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HarleyEarl

Buick Wildcats, 1962-70

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Motoring Memories:
Buick Wildcat, 1962-1970
Story and photo by Bill Vance

Buick was long known as a somewhat conservative car, the type favoured by people like doctors and bank mangers. It used overhead valve straight-eight engines exclusively from 1931 to 1952 (its overhead valve V8 came in 1953), and carried an image of muted prestige - more than an Oldsmobile, but not quite the ostentation of a Cadillac.

Occasionally however, there was a stepping out of character, and into the performance arena. Examples were the 1936 Century, named for its 161 km/h (100 mph) top speed, and the audacious, turbocharged 1982 Grand National.

Another was the Wildcat, an unexpectedly feral name that Buick had used on Buick concept cars in 1953, '54 and '55. Built from 1962 to 1970, the Wildcat was appropriately called an "Executive Hot Rod" by Car Life magazine (4/64). "Just the thing for tired blood," they enthused.


The 1962 Wildcat started life as a sub-series of the Buick Invicta. Buick engineers created it by fitting an Invicta hardtop coupe with their most powerful Electra 6.6 litre (401 cu in.) 325 horsepower engine.

To set it apart from lesser Buicks, and emphasize its "sports luxury" character, the Wildcat got a vinyl roof covering and stainless steel rocker panel trim. Inside were bucket seats, vinyl trim, and a console which housed the gear lever for the standard equipment automatic transmission. It even had a tachometer, but being console-mounted, it was difficult to see, and therefore not of much use.

In spite of weighing a hefty 1,978 kg (4,360 lb), the big V8-powered Wildcat offered strong performance. Car Life (7/62) reported zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 8.9 seconds, zero to 161 (100) in 27.5 seconds, and a top speed of 182 km/h (113 mph). They also reported fuel consumption of 12 to 15 mpg.

With the Invicta nameplate disappearing, Buick decided to expand the Wildcat into its own series for 1963, and make it the Invicta's replacement. Power assisted steering and brakes were now standard, and body styles were two- and four-door hardtops, and a convertible.

It received the obligatory new grille, and the side trim running from headlamp to door encompassed the gradually receding "ventiports," commonly known as portholes, that had been a Buick hallmark since 1949.

The Wildcat went into 1964 without major changes, although to expand its appeal it added a regular four-door sedan to the line-up. It also got an optional 7.0 litre (425 cu in.) V8 that could be had with 340 horsepower, or 360 with two four-barrel carburetors.

This is the car that inspired Car Life's Executive Hot Rod nickname. Their test of a 1964 360 horsepower Wildcat with the now optional four-speed all-synchromesh, manual transmission, and a stump-pulling 3.91:1 rear axle, yielded quick zero to 96 km/h (60 mph) in 7.7 seconds. Top speed was 185 km/h (115 mph).

For 1965 the Wildcat got the rounder styling of GM's large cars, and moved up in size from its former 3,124 mm (123 in.) wheelbase to the Electra's 3,200 (126). The new styling proved successful for the Wildcat, giving it a best-ever 99,000 sales.

The Wildcat continued pursuing its performance image for 1966 with the addition of a Gran Sport option on its coupe and convertible. It featured the 340 horsepower engine, with a limited slip differential, and came with stiffer suspension and optional quicker steering.

Some engine de-proliferation came for 1967 with the switch to Buick's new V8, a replacement for the original engine that dated back to 1953. That original V8 used vertically positioned valves in one side of the combustion chambers. This gave the narrower engine configuration required by the stylists, but limited valve and inlet port diameters.

The new V8 removed these breathing limitations, and had a more efficient domed combustion chamber. It came in two displacements: 6.6 litres (400 cu in.) with 340 horsepower; and 7.0 litre (430 cu in.) with 360 horsepower. The '67 Wildcat got the 360 horsepower engine.

The Wildcat got few changes for 1968, and then for 1969 it moved back onto the shorter 3,129 mm (123.2 in.) LeSabre wheelbase. It also got a moderate re-styling and a new grille. Nineteen-seventy would be the Wildcat's last year. It received a small wheelbase stretch to 3,150 mm (124 in.) and another styling retouch. Under the hood, the 7.0 litre received a 3.175 mm (1/8-in.) bore increase, bringing displacement to 7.4 litres (455 cu in.), and horsepower to 370.

By this time model offerings were back to a coupe, hardtop sedan, and convertible, the smallest number since 1963. When sales dipped to just 23,600, from almost 70,000 in 1969, General Motors discontinued the Wildcat.

The Buick Wildcat was a big, luxurious, high performance car with some un-Buick like sporty aspirations. It exemplified the 1960s American car, the last decade in which the industry would be able build its cars pretty much the way it wanted – without significant government intervention, or having to worry about fuel economy.
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Nice overview. I have never owned a Wildcat, but my Invicta is of course the Wildcat's (meaner & edgier) ancestor. Only a few quasi-errors: the '62's main distiction from the Invicta was the vinyl-covered roof and the buckets/console (tho this later feature was optional on the 'victa beginning in '60). The 325/401 was the same from Invicta to Wildcat. Also- their quoted top speeds are all low- Buick 401s were always good for solidly over 120. And how could a 360/425 car only eclipse a 325/401 car by 2 MPH? Buick never went wild with gear ratios either; a range of .35 is traditional then- so that's not a valid factor.
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Ya know until yesterday I never realized the 70 Wildcat had the body lines (at wheel house) similar to the 69 Camaro :unsure: Were there other cars with this as well ?
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It's amazing how far technology's come in the last 30-40 years. 340-360 HP and could do 0-60 in 8.9 and 0-100 in 27.5. Wow. My Camaro, making half that number (in RWHP at least), can do 0-60 in about 6.8-6.9 (next Saturday it'll be in the low 6s) and 0-100 in much less than half a minute. Just nuts.
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..was just looking at the Red Wildcat ragtop above....man, GM could do no wrong in that era....it has perfect design....genius.
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I heard from many people that the Buick WildCat engine was a 300ci, all alluminum V8 and was sold to jeep and chopped to make the 3800 for some time and bought back by GM. Can someone tell me if this is not true or if the WildCat engine and WildCat car were different entities?
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I heard from many people that the Buick WildCat engine was a 300ci, all alluminum V8 and was sold to jeep and chopped to make the 3800 for some time and bought back by GM. Can someone tell me if this is not true or if the WildCat engine and WildCat car were different entities?


Buick used the "Wildcat' name on more than one engine, starting with the 364 & 401 V-8s of '59. The Wildcat model began as a sub-series in the Invicta line in '62. Many many 'Wildcat' engines were in non-Wildcat Buicks.

Buick sold their 215 aluminum V-8 to Rover circa '64. Land Rover may still using a V-8 derived from that same Buick motor. Buick also sold their V-6 tooling to Jeep circa '67, but bought it back in '74 and re-engineered it, re-introducing it in the '76s. The V-6 was engineered from the 215 V-8. I believe (without checking) that the V-6 first displaced 198 CI, and grew to 231 CI (3.8 liters) when it reappeared for '76.
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Nos - those HP ratings were a gross rating and that was later changed. They had gobs of torque however. As for excelleration your talking about a much lighter and more aerodynamic car, this is what makes that last 20 or 30 mph so slow to obtain. Just look at the frontal area of the car. You are correct however, computor controled fuel ratios and timing advance made a great difference in performance and economy. As for the Wildcat engine - Was the 430 (68-69) the last Buick engine dubbed Wildcat or did that make it to the 455 ? The "Wildcat" engine thing was like Oldsmobiles "Rocket" thing, it means little to nothing just a dubbing put on the engines, sales propaganda. Then there was different levels of tuning done to the engines according to models or options. Werent the Buick engines prior to the "Wildcat" dubbed "Fireball" or something like that ? I think that was the inline OHV 8's. edit: Fireball - not Thunderbolt :rolleyes: - thanks Balthy ! Edited by razoredge
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Somehow I find it easier to like a car with an engine named "Rocket" or "Wild" than contrived names like Ecotec or Duramax. :o  B)

[post="43348"]<{POST_SNAPBACK}>[/post]


Agree,

like Lampredi or Columbo named after their designers

Blue Flame

Cleveland, Windsor

How about a 330 Dagenham, named after its plant in typical Ford fashion, I just love that one for a few reasons.

Detriot Diesel !
Cummings
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As for the Wildcat engine - Was the 430 (68-69) the last Buick engine dubbed Wildcat or did that make it to the 455 ?
Werent the Buick engines prior to the "Wildcat" dubbed "Thunderbolt" or something like that ? I think that was the inline OHV 8's.


The 455 was not physically labeled a "Wildcat" motor, and I am positive advertising never referred to them as such either. .....After a quick look-see, the last print ad mention I see for a "Wildcat" engine is '64. However, in a road test of a '67 Wildcat I can just make out "Wildcat" on the air cleaner lid- perhaps the 430 is the last labeled "Wildcat". But the 455 air cleaners had '455-4bbl' and 'Stage I' and the like.

The straight 8 was called the 'Fireball Eight'. The new-for-'53 V-8 had no name (in print advertising at least, and I doubt any air cleaner/valve cover IDs). Only thing I see between '52 and '59 at a quick glance is in '58 Buick referred to the 364 as the B-12000, a reference to the "12,000 lbs of thrust in each piston stroke". I know the straight 8s had "Fireball Eight" painted on them, and my '59 did have a 'Wildcat 445' moniker on the AC.
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68 Riv I looked at had Wildcat on air filter, not that that means it was the origional , pretty clean car though. Might have even said 430 Wildcat but my memory is .....
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