My Car Quest

September 20, 2019

Buick Wildcat II – Harley’s Good Idea That Came to Naught…

by Wallace Wyss –

Harley Earl the 6’ 6” dynamo from Hollywood who was GM’s first director of styling (he called it the Art and Colour section) had a grand plan around 1952. That was to make not only the two seater Corvette but hell, go all the way and make a Pontiac two seater, a Buick two eater, an Olds two seater you get the point.

Probably they had intelligence on Ford’s plan to debut a two seater, the Thunderbird, and wanted to encircle Ford. The GM dream cars appeared in the Motoramas and the Parade of Progress (January 1953 through April 1956 for the Motoramas, April 1953 through July 1956 for the Parade of Progress).

Buick Wildcat II

Each car had a separate name and design cues. Oldsmobile the F-88, Pontiac its gullwinged Bonneville Special, and Buick the Wildcat II. Some believe the Wildcat II sat on a 100-inch wheelbase (two inches shorter than the Corvette’s) and was a Corvette underneath. But not the engine. The ’53 Corvette had only a six-cylinder but this Wildcat II boasted a 322-cu.in. V-8 with quad sidedraft carburetors, a twin-turbine Dynaflow automatic transmission, and four-wheel coil-sprung suspension.

Buick Wildcat II

Credit for the design goes to Ned Nichols. Now I don’t know where he got the idea for the cutaway front fenders since the Ferrari Testa Rossa with similar fenders hadn’t been invented yet.

The raked wraparound windshield was the main contribution to the sexy look plus making the convertible top completely disappearing and what would a Buick be without VentiPorts? The car was fiberglass bodied.

Now a modern custom trend was previewed way back then with what are sometimes called Roto-Static hubcaps – scooped wheel covers affixed to the hubs so they remain stationary while the wheel turned. Later they went to wire wheels.

Buick Wildcat II

At some point, GM designers saw a Jag with a leaping Jaguar on the bonnet so of course their show car got a leaping Wildcat.

Author David Temple, has some proof that a second Wildcat II was built for GM’s pres, Harlow Curtice. Nowadays you could never justify making a million dollar (modern estimates for a show car) for an executive perq but hey this was the ‘50s.

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Buick Wildcat II

Somebody has built a replica, as has happened with other Motorama show cars.

Of course there were, many decades later, some two seater Buicks but they were way off base, like the Reatta, too namby-pamby, no cojones. It didn’t last long.

I like Harley Earl’s take. It’s just too bad he couldn’t get a production version past the board of directors.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss co-hosts an automotive show Autotalk, on KUCR FM Riverside.
 
 
 
 
 

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Summary
Buick Wildcat II - Harley’s Good Idea That Came to Naught…
Article Name
Buick Wildcat II - Harley’s Good Idea That Came to Naught…
Description
Credit for the design goes to Ned Nichols. Now I don’t know where he got the idea for the cutaway front fenders since the Ferrari Testa Rossa with similar fenders hadn’t been invented yet.
Author

Comments

  1. A really handsome styling exercise that should have made production.

  2. Randy Cox says

    When we were restoring Alfred Hitchcock’s 1953 Buick Skylark, I joined the Buick Skylark Club to hopefully learn more about our car and view restored examples. During that time, there was talk about the recreation of this wonderful Harley Earl car and I saw some early construction photos. A lot of time, effort and money went into this as evidenced by the finished work. I am grateful that this recreation exists, as photos of the past are wonderful, but nothing is as exhilarating as seeing it in person.
    Thanks for sharing this Wally
    All the Best
    Randy Cox

  3. Well going back to those days the front end tried too much to be a Buick and those fenders came from the thirties.

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