1959-1963 Buick Invicta

The 1959-1963 Buick Invicta came about during some big changes at Buick. By the end of the 1950s, Buick already had shown a long-standing devotion to the practice of putting its biggest available engine in one of its smaller cars to deliver lively performance.

A switch to a dramatic new design changed a lot of things at Buick, but the interest in offering a "banker's hot rod" wasn't one of them. In fact, the beginnings of the Buick Invicta were as a bridge during the design change from one such car to another.

1963 Buick Invicta
The 1963 Buick Invicta became an afterthought by only its fifth year,
but its short run was a good one. See more pictures of Buick cars.

The idea of taking a powerful engine and placing it in a car smaller and lighter than originally intended has tempted engineers and hot-rodders (sometimes one in the same) for decades. It's a concept that seems to know no bounds of time or place, and it's been tried in everything from sports cars to grand touring sedans.

Over time, no American manufacturer has pursued the idea as persistently as Buick. Though it certainly wasn't the first to take a big engine from column A and mount it in a lighter chassis from column B, the General Motors division did a good job of it when, in 1936, it introduced the Century.

Riding a chas­sis shorter than that of the senior Roadmaster (but a bit longer than the entry-level Special) and powered by the 320-cubic-inch overhead-valve straight eight found in the Road­master and even-larger Limited, the Cent­ury was soon a legitimate 100-mph car. It stayed in the line until 1942, then was revived for '54 as a V-8-driven horse­power race was speeding up in the United States.

In the early 1960s, just before the muscle car era swept in on a tide of the new class of midsized cars packed with big-car powerplants, Buick joined the fad for sporty full-size automobiles with the Wildcat. It lasted until 1970. Even when Buick completely changed its "standard" car lines in 1977 to make them smaller and more fuel efficient, it couldn't resist offering a LeSabre Sport Coupe with chrome wheels, blackout trim, and, from 1978 to 1980, a turbocharged V-6.

In the years between the final Century in 1958 and the rise of the Wildcat, the bigger-engine/smaller-chassis formula was embodied in the Invicta, a name from the Latin for "un­conquerable." It lasted only five model years as a separate nameplate before giving way to its feline follower, which actually got its start as a member of the Invicta family in 1962.

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1959 Buick Invicta

For all intents and purposes, the Invicta was the Century, but in a Buick so different from those that came before it that even the familiar series names were changed for 1959. Thus, the 1959 Buick Invicta was born.

1959 Buick Invicta
The 1959 Invicta picked up the baton
for a long line of performance-minded Buicks.

According to historians Terry Dunham and Larry Gustin in their book, The Buick: A Complete History, division general manager Edward T. Rags­dale said of that year's cars, "It is given to a man once in a lifetime to introduce a completely new line of cars. These things happen only once every two or three decades. We at Buick feel we are on the threshold of an event that most of us will not witness again."

All of General Motors' mainline family cars went off in a startlingly different styling direction in 1959, a turn taken in response to Chrysler Corporation's lean and finny designs of 1957. Low, tight cross sections and thin roof panels with lots of glass area replaced puffy bodies and enveloping tops. Then, too, fins sprouted in every direction.

While Buicks didn't have the exces­sive vertical tailfins of Cadillacs, their slanting fins were distinctive. Buick's "Delta Wing" styling may have made for a closer representation of a true airplane wing than any of the other GM nameplates that year. Below the fins were single round taillamps above a blade bumper.

The cant of the tailfins was mimicked up front by flaring brows that arched over diagonally aligned quad headlamps. The grille was made up of a series of linked rectangles with chamfered surfaces, a toned-down evolution of the busy "Fashion-Aire Dynastar Grille" that fronted 1958 Buicks. A chrome "V" in a ring, another motif borrowed from the '58s, overlaid the center of the grille.

On the sides of all 1959 Buicks, the sweepspears of the previous decade were replaced by a single chrome strip that ran downhill from the tips of the headlamp brows to a point just ahead of the center of the taillamp bezels. A chrome edging that began at the base of each front ventpane traced back over the fins and around to the trailing edge of the sloping trunklid.

Beyond that, each series made do with varying combinations of rocker-panel and wheel-lip decoration. Invictas featured a bright strip on the rockers and edging on the front wheel openings. (The Invicta station wagon also had an additional heavy molding on the roof above the side windows.)

In any case, the cars certainly didn't look like any recent Buick and created a small sensation. Said Devon Francis in Popular Science, "Probably not in all the latter-day history of the automobile has a car changed so radically in styling from one year to the next."

Motor Trend named the Invicta four-door hardtop the "Best Look­ing Car Overall" for 1959, and named the Invicta Estate Wagon "Best Looking Wagon." MT complimented the four-door hardtop's flat roofline over its "control tower" rear window that "introduced another horizontal element into the fleetness in that plane." Car Life's Jim Whipple wrote, "The '59 Buicks are beautifully styled and finished cars, well-built and powerful."

Buick sales literature called the Invicta "The Most Spirited Buick." That was due in large part to what was under­­hood: an all-new "Wild­cat 445" 401-cubic-inch V-8 -- also standard in costlier Electras -- that delivered 325 horsepower at 4,400 rpm and 445 pound-feet of torque at 2,800 rpm.

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Features of the 1959-1963 Buick Invicta

As one might expect of a hot rod, engine and transmission were among the main features of the 1959-1963 Buick Invicta. The 401-cubic-inch engine was a bored and stroked update of Buick's first overhead-valve V-8 from 1953 . It had five main bearings and hydraulic lifters, and breathed through either a Carter or Rochester four-barrel carburetor.

1961 Buick Invicta
Power steering was an option with all Invicta models.

That engine, known as the "Wildcat 445" (a reference to its torque output), was the most powerful engine Buick had built to that time, with a torque curve that flattened out near the top and was relatively constant from 2,000-4,000 rpm. This would be the sole engine offering for the Invicta throughout its lifetime, its specifications unaltered save for a quarter-point reduction in compression ratio (to 10.25:1) beginning in 1960.

The Buick Invicta's standard transmission was the Twin Turbine torque-converter automatic featuring variable-pitch and fixed-vane stators. This improved descendent of Buick's Dynaflow was accompanied by an optional Triple Turbine variant, which had just been introduced in 1958. It wouldn't make it as far as 1960, however. Buick hung on with its traditional torque-tube drive and all-coil springing. The frame was new, however, with boxed side rails and a "K" crossmember. At 123 inches, the Invicta's wheelbase was an inch longer than that of the Century it replaced.

Mechanix Illustrated's outspoken auto writer, Tom McCahill, took the car out on GM's Milford, Michigan, proving grounds. "I clearly got the message that [Buick Chief Engineer Oliver "OK" Kelley] and the rest of the men who designed it felt that the '59 car is head and shoulders better than any Buick the company has ever made. I might as well tell you right now -- it is," McCahill wrote.

"Uncle Tom" was able to achieve 0-60-mph times in the 9.4- to 9.6-second range and reached a top speed of 122 mph. The Invicta he tested had air suspension, which had proliferated as an option on Detroit's 1958 models, but found few takers. However, the new system for '59, featuring rear airbags only, gave the Invicta the stability it needed in cornering and braking, and changed McCahill's tune about air-sprung Buicks.

"The '59 Buick is one hell of a road car," McCahill concluded, "with the traction of a leech. Many a lesser car on this wet road surface would have been off the shoulder like a French evening gown and sailing to parts unknown. You could no more have taken these bends at 60 mph with last year's Buick than you could sprout antlers on a rabbit."

For stopping power, Buick continued to rely on its good aluminum front drums with cast-iron rear drums that featured 60 cooling fins. Motor Life noted that "the Buick's aluminum brakes were at least 10 times better in fade resistance than the best of the competition, according to reports from Detroit test grounds."

Inside, a new dash design featured a horizontal speedometer mounted above two large round pods containing ammeter, fuel, water-temperature, and oil-pressure gauges. Invicta interiors came in cloth-and-Cordaveen vinyl in closed models and all Cordaveen in convertibles.

Optional power steering required less than 2.5 pounds of effort to turn the wheel, significantly less than in previous years. Some of the other available extra-cost items were power brakes, a Positive-Traction antislip differential, a couple kinds of heater/defroster, and a choice of radios.

The 1959 Invicta line consisted of a four-door sedan; four-door hardtop; two-door hardtop; convertible coupe; and four-door, two-seat Estate Wagon. Prices ranged from $3,357 for the four-door sedan to $3,841 for the Estate Wagon.

No longer a hardtop-style wagon, as in 1957-58, the Estate Wagon held 38.5 cubic feet of cargo with the rear seat raised, or 75.7 cubic feet with it lowered. A standard 438-foot piece of plywood could be carried with the tailgate opened. Gone, too, was the two-piece transom-style tailgate, replaced by a modern one-piece gate into which the back window retracted either manually or with an optional power assist.

The '59 Buicks were introduced on September 16, 1958, the earliest start for any manufacturer in the postwar period. Buick gained an early jump on the competition before a steel strike stopped production for a couple of weeks in the fall. When it resumed, the early enthusiasm for the new Buicks had faded. Production for the model year came to 285,089, an improvement over recession-shrouded 1958.

But Buick didn't improve as much as some other manufacturers, so it dropped from fifth to seventh place in industry rankings. After claiming nearly 10 percent of the market and rising as high as third place in the mid Fifties, Buick was down to five percent. Invicta orders totaled a healthy 52,851, a nearly 41-percent improvement over the business done by the '58 Century.

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1960 Buick Invicta

Even GM stylists seemed to know that they'd gone as far out as they dared with the fin-heavy 1959 models of the Buick Invicta, so 1960 was a year for toning down their designs -- the 1960 Buick Invicta was no exception.

At Buick, hoods were lowered to give a better view of the road; headlights now sat side-by-side, eliminating the dramatic slanted look of '59; and the grille of rectangular blocks was replaced by concave vertical slats with the tri-shield Buick logo floating in a chrome ring at the center.

1960 Buick Invicta
Bodysides on the 1960 Invicta, as on all Buicks,
were more sculpted than previous models.

The tips of the tailfins were softly rounded off, and the fin-edge trim no longer continued all the way across the decklid. Bodysides did show more sculpturing, though. An undercut area that ran from the headlamp brows down to the rear bumper gave the impression of "hollowing out" the sides. Meanwhile, tubular forms that encompassed the outboard headlights faded back to a point at about the middle of the car.

All series still had a bright trim strip in common, but now it was strictly horizontal, running from the rear bumper to the front wheel opening -- very handy for setting patterns for optional two-tone paint treatments. To this, '60 Invic­tas added bright moldings around all four wheel openings.

Then, too, Buick revived its famous front-fender "porthole" ornaments, which had been a divisional styling cue from 1949 to 1957. They came three to a side on the "jun­ior" LeSabre and Invicta series, and four per fender on the "senior" Elec­tra and Elec­tra 225 lines.

Drivers were confronted by a completely new dash and instrument panel, featuring an even longer linear speedo­m­eter and "idiot lights" to indicate coolant temperature, generator function, and oil pressure.

All warning lights and dials (save for the clock) were seen through a new "Mir­ro­magic" instrument panel. They were actually mounted facing up, but reflected on a mirror that could be adjusted via thumbwheels so that drivers could tailor the angle of the display to their individual driving position.

Radio controls shifted from the center of the dash to just right of the steering column. Invictas continued to come with standard features that included Foamtex cushions, an electric clock, automatic trunk light, deluxe steering wheel, license plate frame, and full wheel covers. A new Custom interior option added bucket seat sportiness.

The arrival of three-seat Estate Wagons added a model to the Invicta line. All cargo dimensions were the same as in the two-seater, but a rear-facing bench-style third seat raised seating capacity to as many as nine passengers.

Buick took a modified Invicta to Day­tona International Speedway in January 1960 for a high-speed endurance run. The two-door hardtop was essentially stock, except for a 200-gallon pressure fuel tank in place of the rear seat.

How­ever, turning laps in the neighborhood of 130 mph made fuel consumption a problem with the big tank. The solution was to set up another Invicta as a mobile gas station to feed the test car on the run through a boom inspired by the method used to refuel military jets on long missions.

Seven drivers, led by NASCAR great Glenn "Fireball" Roberts, drove 10,000 miles in less than 5,000 minutes, aver­aging 120.186 mph for the run. Unfor­tunately, the 1957 Automobile Man­u­­facturers' Association agreement to not publicize performance denied Buick the opportunity to brag. The only publicity the run received came from Tom McCahill in Mechanix Illustrated.

When he got to slip behind the wheel of an Invicta himself, McCahill attained a 0-60 time of 8.9 seconds, about a half-second quicker than in 1959. On the other side of the performance curve, he was particularly impressed by the car's automatic transmission (now dubbed Turbine Drive).

During his test, he found himself stuck in mud up to the wheel hubs. With about 25 feet to go to solid ground, he shifted the transmission into first (low) and gently applied the throttle. After a couple of thumps, the Invicta started to ease through the muck and even­tually got "Unk" to high ground.

Capable performer or not, Invicta orders declined by more than 7,400 cars for 1960. That was in keeping with overall Buick production, which continued to fall, this time to 253,999 units for the model year. Buick's position in the industry slipped to ninth place, its lowest finish since 1905.

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1961 Buick Invicta

A whole new generation of Buicks swept in for 1961. Gone from the 1961 Buick Invicta and other models were flaring fins, scowling brows over headlamps, and the impression of great size. In their place was a more-sculptured, more-conservative design. The "Clean Look of Action" is how Buick described the new styling concept.

1961 Buick Invict
The Invicta was the only Buick model to offer
contrast coloring on the bodysides for 1961.

Up front, a gently vee'd diecast grille of hori­zontal chrome-plated bars sat beneath a low, flat hood topped by a central chrome windsplit. In profile, the new Buicks had bulletlike bodies, with pointed fenders in front and notched rear quarters (the product of a beveled rear fascia) that furthered the appearance of for­ward motion.

The upper portion of the bodysides were sculpted in this same pro­jectile form and highlighted by a chrome molding. Sharply elliptical portholes, which looked like dummy exhaust ports, reinforced the theme.

In the rear, oval taillights were hooded by chrome housings and protected by a deep-set bumper. New roof designs were granted to each body style, but all traded in the once-chic "dogleg" A-pillar for a post that slanted forward from the top, then curved back just before reaching the body beltline, creating almost teardrop-shaped ventpanes.

The interior featured a new symmetrical dash design that dipped in the center above a brightly trimmed stack that held the radio when ordered. Mirro­magic was continued.

Underneath was a brand-new X-type frame. A new rear suspension consisted of a three-link design that had the rear axle located to the frame by two outboard lower links and one upper stabilizer bar.

Buick also eschewed its long-serving torque-tube drive for a two-piece driveshaft. Wheelbases were essentially unchanged, but, in the case of the Invicta and LeSabre, the redesigned cars were more than four inches shorter overall, one inch lower, and two inches narrower than in 1960. They were lighter, too.

The Invicta model line was cut in half for 1961, the four-door sedan and the two station wagons having been dropped. It was the only Buick series that continued the bodyside molding all the way around the sculpted area -- which, on Invictas alone, could be painted in a contrast color as an option. Like the costlier Electras, Invictas had bright accents on the taillamp lenses and a thin chrome strip that edged the top of the rear fascia.

Upholstery sported new fabric patterns and "Jewel-Tone" vinyl in two- and four-door hardtops, or all-vinyl in convertibles. Extra-cost Custom interiors were again available on Invictas. On four-door hardtops, that amounted to leather seats with pull-down armrests front and rear. Custom two-door hardtops featured vinyl front buckets (with two-way power adjustment for the driver) and a vinyl-covered storage console.

Buick dubbed the 1961 Invicta "an automobile man's kind of automobile." Apparently, the kind of person the division had in mind was Mechanix Illus­trated writer Tom McCahill. He described the '61 Invicta he tested as "a gentleman with dynamite in both fists" that was "as silent as Christmas Eve in the morgue and the ride was as lush as a swim in egg drop soup."

Of the carryover powertrain, he said, "It seemed to go like a muscle-sore bat out of a liniment factory but it didn't give out with any of the accompanying noises one usually associates with a car that's unwinding." McCahill called it the best car Buick had ever built.

Aided by the arrival of the new "senior compact" Special, Buick production improved to 277,426 in '61. The Invicta, sadly, wasn't a major contributor to that. It hurt to lose the sedan, which had averaged 10,700 sales a year in 1959-60, and the wagons, good for another 5,000-plus units. However, combined output of the three remaining Invicta models dropped from 29,496 in 1960 to 28,733 for '61.

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1962 Buick Invicta

The 1962 Buick Invicta was given some revitalization, thanks to far stronger demand for the two-door hardtop and convertible. Two- and three-seat Estate Wagons returned to the Invicta lineup as well.

A resurgent Buick produced a total of 400,150 cars across all lines, good for sixth place in the industry. Invictas accounted for 56,017 of them, or 14 percent of the total.

1962 Buick Invicta
1962 would be the last year for a Buick convertible
with the Invicta name on it.

In an effort to make 1962 Buicks look wider, facelifted styling placed the outboard headlights at the far edges of the car, eliminating the pointed look. Grille bars were finer and more numerous, and the hood gained a slight bevel at its leading edge. Sculpted bodysides remained, but were squared off at the rear. Taillight units were wider and incorporated back-up-light lenses, though the actual back-up lamps remained an extra-cost item on LeSabres and Invictas.

On the junior cars, the two-door hardtop roof went from being a "bubbletop" to having the creased look of a convertible with its top raised. A midbody chrome spear decorated the rear quarters of LeSabres and most Invictas; the Invicta four-door hardtop traded this for a lower, longer strip that ran from the rear bumper to the front wheel opening.

Buick interiors got a revised dash. The dashtop was now at a constant height, the central dip having been eliminated, which created space for a new oval-faced clock. The mirrored instrument panel was replaced by a fixed-position white-on-black strip speedometer.

A warning-light cluster sat to the left of the speedometer, with the fuel gauge to the right. The smooth new two-spoke steering wheel had a boomeranglike hub. A heater/defroster was now standard in every Buick, and two-seat Estate Wagons joined three-seaters in having a standard power tailgate window.

The standard cloth-and-vinyl interior for Invicta hardtops and convertibles newly featured Tartan plaid fabrics on the seats and door panels. (This combination also served as the Custom option for Invicta Estate Wagons.

The basic interior for wagons, which bore 86.7 cubic feet of cargo space, had all-vinyl upholstery with patterned inserts.) The Custom bucket-seat option lost its driver-side power assist, but the package became available for the convertible.

It was during '62 that the shift to the next chapter in Buick's long history of making "banker's hot rods" began to happen. The Wildcat two-door hardtop made its midyear debut with the Invicta powertrain, a vinyl-covered roof, rocker-panel and wheel-lip brightwork, bucket seats, a bright-trimmed console with a tachometer and floor-mounted shifter, and more.

All this sold for just $194 more than the cost of an Invicta hardtop coupe, which the Wildcat essentially replaced. (The Wild­cat assumed the Invicta coupe's Buick model number, and the springtime catalog issued to coincide with the arrival of the Wildcat and Special Skylark convertible didn't picture the Invicta hardtop or list it in the specification chart.)

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1963 Buick Invicta

When the 1963 Buick Invicta came out, the shift to the Wildcat as Buick's main hot rod was complete. The Wildcat line now counted three models, adding a convertible and four-door hardtop, while the Invicta name was found only on a two-seat Estate Wagon.

1963 Buick Invicta
The 1963 Buick Invicta was the model's last year.
It was available only as a wagon and sold
less than 3,500 copies.

Styling changes to the '63 full-size cars were evolutionary, but hardly minor. The Wildcat got a grille design all its own, but the others added vertical ribs to the horizontal grille bars and oval chrome rings to encircle each pair of headlights. Circular parking/turn-signal lenses nestled in the bumper ends.

The kink at the base of each A-pillar was straightened out. Bodysides were now more slab-sided, the only hint of the previous sculpturing in a crease line that started at the forward edge of the front fenders and faded out in the front doors.

Electra 225s adopted a massive rear-end design all their own, but all the others switched to vertical taillights in thick chrome bezels, a small vertical tailfin atop each rear-quarter panel, and U-shaped receptacles in the bumper under the taillights to hold the back-up lamps. Overall lengths increased on all models; on wagons the gain was 2.1 inches to 215.7.

Inside, a completely new dash placed two large round dials in front of the driver -- speedometer to the left, warning lights and fuel gauge to the right -- with room for a smaller clock between them. New options included a tilt steering wheel; cruise control; front-fender cornering lamps; and a fully synchronized four-speed manual transmission, a $263 item for any LeSabre, Wildcat, or Invicta.

The Invicta Estate Wagon was dressed out in bright trim around the side windows, chrome roof bows, and a Wildcat-like full-length bodyside spear. The plaid-cloth-and-vinyl interior was now standard in a choice of three colors. The Custom option included front buckets with a storage console and patterned vinyl upholstery on the seats and door panels that matched the look of the Wildcat cabin. Four colors were available.

With a starting price just shy of $4,000, just 3,495 of the '63 Invicta wagons were sold, making it the rarest of that year's full-size Buicks. Then, the Invicta was gone. The total of Invicta-badged cars came to around 184,000. That paled in comparison to the 446,475 Centurys of 1954-58.

Still, the Invicta kept up Buick's tradition of producing performance-oriented cars through some lean years as the division wrestled with styling and quality demons. It also spawned the Wild­cat, which was destined for strong sales through the end of the Sixties.

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1959-1963 Buick Invicta Specifications

The Buick Invicta may have had a short model run -- short enough that only one engine was used throughout its life -- but it was a significant model in Buick's performance history. Here are the 1959-1963 Buick Invicta specifications, covering the car's entire five-year model run. We also give you selected specs for the 1961 model, including the engine specs for the "Wildcat 455" V-8 that powered every Invicta.

1959 Buick Invicta

Weight (lbs.)
Price (new)
Number built
Four-door sedan
Hardtop coupe
Hardtop sedan
Estate wagon, six-passenger


1960 Buick Invicta

Weight (lbs.)
Price (new)
Number built
Four-door sedan
Hardtop coupe
Hardtop sedan
Estate wagon, six-passenger
Estate wagon, nine-passenger


1961 Buick Invicta

Weight (lbs.)
Price (new)
Number built
Hardtop coupe
Hardtop sedan


1962 Buick Invicta

Weight (lbs.)
Price (new)
Number built
Estate wagon, six-passenger

Estate wagon, nine-passenger

Hardtop coupe
Wildcat hardtop coupe
Hardtop sedan

* Estimated. Known model-year production total of all Invicta-series hardtop coupes is 12,355.

1963 Buick Invicta

Weight (lbs.)
Price (new)
Number built
Estate wagon, six-passenger

1961 Buick Invicta Selected Specifications


  • Wheelbase (in.): 123.0
  • Overall length (in.): 213.2
  • Tread, front/rear (in.): 62.0/61.0
  • Fuel tank (gal): 20
  • Construction layout: front engine, rear-drive
  • Type: steel body on frame
  • Frame: steel X-type with box-section rails and tubular center section


  • Type: 90-degree overhead-valve V-8
  • Material: cast-iron block and heads
  • Bore and stroke (in.): 4.19x3.64
  • Displacement (cubic inches): 401
  • Horsepower @ rpm: 325 @ 4,400
  • Torque (lb-ft) @ rpm: 445 @ 2,800
  • Main bearings: 5
  • Valve lifters: hydraulic
  • Carburetor: 4-bbl Carter
  • Crankcase (qt): 4
  • Cooling system (qt): 17; 18.5 with heater
  • Electrical system 12-volt


  • Transmission: automatic, torque-converter type with two turbines
  • Driveshaft: two piece with constant-velocity joint in center
  • Rear axle: semifloating hypoid gear
  • Final-drive ratio: 3.23:1


  • Front: independent coil-spring and wishbone with link-type stabilizer bar and tubular hydraulic shock absorbers
  • Rear: independent trailing link, stabilizer bar, coil springs,tubular shock absorbers


  • Type: recirculating ball
  • Ratio: 31.9:1 (with optional power steering, 19.9:1)


  • Type: 4-wheel hydraulic internal-expanding drum
  • Material, front/rear: aluminum/cast-iron
  • Lining area (sq in.): 197.3

Tires and Wheels

  • Tire size 7.60x15 (8.00x15 optional)
  • Wheels 6.0x15 pressed steel disc
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