The Pontiac GTO Judge's short production life spanned 25 months and three model years ('69-'71), but during that time it built a reputation and legacy that is indelibly written in muscle-car history. Today, it ranks among the most iconic Pontiacs ever produced.
In this issue, our 50th Anniversary of the GTO anthology continues with a spotlight on the '71 GTO and '71 Judge. Only 357 Judge hardtops rolled down Pontiac's assembly lines for '71, but that didn't stop us from finding two of them—both in matching Lucerne Blue exteriors, no less—and we bring them to you for this month's cover feature. As fate would have it, both of these final-year Judges are in the same private collection, and the story of how they came together is one that you don't want to miss.
But that's just the start of the lengths we go to celebrate the GTO and The Judge in our year-long homage to Pontiac's high-performance A-body (and X-body and Monaro conversion, to be precise). We also discovered a '71 Judge convertible—one of 17 made—and invite you along as HPP's talented tech team goes underneath to document the relacement of its factory-issued fuel tank. It may be the first time in High Performance Pontiac history that we've featured tech on a ride of this rarity, and even if the wrench-tech is not your thing, you'll be able to say that you saw photography of one of the rarest Judges on planet earth.
There is little doubt among Pontiac hobbyists today that the Judge signaled a new path for the GTO in '69. Unfortunately, the ultimate GTO was never given the chance to define the GTO's direction for the models Third-, Fourth-, or Fifth-Generation.
We reached out to our fans on Facebook (you can be one too, at www.facebook.com/highperformancepontiac) to share with us why the Judge should not have been cancelled in February 1971, and then hypothesize how it could have led Pontiac through the '70s to '10s, keeping the brand alive and true to its high-performance mission today.
Here are some of our favorite replies:
The Judge is a true icon of the muscle-car era. If [Pontiac] had continued to produce the Judge, it might still be a force to be reckoned with … and I would be driving my '14 Pontiac GTO Judge right now. —Kevin Schmitt
People are still afraid of the term The Judge. Any questions? —Tyler Feil
Court was never adjourned. —Cameron Williams
The Judge should have lived on to show that performance could survive, [and] to stick it in the eyes of the insurance companies that tried to make horsepower a dirty word ... to prove that people want and need the thrill of acceleration and style. —Stephen Perry Williams
It's the greatest car in muscle-car history. If you didn't know, ask me again and I'll tell you again. —Justin Bryant
You can't argue with the Judge. The Judge always wins … in and out of the courtroom. —Jeff Smith
Pontiac should have continued the Judge because America needs muscle cars. It's a good thing to take pride in craftsmanship and the beauty of a well-built machine. What's more fun than taking a cruise and random people giving you the nod because you have an awesome, American-made muscle car? —Jenny Kline
There is no other car like the Judge. It's the one and only. —Aaron Conant
You should still be able to buy the Judge. —Jonathan Hewlett
GM should have dropped Chevrolet and kept Pontiac. —Gary Beck
It may have been premature to discontinue the Judge package on the GTO. The lighter-than-it-looked, third-generation LeMans/GTO with Wide-Track and Radial Tuned Suspension would have made yet another iconic and highly desirable car for the marque. —David Kudrna
If [Pontiac]kept [the Judge] around until '73, hopefully it would have put the SD-455 in it like it had promised to do with the GTO. —Lance Hildenrand
[If Pontiac] would have kept building the GTO Judge, the prices wouldn't have skyrocketed and I would have one. For now, I'll just keep dreaming about my '70 Ram Air IV GTO Judge convertible. —Amilinko Anderson
The GTO set the standard—the Judge elevated it. The Judge would have hopefully continued a legacy of increasing high-performance for years to come. —Jim Mavrikidis