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The Wildcat leaps out of the Buick factory

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The Wildcat leaps out of the Buick factory

The Wildcat story began in 1953 with Harley Earl, who designed an experimental fiberglass two-seater prototype. The Kaiser Darrin and Chevrolet Corvette opened the path for this type of body. A sportier Wildcat II concept car appeared in 1954, followed by a third and more spacious test car in 1955 that could seat 4 passengers. The three specimens of Wildcats were presented at the Motorama organized by General Motors in order to test public reaction. This line and its mechanics received a warm public welcome. Nevertheless, it was not until 1962 that the Wildcat name reappeared, and only for a high-performance Invicta trim. The Wildcat finally appeared under its own name in 1963 as a highly powerful Buick series.

Coming off the assembly line at the same time as the Riviera (luxury sedan segment), the Wildcat was distantly related to the Oldsmobile Starfire, with its aluminum side trim. It had a specific radiator grille with horizontal bars and an encircled Buick logo in the very middle. The two round headlights on either side gave it an imposing look. The hardtop sedan joined the existing coupes and convertibles of the series and captured the most consumer interest. In 1964, the sedan came out in a 4-door version, enriching the Wildcat line with a fourth style.

The "Wildcat" name was well earned: its standard engine was a powerful 325 horsepower V8 and when the Super Wildcat option appeared in 1964, it offered 340 or 360 hp depending on the carburetor configuration. Engine numbering was atypical to say the least. In most cases this logically follows engine displacement but in this case it takes into account engine torque output. Consequently, it is easier to know the engine's rotational force, which is often little known to the general public: the Wildcat 445 and the 465 taken from the Riviera clearly display their foot-pound force, which can be converted to 603 and 630 Nm respectively. Although the 3-speed manual transmission was standard and a 4-speed version became available, it was the automatic TH-400 that attracted the greatest number of purchasers.

The first generation of Wildcats clearly demonstrated the public's attachment: nearly 120,000 units came out of the Buick factories in 1963 and 1964. Sales exploded when the second generation came out: 99,000 units were produced in 1965. This was easily explained by a greater openness towards export and a generally smoother look; the front and rear were more beveled. Although the engines remained the same, the sloping roofline provided an undeniable gain in speed. A Gran Sport version was released in 1966. It obviously included the Wildcat 465, but also a chrome air cleaner, whitewall tires, improved suspension, twin tailpipes and a clearly displayed badge.

A brand-new big block arrived in 1967. It was still a 7-liter V8 but an improved compression adjustment enabled it to deliver 360 hp. It was finally replaced in 1970 by the even more imposing 7.5 L with 370 hp and 678 Nm of torque. The fate of the Buick Wildcat was sealed in 1970 when it was replaced by the Centurion, but a few noted prototypes appeared in 1985 and 1997.