Some 30 miles from Pontiac's corporate offices, at the General Motors Tech Center, William "Bill" Porter, head of Pontiac Studio, was made aware of the new GTO package and tasked with designing its graphics. "Herb Kadau, Pontiac's liaison between Design Staff and Engineering, and I were on the escalator heading to lunch one day," he recalls. "John DeLorean was a few steps ahead of us and Herb informed him of some new reflective material and flamboyant colors 3M had recently developed. He suggested it might be appropriate for the new GTO and asked what it was to be named. John replied simply, ‘Call it The Judge.'"
Whether Porter's experience with DeLorean naming the GTO package "The Judge" occurred before or after the Ad-Hoc committee's presentation, no one is certain, but Porter was excited at the chance to do something very unique. "The Judge was very timely with the young crowd's rebellious movement. The Judge allowed us to do something very youthful, a spoof on the psychedelic atmosphere at the time," he adds.
Porter says inspiration for The Judge logo came from an advertisement he saw in an art magazine around that time. "I saw the blobby letters in an ad for Carter's India Ink and felt their shapes had the exact psychedelic look we were after with The Judge. I designed each individual letter of ‘The Judge' as a blob and worked with 3M's color palette to find the right colors to maintain the psychedelic effect. We used the same material and colors on the side stripe, and kept it high on the body to accent the beltline, which worked better on the '69 model. We also shaped the rear spoiler to fit the body character."
During the summer of 1968, Pontiac invited four leading automotive publications to Detroit to test its performance-car lineup for '69, the photos and results of which were used for copy in its '69 Pontiac Performance brochure. Printed in September 1968, the brochure names the special GTO that Hot Rod magazine editors tested, "The Judge," but it's obvious from the brochure's photos that the vehicle wasn't quite a production example.
Hot Rod used its own photos from that testing session to create the first article on The Judge ("Here Comes Da Judge," Dec. '68). Through the Source Interlink archives, HPP obtained a number of original photos of that vehicle. The car in the photos, which was unnamed and unadorned in the images from the testing session, has an uncanny resemblance to the original low-cost GTO demo (see page 28 in this issue), which suggests that Pontiac morphed that demonstrator into The Judge package. Furthermore, we might speculate that this could be the very car the Ad-Hoc committee presented to DeLorean. There is, however, no definitive proof to substantiate either point.
The Judge Goes To Market
The Judge was introduced to automotive journalists on December 8, 1968, at Riverside International Raceway in Riverside, California. Within days, Pontiac issued a formal press release about its new GTO that reportedly "goes one performance step further." It noted that The Judge would be quite potent and very distinguishable from average GTOs.
Once The Judge was released for production, Pontiac wasn't able to use the phrase "Here Comes The Judge" in its advertisements because of possible copyright infringement. As Harrison explains, "The name absolutely worked because it got magazine writers and performance enthusiasts to say exactly that. The car appeared in major auto-enthusiast publications. The Judge achieved DeLorean's expectations. It brought attention back to the GTO and the Division. Many enthusiasts wanted to see what The Judge was about and that generated much showroom traffic."
As the early-'70's performance-car market transitioned away from intermediate A-body models and toward the newly redesigned Firebird Trans Am and Formula, The Judge package (code-WT1) was officially dropped from the option list on February 11, 1971, and models were no longer produced after March. In its three-year production run, more than 11,000 GTO Judges were sold, but there's no quantifying just how much an effect it had on the Division's reputation as an innovator and trendsetter in an extremely competitive new-car market.
While no single person can claim sole responsibility for the development of The Judge package, collectively the Ad-Hoc committee fulfilled DeLorean's request with a flamboyant GTO that captured the youth market's attention then. The Judge remains highly revered by Pontiac enthusiasts more than 40 years later. Few can argue if it wasn't for the committee's performance-car knowledge, DeLorean's brilliant marketing strategy, and Porter's expertise as a designer to execute the ideal psychedelic theme, the GTO that so many loved would have a different chapter in its famous story.