Curbside Classic: 1966 Buick Wildcat Four Door Sedan – Mild Thing

The Wildcat started out life in 1962 as a specially equipped two-door hardtop coupe to do battle with the likes of the other big sporty coupes, such as the Pontiac Grand Prix, Olds Starfire/Jetfire, Mercury S-55 and the Chrysler 300. By 1963, it became a series of its own, essentially replacing the Invicta, and spawned a convertible and…a four door hardtop. By 1964, a four door sedan was added. Seriously? A Wildcat sedan?

So it went with the endless name debasement in Detroit.

This is how it arrived, “With The Sure-Footed Sock Of Advanced Thrust!” Um, if you say so. What exactly was “Advanced Thrust”?  Buick moved their V8 engines further forward than typical, to reduce the size of the transmission tunnel. But Buick is implying that increasing the weight over the front wheels has benefits, such as “Precision Cornering”. Of course!

There was a consolation with the adoption of a four door hardtop in 1963: It came standard with front bucket seats and a console. And a four speed manual transmission was optional, backing up the 325 hp 401 “Nailhead” 401 CID V8. I wonder how many of those four doors with a four speed stick were ever sold.

Things got decidedly less wild in 1964, when the sedan joined the line and the bucket seat interior become optional on the coupe, convertible and hardtop sedan. The four speed manual was still listed as optional, as was the bigger 425 inch version of the nailhead V8, rated at 340 hp.

Whereas through 1964 the Electra 225 had its extra 3″ of wheelbase length at the rear, making its C-Body actually roomier in the back seat, that changed for 1965. Now all the B and C bodies had the same basic body length from the cowl back, and the additional 3″ of wheelbase for were in a longer front end. And the Wildcat got to share that longer Electra 225 front end, as can be seen here, with the shorter LeSabre at the top. GM’s endless body musical chairs.

I didn’t get a shot of the interior, but here’s one of a hardtop coupe from the web. Nice, even if the dash is toned down from those wonderful ones a few years earlier.

I got up close and personal with a ’67 Wildcat sedan—and its owner, which is detailed in the eponymous chapter of my Auto-Biography.  I never indicated that her car was a sedan, and I only showed images of the hardtop coupe. But the driving experience was the same, so it was an innocent little sin of omission. I didn’t have a car at the time, having recently sold my ’64 40 hp VW. Driving the 360 hp Wildcat—the ’67 got the new 430 inch V8—was quite the contrast. Except for its ability to still provide some palpable thrust when floored at 80, it drove and handled like the typical big GM cars of the time: adequate, but not at all inspiring, of fast driving was on the agenda. Of course its shocks were probably a bit soft by this time (1973), but I doubt fresh ones would have made much difference.

Barrelling down I-80 at 80+ to our favorite swimming hole was a blast, although even with pre-energy crisis gas prices, filling it up after running it hard was painful. No wonder I drove VWs; I could fill it up for three bucks, and it would go over 300 miles on that.

The Wildcat name didn’t last long; by 1971, it was reborn as the Centurion. Buick struggled to find the right name for its in-between big cars. They should have just kept “Super” or “Century” as it was back in the 1940s and ’50s. Yes, it was super driving it at the century.


Related reading:

Auto-Biography: Wildcat!

The Buick Nailhead V8 And The Source Of Its Unusual Valve Arrangement