The Buick Wildcat began life in 1962 as an option of the Buick Invicta. From 1963 through 1970 the Buick Wildcat was its own series.
In 1962 the Wildcat featured bucket seats and a center console enclosing a tachometer and transmission shifter. Under the hood was a powerful 401 cubic-inch V8 Nailhead engine that produced 325 horsepower and 445 foot-pounds of torque. The exterior featured its own emblems and a vinyl-covered roof. There were portholes located on the front fenders, a design that it shared with the Invicta and LeSabre.
When the Wildcat became its own series, a convertible and four-door hardtop sedan was added to the model lineup, which included the original two-door hardtop coupe from the prior year. Bucket seats were standard in the coupe and convertible; a bench seat was standard in the four-door version. Under the hood was the 401 cubic-inch V8 engine which stayed as standard equipment until 1966. In 1967 it was replaced with a 430 cubic-inch V8 which produced 360 horsepower. From 1964 through 1966 a 425 cubic-inch V8 was offered as optional equipment which raised horsepower to 340. A dual-quad version, meaning two four-barrel carburetors, raised the horsepower to 360. In 1966 Buick offered the GS, or Gran Sport, an option that included the 425 cubic-inch V8 engine and a heavy-duty suspension. 'GS' emblems could be found throughout the vehicle; the rear axle was a performance unit.
In 1970 the Buick Wildcat was offered only in custom trim.
With a name that was inspired by a trio of 1950's concept vehicles, the Buick Wildcat LeSabre was fitted with the 'Wildcat' engine that Buick had been producing since the early 1960's. This engine came in several varieties, the most popular being the Wildcat 445, which was a 401 CID engine that put out 445 ft-lbs. of torque. More of a luxury sports coupe than a performance vehicle, the Buick Wildcat is considered to be Buick's original performance vehicle. The forerunner in Buick's quest for power, the Wildcat also lent out its name during the mid-sixties to several Buick engines.
The first Wildcat, the Wildcat Sport coupe was part of the Invicta line, with the addition of front bucket seats, tachometer, rear floor lamp, and a console. The attractive body style was considered both elegant and classy and had improved handling due to the adjusted suspension by Buick engineers. Weighing approximately 4,150 lbs, the Wildcat was a heavy vehicle. Oversized 10-inch drum brakes, and a frame which carried boxed cross-members with heavy side rails, and coil springs on all four corners were showcased features on this 1962 model.
Rated at a reliable 325 bhp, the Buick Wildcat had standard power in the Buick LT401 CID V8. The Wildcat was offered with a standard 3.42:1 rear end, though the Buick LT401 engine was also available in the regular Invicta line. For customers interested in even more drag strip performance, a 4.45:1 rear end was made available as an option. Around 2,000 '62 Wildcats were sold this year, marketed as a 'family-sized sports car'.
For 1963, the Buick Wildcat underwent some styling modifications that included the name being scripted across the front of the hood, on the rear fenders, and within the rear cove. The front now displayed a custom grille. The 401 CID V8 which was rated at 325 bhp was carried over to this model. In this year the Wildcat line expanded to include three models, Model 4667; a two-door convertible, Model 4647; two-door sport coupe, and Model 4636; the four-door hardtop. The 4 door model became the best-selling model though Buick attempted to play up the performance image of the Wildcat.
Advertised as 'the next best thing to owning a Riviera', Buick rallied around the Wildcat in support. In 1964 two optional engines were made available, a 425 CID V8 that was rated at 340 bhp, and the top of the line 425 CID V8 that was rated at 360 bhp. The weight was still at 4,500lbs, and extra performance was needed as curb weight. A link stabilizer bar and a semi-floating rear axle that utilized a three-bar link with a track were used to upgrade the suspension. A new optional feature was a posi-track rear axle. In 1964 a new addition to the Wildcat line was the Model 4669; four-door sedan.
For the 1965 model, the engines all remained the same and carried over. The Wildcat did receive all new updated styling, though it continued to keep the unique grille and badging. This new styling was necessary as the Wildcats' sheet metal was now shared with the Buick LeSabre. The Buick Wildcat lineup was expanded to ten models, five sedans, and five coupes during the 1965 model year.
For the '66 model year, the Wildcat underwent very few changes, except for the addition of the Wildcat Custom. The Custom model carried exclusive features such as a deluxe steering wheel, plush seat materials, custom bucket seats, and padded armrests. The 1966 Wildcat was also equipped with an option Y48, the Wildcat Gran sport Performance Group. Adding a high performance 425 CID V8 with a pair of four-barrel carburetors, cast aluminum rocker arm covers, dual exhaust, a chrome-plated air cleaner, heavy-duty suspension, Posi-Traction rear end, and 8.12x15 in. whitewall tires, the 425 V8 360 engine cost an additional $381.01 for the package. The Wildcat 465, or A8 were other names for the engine, which was good for 380 bhp and 465 lb-ft of torque. It is assumed that only 21 units were ever produced, as this was the only year for this option. Sales for this year were sky-high as a total of 68,584 units were sold.
For the 1967 model year, the Buick Wildcat received an all-new 430 CID engine which featured 10.5:1 compression, a four-barrel carburetor, and hydraulic lifters, and was rated at a powerful 360 bhp. A newly added domed chamber design increased the efficiency of the engine and intensified power.
Though still available in both standard and the more exclusive Custom models, the Buick Wildcat received an all-new look for 1968 that included a new grille design and new body side moldings.
For the 1969 model year, the Buick Wildcat didn't change much, except for a new grille design with vertical texturing. The only difference between the LeSabre and the Wildcat lay in the grille and a broad rocker molding with both fender extensions and wheelhouse moldings. Both models shared the same standard equipment, though the Wildcat did feature a unique steering wheel.
The final year, as the LeSabre and Wildcat were too similar, in 1970 the Buick Wildcat went out at the height of its performance. For this year, the standard engine was Buick's brand new 455 CID V8 which was rated at 370 bhp and came with an impressive 510 lb-ft of torque.By Jessica Donaldson