Cars » The Indy Street Rods 1969 Judge

The Indy Street Rods 1969 Judge

69 GTO Judge "JudgeMENTAL"

JudgeMENTAL Story

This story actually started decades ago as two stories that eventually merged into one. Darren Nickleson, the builder of JudgeMENTAL is the younger brother of the owner, Don Nickleson. In their teens, in a family of four boys raised by a gear head dad, the only way to have a great car was to find one and fix it up. Don started honing his bodywork skills at the age of 14 and infected his younger brother Darren with that same passion a few years later. Darren later sharpened his skills at a few places including a corvette customizing shop before starting his own collision repair business in his early 20’s. Both brothers like many of us share an unreasonable passion for cars and both have built a number of hotrods and street rods over the years.

A second story started in 1974 when Don became the owner of a very rare 1969 GTO Judge Ram Air IV. The girl (Denise) that Don dated at the time (they were sophomores in high school) eventually became his wife… the guy with the best car wins the girl story. Both loved the Judge but it had to go since the gas mileage and college tuition wouldn’t fit into their budget. They have regretted letting it go ever since and when they decided to build a top level car the decision was easy… build a Judge.

Here is where the two stories merge. Over the two plus decades that have passed Darren built quite a business, primarily a top level collision repair business, but one also capable of building top level show cars and performance cars with any level of fabrication and customization desired. Darren was looking for a way to finance a car that would showcase that talent and draw clients to the Indy Street Rod and Classics side of his business and Don was looking to build a car worthy of showcasing while taking him and his high school sweetheart down memory lane! Those two desires came together in JudgeMENTAL , a two and a half year adventure to possibly the nicest GTO ever built.

JudgeMENTAL is a true GTO built as a tribute to the great 1969 Judge. It is what Pontiac should have built in the current muscle car era, one with awesome styling, tremendous power, and incredible agility. The build started with a sight unseen purchase from Arizona, a rust free true GTO. It was soon discovered that rust free doesn’t mean dent free! Every body panel other than the deck lid was replaced on the car as well as the floor to accommodate the Tremec six speed and mini tubbed rear end.

The car body demonstrates the best in fabrication from the lengthened and boxed-in rocker panels, perfect body gaps, lazer straight body panels, customized front valance, smoothed fabricated inner fenders, fire wall, and much more. Paint and stripes were applied by Darren’s shop using the original Carousel Red plus just the right dose of pearl to give it the right amount of highlights.

It rides on a Street Rod Garage chassis with a narrowed rear allowing the 14X20 rear wheels, with adjustable suspension on all four corners and Wilwood brakes all around. Front wheels are 19X9’s, all rolling on Budnik Cannon wheels.

For the engine Don wanted to stay pure Pontiac so they turned to Butler Performance to build the 505 cubic inch power plant with 665HP and 650lbs of torque. The engine features a F.A.S.T. fuel injection system and a custom breather that snugs up to the scoop vents on the hood. Doug’s headers lead to custom 3 inch oval polished stainless steel dual exhaust. Power is driven to the ground through a Currie rear end.

The interior was fully custom built by Cutter’s Custom Stitchin and includes a custom dash, front to back console, custom buckets front and back… all wrapped in black and gray leather. Classic Instruments provided the custom gauges with the JudgeMENTAL logo on the faces.

End of the day, Darren has a car that showcases what an awesome builder he has become and Don has the greatest tribute to the 1969 GTO Judge the industry had ever seen.

Oh the name, JudgeMENTAL … well it is probably obvious we are CRAZY about the ’69 Judge, true mental cases. Another theory may be that some folks that are bit more reasonable and less passionate might think we are crazy to put so much time, energy and money into a car… clearly they are wrong.