Here Comes The Judge, And More Groovy Cars from the '60s

Culture | March 28, 2018

Ads for the 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge and 1968 Dodge Charger. Source: Pinterest

The names command reverence now: Mustang, Chevelle, Charger, GTO, Corvette. In the 1960s, American car buyers fell in love with speed and power. Manufacturers didn't abandon the luxurious boats they'd produced in the '50s, but that wasn't the growth sector -- Americans were warming to something that we'd come to call muscle. Big engines and sexy lines, cars that seemed built to take orders from the famous Steppenwolf hit: Get your motor runnin, head out on the highway. Muscle cars loved to be driven.

Hot Rods Were Popular For Drag Racing

UNITED STATES - JUNE 03: Lions Drag Strip - 1966. Tom Sturm's '4 Chevy Lovers' Chevrolet Chevelle smokes the tires as he leaves the starting line, as seen from behind. (Photo by Bud Lang/The Enthusiast Network/Getty Images)

The 1969 Dodge Daytona and its sibling is arguably the most radical vehicles to emerge from the muscle car era. But the Daytona wasn't designed for street racing. It was built to win Nascar races on the superspeedways, the longest and fastest tracks.

To increase top speed, engineers tested the Charger in a wind tunnel. The aerodynamic modifications to the Dodge included an almost 2-foot-tall rear wing, a flush rear window, and a longer, sloped nose cone. It was an impressive looking machine. The race version of the Daytona became the first car in Nascar history to exceen 200 mph. After several Dodge wins in 1969, Nascar's put new rules into place which banned these cars. The regular production cars, which bragged a 440 big-block or the legendary 426 Hemi, are sought-after collector cars today that bring more than $150,000 at auctions.

Enter Muscle

The 442 (which gets its name from its four-barrel carburetor, four-speed manual, and dual exhausts) was based on the Cutlass and become the hot muscle machine for Oldsmobile. The 442 shared its distinction with two other hot GM cars; the Chevy Chevelle SS and the Pontiac GTO.

What comes to mind when you hear the term, ‘muscle car’? Vehicles associated with speed, big engines and the car everyone has to look at twice or more with envy and admiration.

400... And Beyond!

Muscle cars, including the Mustang and Camaro were very popular in the 1960’s.

When GM relaxed its longstanding rule forbidding engines larger than 400 cubic inches to be installed in midsize cars, it set off a muscle car frenzy across the company's divisions. Oldsmobile put the huge 455-cubic-inch into its 442, and Chevy installed a unique 454-cubic-inch V-8, the LS6, into its Chevelle SS.

Here Comes The Judge

Pontiac owned the muscle car scene in the early 1960's. In fact, the 1964 Pontiac GTO is well regarded as the very first of the muscle cars. With a big, powerful engine and a lightweight body, this car was created by Russell Gee, John DeLorean and Bill Collins.

That being the case, it wasn’t long before the GTO had plenty of competition. Pontiac was considering manufacturing a cheaper version of the GTO with a smaller 350-cubic-inch engine called the ET (elapsed time).

Pontiac bigwig, John DeLorean didn't like that idea at all. His thought was that no GTO could have an engine that small. Instead, they built a car one step up from the regular GTO. DeLorean himself named the car after a popular skit on the TV show, “Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.” He called it, The Judge. The Judge featured the 360-hp Ram Air III engine standard, but buyers could also opt for the more hardcore 370-hp Ram Air IV. The rarest of all were the GTO Judge Ram Air IV convertibles, with only five having been built in 1969.

Savvy dealerships found a way to order cars with specs that GM didn’t intend for the average driver to own.

Bitchin' Camaros

Chevrolet's Central Office Production Order (COPO) system was designed for fleet sales; it was intended to design heavy-duty suspensions for police cars and stain-proof interiors for taxicabs. But enterprising dealers with the right connections, such as Yenko Chevrolet in Pennsylvania, figured out that Camaros could be ordered this way, too. And given the right order codes, the dealer could spec out a fire-breathing monster of a Camaro that Chevy didn't really want you to own.

The production order 9561 specified a 427 big-block V-8 rated at 425 hp, just like a Corvette. But the even more rare COPO 9560 called for an all-aluminum ZL-1 427 V-8. Though this engine was rated with just 5 more hp, it was widely known that this race-spec engine delivered more like 550 hp. Only 69 ZL-1 Camaros were built, and these cars command prices in the $400,000 range at an auction

Well-known muscle cars were Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros, Dodge Chargers and Corvettes.

1967 Ford Thunderbird

The T-Bird is a two-door coupe, but starting in 1967, Ford offered it as a four-door sedan for a few years. It was designed with Lincoln-style suicide rear doors. The success of the Mustang forced the Thunderbird to be changed to a luxury car rather than a sporty coupe. Ford then had to attract a different type of buyer looking for comfort.

To attract buyers, Ford offered a four-door alternative in this car. The standard engine was 390 V8 but the buyers could get the mighty 428 V8. This 428 was a standard engine and not to be confused with 428 Cobra Jet which was used for the Mustang and other muscle cars.

Snakes On The Road

One of the rarest, classic American muscle cars has to be the Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake. Carroll Shelby wanted to build the fastest car on the road and he did just that in 1967, when he modified this car.

The 1968 Dodge Charger R/T featured a hidden headlight grill and a sleek body design.One of the engine options for this muscle car was the legendary 426 Hemi or the 4 barrel Magnum V-8 engine. Going slow was not an option!!

Another highly collectible muscle car is the 1968 Plymouth Road Runner Hemi. Plymouth paid Warner Brothers $50,000 to use the “Road Runner” name, with an extra $10,000 added on so they could use the ‘beep beep’ sound as the Road Runner’s horn.

Of course, the 1969 Camaro ZL1 packs some serious power! And is one of the rarest cars ever! This Camaro was powered by the racing engine, ZL1 and could accelerate from 0-60 MPH in just 5.3 seconds.

Then there’s the 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet, equipped with ram-air induction. This was Ford’s challenger against Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds.

Collectors can’t get enough of these machines. Long live the legendary muscle cars of the 60’s.

Tags: Car & Auto | Popular Lists Of Everything From The Groovy Era | The 1960s

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.