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Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage – The 1963-70 Buick Wildcat

Jim Brennan December 12, 2014 Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage 15 Comments

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Welcome to the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage, a feature in which I showcase a full sized Detroit built vehicle and try to convince you that it’s really a muscle car, and then back up that bold statement with eloquent words, and pretty pictures. Buick is a car brand that you would never think of when it comes to defining what a Muscle Car is, or rather, what it could be. Buick always had quite a stodgy image, akin to the Doctors Car. The 60’s was a turning point for Buick, and for the 1963 model year, the division introduced two breakthrough products… One was the fabulous Buick Riviera, and the other was the Muscular Buick Wildcat. So, come with me on a voyage of discovery, and see if this Wildcat deserves a spot within the Garage…


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The Buick Wildcat was arguably Buick’s first performance car (though I think that honor is reserved for the mid 50’s Buick Century), though it was more of a luxury sports coupe than all out performance machine. However, the Wildcat began Buick’s quest for power, and even lent its nameplate to several Buick engines of the mid sixties. The name Wildcat was originally the name for a fiberglass-bodied 1953 concept car that was part of the General Motors Motorama display that toured around the country.

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The first Wildcat was actually a sub-series of the Buick Invicta line which debuted in 1962. This car married the long wheelbase of the Invicta 2-door sport coupe with a 325HP version of the 401 CID Nailhead V-8 known as the Wildcat 425 due to the torque this engine produced at the time. Further parts bin engineering to create this model included using Electra rear tail lamps, a Bucket Seat interior with a full length console, housing a tachometer in front of the floor shifter. The transmission used was the tried and true Buick Dynaflow Automatic. Other features included a standard Vinyl Roof Treatment, special side trim, and stylized Wildcat Emblems. There was an estimated 2,000 Invicta Wildcat Hardtops produced.

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1963 saw the birth of the actual Wildcat Series of Buicks. The Invicta was effectively dropped from the lineup (except for a lone Station Wagon Series for 1963 which saw 3,495 built for the year) as the Wildcat took its place. There was some new styling for the Wildcat, along with the carry-over 401 CID Nailhead V-8 which still produced 325HP. However, you could get the Wildcat in three body styles… The Two-Door Hardtop Coupe, a Two-Door Convertible, and a 4-Door Hardtop Sedan (with no center pillar). Although Buick tried to play up the performance image of the Wildcat, the 4 door model outsold the other two by a wide margin. Total Wildcat Production figures for 1963 include 6,021 Convertibles, 12,185 Two-Door Hardtop Coupes, and 17,519 Four-Door Hardtop Sedans…

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Buick called the 1964 Wildcat “The next best thing to owning a Riviera”, which was really damning it with praise. in the power-plant department, you could still get the carryover standard 401 cid V8 rated at 325HP. However, there were two additional engines offered: A 425 cid V8 rated at 340HP, and the top of the line 425 cid V8 rated at 360HP. The 340HP was achieved with a factory four-barrel carburetor, while it took a pair of four-barrel carburetors (“dual quads”) to coax the 20 extra horsepower out of the 425, and was named the Super Wildcat. The suspension also received an upgraded and included a link stabilizer bar and a semi floating rear axle using a three-bar link with a track bar. A posi-track rear axle was optional. Buick also introduced a Wildcat 4-Door Pillared Sedan this year, diluting the performance image of the series somewhat.

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The Wildcat for 1965 boasted all new styling, and shared the chassis and body styles with the LeSabre line. While the look was all new, the engines were largely a carry-over. The big news was the adoption of the TurboHydramatic Automatic Transmissions across the board rather than the Buick Dynaflow. This transmission was shared by all divisions of the General, and was proven to be both durable and dependable. The Wildcat model count was expanded to ten, evenly split between 2-Door Coupe/Convertible models and 4-Door Sedan/Hardtop models.

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1966 saw a few changes to the Wildcat Lineup with the introduction of the Wildcat Custom, and the Wildcat GS (for Gran Sport), but it was a particular performance option that was introduced this year that firmly planted the Wildcat firmly into the Muscle Car Category. If you selected the option code Y48, you got the Wildcat Gran Sport Performance Group. For $381.01 over the cost of the 425 V8 360HP engine, the package added a high performance 425 cid V8 with a pair of four barrel carbs, a chrome-plated air cleaner, cast aluminum rocker arm covers, dual exhaust, heavy-duty suspension, Posi-Traction rear end, and 8.45×15 inch whitewall tires. This engine (also known as A8 or the Wildcat 465) was good for 380HP and 465 lb-ft of torque. Of the 1,244 Wildcat GS models produced (including 242 Convertibles) only 21 (or 22 depending on where you get your information) included this option package…

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The 1967 and 1968 Wildcat Lineup received a new engine in the form of a 430 cubic inch V8 with four-barrel carburetor and 360hp rating that featured larger valves for better breathing than the previous 401/425 nailhead design that dated back to Buick’s first V8 in 1953. Torque was massive with 475 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm. However, these cars started to get larger, and they were beginning to look like their stablemate Buick LeSabre, only with different trim. The 1969 model differed from the LeSabre only with a unique grill texture and some rocker panel molding.

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The last Wildcat model was produced for the 1970 model year, and this included the largest engine offered in a Buick yet. The standard engine was Buick’s all new 455 cid V8, rated at 370HP and a earth shaking 510 lb-ft of torque. This new engine had a 10:1 compression ratio, a cast iron block, hydraulic lifters, five main bearings, and a four barrel carburetor. However, the writing was on the wall, as the Wildcat was only offered in Custom Trim, and was a virtual clone of the more mainstream LeSabre. 1971 saw a brand new Buick Full-Sized lineup, as well as a new model that took the place of the Wildcat, named Centurion (Which also proved to be short lived, but that’s another story).

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So there you have it, a full-sized Buick, replacing the long serving Invicta, only to be put out to pasture eight years later, and served as a Quasi Muscular Buick. However, was this car really a Muscle Car, and even if it is, is it really all that Obscure? Should the Buick Wildcat be granted entry into the Hooniverse Obscure Muscle Car Garage? It is another full-sized GM Model from the General during the period in which it could do no wrong, at least that’s my take… What about you? Vote, and tell me what I should cover next time…

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What do you think about admitting the Buick Wildcat (2-Door Hardtop or Convertible) into the Obscure Muscle Car Garage?

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Please Note: All Images are screen grabs from around the web. If you want credit for any image, please let me know in the comments section. Thank You!

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  • stigshift

    Make mine a red '67 with fender skirts. Tire smoke looks awesome coming out from under them.

  • PotbellyJoe ★★★★★

    Buick had it very very right in my mind. Style and swagger.

  • Ate Up With Motor

    I would argue that Buick's first performance car was the 1937–42 Century, which was a hot number for its time. The 1941–42 edition with Compound Carburetion had 165 hp, which was the most powerful engine in any production car that year.

  • Scoff Law

    The first new car that my mother owned was a 69 Wildcat in green with green interior and the standard 430-4 motor, I spent the first six years of my life being chauffeured around in that car between the baby sitter, day care, preschool and kindergarten/1st grade while my father rolled around in a 70 Ford Torino GT Sportsroof; and for the life of them they can't understand why I like large, powerful cars and driving fast, maybe this is why or perhaps it was the annual trips to Germany to visit my grand parents.

  • ptschett

    Finally, something I can support 🙂

    And that 1965/66 model…
    <img src="http://memecollection.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/heavy-breathing-cat.jpg&quot; width="400">

    • Wildcat_445

      The '65 is my favorite of the two–the dash is more unique, and the front and rear styling is a bit more sporty. I'm biased though. We had a '65 in the family. 😉

  • MrDPR

    One of my uncles got a new ride every other year. He had 3 Wildcats in a row : '64, '66 & '68. 2 reds & a blue.
    Got my first Skylark after Vietnam .. a '72

  • Gwilson

    I had a 1972 Electra 225 and a 1971 Riviera. Even in such huge cars, when the secondary barrels kicked in, it was a major rush. I guess it was the torque, but it just felt as if the tide had come in or maybe a tsunami. There was no end to it. Not exactly a high revving turbo searching for peak horsepower! More like a large steam locomotive.

  • bluehillsmike

    Know someone with a 66 red Wildcat convert with dual quads and super rare 4 speed. If that ain't muscle….it's elderly owner laid down a 100 foot stripe to prove it. Gorgeous car, 20K actual miles.

    • Wildcat_445

      My dad wasn't one to leave rubber on the road, but there was the time one of the engine mounts broke. When you'd brake, the engine would lean forward and tug on the throttle. I still remember the day it broke–he pulled up slowly in front of the house, then suddenly tore off down the street, leaving a bit of a patch behind him.

  • bluehillsmike

    The last of real plated zinc trim and castings in the interior. In 67 GM started replacing die cast dash components with plated plastics across the board.

  • Bruce

    I own a '63 Wildcat 4 Dr. Hardtop. My wife and I absolutely love the way it rides and we enjoy the style of it. For us it's the 4 Doors that does it. It's like cruzin down the highway driving a monster sofa. Comfortable and with enough power and torque to crush some of these modern day pieces of plastic.

  • hubba

    "The Wildcat for 1965 boasted all new styling, and shared the chassis and body styles with the LeSabre line."

    For 1965, Wildcat switched to the 126" wb Electra chassis, with LeSabre like roof and rear quarter styling. Wildcat stayed on the Electra chassis thru 68.

  • Wildcat_445

    Of course, the one month I rarely visit Hooniverse, I miss my namesake car being mentioned! We owned a '65 Wildcat Custom, four-door sedan, white, with greyish seating–I was three years old when my dad bought it used in 1967. I have to say that a Wildcat is one car a person never forgets. Many good memories of that car, and it was my mom's favorite since it was (in her words) "peppy."

    It was not without its quirks. My dad never had the choke fixed, so we had to pump the pedal 20-30 times to get it to start. The motor mount gave out one year, causing dad to leave a patch of rubber on the street in front of our house as he was trying to gently slow down (the tilting engine would tug the throttle cable while braking). I also remember the time we bumped into a brand new '71 Caprice station three times on a two-lane road because the brake cable had rusted through! (And what a nail biter it was driving the rest of the way up to the cottage…no garage along the way had any way of fixing it, so we had to get it to a dealer the following day.)

    The Wildcat had Buick's "speed minder" feature, where you set a needle on the speedometer to remind you if you were going too fast. That was a means of teasing me on a long trip. Dad would set it just above the speed limit, speed up slightly, then tell me to press the Wildcat emblem on the dashboard to make the buzzing stop. Yes, I was stupid! 😉

    After my dad worked for another company and lost access to a company car, we bought that horrid '71 LeSabre in 1973, and in 1975 he bought a '73 Catalina (which later got me through high school). Sadly, with all the growing problems and non-stop rust, we drove the Wildcat to a salvage yard. I still have the license plate: LNC 892. Of all the cars we had, the Wildcat is the one I still think of the most.

    In classic cars, my favorite would be a '65 convertible, followed by the '67 or '68. The '66 is similar to the '65 outside, but I like the grille and rear end treatment of the '65 better. Color? I'm not certain if I'd want something custom (as it's a car I want to enjoy cruising in), or try to stick to an authentic original color. I never got to drive our '65, being way too young, but I would have loved to have kept it in a garage somewhere and drove it later on in life.

    One of these days…

  • waitingforiris

    I own a 70 455-4, 2 door hardtop with buckets and floor shift. Has 72,000 actual not restored miles. I'm the third owner, I know the complete history of the car. Does need cosmetic work, nothing severe. Can tell you all it should have made muscle car status, stomp on it, it moves( right after the tires stop smoking). Am now in restoration mode for the old gal. Am a pro body and paint guy by trade of 39 years. She's going back fully original with the exception of a few chrome goodies I found, not repop stuff either, ( no junk ), don't care so much about cost. This is my last one, this one counts. Yes, you'll be seeing her around.