Buick seemed to have limped its way into the 21st century, despite other setbacks that have seen the sad fate of Pontiac and Oldsmobile.
Buick has always been a beacon of affordable luxury, with outstanding ride and handling characteristics. The automaker has usually outfitted its cars with attractive styling, complemented by interiors comparable to top-end Cadillacs and, in some cases, matching those of its lavish Detroit rivals. Buick was so proficient with this careful combination that at one point the division ranked third in the industry behind volume leaders Chevrolet and Ford. Discerning buyers from all walks of life have long appreciated not only the symbol of success represented by the Tri-shield logo, but also the power brought by its engine series.
Here we can remember the Buick Wildcat, a sportier full-size muscle car with the standard Buick V8 engine and a car that will be fondly remembered. Understated value for some, above for others, the Buick Wildcat is a source of contention.
The story behind the Wildcat
Venturing into the 60s, many will remember the addition of the famous Buick Wildcat to the lineup.
Buick’s first use of the Wildcat title was on three exciting mid-1950s dream cars, which looked very wild indeed, with their curvy lines and contrasting “cogs” on the front ends. The first short-lived Buick Wildcat was produced in 1953 as an experimental two-seat show car. This was followed in 1954 by an all-new, sportier single model, the Wildcat II, followed by another in 1955, the four-passenger Wildcat III.
All of their engines were widely accepted by enthusiastic audiences, as well as their General Motors vehicles, both on their Motorama tour and through extensive press coverage. The plan was to gauge public perception of innovative styling and mechanical designs and, potentially, add some sparkle to GM’s production cars.
Apparently the commitment was deemed insufficient, as in 1962 Buick abandoned the sleek curves of the Wildcat line and instead opted for a proto-seventies “boxy” look. Thus was introduced the Wildcat, a new factory hot rod designed to go against the Oldsmobile Starfire and Pontiac Grand Prix.
Let’s take a look at the specs of the Wildcat
Initially under the Buick Invicta series, the Wildcat had its own line, with a manufacturing badge to match. To celebrate, the Wildcat added a four-door convertible and hardtop sedan to the original two-door hardtop coupe introduced in 1962. The Wildcat was powered by a 325-hp Buick 401-ci V8 engine and a three-speed transmission, which remained standard equipment. until 1966.
The 1966 Special Edition Gran Sport Performance Package offered the most powerful engine and carburetor combination available. These same cars became known as “Wildcat GS” and “Super Wildcats”, and became available directly from the factory.
Around this time, the Buick Wildcat also began to adopt features from other Buick models, such as the arched beltline over the rear wheels, taking inspiration from the Buick Riviera.
The 1969/1970 Buick Wildcat was particularly impactful in both appearance and performance. With its 430 cubic inch V8 and B-body architecture inspired by other GM models such as the Chevy Impala and Oldsmobile Delta 88, the Buick Wildcat was designed to compete with models like the Chevrolet Impala SS and Ford’s Thunderbird.
Like many American cars seen throughout the 60s, the Wildcat got bigger, more opulent and less economical. Wildcats usually offered a wide range of options. The long list of extra-cost goodies included power steering, $105; power brakes, $48; radio, $90; and tinted glass, $42. Factory air conditioning also grew in popularity throughout the decade, which added $430 to the price. Most Wildcats came out at over $4,000, which was very expensive at the time!
The “look” of the Buick Wildcat
Throughout 1963 and 1964 the Buick Wildcat underwent very minor changes, most notably its overall length increasing slightly to 215.7 inches – the wheelbase remained at 123 inches.
the 1963 Wildcats received an exclusive horizontal-bar grille, with the crest sitting within a chrome circle in the centre.
For 1964, the Wildcat series was expanded to include a fourth body style, a four-door sedan. The bodies and powertrain remained essentially unchanged, however, an optional 425 cubic inch V8 rated at 340 or 360 horsepower became available. Borrowed from French Rivierathey were called the Wildcat 465s.
Other modifications came to market for the 1965 and 1966 Buick Wildcats, which included three different trim levels – Standard, Deluxe and Custom.
It’s fair to say that 1969 was the real year of change for the Buick Wildcat. Ditching the fastback roofline for a formal vinyl roof, the Wildcat now featured flowing spear styling from every wheel, packing a 430 cubic-inch, 360-hp Buick big-block V8 engine (up to a 370-hp Buick 445 Wildcat). hp for 1970).
With these upgrades in appearance, performance, and luxurious appeal, the 1969 Buick Wildcat had finally become the big, bad beast it was meant to be.
The Buick Wildcat: fun, comfortable and reliable
The Buick Wildcat is nothing short of exciting to drive, reliable and relatively inexpensive. It’s not quite a sports car, but it’s definitely a sportier version of the previous models produced by Buick.
With a powerful yet reliable engine, smooth manual or automatic transmissions, and unmatched durability, a classic Buick Wildcat remains a solid and economical choice, especially for new muscle car owners.
Sources: Hagerty, Hemmings, autorestorer, carfolio
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