The 1954 Buick Wildcat show car features included a 322-cubic-inch V-8 that was fed by no less than four carburetors, upping horsepower to an impressive 220. The body was finished in an unusual dark tan with a two-tone tan leather interior.
The Wildcat II today is in the care of the Alfred P. Sloan, Jr., Museum in Flint, Michigan. Curiously, the cowl headlights were moved into the openings under the front fenders somewhere along the way, and the Wildcat hood ornament was removed.
The Wildcat name resurfaced in 1955, this time with a III behind it, and looking more like a production car than either of its predecessors. Some dubbed it a "toy" convertible.
This four-passenger Wildcat rode a 110-inch wheelbase and measured a compact 190.5 inches overall. Bright Kimberly Red paint graced the exterior, while the interior was covered in Sovereign Red leather.
The bucket seats swiveled and were separated by a floor-mounted shift lever that controlled the Twin-Turbine transmission. The familiar V-8 again sported four carbs, but further tweaking upped the horsepower to 280.
While the Wildcat III's windshield was of the by-then-familiar panoramic type, the posts were more nearly vertical. Teardrop-shaped wheel cutouts dominated the side view of the car, exposing a part of the fender's undersides. Portholes were conspicuous by their absence.
Even though the Wildcat III may have been the most conservative of the 1950s Wildcats, its grille opening and bumper design, plus the hood and headlight treatment, appeared on the 1956 Buicks. Likewise, the chrome side spear found its way onto the 1956 Roadmasters and the entire 1957 line.
The last Wildcat one-off, aside from the 1997 Riviera Wildcat, debuted in late 1985. By then, show cars were known as "concept vehicles," this one a four-wheel-drive two-seater designed to make the public aware of Buick's high-tech capabilities.
In particular, it showcased Buick's heavy commitment to the V-6 engine, here a state-of-the-art powerplant displacing 231 cubic inches and cranking out 230 horsepower. Featured were dual-overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and Computer Controlled Coil Ignition system.
The mid-engine PPG Buick was also fitted with an anti-lock brake system (ABS) and sported innovative instrumentation in the center of the steering wheel. A heads-up speedometer display was also featured. The four-wheel-drive system operated full time with a torque split of 34/66 percent front/rear.
The sleek body, boasting a coefficient of drag (Cd) of only 0.28, was constructed of composite carbon fiber and glass, although steel reinforcement was found under the skin. Access to the driver's compartment came from a futuristic canopy arrangement whereby the steering wheel automatically tilted upward as the canopy was raised.
Buick built this Wildcat in cooperation with PPG, Inc. It spent several years at major auto shows and PPG/CART Indy car racing events around the country.
To see how the Wildcat show cars saw the light as production models, continue to the next page for an overview of the 1962 Buick Wildcat.
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