1965-1966 Buick Wildcat

Beginning in the 1930s with the Century, Buick had become known for producing spirited cars that blended its biggest engine with its lightest bodies. That job fell to the 1965-1966 Buick Wildcat.

The 1965 Buick Wildcat brought the look and feel of performance to Buick.
The 1965 Buick Wildcat brought the look and feel
of performance to Buick.

The Wildcat made its debut during 1962 as a sportier bucket-seat version of the Invicta two-door hardtop. The Wildcat became a three-car series of its own the following season. Production topped 84,000 cars in 1964, the year a four-door sedan joined the line, and the Wildcat certainly looked like one of the division's better ideas of the decade.

For 1965, the Wildcat became even more of a crossbreed between the lower-cost LeSabre and the high and mighty Electra 225. Formerly built to LeSabre dimensions, the Wildcat now moved up to the Electra's 126-inch wheelbase.

But it did retain an elongated version of LeSabre styling. Specific appearance details started with a deep-set die-cast grille divided into two horizontal sections, and Buick's tri-shield logo in a chromed ring at the center. Big ventlike strakes on the front fenders were the Wildcat's interpretation of the famous "VentiPorts."

The line again contained four models -- four-door hardtop, four-door sedan, two-door hardtop, and convertible -- but the Wildcat family still managed to grow. There were now base, DeLuxe, and Cus­tom versions, the DeLuxe and Custom defined by increasingly nicer upholstery and interior fittings. Only the DeLuxe subseries included all four body types; the base range had no convertible and the Custom lacked a sedan.

Performance remained the Wildcat's calling card. Power choices began with the "Wildcat 445" V-8, so named because of its torque output. This 401-cid evolution of Buick's Fifties-vintage "nailhead" V-8 made 325 bhp at 4,400 rpm. It featured a four-barrel carb and 10.25:1 compression.

Beyond that, there were two mightier engines, a 340-bhp "Wildcat 465" and a 360-horse "Super Wildcat." These were both 425-cid V-8s that spun out 465 pound-feet of torque. However, the Super Wildcat, which had been developed for the Riviera, featured two four-barrel carburetors, a chrome-plated air cleaner, cast-aluminum rocker-arm covers, and dual exhausts.

The three-speed column-lever stickshift was standard, with a four-on-the-floor manual and Super Turbine automatic as options. (Both optional engines had to be ordered with either the four-speed or automatic.) The Super Turbine transmission used in Wildcats incorporated two planetary gear sets instead of the one found in automatics destined for LeSabres.

For an extra outlay of cash, a Wildcat could be made into even more of a muscle car with items like heavy-duty springs and shocks, the limited-slip differential, a tachometer, Buick's distinctive chromed five-rib sports wheels, and -- in convertibles and hardtop coupes -- bucket seats and a floor console. There was a choice of four axle ratios for manual-shift cars; five for those with the automatic.

In 1966, Wildcat styling adopted the same taillight revisions seen on the LeSabre. The grille continued the cut-back motif of the previous year, but the central shields-in-a-ring device was replaced by a vertical center bar. In addition, there was now a stand-up hood ornament. The faux vents on the front fenders were restyled as well.

The standard Wildcat engine in 1966 was the 325-bhp 401 V-8, with the 340-horse 425 optional. The dual-quad powerplant was no longer available for Buick's big Wildcat. Neither was the four-speed manual transmission.

With the demise of the DeLuxe subseries, the base Wildcat added a convertible. There was an interesting, if obscure, performance package, though. For $255, the purchaser of a Wildcat two-door hardtop or convertible could add the Gran Sport High Performance Group.

It included an upgrade to a 340-bhp engine spiffed up with a chromed air cleaner, aluminum valve covers, and dual ex­hausts. Other package components were heavy-duty suspension parts, a 3.42:1 "posi" axle, and a choice of whitewall or redline 8.45×15 tires. Gran Sport badges were found inside and outside the cars.

When legendary Mechanix Illustrated writer Tom McCahill marked the 20th anniversary of his frank car tests in the February 1966 issue, he put a Wildcat Gran Sport hardtop through its paces.

"Uncle Tom" ran it 0-60 in 7.4 seconds, cracked 125 mph for top speed, and pronounced it "without a doubt the most comfortable and best Buick I have ever driven. Even the suspension, which is pretty sloppy on some other models, is beefed up on the Gran Sport series, making the car highly maneuverable and a lot safer."

Still, from the 26,054 Wildcat hardtop and convertible coupes built in 1966, only 21 Gran Sports are believed to have been produced.

The next model in this Buick lineup was the Electra 225. To learn about the 1965-1966 Buick Electra 225, see the next page.

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