The Wildcat offered a number of design features which were innovative for their time, features worked out during the 1985 Buick Wildcat concept car's development process.
While most cars, whether production or show models, hid their engines under an opaque hood of some sort, Wildcat flaunted its mid-engine powerplant.
Everyone could take a peek at the 3.8-liter V-6, with its 24-valve, double-overhead-cam configuration which protruded upward from the rear deck. Ahead of the 230-plus horsepower engine sat a 4-speed automatic transmission, sending power into a chain-driven transfer case and central differential. Yes, that's right, a transfer case meant the Buick Wildcat concept car had full-time four-wheel-drive. About two-thirds of the output torque was delivered to the back wheels, one-third to the fronts.
Manual shifting was possible, overriding the automatic transmission via a motorcycle-type selector. A computer prevented over-revving of the engine. More important to drivers who evaluated the car was a governor that limited speeds to 70 mph. No telling how much an unfettered Buick Wildcat concept car might have been able to deliver.
Powertrains and gadgetry aside, the Buick Wildcat's body obviously proved to be its main attraction, just as its creators had intended. Crafted from a composite of high-strength fiberglass resins and carbon fiber, it required no metal structure.
Even the suspension carriers bolted directly to the nonmetallic body, via steel sub-frames. The front-hinged canopy was made of cast gray acrylic and carbon fiber with glass-reinforced polyester resin.
Assigned first to Buick's performance group, the project began as an assignment for junior students at the Center for Creative Studies. Working for a year, the students were given free rein and turned in hundreds of sketches. Half of them worked on the body, the others on interior designs.
Two students even spent a summer in the Buick studio. Eventually, the Buick Wildcat concept car took shape in Design Studio Number One, which normally delivers renderings for mid- and full-size Buicks. William L. Porter served as studio head, while David P. Rand was senior designer.
Eventually, a particular set of sketches looked just right, so Rand prepared a full-size drawing. Clay modeling came from the expert hand of Steve Jordan. The basic concept was described as "a pod pushing a pod." That meant an interlocking pair of pods, one for the driver and the other carrying the engine. Those massive side air intakes weren't just for show, but were necessities dictated by the placement of the car's radiator.
From the start, the Wildcat was intended to be drivable, not just a showstopper -- though it also showcased the paint and plastics of the PPG organization, which footed some of the bill.
Final development took place at Studio Two, with the actual body prototypes crafted by the Triad company. The car's sculptured-look interior, no less radical than its body, was styled by Nellie Toledo.
Wildcat's project manager, Ed Roselle, told Car and Driver at the time of the car's early appearance that "this is the type of car that a guy would take down to [Detroit's] Woodward Avenue in the 1990s." It didn't happen, but now that the 1990s have come and gone, what enthusiast or dreamer would turn down an opportunity to do exactly that?
Go to the next page for specifications of the 1985 Buick Wildcat concept car.