The Buick Wildcat - Muscle Car 2020 Review - Muscle Car

The Buick Wildcat – Muscle Car 2020 Review

Muscle Car Spotlight

Jon Skinner

Written by Jon Skinner

9th March 2019

The Buick Wildcat – Muscle Car 2020 Review
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The Buick Wildcat – Muscle Car 2020 Review

Buick as a brand seems to have limped into the twenty-first century despite the kind of setbacks that sealed the fate of other GM divisions, such as Pontiac and Oldsmobile. 

This is less surprising given that Buick was the oldest automobile brands in the US and actually founded General Motors, but interesting nevertheless given their disputed ability to release popular cars in places that aren’t China. 

The subject of this particular car review is 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.

History and Background

Caption: 1953 Buick Wildcat

A division of General Motors, Buick. In the ’60s, the renowned Buick Wildcat was added to the line.

Buick’s first use of the Wildcat title was on three exciting mid-1950s dream cars (above), 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. 

The three were widely considered by an enthusiastic public, along with other General Motors vehicles, both at General Motors’ touring Motorama shows and through extensive coverage in the press. The plan was to gauge audience perception to the innovative styling and mechanical designs and, potentially, add a bit of lustre to GM’s production cars.

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

Buick Wildcat Specs

1964 Buick Wildcat

(1964 Buick Wildcat. Photo rights: Bring A Trailer)

Initially under the Buick Invicta series, by 1963 the Wildcat was its own series, with a manufacturing budge to match. To celebrate, the Wildcat added a convertible and four-door hardtop sedan to the original two-door hardtop coupe introduced in 1962.

A three-speed manual transmission and a 325 hp Buick 401ci Wildcat V8 engine remained the standard equipment until 1966, although a larger 425 cubic-inch was also available, producing either 340hp or 360hp depending on the type of carburettor.

1973 Buick Riviera GS

(1973 Buick Riviera. Photo rights: Russo & Steele)

The 1966 special edition package for the Gran Sport Performance Group offered the biggest engine and carburettor combination available (425 and dual-carb). Those 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 beltline over the rear wheels, reminiscent of 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 the rest of American muscle cars in the 1960s, the Buick 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. 

The Buick Wildcat ‘Look’

Caption: 1966 Buick Wildcat

The 1963 and 1964 Buick Wildcat underwent only slight changes. As in 1962, the 1963 Buick Wildcat’s body was shared with the one-rung-down LeSabre series. Wheelbase remained at 123 inches, although overall length increased slightly to 215.7 inches. Powertrains went unchanged.

The 1963 Wildcats sported an exclusive horizontal bar grille with the Buick crest housed in a chrome circle in the centre. Also specific was a brushed bright sweepspear that swept from the headlights to the middle of the front doors, engulfing the venti-ports in the process. 

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 – for the torque rating – and Super Wildcat, respectively.

Caption: 1964 Super Wildcat

(1964 Super Wildcat. Photo rights: The Last Detail)

More modifications were on tap for the 1965 and 1966 Buick Wildcat. Buick marketers in 1965 went on a hype train: four body styles as before, but with three different trim levels – Standard, Deluxe, and Custom – for a total of 10 separate models.

In accordance with Sonny and Cher, advertisements promised “The Win-You-Over Beat Goes On,” but there were only minor variations: a tasteful style modification, new Federally-required safety items like side-marker lights, and engines recalculated for lower emissions. Dimensions went unchanged.

As established, 1969 was the real year of changes for the Buick Wildcat. Ditching the fastback roofline for a formal vinyl top roof, the Wildcat now featured flowing spear styling from each wheel (similar to a 1969 Chevy Camaro), 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.

Caption: 1970 Buick Wildcat


Fun to drive. Reliable. Relatively cheap, if you know where to find one. Not quite a sports car but certainly sportier than Buick’s previous line models. 

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.

… Or in the US, at least. Taste aside, there are also practical reasons for the Wildcat’s popularity remaining mainly across the pond: Buick Wildcats for sale in the UK can be tricky to find and importing costs a pretty penny, although financing is usually available if you find the right dealer. 

Although Buick as a brand is often treated with impatience these days, there is cause to remember the Buick Wildcat as a sure-footed stepping stone to greater things in the world of muscle cars. 

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