Buick Wildcat 1963-70 - buyer & value guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Unique Cars magazine

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buick wildcat 63 70 The Wildcats had a style all their own. buick wildcat 63 70

Like your muscle cars in extra-large? A WIldcat could be for you.

Almost by accident, Buick in 1962 created a performance package for its Invicta model that became a minor legend in muscle-car circles. Two years before Pontiac’s GTO appeared, the two-door Wildcat was being billed as a ‘Sport Coupe’ and tweaked to produce 335bhp (242kW ) from the ancient ‘Nailhead’ V8.

For 1963 the Wildcat became a model in its own right, with convertible and four-door hardtop versions added to the range. In 1964 a four-door sedan would follow.

The Wildcat shared its 3125mm wheelbase with grand dad’s Le Sabre and was in many respects still a mainstream family car. It was also near enough to the Le Sabre in price that business execs could sneak one into the salary package without raising too many red flags down at Personnel.

From the outset, Buick’s ad writers weren’t shying away from their new model’s potential to inflame the owner’s ego. "Buick Introduces Torrid New Sports Car," screamed the billboards. "First With The Sure-Footed Sock Of Advanced Thrust."

Get down to the fine-print and ‘advanced thrust’ turns out to be another term for ‘front-engined’ and the only thing torrid about this sporty hardtop was the standard heater.

A convertible cost only $90 more in 1964 than the $3871 four-door Hardtop yet only 20 percent of the Wildcats sold were soft-tops.

A shape change for 1967 saw the Wildcat emphasise a longer, broader shape with new grille and rear lights. New as well was the 7.1-litre. 430 cubic inch engine that still produced a notional 360bhp (268kW) but did it more efficiently.

A defining feature of the Muscle Car was cut-throat pricing, often achieved by ripping almost everything out of the car before installing a very large and loud engine.

A US magazine ordered a basic car for $3700 then demonstrated just how costly a ‘mid-price’ performance car like the Wildcat could become when someone wielded the wallet. With the addition of some pretty basic additions including a radio, and heater, their ‘Wildcat With The Lot’ soared to $5200.

With the rise of other Buick performance models like the GS400 and GS455 Skylarks, the Wildcat was by 1968 well on the path to oblivion. All that distinguished it from a ‘67 was a grille revamp and some body embellishments.

The final Wildcat came in 1970; badged as a Wildcat Custom with Le Sabre trim and the 455 cubic inch engine. Auto transmission was the only power-train option and Hardtops accounted almost all of the 22,000 sales. Just 1244 final-year Wildcats were convertibles.

MARKET REVIEW

Wildcats came here in fairly significant numbers and until the 1980s would occasionally appear in mainstream used car lots. Australia’s typical Wildcat is today a four-door hardtop imported during the past 10-15 years. It will be LHD and in decent but not spectacular condition. Asking prices for these cars can be quite high - $30-35,000 for a four-door, up to $60,000 for a convertible - so research the market before setting out to buy.

CHECKLISTS

BODY & CHASSIS

Wildcats from 1965 sit on a ‘perimeter’ chassis which provides slightly better crash protection than the earlier ‘X Frame’. They all rust though and buying a Buick sight unseen without an independent on-hoist inspection is a big risk. Replacement panels are scarce in Australia and imports incur big freight costs. Replacement window and body insulation rubbers are fairly easily found but be wary if the quarter vent surrounds are missing or perished - replacing these small sections of rubber is said to cost more than $300. A complete 1967 Wildcat grille was offered at US$650 and a single headlight bezel cost $85.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Two versions of Buick’s big-block engine were available to Wildcat buyers; the ‘Nailhead’ V8 in 401 and 425 cubic inch capacities and modernised 430 cubic inch version. Cars at the top of the market really need to be mechanically flawless with no leaks, valve train rattles or smoke. Check around cylinder heads and back of the engine for oil weeps. The Dynaflow transmission was basically a GM Turbo 400; very durable and very easy to repair. Dual four- barrel carburettors were an option from 1963-66 and correct manifolds remain available. Finding correct carburettors, air-cleaners and linkages then setting everything up to replicate factory spec gets expensive.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

These are heavy cars and drum brakes even in perfect condition will fade after a couple of high-speed stops. Overheated drums can go out of shape and cause the pedal to pulse under light pressure. Prices for new repro drums range from US$550- 800 per set. Coil springs sag and need to be periodically replaced, however springs, shock absorbers and steering components are freely available. Older RHD conversions deteriorate in nasty ways and must be professionally inspected.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Slow and shuddering window lifts are commonly found in older US models and are a chore to fix. New window motors are available starting at US$300, frames and regulators second- hand and seem not too expensive. Materials to refurbish Buick interiors are available at various prices however it seems that correct- pattern seat vinyl, door trims and carpets cost $3000+. A new wiper motor from the USA will cost around A$200 but if you have a RHD converted car just check what type of motor and linkage was used.

VITAL STATS - BUICK WILDCAT 1963-70

NUMBER MADE: 315,000 (approx)

BODY STYLES: steel integrated body/chassis four door sedan, two and four-door hardtop & convertible

ENGINE: 6554cc or 7041cc V8 with overhead valves & single or dual downdraft carburettors

POWER & TORQUE: 268kW @ 5000rpm, 641Nm @ 3200rpm (430 4bbl)

PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 8.4 seconds, 0-400 metres 15.8 seconds (430 4bbl auto)

TRANSMISSION: three-speed automatic, three or four-speed manual

SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with locating links, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)

BRAKES: drum (f) drum (r) power assisted

TYRES: 8.85-15 bias ply

 

VALUE RANGE - BUICK WILDCAT 1963-70

FAIR $16,000

GOOD $32,000

EXCELLENT $44,000

(Note: concours & special cars may demand more.)

Numbers from our 2017-18 Muscle Cars Value Guide.

Muscle Car Value Guide home page

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