GM won't budge on 'Judge'; customizer told it can't use GTO Judge name By RICHARD TRUETT | Automotive News (08:39 Oct. 22, 2003) DETROIT -- General Motors and an aftermarket company that specializes in producing high-performance vehicles both are laying claim to the name "Judge" for hotter versions of the new Pontiac GTO. GM believes it owns the name, since they created the GTO Judge, a special performance and appearance model of the GTO marketed from 1969 through 1971. The Judge name has not been used on a vehicle since then. Production of the original GTO ended in 1974. SLP Engineering, of Troy, Mich., best known for creating the high-performance Firebird Firehawk, says it has made the name a registered trademark in preparation for launching its own tuner models of the GTO next spring. SLP founder Ed Hamburger said his company is planning to offer three souped-up GTO models, one with 370 hp, one with 389 hp and one badged the "421 Judge," a version that will make 421 hp. Hamburger said SLP researched the Judge name and found that ownership had been allowed to lapse. He says he also trademarked the phrase "Here's Comes The Judge," which could be used in advertising. "GM created the trademark and it has always been associated with GM and the GTO," said Robert Kraut, GTO brand manager. "You get the right to use the trademark with usage and association." GM will do whatever is necessary to protect its trademarks, a spokesman said. Hamburger said SLP's GTO packages are aimed at addressing what GTO enthusiasts say are shortcomings of the new car - the lack of a functional hood scoop (GM says Ram Air will be offered on the 2005 GTO along with other enhancements), and an aggressive appearance that signals the car's tire-shredding performance. GTO purists have been pummeling GM with complaints about the car's sleek styling, which many say is too bland and doesn't contain any of the original car's styling DNA. GM officials have said they specifically didn't want the new GTO to look identical to the old models for fear it will be perceived as a retro car and have a short shelf life instead of becoming a permanent high performance model. Pontiac plans to sell about 17,000 GTOs in the 2004 model year. The car will sell for about $33,000. Kraut said that an advance-order system put in place last summer has been successful, and that the first buyers are tracking their cars as they are being built. Kraut would not say how many GTOs have been sold, but said he's "cautiously optimistic" that the first year's production will sell out. The 2004 GTO arrives in early December. It features rear-wheel-drive, a 350-hp, 5.7-liter V-8, a luxurious interior, and a fully independent suspension. As with the Firehawk, consumers will buy GTOs from a dealer, who will ship the car to an SLP-approved upfitter to have the performance parts added. "We've established ourselves in the marketplace as a GM tuner," said Hamburger. "This is the next logical extension of the Firehawk program now that that car has been discontinued." For the GTO, GM is not sharing technical information with SLP. Kraut said that GM is neutral about SLP's beefed up GTOs. "Our position is that we encourage the production of aftermarket components for our products," said Kraut. Kraut would not talk specifically about future GM-built high performance versions of the GTO other than to say various engineering groups within GM are looking at the car.