1969 GTO – The Ground Pounding Poncho
The ad execs at the now-defunct Pontiac needed a hook and got one from an unlikely source in advance of the launch of the 1969 GTO. Borrowing a one liner from the Rowan and Martin Laugh-In TV show (in which Sammy Davis exuberantly shouted “Here Comes Da Judge”), the hi-performance version of the 1969 GTO was branded as “The Judge.” It worked. Some 72,287 GTOs were sold during the 1969 model year, with 6,833 of them getting the Judge package. Stripped of features to make it competitive with the Plymouth Road Runner, the Judge package included the 400c.i. Ram Air III V8 engine, Rally II wheels, Hurst shifter (with a unique T-shaped handle), wider tires, various decals, and a rear spoiler. Quarter mile ET’s in factory trim netted 13.9 time slips at speeds over 105mph. Now collector’s items, they are big sellers at classic car auctions around the globe.
Gilbert, Arizona’s Stephen Burke just so happens to be the proud owner of a recently restored GTO Judge, one so painstakingly detailed, it’s a numbers-matching car, factory-correct down to the iconic 8-track stereo system. A true gem and Ram Air III car, it sports the most popular paint of its generation – that classic RM Carousel Red applied by Jay Webb.
Inside, the interior was restored to factory specs by John Espinoza using that classic black vinyl to cover the factory bucket seats and other trim. The stock Hurst 4-speed shifter, and wood grain tri-spoke steering wheel are at the ready.
Under the vented hood lies the heart of the beast, the factory 400c.i., 350 horsepower Pontiac V8 sporting chrome valve covers and that patented sponge-trimmed air cleaner. Burke’s beast has the original drivetrain – the Muncie M-20 4-speed trans, and Safe-T-Trac posi rear end.
While some restorations begin from a dilapidated corpse, Burke’s Judge had 95% of the original sheet metal intact and useable. It should also be noted that the entire restoration was performed in his garage with the help of his friend Chris Valentino who did all the research and concourse details to ensure 100% accuracy.
Looking at the finished product, we would have to say – these guys nailed it! Even Sammy Davis Jr would tip his fedora!