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Which 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Do You Prefer: Restored or Original?

Brian Halloran & Lyndon Hughes's 1971 Pontiac GTO

HOT ROD: Which 1971 Pontiac GTO Judge Do You Prefer: Restored or Original?

Point-Counterpoint With a Couple of Equal Yet Opposite 1971 Judges

Tom Shaw writer

Apr 22, 2016

What's better, a gorgeous restoration or an unrestored original? Why choose? Have one of each!

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Here we have a restoration and a genuine Michigan barn find. They're both 1971 GTO Judges, both with the big 455 H.O., but the two have delightful differences, illustrating how cars can be the same yet very different. Both cars were built at the Pontiac, Michigan, plant. VINs are 15,658 units apart.

Mr. Green, the Judge's Judge

"People ask me why I'm a Pontiac guy," says Brian Halloran, owner of the green Judge. "I was born in 1964, the year the GTO came out, in a hospital on Woodward Avenue, and I grew up in Pontiac, Michigan." What better credentials could you ask for?

All the judge clichs have been worn out over the years, but for once, this Judge was, believe it or not, owned by an actual judge. Mr. Green, as it has come to be nicknamed, was bought new in Canada by a provincial court judge in Ontario. He had an official government plate that kept the speeding tickets away, but it wasn't a personalized Judge theme.

Like most muscle cars, it went through a series of owners in the 1970s. It landed with GTO enthusiast Todd Kozak around 20 years ago.

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Todd was driving the Judge while planning a thorough restoration. He had a pretty good network of fellow GTO buddies and located a lot of original parts. But he found the best part of all in a 1965 GTO race car in Toronto: the original numbers-matching engine. He bought the engine back and things were looking up for the restoration. Todd had the engine rebuilt and restored the body, using lots of rust-free and N.O.S. parts. The Judge was once again looking good.

Todd drove the Judge and enjoyed it. Then several years ago he sold it to another Pontiac bud, Chris Haggerty. Brian knew Chris and took a liking to the hot green Judge.

"I told Chris if he ever sold Mr. Green, as I referred to the car, to let me know," Brian recalls. "Late in 2013 Chris called me to let me know it was time."

In spring 2014 the deal was completed, and Brian had himself a fine 1971 Tropical Lime Green Judge. The car is particularly striking in the bright green color scheme with yellow, white, and darker green graphics. GTO styling and drivetrains evolved over the years, but managed to always stay in the sweet spot of a changing market, as this 1971 Judge demonstrates. Who wouldn't be proud to have this car in their garage?

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But it doesn't stay in the garage. Brian still drives it and enjoys it.

"The 455 H.O. is strong," he says. "It's a torque monster. It's got more cubes than the 400 Ram Air IV, but doesn't need the high-octane fuel."

He commonly runs into people who are surprised that he doesn't have the car in mothballs. There is still some engine work on his to-do list, and a part here and there he wants to replace to take it to the next level. But for now he is happy to drive it on occasion and make a few happy miles in Mr. Green, one of the last of the legendary GTO Judges.

At a Glance
1971 GTO Judge
Owned by: Brian Halloran
Restored by: Todd Kozak
Engine: 455ci/335hp H.O. V-8
Transmission: Turbo 400 automatic
Rearend: 12-bolt with 3.55 gears and Safe-T-Track
Interior: Original Jade vinyl bucket seat
Wheels: 14x7 Honeycomb
Tires: 225/70R14 Firestone Firehawk
Special parts: One of 357 1971 Judge hardtops produced

Unrestored 1971 GTO Judge Barn Find

Lyndon Hughes' rough-around-the-edges Judge is a powerful draw, its as-is gnarliness creating an uninterrupted link right back to the springtime of its life in the heart of the Rust Belt. You can't look at it without having to investigate further.

The backstory is that the car was bought new in October 1970 by a man from Bowling Green, Ohio, just a half-hour or so south of Toledo. He wanted a big engine because he was a boater and needed something extra-beefy to tow the boat.

All was well for four years, then while backing into the water he went a little too far down the ramp and got water on the clutch. With the clutch wet and slippery, and a boat and a car depending on it to stay out of the lake, the inevitable over-revving damaged the clutch. The owner drove it home and parked it. There it would stay for 15 years.

Lyndon came across it in a front yard while on a scouting mission for another GTO with fellow GTO bud and Pure Stock Drags cofounder Bob Boden back in 1987. It was dark, but the eadlights lit up the side stripes.

They didn't exactly hit it off.

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"The owner met us at the door with his shotgun in hand and ordered us off his property," Lyndon tells us.

But what's a shotgun barrel or two when a 1971 Judge is concerned? Lyndon stayed on the trail, and before long the guy softened up and Lyndon had his critical breakthrough.

"We later made contact with him again. He finally let us in to discuss the car but was unwilling to sell. At least we were able to leave our phone numbers with him."

A year or so later he got the call. But the offer was good for just 24 hours. Lyndon had to move fast. And he did. The Judge was now his.

"It looked just like it does now," recalls Lyndon.

The car went into storage at Lyndon's Michigan home, and he began buying N.O.S. parts in preparation for a full-tilt restoration. But between his full-time job and a string of surgeries, the restoration never got off the ground.

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A friend visiting Lyndon thought the car was great as is, and suggested that he get it running and drive it just like it was. Lyndon's GTO buddy, Bob, pitched in, and with the help of a loaner 455 H.O. engine from fellow friend Dan Jensen, the Judge returned to the road.

Lyndon drove it to the Pure Stock Drags in 2014 (a trip chronicled in a MCR Last Page column), where it attracted a lot of attention, including interest from Bob Ashton, managing member of the Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals (MCACN) show in Chicago. Bob suggested that the rare Judge participate at a Barn Finds display at the next MCACN show. Lyndon agreed, displayed the car, and wound up winning its class.

Despite the rust and fading paint, the sweet '71 still has movie star persona and knockout power. Like all 1971 Judges, it has the 455 H.O. engine. Transmission is the burly M22 Rock Crusher four-speed, and behind it is a Safe-T-Track rear axle.

"I have had nothing but compliments on the car," Lyndon says. "It is almost a shame to restore the car as it just looks so good as it is."

At a Glance
1971 GTO Judge
Owned by: Lyndon Hughes
Restored by: Unrestored
Engine: 455ci/335hp H.O. V-8
Transmission: M-22 close-ratio 4-speed
Rearend: 12-bolt with 3.55 gears and Safe-T-Track
Interior: Original blue vinyl interior
Wheels: 14x6-inch Rally II
Tires: G70-14 Firestone Wide Oval Sup-R-Belt
Special parts: One of 357 1971 Judge hardtops produced

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If you got a 1971 Judge, you got the maxi-cube 455 H.O. This was the one and only engine choice. There were no tri-carb, dual-four, or other step-up options.

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Both cars have their original interiors. The green Judge has a replacement carpet, while the blue Judge has the original—wear, stains, and all.

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During the peak of the muscle car years, "Ram Air" was what Pontiac called its upgraded line of engines. The 1971 Judges got the Ram Air sticker forward, on each side of the hoodscoop. While the "The Judge" graphics on the fender and trunk lid changed depending on body color, the Ram Air graphic was white regardless of body color.

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Vivid colors were part of the Judge's identity. The loud, stylized "The Judge" fender graphics came in four colors, with the center of the letters being either yellow, blue, orange, or black.

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From the rear you could tell a Judge from a standard GTO by the trunk sticker. Judgelike body side stripes were available as an option on any 1971 GTO, but only the Judge got The Judge badging along with the stripes.

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The standard rearview mirror was rectangular chrome. A remote-control version, which the blue Judge has, was optional. Also optional were the color-keyed, aerodynamically styled mirrors on the green Judge, new for 1971. The aerodynamic mirrors were sold in sets of two. The chrome mirrors were sold individually, with a right-hand mirror or a remote-control left-hand mirror available as options.

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Brian Halloran's Tropical Lime Green Judge has the optional 14x7 cast aluminum Honeycomb wheels. Lyndon Hughes' Lucerne Blue Judge wears the original Rally II wheels. These 14x6, five-spoke wheels with no beauty rings (the rings were optional) were standard issue for the 1971 Judge. Both the Rally II and Honeycomb wheels were also available in 15-inch sizes. Lyndon's blue Judge also has the optional wheel opening moldings.

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Look past the age-related gnarliness in the blue Judge's trunk and you will see the surviving GM-applied spatter paint. Note the application on the hinges and trunk latch. How about that original Rally II spare? The Wide Oval tire is an original too. The green Judge has a similar but different finish.

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The green Judge has the Formula wheel, while the blue Judge has the padded Custom Sport steering wheel. Both are options. The plastic three-spoke steering wheel was standard.

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The green Judge has the optional Turbo 400 automatic with the GM floor shifter. The blue Judge has the optional close-ratio four-speed, which came with the Hurst T-handle shifter. Both have consoles.

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The green Judge has the optional custom belts with the polished metal buckles. The blue Judge has the standard seatbelts with the big black plastic buckles.

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The leading edge of the blue Judge's hood is straight all the way across, while the green Judge's hood has indentations. The green Judge got a service replacement hood during restoration, and the service parts had the indentations that showed up in 1972 GTO production. The indentations make the hood easier to lift while opening.

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