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Concept Car of the Week: Buick Wildcat (1985)

Fri, 25 Oct 2013 00:00:00 -0700

Before the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas became the capital of obnoxious extravagance, car manufacturers and suppliers saw it as an opportunity to exhibit their latest innovations, giving the public an exciting insight into the future of automobiles. This is when, in 1985, Buick unveiled the totally unexpected Wildcat concept, which broke radically with the brand's stodgy image.

Proportionally, the weight is placed forward, with a thin and low tail. David P. Rand, senior designer on the project, explains: "Whenever we can get [the executives] to come in and think it's going the wrong way, think the front is where the back is, then we know we've succeeded."

The body's smooth surfaces communicate efficiency while the tinted Plexiglass above the two passengers forms a smoothly contoured canopy. Breaking dramatically from the rounded surfaces, the very tech-looking engine compartment is exposed with the engine leaping out of the rear deck, taking inspiration from motorbike design.

The engine was based on Buick's 3.8-liter V6 block, revised by Buick Special Products research activities and McLaren to produce 230bhp. Large air intakes forward of the rear wheels feed air to the radiators. The entire canopy, including parts of the body and the steering wheel, shifts up and forwards to give access to the interior.

The interior by Nellie Toledo is 10 years ahead with volumes that would become popular in the ‘90s. The water and oil temperature, fuel level and voltage were displayed within the fixed steering wheel hub as a digital needle and a number. The road speed, odometer, indicators and transmission position were indicated on the heads-up display ahead of the driver.

Finally, a secondary dot matrix screen in the instrument panel's center showed everything from horsepower, engine torque curves and compass points to the engine's spark curve and tire slippage, as well as a G-meter. Electronics manage almost everything in the Wildcat, yet the engineers have conscientiously worked to put the electronics directly in the hands of the driver.

The body and the structure were made of composite carbon fiber and glass. The following year, the Wildcat won the award for Best Prototype Project in the Car Design Award Torino-Piemonte at the Turin motor show. Today, the Wildcat is now preserved and exhibited at GM Heritage Center near Detroit.

First seen 1985 SEMA Show Las Vegas
Exterior designer David P. Rand
Interior designer Nellie Toledo
Length 4,386 mm
Height 1,110 mm
Width 1,836 mm
Engine 3.8L V6, DOHC, 24 valve, sequential port fuel injection,
Power 230bhp

Your author, Flavien Dachet, is a UK-based, French-born car designer. You may know him as the purveyor of KarzNshit, a photo blog that if isn't already in your bookmarks, certainly should be.


By Flavien Dachet