1962 Buick Wildcat
The inaugural 1962 Buick Wildcat was one of two hardtop coupes listed as 1962 Invictas. Power came from the Wildcat 455 V-8, a 401-cubic-inch unit that cranked out 325 horsepower for the Electra 225. This was the bread-and-butter Buick powerplant; as installed in LeSabres and lesser Invictas, it developed 265/280 horsepower.
The Invicta Wildcat shared its 123-inch wheelbase with the down-scale LeSabre. Overall length stretched 214.1 inches and it tipped the scales at 4,150 pounds. This first year offering was priced at $3,927, priciest in the line and about $200 more than the standard Invicta two-door hardtop.
Special equipment included a distinctive vinyl top treatment with Wildcat emblems on the C-pillars, exclusive stainless-steel side and rocker panel trim, and a special bucket seat all-vinyl interior. The front fenders carried stylized versions of Buick's fabled portholes; the Wildcat was a "three-holer" as opposed to the four found on the top-line Electras.
Other Wildcat features included a center console that mounted the shift lever, a rear floor light, and a hard-to-read tachometer; foam rubber headliner with chrome-plated roof bows; Custom trim throughout; and aluminum front brake drums, dual exhaust, 15-inch wheels, and Wildcat wheel covers.
Wildcats usually carried a goodly number of options. The long list of extra-cost goodies included power steering, $105; power brakes, $48; radio, $90; tinted glass, $42. Gaining in popularity was factory air conditioning, which added a hefty $430 to the price tag. Most Wildcats went out the door at well over $4,000.
"Buick's unleashed a WILDCAT!" proclaimed the brochure, which was issued separately from the rest of the Buick line because of Wildcat's late introduction. Curiously, it made no mention whatsoever of the Wildcat show cars of the 1950s, even though they were similar in spirit to the production Wildcat.
But Buick was very specific about the new model's role, referring to it as ". . . the new full size, sports-style car [with] sports car touches in a setting of luxury." The theme was emphasized over and over with descriptions such as: "Sports-car wallop . . . sports-car handling . . . sports-car styling."
"The Buick Wildcat is an entirely new idea in driving pleasure," Buick boasted. "It combines the verve of sports-car styling, handling characteristics and power with the comfortable roominess of a full-size family car. Make no mistake, the Wildcat is . . . strictly for American driving." Buick made no attempt to explain how the sports-car handling came about, although the specs listed a link-type stabilizer bar for the front.
No matter, a favorable road test was forthcoming from Motor Trend magazine, which called the Wildcat "a bucket-seat palace." Another description referred to it as Buick's "performance image personification," not unreasonable considering that the Wildcat stormed from 0-60 mph in a mere 8.1 seconds and topped out at 115 mph.
The 1962 Wildcat filled much the same role for Buick as the Starfire convertible had for Oldsmobile in 1961. Total Wildcat production in 1962 was a modest 2,000 units, however, while the Starfire had fared better at 7,600 units. The sporty 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix, also similar in concept, did even better: 30,195 units.
In 1963, Buick's loudest drums were banging for the all-new Riviera, Buick's first personal-luxury coupe. Perhaps because the Riviera was at least partially invading Wildcat territory, the latter blossomed into a three-model series: two- and four-door hardtops and the first production Wildcat convertible. This left the Invicta nameplate to hang around for just one more year -- and then only on a lone Estate Wagon.
For more on the 1963 and 1964 Buick Wildcats, see the next page.