Joining the show field for the 2014 Milwaukee Masterpiece Concours d’Elegance is a 1969 Pontiac Ram Air III GTO Judge, owned by Troy E. Giles of Pewaukee, Wis.
“Our 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge has been restored exactly as it was when it left the Fremont, Calif., plant on July 14, 1969, on its way to Fred A. Carleson Pontiac in Salt Lake City,” said Giles.
The 1969 GTO is equipped with its “born-with” 400-cubic-inch Ram Air III engine. The factory-rated 366 horsepower engine is mated to a Muncie four-speed transmission. Giles’ Ram Air III GTO Judge was equipped at the factory with hide-a-way headlights, Muncie four-speed transmission and console, push-button radio, power steering and disc brakes, rally gauges, redline tires, and of course, “The Judge” package.
“Our GTO was restored over a 10-year period with every imaginable component being restored or replaced (with “New Old Stock” whenever possible). It was truly a labor of love,” he said. The car has been restored in its original color: carousel red.
Every piece of sheet metal and structural part (doors, body, fenders, core support, heater box, hood, frame, suspension components, etc.) was acid dipped in large tanks, neutralized and then dipped in epoxy paint before having the correct finish applied. Each screw and fastener was carefully researched for the correct finish.
“Fortunately, the car spent its entire life (but for a few months preceding my purchase) in Southern California and Arizona,” Giles noted. The results of the acid dip revealed a car that was completely absent any rust or pitting that normally affects Midwestern- and Eastern-based cars as they age.
During the disassembly of the car to prepare it for restoration, Giles discovered evidence that workers at the Fremont, Calif., plant, famous for such antics as attending work in a “1960’s state of mind” and hiding bottles, cans and partially eaten lunches in parts of the assembled car just to irritate the eventual owner (see http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/403/transcript), had actually “signed” parts of the car.
The original rear bumper was somehow inscribed by a man named “Ray” before the chrome was applied. The name was evident even through the application of the chroming process. Like many muscle cars of the era that were produced on a factory line consisting of men and women rather than robots, the car became a testament of the time in which it was created; a sort of social statement.
Thus, the personal touch of adding a signature here or there, tucking a half-eaten bologna sandwich into some recess, or placing a Coke bottle in the fender to produce a mysterious rattle was a sign of the rebellious attitudes of the times.
Interestingly, the GTO itself made a similar personal statement. It was the car and the statement of a young John Delorean (famous for his own disrespect of authority) demanded of his design and advertising team.
Pontiac introduced The Judge version of the GTO in 1969. Out of the 72,287 GTOs sold during the 1969 model year, 6,833 of them were The Judge models.
Another interesting fact about the Pontiac GTO and The Judge involved a man named Jim Wangers. Wangers was the advertising account executive for the Pontiac brand while working for the MacManus, John and Adams agency and was responsible for the brilliant ad campaigns of Pontiac’s famous “Wide-Track” era of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He was instrumental in the launch of the GTO and he, along with Delorean, developed “The Judge” concept and its subsequent campaign.
After serving Pontiac, Wangers opened his own dealership — Jim Wangers Chevrolet — on Green Bay Road in Milwaukee, Wis.