Four-Speed Judge! 1969 Pontiac GTO

Update 10/6/20 – This GTO project has been relisted here on eBay with the option to place a bid or buy it now for $24k.

From 6/4/20 – Well, I could have opened up with “Here come ‘da judge” but this may be more like a, “Here’s the bailiff!” Yes, this Pontiac has all the appearances of a 1969 GTO Judge but it could use some cosmetic surgery at the very least. What’s all the hubbub with the Judge anyway? Let’s take a look at this example and find out. Located in Burlington, Connecticut, this Judge is available here on eBay for a current bid of $18,100, reserve not yet met and one day to go.

There is no VIN included in the listing, so there is no way to authenticate this Pontiac’s provenance. And even if there were, the Judge option would not be discernable from it. And the Judge option was a bit confusing marketing-wise. The Carousel Red finished GTO was originally envisioned as a stripped-down muscle car ala the Plymouth Road Runner but it didn’t turn out that way. The Judge was priced about $320 more than a standard GTO; it came with an upgraded engine, wider tires, stripes, decals, badging and a rear spoiler as plusses, but took away the Rally-II wheel trim rings and still made do with a standard three-speed manual transmission as minuses. Whatever the marketing plan, almost 7,000 copies found owners, it was a hit!

The exterior of this example has a lot going on and most of it not that attractive – primer, surface rust, uneven surfaces, a replacement hood, and off-kilter panel gaps. As for destructive rust, top or bottom-side, the, “let’s see how far away we can take the picture” photography does not help with clarity. This GTO looks like it is all mostly there but as the seller advises, “dose (sic) need restoring”. Interestingly, the trim rings are missing on the passenger side but present on the drivers. Regarding the Carousel Red finish, what can still be seen of it, yes, it does look a lot like Chevrolet’s more aptly named “Hugger Orange” and it was the color of choice for the Judge but other colors were offered later in the model year.

The original engine is gone and that’s unfortunate as this Judge is powered by a 400 CI V8 of unknown provenance. The standard 400 CI Judge engine was designated as RAM Air III, and at 366 gross HP, it was a stout performer. Without it, this car seems like just another GTO that needs work. Granted, the existing engine shows well, it does have a new aluminum radiator and a new clutch assembly feeding a four-speed manual transmission. Other improvements include new brakes, a power brake booster (according to the seller, I can find it), fuel tank, and wiper motor. The seller advises that the brakes still need “final setting” (?). The only statement regarding this Judge’s motivation is, “car does run”.

The interior is a bright spot, I was prepared for a lot worse but it really shows quite well. White is a real challenge to maintain – if it’s not showing dirt, it will start to yellow with age and that’s an ugly scene. There is some discoloration in places and it appears to be missing its seatbelts, but the interior is certainly a usable and presentable space. The dash and gauges look sound, they supposedly all work, and the seller has fitted an aftermarket tachometer into one of the instrument panel binnacle openings. Note the headliner, it’s white too but shows well.

The Judge was produced for three years, ’69, ’70, and ’71 and it is all the rage from a collectability perspective. And I’ll admit it, I don’t get it. It’s an orange GTO with stripes, decals, and a tacked-on looking spoiler. As for the Ram Air III engine, it’s a great choice but was available in a standard GTO too for $168, right along with the vaunted, but pricier, 370 HP Ram Air IV engine. I’d love to have a ’69 GTO, I have extensively driven a ’68 (almost the same car) and it was one of my all-time favorite hot-rods – I still have fond memories and that was a very long time ago. But a Judge? I don’t get the premium. How about you, is it worth it?

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Comments

  1. GP Member

    Nice write up Jim and I agree with you on all of the GTO Verses Judge prices. I also had a 1968 GTO with a 400/ 4-on the floor. It was a fast car and like everyone I wish I still had it.

    Like 6
  2. Howard A Member

    The author should probably explain the opening statement for younger readers. There was a TV show called “Laugh-in”, and relied heavily on the counter culture of the 60’s. My old man hated it, but luckily, my mom loved it, so we got to watch it. A comedian named Flip Wilson, milked that phrase and later Sammy Davis Jr. did skits of judges, and that was their catch phrase. I don’t think Pontiac ever used that , but had similar phrases, like “All rise for the Judge”, and “The JUdge can be bought”. It was wildly successful. Well worth the extra $337 bucks. I have a friend that restored an orange ’69 GTO Judge just like this. It was his mom’s car. When he started, it looked just like this, and when he was done, it looked brand new, so it can be done. He never said how much he spent, but it was his mom’s car, so who cares.

    Like 14
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Howard:

      Good point! Here’s a clip of Sammy Davis, Jr. on Laugh-In:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hIcKkKID8k

      JO

      Like 4
    • STEVEN VISEK

      Actually it was Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham who originated the skit with its famous catch phrase. All three comedians appeared on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In at various points as the judge, though it was Sammy Davis Jr.’s portrayal that made the phrase famous.

      Like 6
    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Also, remember that Flip Wilson had his own 1 hour variety show.
      I’m sure he did the judge skit on his show, but everyone must remember his “Geraldine” character.

      Like 7
    • GP Member

      I watched that show every week and always laughed my butt off. ( my butt is back now)

      Like 3
  3. Steve Bush Member

    I like these but at $18k-reserve not met, give me a break. And it has a NOM, looks like crap and needs tons of work and cash invested. Good luck to the new owner.

    Like 17
  4. Jim Miller

    Junk

    Like 3
    • Glen Riddle

      Treasure.

      Like 10
    • Arthur

      Junk? A few hot rod shops might see things differently, especially if they have the resources, financial and physical, to turn this into a high-performance G-Machine.

      However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to bargain down the price, since they have to make a profit.

      Like 1
  5. Poncho

    ‘Reserve Not Met’ price is probably reflective of the ‘Always Wanted One’ or ‘Had One and Wish I Still Had It’ desire of those familiar with the high cost of living in Connecticut.

    Like 4
  6. Poncho

    I that a Cheetah Kit Car in the garage? That plus the open wheel race car explains the high cost of living to afford the expensive toy habits the owner has.

    Like 2
  7. Arthell64 Member

    I bought a 1972 GTO in 1980 which I still own. I always wanted a judge but they have always been in high demand. Hopefully you guys can convince the sellers of judges that they are not more valuable than a regular GTO than I can buy one.

    Like 2
  8. Bmac777 Member

    This car was for sale about a month ago ,I think on craigslist and it was in Mass.
    It was around the same price. Too much then and too much now

    Like 8
  9. TimM

    I’m just wondering how much bondo is in those rear quarters??? The wheel well openings look a little off kilter to me so I suspect there might have been a quick mud job to make the car look less like a rust bucket and more like the GTO’s we all know!!!

    Like 6
  10. Troy s

    I go with what Jim says, it’s a visual package, high profile ride which seemed to progress at a rapid pace from ’69 on. The psychedelic groovy era was in full swing, right?
    This one here got overruled in court it seems, tarred and feathered, but still kickin’.

    Like 2
  11. Steve Bush Member

    Agree with the others that this is overpriced junk. If it gets bid this time to anywhere near the earlier bid of $18k, the seller is a greedy idiot for not taking the offer.

    Like 5
  12. elpuko

    Wrong color blue for engine. Should be the light sparkly blue.

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