Cold hard facts and figures rarely tell the story, whether it’s the tale of one’s life or of a car’s journey through time. In the case of Richard Sargent’s ’69 Ram Air IV Judge, the general facts are well-known. It’s one of the 6,725 Judges built, it’s part of the first run of 2,000 Judges, and it’s one of the 239 hardtops built with a Ram Air IV and a four-speed. These are all relevant facts, but there is much more to this story.
It all starts back in early 1969 when a Ram Air IV Judge was ordered by Dick Marson Pontiac in Yakima, Washington. It was optioned as a racecar to be campaigned by the dealership. Though Pontiac was officially out of racing at the time, there was some behind-the scenes-encouragement by the Division for dealers to compete with the new Judge in local and regional events. The idea was to help generate excitement about the newest GTO and Pontiac in general. In return, Pontiac would provide warranty coverage for drivetrain components damaged in competition.
This particular Judge was ordered as stripped-down and performance-oriented as possible. The boxes on the order form were checked for a Ram Air IV engine, close-ratio four-speed transmission, special-order axle ratio (4.33:1), and hood tach and Rally Gauge cluster. Nothing else was ordered—this car doesn’t even have a radio.
Richard Sargent’s ’69 Ram...
Richard Sargent’s ’69 Ram Air IV Judge has been preserved more than restored. Though the standard gray GTO grilles are technically not correct for the Judge, its early build date and photos taken of it the day of its delivery confirm that they are the very units that were installed at the factory. The same is true of the “Ram Air” decals sans the “IV.” Richard’s research on the car’s history indicates that it is not only the first Ram Air IV Judge delivered in Washington State, it may possibly be the first Ram Air IV Judge built.
The Judge was campaigned for about three months by the dealership, with salesman Gary Treat handling the driving chores. He was rather successful, actually making some local newspaper headlines that detailed his victories. Unfortunately, the dealer principle, Dick Marson, was never fully sold on the idea. After witnessing Treat blow a clutch at a local race, he decided it wasn’t for him and pulled the plug on the program.
Subsequently, the Judge was sold to David John, who continued to race it and somehow managed to convince Marson to provide some sponsorship. Mr. John kept the car until November of 1972, when he traded it in on a new ’73 Chevy 3⁄4-ton pickup at Butterfield Chevrolet in nearby Ellensburg, Washington.
Here is where things get a little crazy. The next owners of the Judge, a young married couple, bought it off the used car lot from Butterfield and promptly spun a rod bearing. They had a used motor installed and sold the R/A-IV motor to David John, the original owner. After the couple divorced, the husband left not only his wife, but the Judge as well. Subsequently, the Pontiac was repossessed by the credit union in Yakima.
The interior is completely...
The interior is completely original except for the rear package tray, which came from Ames Performance Engineering. There is no Judge emblem on the glovebox door, a correct detail for the early Judges. This Goat was ordered to go and is completely free of anything that would slow it down.
Mike Van Horn purchased it from the credit union. Bill Hudson bought it around 1974 or 1975, and later traded it back in to Lee Peterson Pontiac, the then-current owner of the Dick Marson franchise.
Lee Peterson Pontiac wholesaled it to Luxury Lane Motors, and Leland Encraft picked it up in November of 1977. About 1,000 miles later, Leland’s son Richard blew the motor.
Though its dressed to look...
Though its dressed to look like the engine has never been apart, the original Ram Air IV was bored 0.060-inch and rebuilt by Cope Brothers Machine. It has been upgraded with a Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam and 800-cfm SD-455 Quadrajet.
The license plate frame from...
The license plate frame from 1969 was still on the Judge and helped to identify it as the Marson racecar. The slicks are M&H Racemasters mounted on steel wheels.
Some botched porting performed...
Some botched porting performed on the 722 heads in the ’70s was straightened out by Dave Bisschop of SD Performance.