The car was stunning to look at, but a closer look at the 1985 Buick Wildcat concept car design revealed some breathtaking features.
Seeing the 1985 Buick Wildcat concept car for the first time may have made you anxious to get driving, but even this simple step had a futuristic touch. To do so, you couldn't just open a door and plop in. No, you'd push on a solenoid in the left rocker panel, which raised the canopy. At the same time, the steering wheel would tilt upward to let your physique slide gently downward to the driver's seat. Not as easy as it sounds, since both driver and passenger had to endure a tight squeeze before the canopy was ready to drop down again into the drive-away position.
Though the original Buick Wildcat concept car wasn't capable of driving anywhere, a functional version was already under development, to be used for engineering tests as well as touring the nation alongside a CART Indy racer. A handful of lucky outsiders even got a chance for a limited test drive.
Though not a pace car, both examples were built with support from the PPG company, which funded the authentic pace vehicles. Wildcat was created not only as a show attraction, but to serve as a test platform for Buick ideas and as a tool to gather data.
Projected on the windshield ahead of the driver, near the normal line of vision, a "head-up" display showed speed and odometer readings, in either English or metric measures. Even the shift quadrant showed up there, so eyes rarely would have to leave the road ahead. An upgraded head-up display appeared later on selected examples of the Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and in various cars of the 1990s. Not every high-tech feature of a concept car eventually makes it to production, but this one did -- and ranks among the better ideas of its day.
Mounted in the center of the Buick Wildcat concept car's instrument panel was a flat video screen, similar to the Graphic Control Center that appeared on the 1986 Buick Riviera. Wildcat's version showed a broader range of data: everything from oil temperature, engine torque, and compass points, to the engine's spark curve and tire slippage. It even displayed the "g" forces that emerged when the driver cornered, stomped the gas, or braked hard.
Essential gauges, including the tachometer, resided in the steering wheel hub. No need to twist your head to watch a gauge as the car turned a corner, of course -- the instruments sat still while the wheel rotates.
For more exciting design features of the 1985 Buick Wildcat concept car, as well as the story of its development, go to the next page.