Decent exposure

1985 Buick Wildcat primary picSometime in 1982, a group of GM’s choice designers and engineers were selected to work on a project for Buick. It was no ordinary project and the order was a tall one.

The original idea for the car was to create a shape that not only imagined what a future performance car might look like, but one that could also show off its mechanical hardware much the way a motorcycle does.

From that, three years later, the fully-functional Buick Wildcat concept car emerged with an intentionally exposed engine bay–at the rear.



Self-assured show off
So what hardware was so wonderful that Buick wanted it exposed to curious eyes and, consequently, the elements? Buick’s Special Products division had put together a 4-cam, 24-valve, fuel-injected, aluminum-head, 3.8-liter, V-6 engine capable of producing 230 HP that, even then, was predicted to be capable of much more.

1985 Buick Wildcat concept engineThe research work the Special Products team conducted for the motor was primarily intended to benefit their racing programs; however, it was not going to be restricted to racing vehicles alone. Instead, the work was intended from the start to be applicable and someday carry over to future production vehicles.

Early on the team was faced with a choice: they could incorporate turbocharging or, instead, create a multi-valve design. The latter was selected as the team desired quick response and the multi-valve design’s driving feel.

Ed Keating, engine project chief, told Motor Trend magazine at the time, “The cams are real mild, the stroke is rather long to keep the engine within an easy powerband, and the thing feels really nice in the car. The engine is very smooth, it warms up quickly–it’s just a real joy.”

Shifting is handled rather uniquely from the four-speed automatic transmission in that it isn’t totally “automatic.” It’s closer to a clutchless manual operated by a motorcycle-style return shift. A lever is flicked up for upshifts and down for lower gears. Those shifts are handled through a 700-R4 transmission, the same used in the contemporary Camaro and Firebird–only, it is mounted backwards and fitted with a transfer case, since the Wildcat claws at the road surface with all four wheels.

As indicated in the image below, a sideways-mounted, standard rear-axle-style limited-slip differential sends torque to the front and rear through U-jointed driveshafts within a central tunnel that is reportedly off-center. Each wheel is then spun by individual differentials through half-shafts.

1985 Buick Wildcat concept diagram

1985 Buick Wildcat concept front wheelThe front 16×8 and and rear 16×9 wheels wear 225/50VRs and 255/50VRs, respectively and are independently suspended on upper and lower A-arms, and coil springs. Further, its suspension is computer adjustable. Braking is handled, confidently for the time, with an anti-lock system that is similar to that which would be used on many of GM’s production cars for 1986.

While the diagram above depicts the mechanicals fairly accurately, the overall shape of the car is not entirely correct. It reflects an earlier shape that resulted from conceptual “tape” renderings.

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