Editor’s Note: The decade of the 1960s is considered by many to be the greatest in American automotive history. There’s little mystery why. The 1960s gave birth to the “muscle car wars” and game-changing performance pony cars. Legends like the Pontiac GTO, Ford Mustang, Chevy Camaro, HEMI-powered Mopars, and several others. How does one choose which is best? Controversially, we’re guessing. That’s why you’re taking some of the heat, too. We sync’d up with our friends on Summit Racing’s social media team to put the question out to their Facebook and Instagram audiences: What is the top car of the 1960s? The countdown to #1 continues.
“Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Hopefully that bit of biblical advice wasn’t in reference to 1960s muscle cars because we totally want to judge.
There’s no shortage of car enthusiasts who consider the Goat, the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time). But which one?
While there’s always some smart-aleck car person out there eager to challenge the claim, the 1964 Pontiac GTO is widely considered the first true American muscle car to birth the movement for the remainder of the 1960s, and into the early ‘70s. It’s revered for that reason.
The 1965, ’66, and ’67 GTOs are gorgeous and wildly popular with collectors and hot-rodders.
1968 ushered in the Goat’s second generation and was named Car of the Year.
And then 1969 happened, and Pontiac unleashed “The Judge,” your pick for the #4 spot on our Top Cars of the 1960s list.
For an extra $332 over the price of a standard GTO, the Judge came equipped with Ram Air III induction (and later, Ram Air IV for a higher price) feeding a 400 cubic-inch HO (high-output) V8, three-speed gearbox, Rally II wheels, and a beefed-up suspension.
Pontiac sold just 108 convertible models, but more than 6,700 hardtop models. (Convertible versions of the Judge cost about $1,000 more than the hardtops.) Fewer than 10 percent of all 72,287 ’69 GTOs built were Judges.
The first 2,000 Judge GTOs were delivered in “Carousel Red” (which totally means orange), but were available in all GTO colors afterward.
The Pontiac GTO was a victim of its own awesomeness.
Sales slumped heading into the 1970s—not because the car wasn’t fantastic, but—because the GTO’s performance image caused insurance prices to skyrocket and price people out of the market.
But we’ll always have 1969, when we showed our respect and all rose for the Judge.