The first Pontiac GTO was an option package for the Pontiac Tempest, available with the two-door coupe, hardtop, and convertible body styles. The US$295 package included a 389 cu in V8 rated at 325 hp @ 4800 rpm with a single Carter AFB four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, chromed valve covers and air cleaner, seven-blade clutch fan, a floor-shifted three-speed manual transmission with Hurst shifter, stiffer springs, larger diameter front sway bar, wider wheels with 7.50 × 14 redline tires, hood scoops, and GTO badges. The GTO became a separate Pontiac model in 1966, instead of being an “option package” on the Tempest LeMans.
After the 2nd gen GTO won the 1968 Motor Trend Car of the Year Award, a new 1969 model called the “Judge” was introduced. The name came from a comedy routine, “Here Come de Judge”, used repeatedly on the Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In TV show by legendary showman Sammy Davis, Jr.
Advertisements used slogans like “All rise for the Judge” and “The Judge can be bought”. As originally conceived, the Judge was to be a low-cost GTO, stripped of features to make it competitive with the Plymouth Road Runner.
The package ended up US$332 more expensive than a standard GTO, and included the Ram Air III engine rated at 366 hp @ 5100 rpm, Rally II wheels without trim rings, Hurst shifter (with a unique T-shaped handle), wider tires, various decals, and a rear spoiler. Pontiac claimed that the spoiler had some functional effect at higher speeds, producing a small but measurable downforce, but it was of little value at legal speeds. The Judge was initially offered only in “carousel red”, but midway into the model year a variety of other colors became available.
The GTO was surpassed in sales both by the Chevrolet Chevelle SS396 and the Plymouth Road Runner, but 72,287 were sold during the 1969 model year, with 6,833 of them being the Judge package.
In 1970 The Judge remained available as an option on GTOs. The Judge came standard with the Ram Air III, while the Ram Air IV was optional. Though the 455 CID was available as an option on the standard GTO throughout the entire model year, the 455 was not offered on the Judge until late in the year. “Orbit” orange became the new standard color for the 1970 Judge, but any GTO color was available. Striping was relocated to the upper wheelwell brows.
In 1971 the Judge returned for its final year, with the standard equipment being the Mountain Performance package was the 455 HO. Only 357 were sold, including 17 convertibles, before The Judge was discontinued in February 1971. Only 10,532 GTOs were sold in 1971, 661 of which were non-Judge equipped convertibles.
Here’s a 1:1 1971 455HO GTO (not a Judge) I spotted while on a cruise with our car club a couple of years ago.