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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of GM Media Archives,
Published 10.11.2023

1969 Pontiac GTO Judge advertising GM Media Archives 4A 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge ad (GM Media Archives)

One of General Motors’ most exciting and memorable muscle cars from the 1960s, was the Pontiac GTO Judge. Introduced for the 1969 model year, the Pontiac GTO Judge was targeted to the young adult market.

With its split grille design and bright orange color theme, the GTO Judge was a powerful looking muscle car. Some auto historians have said that automakers in this era were seeking a better way to spread their super-car message to the right crowd of young adults. Given those circumstances, 1969 became a big year for GM muscle car advertising.

1969 Pontiac GTO Judge GM Media Archives 1The 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge (GM Media Archives)

The 1969 Judge became very popular with its advertising tagline “The Judge can be brought.” The combination of a very effective advertising campaign that was embraced by young people plus the addition of the Ram-Air III V8 engine made the Judge models very popular. Another element of the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge marketing campaign was a Judge racing jacket available in a variety of men’s, women’s and young men’s sizes. Today, they remain very collectable by automotive enthusiasts.

1969 Pontiac GTO Judge GM Media Archives 2The 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge (GM Media Archives)

The Pontiac GTO Judge was developed to compete with the popular Plymouth Road Runner offered by the Chrysler Corporation in 1968. The Judge was available as a hardtop coupe or convertible. They were painted a bright orange which became very popular. The Judge also offered rally style wheels, along with a Hurst shifter for the driver. It also included a rear spoiler with great looking Judge decals, which became a very popular symbol among young adults during the 1960s. Finally, the Judge also featured a hood scoop, which could be opened and closed depending on the driver. In 1968, twin air scoops and a hood-mounted tachometer were introduced on the GTO models. Also in 1968, Pontiac introduced a plastic bumper to the public, which joined the body design grille and concealed headlamps.

1969 Pontiac GTO Judge promotional jacket RESIZED 3A 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge promotional jacket

Some automotive historians have said that, despite its impressive power and performance, the GTO Judge was one of the more reliable muscle cars. Yet, it did have some problems with the drivetrain and oil pressure.  

Automotive historians have said that for 1969, Pontiac offered a GTO model known as the Judge derived from the sketch on the popular television show “Laugh-In” known as “Here Come De Judge.”

1969 Pontiac GTO Judge RESIZED 5Another view of 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge (

The person behind the popular 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge was John DeLorean. He was born in Detroit, Michigan on January 6, 1925 and attended Cass Technical High School. After working at Chrysler and Packard, he was hired at GM in 1956. At GM, DeLorean started out as assistant to Pontiac chief engineer Pete Estes, who later became general manager for the division. DeLorean was involved with the creation of the popular Pontiac GTO, which hit the market in 1964. Some automotive historians have reported that John DeLorean actually came up with the name “GTO.”

Rear view of the Pontiac GTO Judge CROPPED AND RESIZED 6A rear view of the Pontiac GTO Judge (

During its development, when GTO prototypes had impressed everyone in the GM design studio, the next question was how to build a market for the car. DeLorean wanted to make the GTO models a style leader, as well as a performance leader.  

Automotive historians have said that John DeLorean’s greatest achievement at Pontiac was the creation of the GTO, one of the first muscle cars in America. DeLorean not only contributed to the GTO but also the 1967 Firebird and the 1969 Grand Prix models, which sold very well for the Pontiac division.

Front end of the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge RESIZED 7Front end view of the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge (

In conclusion, DeLorean had a long history with Pontiac with the development of the first Pontiac GTO in 1964. For many years, automakers followed in DeLorean’s footsteps when it came to muscle cars and marketing. In December of 1968, the Pontiac GTO Judge was introduced to the public. A production run of 6,833 coupes were made, along with 108 convertibles. In 1970, with a new body style design change, the production run dropped to only 3,797 units.  

John DeLorean accepts the Motor Trend Car of the Year award 1968 MotorTrend 8John DeLorean (right) accepts the Motor Trend Car of the Year award in 1968 (Motor Trend)

Today, the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge models are highly valued and collected by automotive enthusiasts worldwide.


Bonsall, Thomas E. “Pontiac The Complete History 1926-1986.” Bookman Publishing, 1985.

Frumkin, MJ.  “Classic Muscle Car Advertising: The Art of Selling Horsepower.” Krause Publications.

Detroit Historical Society. Encyclopedia of Detroit: John DeLorean.

Norbye Jan P., & Dunne, Jim. “Pontiac 1946-1978: The Classic Postwar Years.” Motor Books International, 1979.