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The Flashiest Muscle car of the Era
Here Come the Judge, Flashback


In 1968, Plymouth dropped a bombshell on the muscle car battlefield with the introduction of its newest street budget brawler, the Road Runner. Pontiac executive V.P., John Delorean, wasn’t going to let Plymouth carpet bomb Pontiac's sales numbers, so a new muscle car had to be developed at once. A wardrobe upgrade on their GTO prince would turn it into a budget racer for the street. What started out as a plan for a minimum wage muscle car, turned into a one of the most expensive muscle cars of the era, but also one of the most desired.


In late of 1968, Pontiac hand-built two The Judge prototypes to be used as test cars for automotive journalists to beat on until they got the scoop for what’s new for ’69. It is easy for those who were too young, or not yet born, to be swept away by the romance of the classic musclecar era of 1964-1973. We imagine it was heaven on earth for anyone who got to sit behind the wheel of a GTX or 442 W30 when it still had that new car smell. Joe Oldham, an automotive journalist for Magnum Royal Publications during the peak of the muscle car wars, was given the honor of road testing the 1969 Pontiac GTO “The Judge” number 001 in the winter of 1968. For us younger gearheads, we often forget that back then they were just normal performance cars and not the vintage godfathers of torque we see them as today.


According to Oldham, when he first laid eyes on the Carousel Red Pontiac sitting in the dark parking garage waiting for him, his first impression was that it was “ugly.” Little did he know that he was looking at one of the first examples of a new trend in muscle cars that would live on, in some form or another, until the present day. His attitude towards The Judge quickly changed when he showcased the orange poncho on the street, and watched as people glued their eyes on the car.


The Judge number 001 started out life as a white fully-equipped GTO that had been repainted and fitted with The Judge decals and spoiler. Oldham would road test any test car by street racing it; best way to find out its performance as well as the public’s reaction to the latest muscle car before it hit the showrooms. The test car was packing heat in the form of a 400 HO “Ram Air III” with a single QuadraJet 4-barrel carb, and rated at 366 horsepower @ 5100 rpm and 455lb.ft of torque @ 3600 rpm through a 3-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission. All this under the hood of a 4,000 pound poncho, but that didn’t stop it from blazing the quarter mile in the 13s at over 100mph.


The Pontiac GTO The Judge may not have been the fastest muscle car on the street, but it definitely was a trend setter. Any kid fitting a rear spoiler on his car after getting an outrageous paint scheme can trace its roots to the GTO The Judge.