges worse than this bring more than $10,000. I have owned two GTOs, a 69 and a 70. Bought them well before the vultures, better known as flippers got their hands on them. This pile is not all that valuable as it cannot be a RAIV due to air conditioning and it’s automatic. It has a salvage title and likely a bent frame. But believe someone will buy this and sink 50 to 70 large into it. Then have something worth maybe 60K on its very best day.

    Like 6
  3. Larry D

    Hmmmmm, I wonder who submitted this Judge to BF. Yes, I wonder.

    Like 4
  4. Steve Clinton

    Barn Find? Looks like much of it wasn’t found.

    Like 6
  5. V12MECH

    Having many decades in restoration, with Pontiac muscle cars, the ’69 judge maybe only a handful of type that will be desirable down the road, ’68-69 Z28, cammer mustang, 427 Corvettes. That is the market coming down the road. This car is ONLY parts and a vin , the cost of correct restoration today, potential market interest and end result make the rules, not misty eyed memories.
    .

    Like 1
  6. Larry D

    When did the Mustang come with the 427 SOHC “Cammer” engine?

  7. Greg

    Bbarn Finds, I believe you meant that all were hardtops except for 108 convertibles?

    Like 1
  8. V12MECH

    Opps, ment 429 mustang, mid 60’s 427 mid -bodies should hold up, we finished 2 ‘ 69 428 scj mustangs in 2017, just as that market peaked, I would have added them to my list of keepers, but things change

    Like 1
  9. Bill McCoskey

    Compare the distance between front wheel rim edge and firewall on each side. Also compare the distance between the vertical seam where the “A” post panel joins the firewall, and the forward edge point of the front door skin.

    I have a feeling this car hit something solid at the right front, and both the frame and body shell are pushed backwards, the frame by 3 to 5 inches, and the body shell by about 1 to 2 inches. And that vertical seam on the right side looks as if it’s not vertical anymore.

    I suspect the owner took off the mangled front clip and exposed the extent of the damages, and stuck it away in a barn, hoping the value would eventually make it worth restoring. That has yet to happen, and he’s left with a damaged and rough GTO without original motor, and it only has 2 redeeming traits: [1] air conditioning [2] Judge.

    If the owner had brought this to my restoration shop, I would have done my best to talk him out of repairing the car.

    Like 3
  10. Howard A Member

    I have a friend in central Wis. that restored his late mom’s ’69 Judge she bought new. Coming from Wisconsin, it looked very similar to this. He said, with current restoration costs, he got in way over his head, and as a tribute to his mom, he finished the restoration, but said, he’d never do another one again.
    I say this time and time again, just go to the auction, and buy one already done where the restorer already lost their $20 grand in restoring it.

    Like 4
  11. CCFisher

    @Bill McKoskey – you’re absolutely right. This thing took a hit on the right front strong enough to bend the frame and shorten the wheelbase on the right side of the car. The accident also displaced the body rearward relative to the chassis, which suggests that the body mounts were weak and rusty at the time of the accident. In any event, count on significant rust and/or damage around the body mount points.

    I think whoever put this into the junkyard made the right decision, as sad as it is to junk an alleged GTO Judge.

    I suspect that somewhere, a lowly Tempest Custom hardtop is about to be transformed into a GTO Judge, VIN and all.

    Like 2
  12. Bill McCoskey

    @CCFisher,

    I hadn’t thought about it until you mentioned it, but I suspect you are right that whoever buys this is looking for a VIN. But I see another problem arising; As it’s already got a salvage title, when the car is restored [VIN changed as well] and the owner wants to have the salvage stamp removed, in almost every state this means having the car inspected by the state police or DMV officials. They will likely find the VIN for the Tempest still on the back frame member.

    Like 1
  13. sirlurxalot

    I think it was Flip Wilson (not SDJr) who was known for “Here come da judge!”

    Like 1

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