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Pick of the Day: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, a legend of muscle marketing

The trim package was adapted from the ‘Here comes the judge’ comedy routine


Most collector car fans younger than the Boomer generation likely have no idea why Pontiac would name a high-performance version of its GTO muscle car The Judge. 

Hint: “Here come de judge, here come de judge, order in the courtroom, here come de judge.”

That’s the refrain from a 1968 hit record by veteran comedian Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham, which was wildly popular and is regarded as the first rap single, with a throbbing drum beat behind a rhythmically spoken comic routine.  The riff was picked up by comedy legend Flip Wilson, who used “here come de judge” as a repeating catchphrase on the Rowan & Martin Laugh-In TV show.  


Pontiac, facing sagging sales for the GTO, quickly adopted the pop-culture lexicon, creating a 1969 model-year package with “The Judge” decals, graphics and a rear spoiler.  Sales picked up initially but the package was discontinued after 1971.  Because really, a running joke can only last so long.

Today, The Judge versions of GTO command a premium, and there are many tributes and clones out there that were created from regular GTOs simply by adding the decals and other bits.


The Pick of the Day is reputedly authentic, however, a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air III, described as a “genuine factory-produced” example by the Rochester, Minnesota, dealer advertising the Pontiac on ClassicCars.com.  The hardtop has been “documented by its original trim tag and PHS (Pontiac Historic Services) documents, receipts and some owner history.”

“Restored in its original and very rare color of Starlight Black with factory black interior,” the seller notes. “Numbers-matching WS code engine and PHS documented with rare factory air-conditioning and 4-speed Muncie transmission.”

judge, Pick of the Day: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, a legend of muscle marketing, ClassicCars.com Journal

The Judge is powered by the original 400cid V8 that’s rated at 366 horsepower, and with factory options that include lighted hood tach, power disc brakes, power steering, console, AM/FM radio with rear speakers, remote mirror and retractable headlights. 

The car runs and drives well and has been “museum kept,” the seller says, although not specifying which museum or how long it was kept there.  The photos with the ad show that the GTO is in sparkling condition inside and out, and looks essentially brand new.

judge, Pick of the Day: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, a legend of muscle marketing, ClassicCars.com Journal

On the air-filter housing is a special piece of authenticity, a hand-written message apparently to a former owner that says, “Hey Dan… Good luck with this great ’69 … My favorite Pontiac.”

It’s signed by Jim Wangers, the famed marketing genius who stirred up Pontiac’s performance image and boosted excitement about the GTO; he’s often called “the godfather of the GTO.” Wangers created the marketing blitz surrounding The Judge, which he helped originate.

Whether this car’s written message is a rarity or if Wangers commonly signed GTO air-filter housings is something I just don’t know.

judge, Pick of the Day: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge, a legend of muscle marketing, ClassicCars.com Journal

Besides being an impressive muscle car, the GTO Judge is a fascinating piece of mid-century marketing history, with ads for the Pontiac using such catchy phrases as “All rise for The Judge” and “This Judge can be bought.”

This particular Judge can also be bought, with an asking price of $114,900, which the Hagerty value guide testifies is justified for such a sterling example.  You be the judge.

To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day

Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. Great article. I would love to own a 69 or 70 Judge. I had a 67 GTO and made the mistake of selling it when I needed some room in 1995. I still regret it. I would also argue that the first rap song was Art Carney singing “Twas the Night before Christmas in 1954. 🙂

  2. OMG! You must be my long lost brother or my doppelganger. Like you, I owned a 1967 GTO, which I purchased in 1975, during the Fall semester of my Junior year of high school. It was Linden Green (green is my favorite color, but I wasn’t a fan of that shade of green), with a white vinyl top and white and black interior. I had it repainted twice (yes, I got talked into keeping the original color) and was in the process of restoring it, when a new job took me 3 hours away from my beloved car.

    Just like you, I sadly sold it during the Fall of 1995, and I regret it EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! Now, I have 6 grandsons and I know several of them share my tears of regret in selling it, especially when I told them I sold it for WAY less than I should have. I purchased it for a mere $545.00, in 1975. The guy wanted $595.00, but had advertised it as having wire wheels, which turned out to only be wire hubcaps. I let him keep them in exchange for the $50.00 reduction in price. Soon after buying it, I added aluminum mag wheels for only $75.00, which I bought from my cousin who drag raced Camaros. I wanted to put Cragar SS wheels on it at some point, but that day never came.

    And, also like you, I want a ’69 or ’70 GTO Judge, but unless I win it through a raffle or my daughter or one my grandsons buys it for me, I don’t see that dream coming true. I’d be happy with another ’67 or maybe even ’71 or ’72.

    Lastly, like in one of the other comments, I really like the unique color on this Judge. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing one in black. Usually they’re red (which looks orange to me), green or yellow. Very sharp in this black paint!

    Take care, my fellow Goat brother-in-tears!


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