If you’re gonna make a car, finding a good name for it is a huge deal because you want to set the right tone from the start. No car will have a bright future if you call it “Swinger” or “Lettuce”. I’m pretty sure that “Pistachio” and “Thing” aren’t great either, but certainly “Laputa” takes the cake for christening no nos. On the opposite side of these disasters, there are names that stand the test of time as synonyms of style, performance and desirability; names like “Mustang”, “Interceptor”, “Viper” and “Charger”. However, to me, the greatest name ever to be bestowed upon a car is undoubtedly, “The Judge”. I mean seriously, how freaking cool is that?
Okay, okay…the car’s name is GTO and “The Judge” is just the designation of a specific variation, but do you care? Because I don’t. If I ever get one of these things, I’m gonna use that name till absolute exhaustion! Here are a set of future real life examples of this unnecessary yet unavoidable (slightly [very] douchy) trend:
*Friday nights* – “Hey, let’s take The Judge out for a drive”
*Social events* – “I’ll go, but only if I can bring The Judge with me”
*Picking up girls* – “Come with me ladies, I’ll introduce you to The Judge”
*Random parking lots* – “Please, do not disturb The Judge”
The GTO was always a great looking ride and just the idea of it is enough to fiercely make me miss the defunct Pontiac brand. The 1969 and 1970 models are two of the best looking GTO incarnations and both of them had “The Judge” optional package available (although this version was originally meant for ´69 only). The coolest name in automotive history actually derived from a comedy bit! Legendary actor, dancer, singer and all-round entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. had a routine in the popular TV program “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” where – while in a very fetching judge wig – Davis would steal the show with hilarious moves and clever rhymes that would always end with “Here comes the judge”. It’s amazing to think how such a badass name/car originated in something so silly. Actually the whole car is in severe contrast to the ideas that were originally meant to define it.
When the notion first popped up, it was meant to be a stripped down, low cost version of the GTO (Gran Turismo Omologato) in order to compete with the Road Runner which was, in turn, a cheaper version of Plymouth’s GTX. However things got slightly out of hand and The Judge ended up being more expensive than the basic GTO, $337.02 more to be exact. For this money you’d get the wonderful 366bhp Ram Air III engine, special Rally II rims with wider tires, a special driving and handling package, blacked out front grill, a unique Hurst T-shaped shifter, a trunk spoiler that didn’t do a thing but looks really cool and a whole bunch of funky decals. You’d also get a gavel placed on a special holder under the arm rest. Okay, that’s a lie, you wouldn’t get that but the Pontiac execs should have thought of it! I mean come on it’s called “The Judge”! How on earth was it sold without that? Talk about oversights, geez!
According to “legend”, it was larger than life character and proud GTO father John DeLorean that insisted on naming this particular version after the Davis Jr. bit; originally the car was called E/T (for elapsed time) which is a really, really stupid name and we can all be thankful that it didn’t stick. Initially (´69) The Judge was offered only in the (now) characteristic “Carousel Red” color, being later available in any GTO tone. For 1970, the Ram Air IV engine option became available and “Orbit Orange” was defined as the main color for The Judge; the decals were also moved, being featured in the upper wheelwell brows.
The Judge can’t be considered a massive sales hit (despite constituting 10% of GTO sales in 1969); in fact, the GTO as a model in that year can’t be called that either. The world was changing and the ludicrously high insurance premiums, combined with the new safety and emissions rules that came along in the late 60’s and early 70’s ushered the beginning of the end for the first golden age of American muscle; the oil crash was the final nail in the coffin. Still, for an extra of under 400 bucks, The Judge was one hell of a bargain.
After 1970 most of the glorious giants of the muscle era became ugly and useless and the GTO was no exception. The ´69/´70 Judge remains as a testament to a wonderful age for American cars, a time when Sammy Davis Jr. in a silly wig was a perfectly valid reason to name one of the coolest, best looking, most desirable rides of all time.
Here comes The Judge!
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P.S. – I couldn’t pass on sharing a couple of ads for this car because of obvious reasons; enjoy.
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