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.
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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