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AUTO-BIOGRAPHY

1962 Buick Wildcat: Wouldn't You Rather Drive a Buick?

1962 Buick Wildcat

1962 Buick Wildcat


Buick was a marque with a grand tradition of value and features that appealed almost exclusively to upper middle class males. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, and as far as General Motors was concerned the Buick couldn't be more successful. It was the second-to-last stepping-stone (behind Oldsmobile) from life's journey from Chevrolet to Cadillac, as young buyers turned into older buyers. Such were the ways of GM marketing.

All that changed in the mid 1950s, as personal luxury cars became more mainstream (i.e., the 4-seat Thunderbird) and Pontiac division started upping the ante in that marketplace. By the late 1950s most of the Big Three were offering tricked-out versions of their formerly stodgy cars. The Chevy Super Sport, Pontiac Bonneville, Ford Galaxie and others were going the way of bigger engines, sporty seating and floor consoles. Meanwhile, Buick was offering its typical, if not exciting, product line.

Something had to give, and by 1961 Buick's senior management was well aware of GM's other divisions' plans for higher performance and sporty models. It didn't take Buick management long to unveil its plans to offer a compact convertible model and also a top-end variant of the Invicta hardtop for 1962. It would be called the Wildcat.

1962 Buick Wildcat

1962 Buick Wildcat


Only about 2,000 Wildcat models were sold in 1962 but those who bought them found the cars to be pretty special (no Buick pun intended). Wildcat models had bucket seats, floor-mounted shifter, rear speaker, tachometer, electric clock, special steering wheel, electric windshield wipers, vinyl roof, special hubcaps, 15-inch wheels, custom trim and the name "Wildcat" applied wherever there was space.

Buick would begin offering high-performance engines later in the decade, but in 1962 they didn't increase the standard 401 cubic-inch engine's output from 325 horsepower, since the feeling of management was that it was quite enough. Also, no stick shift was offered. This turned out to be a mistake, as all the competition offered more horsepower and lots of ransmission/suspension options. Buick would correct the mistake shortly, however, by offering mid-60s GS 350, GS400 models that were every bit as potent as their rivals.

Some people speculate that the Wildcat name came from a Broadway show theme at the time. The song, originally sung on stage by Lucille Ball, was quite heavily played on the radio from 1960 onward. However, as far as Buick was concerned, the name came from 1954 and 1955 show cars called by that name. The name was given to the 401 engine in 1959, well before any show tunes by that name were written. The association with the song didn't hurt sales but didn't really help either.

As for value, in spite of its rarity a 1962 Wildcat isn't worth significantly more than an Invicta with the same degree of options. Eighteen grand will get you an excellent, restored example of either but we think the Wildcat is pretty cool for its day.

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