Courtesy of Auctions America
  • 400-ci, 366-hp V8 engine
  • 4-speed Muncie transmission with Hurst shifter
  • Rare hideaway headlamps
  • Complete PHS documentation including copy of build sheet and window sticker
  • Full body-off restoration
  • Judge package
  • Many other desirable factory options
  • Outstanding condition and presentation throughout

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
Years Produced:1969–71
Number Produced:6,725 (1969 2-door hard tops)
Original List Price:$3,313
SCM Valuation:$67,100
Tune Up Cost:$390
Distributor Caps:$28
Chassis Number Location:Plate next to driver’s side dash, door decal
Engine Number Location:Partial VIN between coolant bypass hoses
Club Info:Pontiac Oakland Club International
Alternatives:1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Cobra Jet, 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 440, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS 396 L78
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 519, sold for $78,100, including buyer’s premium, at Auctions America’s auction in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on April 1, 2017.

Pontiac Motor Division was on fire in sales through the 1960s, with their intermediate GTO in the lead. In 1966, Pontiac sold 96,946 GTOs. By 1967, the competition had caught up and sales fell back, as buyers were having trouble finding cars that weren’t loaded to the hilt in price and weight. Then, in 1968, Plymouth kicked off an econo muscle car revival to suit the market with their cheap and cheerful Road Runner coupe.

The solution seemed obvious to Pontiac marketers: Make a budget GTO to go against the Road Runner. Initial press feelers described the budget GTO as a thin-pillar coupe to be equipped with the good GTO suspension, a high-performance engine and a bright color, all in a package priced slightly lower than the standard GTO.

The first solution was a bright orange coupe with white stripes called “ET.” The ET model fielded a hot-cammed Pontiac 350 4-barrel, manual transmission and dual exhausts. They went all the way including a bench seat and a chrome-nose LeMans body with GTO hood. Test runs of the ET against some 383 Road Runners showed the car was able to take on Plymouth. So what happened?

Go big or go home

Two things killed the “ET.” Pontiac already had a 350 HO LeMans, and Pontiac Division manager John DeLorean hated the idea of a small-bore GTO. During a presentation by the committee, his words were, “Over my dead body. Don’t you know this is a 400-cubic-inch world?”

DeLorean ordered the staff to make the car fast and worry about cost cuts later. From that moment on, “budget GTO” died and a legend was born.

The “Judge” name was chosen by DeLorean when he green-lit the revised concept car in the summer of 1968. Production was scheduled for early winter, in time for showrooms to get their displays in February. A major ad campaign with posters, jackets, badges and even a song by Paul Revere and the Raiders put the Judge out in front of everyone.

The Judge had no trouble staying out front with a 10.75:1-compression-ratio Ram Air III as standard equipment. You also got a Hurst 3-speed manual transmission, low-restriction dual exhaust, 3.55 axle, blacked-out grille, 60-inch-wide spoiler, Rally II wheels minus trim rings, body stripes and glovebox door emblem. The package cost an extra $332 over the standard GTO.

Early Judges were Carousel Red and either came with black or Parchment vinyl interiors. Later on, Judges were offered in other standard GTO colors. Very early cars got rear quarter-panel trim but missed out on the die-cast glovebox door emblem.

Market and muscle sweetheart

Instead of being a base model, a Judge could be ordered with most options. It was a cut above your usual muscle car in power, prestige and price — and it worked. Pontiac sold 6,833 Judges that year, which accounted for a little over 10% of the entire 1969 GTO production.

Out the door, a 4-speed Ram Air III was a mid-14-second car. A Royal Bobcat kit dropped a second easily. If you were any good at racing, low 13s were a breeze, which made it a keen rival against Mach 1 Cobra Jets, Charger 440 R/Ts and SS Chevelles.

Judges have been popular cars to restore since the 1980s, and they recover quickly from market corrections, gaining new ground each time. Compared to its later 455-powered brethren, the ’69 Judge is still a bargain. Only a convertible or Ram Air IV will break the bank.

It used to be easy to get your dream Judge for about $50k, but that started to change in 2014. The most affordable Judge sold at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale that year for $50,600 (Lot 1654). It wasn’t numbers matching and had a few needs. Lot 969 was $10k more and finished in Pro Touring style. The rest of the cars offered brought $70k and up.

To understand where 1969 Judge prices are going, look at what Ram Air IV Judges command. Those are now knocking on the $100,000 door, and if they’re numbers matching, the price goes even higher. Ram Air III Judges crossed an important $50,000 psychological threshold, too. They’re no longer affordable for the average fan, and solid, no-excuses cars can easily bring well above that amount. They now average around $60k retail.

The remarkable $78,100 result achieved here is striking, especially as the car has a few deviations from stock, such as added power windows, power brakes, AM/FM stereo with power antenna and a woodgrain steering wheel. The PHS invoice shows none of those options as factory-installed.

Although 1969 Judges are showing an uptick in the market, this particular car has to be considered a one-off. The price doesn’t set a new floor for Ram Air III Judges. Rather, it shows what can happen when an astute restoration is performed with popular extras added. Chalk it up to sterling presentation and the allure of power options.

This car wasn’t cheap, yet you couldn’t restore one to this level for less than what was paid here, and a Judge with these toys from the factory would cost even more. Overall, the basics are sound and this car can be converted back to stock without major problems if desired. Given the continued strong interest and demand for Judges, even at this price, I’d call this one fairly sold and bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Auctions America.)

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