New Judge Display at Pontiac-Oakland Museum

Judge Display

Since opening nearly five years ago, it has been our goal at the museum to continually rotate the featured cars and displays. We've done pretty well at keeping things fresh, moving the cars in and out and shuffling them around with those handy little "Go-Jacks" — just ask our volunteers who've assisted so many times! (There have even been a couple of instances where unsuspecting visitors were spontaneously recruited to lend a hand, but always to their complete enjoyment.) It's never an easy task, but always rewarding.

Another goal is to showcase a wide variety of Pontiac and Oakland automobiles, both new and old. Sometimes, however, we find delight in presenting a pair of nearly-identical cars so that comparisons can be made while allowing the finer details of these cars to be examined. Our most recent display of "similar" cars actually happened quite by accident, without any of the usual forethought and planning that goes into our rotations.

When we first opened the museum in 2011, I was in the process of doing some restoration work on a 1970 GTO Judge. This was truly a long-term project, and I had only gotten as far as restoring the chassis and drivetrain. It occurred to us at some point while setting up the museum that visitors might perhaps find the Judge's chassis — in its bare "exposed" state, without a body attached — to be an interesting display.

Our hunch was correct: it was a very popular display, indeed! However, after being in the museum for nearly two years, I was anxious to move forward with the remainder of the car's restoration and see the detailed chassis re-united with its not-yet restored body that had been put into storage. So, the chassis was pulled out of the museum and taken to the our workshop just down the street.

Soon after, I announced a "Lets put the body on the chassis" party, and about nine guys showed up to offer their help. Even later was a more-involved two-day party with just a couple of friends present. Our goal, which was soon met, was to get the Judge fully operational. It was awesome to hear the glorious Ram Air III motor finally running once again after so many years. Words alone cannot express how appreciative I am for everyone's assistance.

Finally, after many more hours of detail work through the winter of 2014-'15, a fresh paint job from Marvin's Motor City in Morris,  Illinois was applied, and the Judge was actually finished.

All along, it was my plan to put the once-completed Judge on display inside the museum (at the very least to show our curious returning visitors whatever became of that bare chassis that was on display many months prior)!

Flash forward to mid-November 2015, and the museum is given an excellent opportunity to promote itself during the popular Muscle Car & Corvette Nationals show in Rosemont, Illinois. The 1970 Judge, with its unusual-but-original factory color (Mint Turquoise Metallic), turned out to be the perfect attention-getting vehicle to occupy our booth during the two-day event.

Restored 1970 Mint Turquoise Metallic Judge

In the spare moments that I wasn't chatting to show-goers about the museum or the GTO on display, I managed to wander around the exhibition hall to get a taste of some of the other rare iron on display.

There, I came across a previous acquaintance, Jim Mott of Jim Mott Restorations in Kimberly, Idaho. Jim specializes in Pontiac restorations and typically displays really nice cars he has completely refurbished.

But his display this year really piqued my attention, as it was only partially completed. It was as if he had stopped midway through the restoration of a 1969 GTO Judge and decided to display his handiwork "in progress." (Starting to sound familiar?)

Jim explained to me that he had found this Ram Air IV, four-speed- powered car in an open field in Idaho. It had been sitting outside for quite some time. The windows had been broken out and junk parts were piled inside. Fertilizer, which had been stored in the trunk, had completely rotted away the floor.

He purchased the car and brought it back to his shop where he separated the body from the chassis. He had only gotten as far as restoring the chassis and drivetrain when he was pulled-away to work on other customers' vehicles. Still, he needed something to promote his business at the MCACN show, so he built a support to hold the Judge's body, elevating it just above the pristine chassis. (Unlike the chassis, the body was still untouched — looking just like its darkest days exposed to the Idaho elements — complete with an interior filled with oddball parts and other junk.)

Partially Restored 1969 GTO Judge

While inspecting the sad condition of the body, you could only imagine what the chassis must have looked like before JIm applied his magic to it! All together, it just made for a very interesting display, contrasting the pristine chassis and components with the badly deteriorated body while promoting his restoration skills and happier days ahead.

The uniqueness of this "before and after" display impressed me to the point that I wondered if it might be available to display at POMARC. I asked Jim what his near-term intentions were for the project.

Jim replied that he had so many customer cars lined-up back in Idaho that it would be well over a year before he could even think about getting back to work on his Judge. Having planted the seed, I then posed the question, "How would you feel about putting it on display at the Museum? Instead of trailering it all the way back home, why not let us keep it here in Illinois until you return again next year?"

"Let me think it over," he replied.

The next day he tracked me down at the museum's booth and said he would do it.

So, today at POMARC, we have a two-Judge display! The 1969 chassis, with its rough, elevated body, certainly demonstrates just how bad these cars can be before they are lovingly brought back to life. Our 1970 Judge, meanwhile, is positioned nearby and proudly shows the beauty and end results of our thorough, multi-year restoration project.

Why not plan a visit to POMARC today to view these and many other impressive displays for yourself?