Classic Classified: 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV

From: Hemmings Motor News, December 1983

Price then: $9750 ($24,000 adjusted for inflation)

Price now: $76,000–$195,000

Approximate dollar difference: $33,100 (Assuming No. 1 condition)

Annual rate of return: 6.2%

Judge: 1969 R/A IV, 4-Speed, professional ground-up restoration, 1983 POCI national first place winner; NOS parts too numerous to mention, car pictured in Hi-Perf Pontiac Dec issue, $9,750 or partial trade on early 30s street rod sedan or 70-72 Trans Am.

All rise for the Judge! You might as well remain standing, since this Ram Air IV-equipped car deserves Supreme Court-level respect. Looking beyond The Judge’s famous looks and funky color palette, there is much more to it than meets the eye. The standard engine option in a Judge for 1969 was a 366-hp, Ram Air III 400-cu-in engine.

1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV
1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Mecum

If that wasn’t butch enough, an optional Ram Air IV 400 engine could be selected. While only advertised at 370 hp, many Poncho fans consider the Ram Air IV to be another one of Pontiac’s usual tactics of fudging horsepower figures on the conservative side. To those who know engine building, this makes a bit of sense. Compared to the RA III, the RA IV received special heads with larger intake ports and round exhaust ports, Winters aluminum intake manifold, a much higher lift and duration cam, and heavy duty rotating assembly. Peak power came in at 5500 rpm. That means that the standard 3.90:1 axle ratio or the optional 4.33:1 could be taken fully exploited. It made for a potent quarter-mile warrior.

From a collectible standpoint, there are few Pontiacs that are more desirable than a Ram Air IV GTO Judge. According to the Judge Registry, only about 239 1969 Ram Air IV Judge hardtops were produced with a four-speed transmission, making these exceptionally hard to find even when they were relatively new. For a connoisseur looking for a desirable GTO back in 1983, it doesn’t get any better than this one. And a recent restoration and national show awards back up the quality, which is a serious draw. While this car would have been difficult to operate on a regular basis with such a highly-strung engine and poor gas quality in the early ’80s, its rarity inherently renders this a car for limited use anyway.

An eager buyer would’ve seen their investment handsomely rewarded for 35 years of care—cars deemed highly worthy can go for nearly $200,000. This is a hard one to pass up and would have everyone exclaiming “Here comes the Judge” at the local car gatherings.

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