Four feral felines from Buick.
Buick have form when it comes to concept vehicles, especially since a certain Harley Earl began such pioneering strides with 1938’s seminal Y-Job, which helped to define the Tri-shield’s design credentials. In 1949, GM’s Autorama car show was held at the Astoria Hotel in New York to promote new concept designs to a public desperate to embrace the future. Years 1953-1961 saw Motorama become a travelling show.
For 1953, Buick introduced the Wildcat, a low slung two seat convertible with a raked back windshield and party piece hood. Hydraulically operated, the roof disappeared beneath the rear panel at the flick of a switch. Other components employing pressurised oil included seat and window movements. The bodywork was fibreglass and the hub caps Roto-Static, where the centre is stationary and the wheels rotate, à la Rolls-Royce. As with many of these creations, public reaction was favourable but in essence, the Wildcat only really previewed the new for ‘54 Buick front end.
Wildcat II unveiled in 1954, based on the Chevrolet Corvette with power derived from a supercharged V8. A clamshell hood covered this powerplant, hiding the wheels which did away with conventional fenders. The chrome bumpers contained floating driving lamps which again, Joe Public applauded but with Corvette sales struggling at the time, there was no incentive to diversify into Wildcats.
Earl’s final attempt arrived the following year with something looking considerably more production-ready – you guessed it, Wildcat III. However, this new feline seated four, maintaining a grand feeling with a 250bhp V8 but for a feline, this seemed somewhat bug-eyed. Publicity shots saw designers Ned Nickles and Harley Earl grinning by the car’s side, but apart from a smattering of forthcoming styling cues, Wildcat III was another dead end. Earl’s retirement saw the name hibernate for thirty years.