Buick seemed to have limped its way into the 21st century, despite the other setbacks that saw the sad fate of the likes of Pontiac and Oldsmobile.

Buick has always been a symbol of affordable luxury, blessed with noteworthy ride and handling characteristics. The automaker has habitually bestowed its cars with attractive styling, complemented by interiors comparable to upscale Cadillac, and, in some cases, equaling those found in its lavish Detroit rivals. So proficient was Buick with this careful combination that at one point, the division was ranked third in the industry behind volume leaders Chevrolet and Ford. Discerning buyers from diverse backgrounds have long appreciated not only the status symbol of success the Tri-shield logo represented, but also the power ushered forth by its series of engines.

Here, one can remember the Buick Wildcat, a sportier, full-sized muscle car with the standard Buick V8 engine and a car to remember fondly in its own right. Underrated value for some, over it for others, the Buick Wildcat is a source of some contention.

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The History Behind The Wildcat

Venturing back to the 60s, many will remember the renowned Buick Wildcat being added to the line.

Buick’s first use of the Wildcat title was on three exciting mid-1950s dream cars, whose looks were very wildcat-y indeed, with their sinuous lines and contrasting ‘teeth’ on the front ends. The initial short-lived Buick Wildcat was produced in 1953 as an experimental, two-seater show car. It was followed in 1954 by an all-new sportier one-off, the Wildcat II, followed by one more in 1955, the four-passenger Wildcat III.

All their motors were widely accepted by an enthusiastic public, along with their General Motors vehicles, both at their Motorama touring and through extensive coverage within the press. The plan was to gauge audience perception to the innovative styling and mechanical designs and, potentially, add a bit of luster to GM’s production cars.

Apparently, the engagement was deemed insufficient, because in 1962 Buick abandoned the elegant curves of the Wildcat line and instead went for a proto-seventies ‘boxy’ look. Thus was introduced the Wildcat, a new factory hot rod modeled to go against the Oldsmobile Starfire and Pontiac Grand Prix.

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Let’s Take A Look At The Wildcat’s Specs
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Initially under the Buick Invicta series, the Wildcat held its own line, with a manufacturing badge to match. To celebrate, the Wildcat added a convertible and four-door hardtop sedan to the original two-door hardtop coupe introduced in 1962. The Wildcat held a 325 hp Buick 401-ci V8 engine and a three-speed transmission, which remained the standard equipment until 1966.

The 1966 special edition package for the Gran Sport Performance Group offered the mightiest engine and carburetor combination available. Those very cars became known as the ‘Wildcat GSs’ and ‘Super Wildcats’, and became directly available at the factory.

Around that time, the Buick Wildcat started taking on characteristics from other Buick models as well, such as the arched belt line over the rear wheels, taking after the Buick Riviera.

Particularly impactful in both looks and performance was the 1969/1970 Buick Wildcat. 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 the likes of Chevrolet’s Impala SS and Ford’s Thunderbird.

Like many of the American cars seen throughout the 60s, the Wildcat became bigger, plusher and less economical. Wildcats usually carried 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. Also gaining in popularity throughout the decade was factory air conditioning, which added a hefty $430 to the price tag. Most Wildcats went out the door at well over $4,000 which was very pricey at the time!

The Buick Wildcat's ‘Look’

Throughout 1963 and 1964, the Buick Wildcat underwent very minor changes, which included its overall length increasing slightly to 215.7 inches - wheelbase remained at 123-inches.

The 1963 Wildcats were given an exclusive horizontal bar grille, with the crest sitting in a chrome circle in the centre.

For 1964, the Wildcat series was expanded to include a fourth body style, a four-door sedan. Bodies and powertrain went primarily unaltered, however, an optional 425-cubic-inch V-8 rated at 340 or 360 horsepower became available. Borrowed from the Riviera, they were called the Wildcat 465.

More modifications hit the market for the 1965 and 1966 Buick Wildcat, which included three different trim levels - Standard, Deluxe and Custom.

It’s fair to say that 1969 was the real year of changes for the Buick Wildcat. Ditching the fastback roof-line for a formal vinyl top roof, the Wildcat now featured flowing spear styling from each wheel, containing a 430-cubic-inch, 360 hp Buick big-block V8 engine (changing to a 370-hp Wildcat 445 Buick for 1970).

With these upgrades in looks, 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 less than thrilling to drive, reliable and relatively cheap. It’s not quite a sports car, but it is definitely a sportier version of the previous models produced by Buick.

With a powerful but reliable engine, smooth manual or automatic transmissions and an outmatched durability, a classic Buick Wildcat remains a solid, budget-friendly choice, especially for first-time muscle car owners.

Sources: Hagerty, Hemmings, autorestorer, carfolio

 

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