Creating the Pontiac GTO
The meaning of the letters GTO reportedly stand for “Gran Turismo Omologato“. What this phrase denotes is that the car is eligible to be entered in races like the LeMans and stock car races. The tern used refers to the car’s approval for such events. This translation leaves little doubt that the Pontiac GTO was created with racing and power in mind. Some call the Pontiac GTO the first muscle car.
Surprisingly, the Pontiac GTO was the idea of a GM advertising agency executive and John DeLorean, one time Pontiac chief engineer and later an automaker himself. It’s said that DeLorean came up with the GTO designation based on the Ferrari 250 GTO which didn’t sit too well at the time with GT Class followers. Nevertheless, Pontiac went forward with the vehicle during a period of auto making where powerful cars meant increased sales.
Characteristics of the 1969 GTO
Built on a unitary steel chassis, the 1969 Pontiac GTO had small design changes from the previous year. Changes were new grille inserts, a new rear bumper and the elimination of the small triangle vent windows. The car came with a list of attractive standard options including bucket seats, a Hurst floor mounted shifter for a 3 speed transmission and special exterior trim.
Two new engines were offered in 1969, the Ram Air III and Ram Air IV. The difference between these two engines was a Carter or Rochester carburetor.
The front seats got adjustable head rests and the dashboard was completely padded in 1969 to be in compliance with federal safety regulations. The 1969 GTO taillights were also moved above the back bumper.
One thing that sets the 1969 Pontiac GTO’s apart from other model years is that this was the year that “The Judge” model was unveiled. The Judge GTO was built through 1971. The first difference with The Judge model was it’s 366-horsepower Ram Air III 400 V-8 engine. The 1969 GTO buyer could also opt for a 370-horse Ram Air IV 400. The car’s name was taken from Rowan and Martin’s hit television show, “Laugh In.” The car was decked out quite well with a rear spoiler, decals and stripes, and Rally II wheels. In addition to The Judge, Pontiac offered the 1969 GTO in a hardtop and convertible body style. Today, the higher priced 1969 GTO collector car is The Judge Convertible model.
Interestingly enough, during the 1960′s automakers didn’t really advertise the top speed of their cars. Not that the information wasn’t there. It was there for the asking. With the horsepower races going on during the 60′s, a car with an very high advertised top speed would mean that the insurance companies would raise prices. If a top speed was advertised at well over 100 MPH you could expect a premium increase. Some of the GTO top speeds could reach 130 MPH. Most 1969 Judges were Carousel Red.
The Judge was Pontiacs highest performing GTO muscle car model and had heavy duty parts from front to back. Many will tell you that The Judge GTO was the ultimate GTO.
The Judge hardtops, the same as with regular GTO models, could be built on either the standard frame, which received new semi-gloss black paint for 455 cid equipped cars, or the convertible’s stiffer boxed rail frame.
1969 Production Totals and Models
In addition to The Judge, Pontiac offered the 1969 GTO in a hardtop and convertible body style. Today, the higher priced 1969 GTO collector car is The Judge Convertible model.
1969 Potiac GTO production totaled 6,825 of The Judge models, most being hardtops, 58,100 regular hardtops and 7,328 regular convertibles.
1969 Pontiac GTO Specifications
The 1969 Pontiac GTO came with a variety of engines including the Ram Air’s mentioned above. All engines were 400 cubic inch V-8′s with horsepower ranging from 265 to 370. The base model was powered with a 350 horsepower engine.
The 1969 GTO came with a three speed and four speed manual transmission along with a Turbo Hydra-Matic three speed automatic.
Brakes were four wheel hydraulic drums.
The car’s dimensions included a 112.0 inch wheelbase, a length of 201.2 inches, a width of 75.8 inches and height of 52.3 inches. Weight was a bit over 3,500 lbs.
New car price for The Judge hardtop was about $3,500, for The Judge convertible $3,700, the regular GTO hardtop $3,150 and the regular convertible model $3,390.
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A few good books about the Pontiac GTO include GTO, 1964-1967 (Muscle Car Color History) by Paul Zazarine and How to Restore Your Pontiac GTO, 1964-74 by author Don Keefe.
Pontiac GTO Collector Car Values
All of the 1969 Pontiac GTO’s are great collector automobiles. As mentioned above, The JUdge model which debuted in 1969 appears to hold the greatest value with The Judge Convertibles usually being the highest.
1960′s Pontiac GTO values in general have remained strong and appear, as of this writing, to be increasing. Reportedly only five 1969 GTO Convertibles were built with the new Ram Air IV engine. This makes these some of the rarest of all GTO’s.
Looking at only finely restored 1969 GTO’s, prices will usually vay by exact model and degree of originality. The Judge models will generally have auction asking prices of $100,000 plus. Some high end auction asking prices have been known to hit $200,000. Convertibles most likely higher. Regular GTO’s of show quality will range from the $40,000 to the $70,000 asking price. A lot here will depend on degree of restoration and engine size. GTO’s not of show quality may be priced less.
(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)