1969 GTO Judge - Driving With Style
This is a discussion on 1969 GTO Judge - Driving With Style within the GTO forums, part of the Vehicle Specific category; 1969 GTO Judge - Driving With Style General Motors has made great strides in the last several years to preserve ...
02-29-2008, 01:20 PM #1
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1969 GTO Judge - Driving With Style
1969 GTO Judge - Driving With Style
General Motors has made great strides in the last several years to preserve its history. Gone are the days of destroying historically significant concept cars, factory records and archives. Finally, the treasures of GM's past are being preserved through a variety of programs and facilities, such as GM Media Archives and the GM Heritage Collection.
In this spirit, the GM Design Center has embarked on a new project that will be sure to ignite interest in its own history-it's in the beginning stages of producing a retrospective book in-house. The working title is Driving with Style: GM Design's First Century and is scheduled for a 2008 release. HPP was invited to Detroit by Brian Baker, Drive Team Manager, to witness the photo shoot for a special section on the Pontiac GTO.
The Idea Is Hatched
"It was actually an interesting story about how that photo shoot came about," says Lead Digital Designer Jeff Denison, whose own '69 Judge was selected for it. "A few of us were talking at lunch about how we should cover the GTO in the book, as it was a very significant design. We came up with the idea that a Judge would be the best way to cover that section. Studio shots of my Warwick Blue '69 were taken and they looked great. Later, we thought that a Judge from each year would be an even better way to represent the breed. The red, white and blue idea just evolved from there."
The next phase was to find two more Judges. Fortunately, Jeff is a longtime POCI member, so with the help of Dan Jensen, he was able to locate the necessary examples-a Cardinal Red '70 Ram Air IV, owned by Dan's brother Dennis, and a beautiful Polar White '71 455 H.O., owned by Mike Sparks. "Not only did we get the colors we wanted, we also used cars with the three main Judge engines-the Ram Air III, the Ram Air IV and the 455 H.O.," Denison adds. "And they have different transmissions and equipment levels-it really worked out beautifully."
At The Location
The photo shoot took place on August 26 at the Athens Coney Island diner on Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, Michigan. It provided the perfect opportunity to give our readers a unique behind-the-scenes look at a photo shoot, which will no doubt be publicized heavily and will become an iconic piece of artwork to be enjoyed by future generations.
Brad May, GM Design Senior Creative Photographer, was there to record the event. He has been a photographer for 17 years, working for GM for five, and is recognized as one of the most talented automotive shutter-men in the business. Others in attendance included David Tellefsen, Manager of Design Future and Historical Data, author Eric White and Bob Daykin from Pontiac's ad agency, Publicis/Leo Burnette Worldwide.
The setup for the shoot was without a doubt one of the longest and most exhaustive I have ever witnessed-I took many mental notes, as it was an opportunity to learn from a true master of the art. As one would expect, with GM talent and equipment being used for the shoot, everything was top-notch from the start. It was pretty obvious that Brad knew what he wanted and how he would achieve the desired results.
The restaurant was closed to the public, and the process began around 4 p.m. After moving trash cans and newspaper vending machines, and sweeping down the parking lot, black tape was used to cover up the yellow lines on the pavement; the lot was then hosed down to aid with light reflection.
Brad spent at least an hour positioning the cars relative to each other and to the building behind them. The three owners moved their cars an inch forward or back, turned them slightly and positioned their steering wheels many times until just the right combination was found. Brad used a Canon EOS 1DS with a Canon 28-70 zoom lens, fastened to a 12-foot high Gitzo tripod to get the proper angle. I was on the ground recording what Brad was doing with my 10.1 mega-pixel Pentax and a more conventionally-sized tripod. Brad used specialized equipment to get the desired effect and the results certainly show what five hours of prep-aration can achieve. The final shot was used for this issue's centerspread and the cover.
In order to provide the proper mood, extras were used to sit in the Athens Coney Island diner, to make it look like it was open. The ruse worked, as the photographers had to shoo away people looking for dinner. At least one woman became very irate-apparently the hot dogs there are that good!
After The Shoot
Once the shoot was complete, Brad began to work on a composite of the shots taken throughout the day. Since Brad's camera and the Judges remained stationary for the entire shoot, he was able to take shots from mid-afternoon until nightfall that were idential except for the light. From there, he fed all of the shots into a Macintosh computer. Using Adobe Photoshop, he and retouchers assembled a composite of the best exposures of each car, backed by the best overall exposure of the restaurant and the parking lot. "Photoshop allows me to extend my creativity beyond the photography," Brad explained. "After the fact, I can go in and create the image I want that wouldn't be possible just by taking the photo. That's the perfection ailment I'm afflicted with!"
If all that photographic manipulation seems like cheating, it's how most commercial photography is currently produced. Though some Source Interlink magazine covers are assembled in this fashion, this is the first time HPP has had a composite cover.
If you think there aren't any car guys left at GM, think again. Even better, GM has many hardcore Pontiac fans, Jeff Denison being one of the most well-known, both in and out of the corporation. As Lead Digital Designer, Jeff's job is to keep developmental programs on-track and to make sure the designs are properly integrated with the engineering departments.
Being an active hobbyist working for GM, Jeff is frequently consulted on historical topics, and his input with this project is what really helped the idea evolve into this shoot and its integration into the book. Over lunches with Drive Team Manager Brian Baker, the ideas they devised to pay tribute to the GTO in print culminated in the concept for the photos you see here. "As one of the guys who helped organize it and had a car photographed, it was a unique situation for me," Jeff explains. "We worked as a team and we all helped each other. It was an important component of the success of the shoot."
Jeff's '69 Judge is a gorgeous example of the breed, in Warwick Blue with black interior. It's a Ram Air III, four-speed car with 3.55 gears and Safe-T-Track. He purchased it in 1999 and, aside from detailing the engine compartment, hasn't done much except drive it and display it at local shows. This is a car he takes out and has fun with.
In addition to the Judge, Jeff also has his first car, a '67 GTO convertible that he has owned since 1973, a '69 Trans Am convertible clone, a '70 Trans Am and a '98 Grand Prix Daytona Pace Car Replica/GTX that was one of the original four built. Jeff is a very active member of POCI and is a founding member of the new Motor City Chapter.
Dennis Jensen, an architect from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a pretty familiar face in the Pontiac world, along with his twin brother, Dan. Both have been actively involved in the Pure Stock Factory Drags for many years and they have an affinity for round-port A-body Pontiacs. Dennis' Cardinal Red '70 Ram Air IV Judge is what he considers the ultimate GTO.
He has owned the car since 1974 and bought it off a VW used car lot where it was traded in on a VW diesel Dasher, a trade-in casualty of the first oil embargo scare. "I straight traded it for my '70 Firebird Formula 400," he recalls. "I swapped over the wheels, which were the small center 15x7-inch Rally IIs from the optional T/A handling package on the F-bird."
Options include the "Judge" package, 370hp R/A-IV engine, Turbo 400 trans, center console, power steering, AM/FM radio, and rear seat speaker. Dennis added the hood tach when he found an NOS one back in 1990 or so, as well as the in-dash gauges and a factory AM/FM stereo. It still has manual drum brakes, however. "I'm seriously considering a factory-correct power disc brake upgrade for obvious reasons," he adds.
Dennis brought his two sons, 16-year-old Evan and 13-year-old Corbin, to the Athens Coney Island shoot, where they acted as extras, filling in the booths by the window to make the restaurant look like it was open. "It was so much fun," Dennis recalled in a recent interview. "I hadn't been to Woodward in so long-it was a gas. We did some cruising, but I wish I did some more. It was great to be included in this very special project."
In addition to the Judge, he also owns a '73 Brewster Green SD-455 four-speed Trans Am and a '71 Cardinal Red with a black top four-door hardtop Bonneville, which is a former tow car for the Judge. In the past, he also held title to a '70 D-port GTO, a '70 Ram Air IV GTO and a '65 Catalina wagon with a rare transistorized ignition.
Mike's participation in the GM photo shoot was the result of prior association with Dan Jensen-he bought Dan's '70 Ram Air IV Judge a few years before. Dan knew that he had a white Judge and Mike jumped at the opportunity to take part.
Mike, an Elmhurst, Illinois-based architect, has owned this '71 Judge since 1999, after he bought it from its second owner. It's equipped with a 335-horse 455 H.O.; four-speed; a 3.55-geared, 12-bolt Safe-T-Track differential; Formula wheel; hood tach; body-colored mirrors; 8-Track player; wheelwell moldings and factory gauges with clock.
Research revealed that the Judge was an early production car with an 08D firewall tag code, meaning the fourth week of August, 1970. The PHS documentation shows that there was a 5-percent discount on the shipping manifest. It was most likely a brass hat car that didn't reach the delivering dealer until April of 1971.
"The thing that was most impressive was GM's dedication to this project," Mike says. "There are still a lot of Judge fans in GM. The ties to the heritage obviously run deep there." He adds, "It was a long day, but it was definitely worth the effort."
In addition to the '71 shown here, Mike also has a numbers-matching '69 Liberty Blue Ram Air IV Judge four-speed with just 33,000 miles and the aforementioned Atoll Blue '70 Ram Air IV Judge he bought from Dan Jensen. Mike is also a member of the GTOAA.
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09-25-2008, 03:32 PM #2
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