The Vibrant 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air III Chronicles its Colorful History with Lou Costabile


This Pontiac is one of the rarest Judges from early 1969 and comes with a Hollywoodian life story. Found in decrepit condition, rescued and brought back to life and superstardom.

This particular GTO was bought by its current owner in 1998 – the video shows photos of the car from back then. It was not in good condition; we can unanimously agree on that.

The Judge still had most of its parts in it, but it wasn’t a proud Pontiac GTO anymore. However, the rescuer – and current proprietor – invested $1,500 in the battered carcass and 4,400 grueling hours in the restoration. This is where the story gets interesting. After buying the Pontiac, the new owner got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

No, not a horse head in his bed – it’s not that kind of Judge story – but a more lucrative proposal from Pontiac. The GM representative’s approach was straightforward: the carmaker would pay for the restoration of the Judge. In exchange, the manufacturer would use the automobile in their promotional tour for a promotional movie for the 2004 Pontiac GTO.

With this deal in hand, the Judge’s owner took the mauled Pontiac to the restoration shop and sent GM the invoice after the work was done. The automotive giant paid the bill, used the revived icon to showcase The Last Ride, then returned it to its rightful owner.

This sounds pretty simple, but it took enough blessings to pull it off that this 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge is nothing short of God’s Car. (Debatable, as there are several other cars from the era in which the Almighty could go for a ride, like this ’59 Thunderbird).

The car was granted a better-than-factory-new treatment, both cosmetic and mechanical (the video proves it all too well). The Ram Air III 400 idles a V8 lullaby song but is a hell-raiser when the loud pedal gets tingled.

The early-Judge Carousel Red (a by-the-book orange hue) is the factory shade (reproduced after original specifications). The color was intended to be the sole livery for the Judge, but GM introduced other choices later in the production run.

This Pontiac came so early off the assembly line that it lacks the Judge decal on the glove box. Not that it would matter, as the powertrain is the real-deal justice-spreading ruler of the muscle car (very) Wild West of the late 60s.

Its 400 CID (6.6-liter) V8 put out 366 hp (371 PS) and a law-enforcing 445 lb-ft of torque (603 Nm) for the three-speed Turbo-Hydramatic.

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