The 1953 Buick Wildcat was the first show car to bear the Wildcat name.

Buick Wildcat Show Cars

In todays "corporatese," Buick Wildcat show cars would be called "concept cars." Back in the 1950s they were "dream cars." Created for the major auto shows -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit -- their sole purpose was to attract attention.

Set against a plush drape, perched atop a slowly rotating turntable, and surrounded by gowned fashion models, the General Motors dream cars did their thing. They made the folks "ooh and aah" a bit, and if everything went right, the viewers just might be motivated go back to their Hometown, U.S.A. Buick dealership with a glint in their eyes.

Since dream cars weren't being vended in the showroom, hopefully the impressed head of the household would, with the help of GMAC if need be, partake of a new Special, Super, or -- better yet -- a Roadmaster.

To be sure, there were side benefits resulting from the show car programs. Stylists got to exercise their imaginations in conjuring up futuristic ideas, no matter how impractical, and perhaps a feature or two from the dream machines might eventually trickle down to the production models.

More likely, a catchy nameplate would later find itself on a more mundane production series. Dream cars were great fodder for the news boys, and press kit black-and-whites most often found their way to the well-thumbed pages of Motor Trend, Speed Age, and Mechanix Illustrated, not to mention the daily newspaper.

By the time the Wildcat I came along, Buick was an old hand at the dream car business. Its Y-Job, with a career dating back to 1938, was the granddaddy of them all. By 1951, Buick had both the LeSabre and XP-300 strutting their stuff on the auto show circuit.

Buick first used the Wildcat name in 1953 on a brand-new show and experimental car. The Wildcat I, as it is now known, was a fiberglass two-seater convertible that measured only 54 inches high and rode a 114-inch wheelbase.

It boasted a slightly warmed up version of Buick's brand new production V-8, whose 322 cubic inches cranked out 188 horsepower, coupled to a Twin-Turbine version of Buick's Dynaflow.

The Wildcat II appeared just a year later, in 1954. It was a smaller, yet more powerful dream car that seemed to take its inspiration at least in part from the Corvette. It was the sports car of the 1950s Wildcats, and it was also the most radically styled.

Again, a fiberglass body was created, this time mounted on a 100-inch wheelbase, with an overall length of 170.9 inches and a height of 48.5 inches. The dramatic styling centered on swept-back front wheel wells and "flying wing" front fenders.

This arrangement left part of the front suspension visible, so these parts were chrome plated along with the exposed wheel openings. The headlights were cowl-mounted, while smaller parking/driving lights nestled under the open fender cavity. Portholes -- three per side -- graced the hood.

The rear styling treatment was strongly suggestive of the limited production 1954 Skylark convertible, while the grille and Dagmar bumper theme appeared on the 1955 production models.

For more on Wildcat show cars, continue to the next page.

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