Buick Wildcat – Test Drive
While at the Charters Towers long weekend car show in 2010, I arranged with John Partington to sometime have a drive of his gleaming red 1965 Buick Wildcat. Just after I arrived for the July monthly club meeting John strode up to me and said, “Come on, let’s get this over with” ! WOW- I was excited!!
The classy and attractive Buick Wildcat was Buick’s first real performance car. Initially in 1962 it was produced to be more of a luxury sports coupe than muscle car. Soon, with a range of options and improved handling and suspension, the Wildcat boasted both luxury and performance.
John gave me the keys and I sat in the drivers seat. The car had been converted to Right Hand drive and the safety belt was a single lap strap. I adjusted the mirrors, John showed me the Pedal parking brake, which wasn’t on and I put the keys in the ignition switch on the dashboard. One short turn of the key and the Buick purred to life, it was immediately obvious that this motor was in good condition.
I put the auto trans into reverse, and the Buick began easing slowly backwards, even though I had my foot on the brake. I pressed the brake harder to make sure I could stop, then eased off and very gently backed out of the parking bay.
The steering ratio was big, like the car, several turns lock to lock. Once on the road everything felt quite normal until I braked for the main road T junction. I haven’t used drum brakes for many years and I’d forgotten how different they are to discs. The power assist was working fine but I had to apply more brake pressure than usual to stop. We turned right onto the main Yorkeys road and I kept the speed around 35mph.
As I was getting used to the car, John told me that the drum brakes are massive – 12″x2″ front and rear. The front drums are finned aluminium, the rear drums finned cast iron and weigh 30lbs each. As far as John knows they are the largest drums every made for a passenger car.
With roadworks holding up the traffic near the servo we turned right onto the dump road, then turned around at the roundabout and headed back. The road there is narrow and I had expected a large car like this to fill up the lane, but it didn’t feel huge to drive, I knew exactly where the sides of the car were. John urged me to give it some gas, and the 3 speed auto changed firmly as the big 401ci V8 motor accelerated 4 tons of American Musclecar down the road. The brakes pulled the car up firmly before we joined the main road and all too soon my test drive was over.
My overall impressions were- big outside, well maintained and more easily managed than I expected. Thank you John for trusting me with your pride and joy. I enjoyed the drive.Share