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Thread: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

  1. #1

    1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Can't keep this off the net any longer--I'm about to burst with excitement over what I've found. Two BCA buddies and I went together and jumped on this '63 Wildcat convertible with factory 4-speed transmission, about 3 hours after it first appeared on Ebay a couple of weeks ago, with a reasonable "buy it now". I've researched it a bit, and have learned that there were 30 '63 Wildcats with 4-speed, of which 6 were convertibles. Can anyone else verify that? How many could be left?
    The car arrived today from New England. The floors, rockers, and rear quarters are shockingly rusty, and my heart sank when I first saw it. But I started that 401 and eased it from the transport truck into my garage. Man, this thing runs nicely and sounds just like it should. 87,000 miles appear to be original. Transmission and clutch seem to be good. The next decision is whether to jump in and do the $5000 to $10,000 that this thing needs in body work, and how far to go on the interior which is original but somewhat faded. I only have 5-6 other projects waiting for my attention...! What's it worth when done...any guesses or experience? Should we just put a new top on it and fix the rusted brake lines so it can be driven as is? Anyone know of a rust-free '63 coupe body that I can get for body parts? Every panel on this convertible has some rust, with exception of the hood. Thank goodness the frame is solid and rust-free, and the cowl seems fine.

    Pete Phillips, BCA #7338
    Sherman, TX
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  2. #2

    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Trying again on photo attachment.
    Pete
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  3. #3

    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    One more photo, after car got cleaned up from its long haul.
    Pete
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  4. #4

    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Here is a photo of the passenger side floor. Previous owner stuck a red and white metal sign over the huge rust holes. Scary, isn't it? Left side floor is not quite this bad. I'll need all of the encouragement that I can get!

    Pete Phillips
    BCA #7338
    Sherman, TX
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  5. #5
    '39 Buick Team Member
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Pete:
    What a find!! I say do the things you need to do to make it safe and drivable, then go have fun with it while you finish the other projects. Put some shine on the chrome and spray bomb the rust for cosmetics. You know darn well if you start going all the way on this one, unanticipated things will come up and push your other projects back even further. Take the car to some shows so the smart a-ses there can see Buick had the performance and power to rival any 409, 413, or 406 that was on the streets at that time. Keep us posted with pictures of your progress. Great work on the Bugle.
    Dave Rex BCA 1649
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  6. #6
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Sweet find Pete. The body doesn't look that bad, compared to what my '66 'Cat was, although your floors are in tougher shape (I just had to get patches in the trunk).

    You darn Texans are so spoiled for bodies... <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

    I'm not sure I'd want to drive it if it meant risking falling through the floor <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> Other than that, though, the car looks to be a decent driver. Have some fun with it while you whittle down the number of projects.

    Oh yeah, go smoke a 409 for me <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
    Derek Thille
    BCA #39416, CBC, MBCC #1984
    76 Century Free Spirit Pace Car - &quot;Spirit&quot; / 66 Wildcat Custom Coupe - &quot;Ellie&quot; / 62 Special Convertible / 61 Invicta Convertible - &quot;Vicky&quot; / 56 Special 4-door Sedan / 54 Century Estate Wagon / 52 Roadmaster 4-door / 41 Special 41SE Sedan / 29 McLaughlin Buick Model 51

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  7. #7
    imported_MrEarl
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    So you're the one that grabbed it. I saw it one night and thought this ain't gonna last long and sure'nuf it was gone the next day by noon. CONGRATULATIONS.That's an awesome car and one helluva find. A 63 Wildcat would have been nice but a convertible!!! I don't think you'll have any trouble doubling your money on this one. <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> Glad to see it go to someone so deserving and worthy.

  8. #8
    imported_MrEarl
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Pete, Man I can't quit thinking about your getting this car and just what a rare icon of the EARLY muscle cars it is. The 63 409 Impala SS is about the only thing close to being in its class. As far as value, I don't think you will find much to compare it to thus you will basically be setting it's own worth. In my opinion, properly restored, it could be worth just as much as some of the 70's muscle cars that typically sell in the six digit figures. What this is saying though is that there is only one way to restore this car and that is to a #1 or concours condition. So maybe you should go ahead and drive it around and enjoy it a little now before you get started with the restoration.
    BTW I notice it didn't take you long to get this one home did it? <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

  9. #9
    Senior Member Skyking's Avatar
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Peter, nice find! Right in my backyard (sorta speaking). This car deserves nothing buy the best restoration possible!! 63's were the best looking years, with all that nice stainless.........Good luck with your project.
    Bob
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Welcome to the world of the 63-65 4-Speeds, Pete! Great car and great buy, no doubt. That one is an oddball too as it does not have the long console, rather the floor shift with buckets. Very strange. Best bet for the body is to find a decent but needing restoration coupe or conv., they usually don't break the banks in sales dollars. 63 Wildcats are extremely cool, but just don't bring what the Chevys bring, which is great for buyers like us. As far as how much to spend, how much do you like the car? The more you are around it the more you will like, trust me.

    Enjoy the shifting!

    Matt

  11. #11
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Good luck on that,will really be something when it's finished. Just to show you what a small world it is.....I met a gentleman last summer at a gas station I hang out at. He's a parts salesman,really a Ford guy,but we got to talking and he told me that he had picked up a 64 Wildcat convertible but really didn't drive it much,said his sons weren't into it etc. I think he was thinking of selling it but hadn't made up his mind. Hadn't seen him since. So yesterday for some reason I thought of him and was talking to a friend about him and the car. Went to get gas and there he was on a sales call. We got to talking and I asked him about the Wildcat. He told me that he still had it and thought he was going to keep it. Now being a Ford guy he doesn't much about Buicks. I then found out that it's a 63 Wildcat convertible not a 64. We talked about an hour....he's forgotten more about cars than I'll never know,but he wanted me to tell him all about Wildcats. Also found out he lives about 15 minutes from my house and he wants me to see the car. He had it out last week. Burgundy with a tan top,chrome wheels,buckets and console with an odd option of a two barrel carb. Sounds like a strong condition 3 car. Just missing a few interior pieces. So after New Years will hook up with him(hard to wait that long). My buddy who owns the gas station told me last summer that he thought that someday I would end up it. I think he might be thinking about selling...told me that he was thinking about a Shelby,but I'm not pushy,hope he enjoys it and if he gets bored with it....I'm in the neighborhood. Of course my girlfriend always says...."You don't have room for another car"...probably could hide it under cover on the patio and tell her I bought new lawn furniture.

    Mark Lewis
    BCA#41402
    65&70 Wildcats.

  12. #12
    Senior Member old-tank's Avatar
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Quote:
    Here is a photo of the passenger side floor. Previous owner stuck a red and white metal sign over the huge rust holes. Scary, isn't it? Left side floor is not quite this bad. I'll need all of the encouragement that I can get!

    Pete, that is a painfully familiar site(like this)...at least you might be able to haul watermelons in this one...Willie
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Oh Boy! A 63 Cat with a convertible and a 4 speed. Mr. Earl is right. The car has to have a top quality restoration. But before that, you can still get some nice driving time in that baby!!! I love that thing!

    Was this car advertised in the Bugle back in October? I had asked my Brother to look at one advertised in RI since he moved there this year. And he agreed, but then I called him off. I just don't have room for another Ragtop without kicking the 56 outside. These stupid Northeast winters really take a toll on the cars. But that one looks salvageable and like a lot of fun besides.


    Good Luck with it Pete. Maybe you can do a feature on it in the Bugle with some more pictures while it gets pieced back together over time?

    JD
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  14. #14
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Pete, is that a 59 Parklane Cruiser with flesh colored interior I see right next to the 63? If so, I have that same exact Merc (color and all) parked next to my black 63 4-speed coupe. Very good taste in cars!

    Have fun with the stick shift!

    Matt

  15. #15

    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Thanks, guys, for all of the advice--it is greatly appreciated as we try to decide what to do with this car--definitely leaning towards a full restoration if we can swing it. No, I don't think this car was not advertised in the Bugle recently. And, yes, that is my 1959 Mercury Park Lane 4-dr. hardtop parked next to it, black-on-black car with original paint. Man, you guys have good eyes!

    Pete Phillips

  16. #16
    Early Buick Numbers Guy
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    For all of you to turn green over:
    Considerable work with the body plates and the engine has revealed that Pete's car is an ALL NUMBERS AND CODES MATCH CAR. It's not a 401, it's the 425 engine with a 4 speed, positraction, white with a black top, red bucket seat interior, optional red floor mats present. It even has the red accelerator pedal, the red brake pedal and the red CLUTCH pedal pad on it in decent condiion.
    Rare? Try maybe as few as 3 1963 Wildcat convertibles with factory 425 4 speeds !!!!
    Regards, Dave Corbin

  17. #17
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    If it is a JW car, shouldn't the motor be silver? I thought the 63 425 motors weren't painted Buick green. In the first picture the car has green valve covers and oil fill cap. If it is a real JW car, way cool.

    Matt

  18. #18
    Early Buick Numbers Guy
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Dear 4-speed:
    The engine is in fact a JW engine and the stamped numbers match to the car number. Remember that this is a Wildcat, not a Riv, and an option that was introduced inside the model year. This probably accounts for the engne being the standard color. The dirt and crud also indicate an original engine. "Way cool" probably isn't strong enough!!
    Regards, Dave Corbin

  19. #19
    Senior Member Skyking's Avatar
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    So Dave, with these findings, I guess the 5 or 6 other projects that Pete has will just have to wait. This car now deserves the best restore possible. Nice Find!!
    Bob
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  20. #20
    BJM
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Matt,

    No expert here but I would expect that each of the early 4 speeds (could) would be the equivalent of COPO's in the Chevy parlance. In other words, it's not like these cars were "worked in" with the 6500 or so Wildcat convertibles and even more coupes. We know that the 401 was the standard and only "production" Wildcat offering in 1963, so any one with a 425 would be an anomoly, a quirk.

    The question would be, if the 425 was a Wildcat option in 1963, who else has one and what color is the motor? I believe Dave that that motor is Buick Green and I really think the reason was that this was a special built car with a special approved build sheet out of the normal requests.

    I too saw this car on ebay and mentioned it and wanted it. We are very lucky that it has fallen into good hands. I wish there was more history to it. Who would order it, special order it and go through the effort? I understand a hardtop for racing purposes but a convertible?

    2nd, the history would be nice to know because I am pretty sure it would have been REJECTED as an order, and may have been resubmitted with somebody higher up approving and signing off on it. We may never know it's history of course, but it is a very important car for setting the TONE that allowed 64 and 65 big block 4 speed cars to even exist.

    Just my thoughts, again I'm no expert, but I like to think about these things, how this car might have got into existence in the 1st place.

  21. #21
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    3Jakes, believe me, I am no expert either, but I don't believe that COPO stuff when it comes to these Buicks. The black/red 63 Wildcat 425 4-speed coupe bought new by Jimmy Dull (and for sale at the 2003 Nationals for 25K) had a silver motor. I talked with Jimmy for about 4 or so hours about his car, and since he knew that car inside and out, he'd know more than most. He ordered it with the 425 and 4-speed from the dealer, and it was not a hassle to either order or get. All 63-65 4-speed full size Buicks could be considered somewhat 'special built' because they did not make that many, and all thier floor pans were automatic floor pans cut out with a torch for the hole for either the console 4-speed shifter or trans-mounted floor shifter. But, in 63 Buick offered the 4-speed and the 425 for the first time, so I figure they would have had it together enough to make these cars as easily as possible to the automatics, and using all the VIN stamping and motor stamping protocols as they always did. As you know, I have 4 of these 4-speed Buicks, and my 63 and both 64s have a grease pencil '4' on the left firewall (I haven't dug deep enough into the 65 to find the markings). When the car was going down the line at the assembly plant in Flint, I would suspect this 4 told them to cut the hole in the floor, and in the case of Wildcats another code somewhere on the car mentioned if it was for a console shift or floor shift - possibly on the build sheet. Just because the options were new (and rarely chosen as we all know) for that year does not make their system of producing them haphazard and un-coordinated. I don't believe there would have been a special build order for them - such as having to know someone up high to get the car made, because the 425 and 4-speed were options available for the public to choose their car to be built with, and these cars were not produced for racing or any other non-steet application (like Super Duty Pontiacs, Super Stock MoPars, Z-11 Chevys, etc - which were all truly 'special ordered' and 'special built'). Buick, in 63-65, did not want a racing image for their cars, therefore none were produced or setup by the factory for racing, like the cars mentinoned above. They were to be made to be licensed and driven, so the codes, numbers, and everything would have been in line with the regular automatic cars. Also, since ALL of the 63 and later full size 4-speed Buicks were built in Flint and Flint only, there would be standards all the cars followed (engine color, VIN stampings, etc.). All 4-speeds had matching VIN motors, bodies, and transmission main cases. This car 'rejected' when ordered? Can't see that at all. How and why would an auto manufacturer offer options for a car only to say 'no, can't build it'. I have a factory-to-dealer only pricing sheet for the 63 full size Buicks (and one for the 64s too) that includes everything offered for the cars, and each has a check box for the 425 motor and 4-speed, each with a price. Neither has 'not available' when choosing a 425 and 4-speed. There would be no reason I can see to reject a 63 Wildcat convertible with a 425 and a 4-speed. Keep in mind lots if this information was gleaned from original 4-speed car owners, my own vehicle research, real tangible factory documents, and piecing together production history from several sources. I am only 35, and unfortunately I was not present in Flint when these cars were produced. How cool would have that been to watch one of these bad boys come together from build order to driving out of Buick City! Awesome!

    As far as the white convertible, I have no reason to doubt it is exactly what the owners say it is. As far as the engine being a green JW, I have no answer. All I know is it is a 4-speed and a very cool car.

    My opinion on why a 63 Wildcat is rare with a big motor, 4-speed, and a posi, and LeSabres even more so? The buyers regularly weren't your younger go-fast set, who chose the SS Impala and Grand Prix, and wanted an extremely well-built car that was smooth and easy to drive vehicle that had a sporty look. Someone, though, walked into a Buick dealership and chose a top of the line Wildcat with the biggest motor and a manual trans, just like Jimmy Dull, because he wanted to go fast with class.

    Enjoy!

    Matt

  22. #22
    Early Buick Numbers Guy
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Dear Matt:
    First, I'm working with Pete to try to document previous owners, but it takes time and patience and some luck. A couple of fellow BCA members are trying to help us, and we would welcome any other help.
    You mention that you're 35, which means I joined the BCA about the time you were born, but your observations indicate that you've studied the subject pretty thoroughly. I don't know if you've ever run into the expression I used to Pete to describe this car, but I called it a "Bankers Hotrod", which is a "go-fast with class" car.
    Regards, Dave Corbin

  23. #23
    Early Buick Numbers Guy
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Dear Matt:
    A small further observation: I am aware from personal direct experience that things did get built in automotive factories that weren't offered to the public. I was for a time the body shop general foreman of the IH Scout Line in the mid 60's. During that time there were at least 3 Scouts that were 1 of a kind assembled for members of the IH Board of Directors and a very senior executive.
    There are several stories about Buicks that were built with similiar backgrounds, with names like Harley Earl being mentioned in a couple of them.
    Regards, Dave Corbin

  24. #24
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Dear Matt:
    The coded markings that you mention are sort of standard factory practice that tell guys what the vehicle is without having to read the build sheet. We would put a"V" in a certain place to warn that this was a V8 Scout. Another was a number low on the firewall that was the paint color.
    I have a Buick in my personal collection that is the other way around in regards to the hole in the floor. It's from a year that was floor-shift (1938), but since it's a self-shifter, the floorboard has no hole for the shift lever. The floor mat also doesn't have one, although there is a molded circular pattern where it would go. The steel pan in the center of the floor also is factory made without a shift tower hole.
    Regards, Dave Corbin

  25. #25
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    Re: 1963 Wildcat conv. 4-speed

    Not to hijack the thread, but it is interesting...I first heard the term "Banker's Hot Rod" after procuring the '61 Invicta. I really like the phrase "go fast with class". I'm a bit older than Matt (not a pile though) and perhaps the Wildcat will get me through my mid-life go-fast crisis once it gets dialed in a bit more. Now, if only I had a four speed car...the '29 is only 3 <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" /> <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
    Derek Thille
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