Product: By 1969 the muscle-car era was in full bloom and near its peak, so it wasn’t unusual for a U.S. automaker like Pontiac to have some fun with one of its top models. Remember Plymouth’s Super Bird?
Well, Pontiac had The Judge, a souped-up GTO, which was already a legitimate muscle machine. The Judge featured twin air scoops on the hood, a small wing in back and this one adds Pontiac’s muscular 370-horsepower Ram Air IV V8 under its massive hood. That was a $390 option at the time.
The name? Well, that came from TV’s popular "Laugh-In" comedy show, from a recurring bit featuring Sammy Davis Jr. as a hipster judge. Pontiac used various marketing lines, such as "All rise for The Judge," to promote the car.
Here Ertl’s American Muscle series delivers a stellar 1:18-scale recreation at a reasonable price that many collectors will be able to afford. This is part of Ertl’s 20th Elite Edition with an MSRP of $75.95.
In its day, The Judge went for $332 more than a standard GTO, which featured a 350-horsepower V8. And The Judge was considered Pontiac’s ultimate street performance machine, doing 0-60 mph in 6.2 seconds. More than 6,800 units of The Judge were sold out of 72,287 GTOs that year.
Performance: This model is decked out in a light metallic green with appropriate green and gold striping of the day and The Judge logo printed on the front quarter panel, just in front of the wheel well. GTO is also printed low on the panel, just in front of the door. As a kid we had a very similar Oldsmobile Cutlass S, and this will bring back memories for anyone who drove a similar Pontiac, Olds or Chevy.
The hood and doors open, and the detail is good for this price point. The engine looks realistic with some plumbing and labeling on the air filter and other parts. Likewise, the car’s underside is well-detailed with accurate suspension.
For collectors who pose their cars, the steering wheel turns the front wheels and the head and taillights look realistic.
These cars were not fancy inside, but The Judge has a small bit of fake wood trim by the steering column and an accurate three-spoke wheel and T-handle shift knob that only The Judge featured this model year. The seat backs fold here, too, and these are buckets with a matching green center console.
Outside, the finish is good, reflective of the paint schemes of the day, and the chrome window trim is paint not plated material. The door handles look realistic, and the driver’s side mirror is plated. The five-spoke wheels look good too, and the tires are redlines, but with no branding.
Marketing: This is a winner for any muscle car lover, especially the Boomers who grew up when GTOs, Road Runners and Chevelle SS models were ripping up the roads, the growl of their V8s echoing through our alleys and back yards.
Aim this at that Boomer collector that has a little disposable income to part with and wants a 1:18 version of one of his or her dream machines. This one would work well in an all-muscle-car display with other 1:18 and 1:24 die-cast models. Plus you could pack in a selection of plastic model kits, too, for the car enthusiast who enjoys building his own version.
Although there may be more detailed models out there, the price on Ertl’s American Muscle series makes these an easier sell to a larger collecting audience.
Remember those add-on sales of display cases and figurines that create a scene or possible diorama with the model.
Product: American Muscle 20th Elite Edition 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge
Stock number: AMM960/04
Availability: Distributed by Round 2
• Rare version of GTO
• Nice detail for price
• Muscle cars sell