Jump to content

1970 Wildcat with factory 3-speed and a clutch


Recommended Posts

How rare is this? I've only heard of one other similarly equipped 1970 Wildcat. I was contacted about a year ago by a guy in Phoenix, Arizona who had just bought a 1970 3-speed Wildcat and wanted to know how rare they are. I replied that I had only heard of one other in the 35 years that I have been a BCA member, and oh by the way, if he ever decided to sell it, to let me know. I figured the chances of that were pretty remote and he would forget about it anyway. Nine months later, he sends me an e-mail saying he had found his dream car (a 428-equipped 1967 Galaxie with stick shift), and would I still be interested in the Wildcat?

WOULD I....!!!??

I immediately sent him a check for the car and said I would be out there to get it in January 2014. So, I hitched up my trailer and drove to Phoenix in mid-January. The car was totally solid, red with a black top, 105,000 miles, 455 high-compression V-8, and the original tan vinyl upholstery in pretty decent shape. A completely unrestored car, it had thin, faded paint on the upper surfaces, a hopelessly scorched dash pad (but the seller had located a nice replacement, and he included that with the sale), worn carpet, and most of the rubber weatherstrip was toast, but it started right up and I drove it onto the trailer. It has factory A/C, AM radio, power steering, two-tone paint, and that's about it for options. At additional cost, he sold me a very nice set of chrome Buick rally wheels with caps, correct for the period. There were no dents in the body and the only rust was at the base of the windshield and the base of the back glass. The seller told me that the car sold new in Odessa, Texas, then the original owner moved to Nevada, and that is where he found it.

I trailered the car home (tires are pretty old and not to be trusted) and thought about what to do with it for several weeks. The seller told me I should leave it as-is and not restore it. But the paint was down to the metal on the hood and trunk, and looked really shabby. The sides of the car still looked pretty good. After much thought, I decided the car was worth doing a complete cosmetic restoration on, due to its extremely unusual drive train. It needed the windshield and back glass removed to properly repair the rust in those lower channels, and once that was done, it made sense to repaint the whole car. There was some rust in the trunk floor, right below the back glass, that was hidden by the trunk mat. All of the inside garnish moldings were rusted where the windshields had leaked, and the plastic on the 4-dr. hardtop floor pillar, and next to the back seat/package tray area were deteriorated from the sun and heat. Luckily, I found all of the plastic parts I needed from BCA member Francis Urbain, who has been advertising 1970 Wildcat 4-dr. hardtop interior parts in the Bugle for at least the last 8 years! Wow, did I hit the jackpot with him! He had saved everything I needed, including all attaching screws; everything was carefully wrapped and labeled, even the screws were labeled and separated in their own envelopes. I can't say enough good things about him--he is so meticulous with his parts, and the price was very fair. And being from Indiana, these parts were not ruined or faded by the sun.

This week, I got the car back from the paint & body shop. They did a beautiful job matching the original colors. Now I have my work cut out for me in reassembling the car. Here are a few photos from the day I picked it up in Arizona in January; hauling it home from the paint shop this week, and the first of the chrome trim going back on today.

A high-compression 455 with 3-speed stick shift!

Here's another coincidence. A friend of mine works in an auto parts shop about 15 miles from here, and he likes older cars. I mentioned to him that I had found this Wildcat in Arizona with 3-speed stick shift. He scratched his head and said "Yeah, I remember one like that--my friend's father had one in Odessa when we were teen-agers in the 1970s". How do you like that--it's the very same car!!! Mind you, I'm 400+ miles from Odessa, Texas, and here I run into a friend who rode in this very same car when he was young!

The car has a rather strange color combination, with red and black exterior paint, and a tan interior that doesn't seem to go with anything. I repainted the tan plastic parts using a flex agent in the paint, and they turned out very well.

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338post-32059-143142561322_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142561349_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142561374_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142561396_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142561418_thumb.jpg

Edited by Pete Phillips (see edit history)
Link to post
Share on other sites

I recall seeing a '69 or '70 Oldsmobile Eighty eight, two door hardtop on the south side of Milwaukee (Mitchell Street), sometime in the seventies or early eighties. I had to look inside to verify that it was a stick shift and saw three pedals, and that it had been converted to a floor shift with the original shift lever removed from the column. I assume the linkage had worn out and this was the only practical fix. The car appeared to be bone stock, right down to the hubcaps and was supposedly owned by some old guy.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest my3buicks

What a neat car on so many levels, oddball color combo, 3 spd, last year for the Wildcat, first year for the 455, no doubt that car was ordered and not on the dealer lot.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Pete! Pictures of the stick shift and pedals! :cool:

Larry- not surprising on the Olds as I imagine once that famously flimsy GM 3-speed column shift linkage quit and locked up, repair parts would have been near nonexistent. There were supposedly two stick-shift 1970 Delta 88 convertibles built, one 350, one 455. There's never been any official 3-speed breakout for big Oldsmobiles, but I'm sure that, like Buick, they were few and far between.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Keith--

Very well put: "A neat car on so many levels".

Brian--

Flying to Portland this time. I don't have the extra week it would take to drive there and back.

All--

Here are some photos from today. trim is going back on slowly...When I get the trim done, I will clean up and detail that 455. It's a bit dusty right now.

Pete Phillips

post-32059-143142569694_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142569703_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142569711_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142569694_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142569703_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142569711_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Pete the Wildcat is coming together very good. I am very partial to Buicks and Oldsmobiles that have a 3 speed transmissions. Years ago I bought a 55 Oldsmobile 88 2 door hardtop from an older man that had a 3 speed transmission and a radio delete plate. I sure wish that I had not sold it to get a newer car. You hit the jackpot with this car!

Link to post
Share on other sites

More progress today: Back glass and its mouldings went in, carpet in place and being cut/trimmed.

Does anyone know what type of rear package shelf covering this car should have? Is it the fine, woven, basketweave type or the painted cowlboard? The old one was completely gone so I have nothing to go by.

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

post-32059-143142584238_thumb.jpg

post-32059-14314258426_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142584283_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142584305_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Finished carpet installation today; seats went back in this evening. It is starting to look like a complete car again. Look at that first photo with the clutch pedal--yesiree!!! That's the original upholstery. Have done nothing to it except clean it.

post-32059-143142585121_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142585145_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142585168_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142585191_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interior door panels went in today; armrests, door hardware, door step plates, interior garnish moldings. Actually started the car up and took it for a drive, but it overheated after 10 minutes--think it needs a new water pump (seller included a new one with the car, and now I recall him saying that it needed replacing). This car is very long-legged. 20 mph in first gear, 40 in second is nothing, at 70 in third gear, there is still more than half of the accelerator pedal waiting to travel down. With the 2.78 rear end gears, I think it is capable of very high top speeds--not that I will be doing that!

post-32059-143142588924_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

Phoenix car, probably never had anything but water in the cooling system. Calcium and/or lime in straight water over the years will pile up like that. I bet the heater core is plugged as well. It clings to the walls of all of the cooling system. Vinegar will cut the stuff, but a serious flush will be necessary, may not get it all out either. Sometimes the block and heads will need to be boiled out.

Sorry to say my friend, but you got a lot of work ahead of you.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Removed the thermostat housing and it was clean as a whistle under there! Removed the water pump and it was also amazingly clean. Removed the radiator and there was virtually no junk in the bottom of the tank. The vanes have some lime deposits on them, but not horrible. This is very strange.

Link to post
Share on other sites

This car is so wild! Maybe I missed it earlier, but just saw it has standard brakes. And I fully expected to see a 2 bbl on there, not a quadrojet! Me thinks you could make quite a bit o dough street racing with this pup!

Link to post
Share on other sites
I think I know why it overheated yesterday! But what is this junk?? I have never seen anything like this.

I'm no doctor, but that looks like it needs an an-jee-o-plas-tee! You should have that stuff analyzed!

PS - Keep up the awesome job on Buick Bugle - I truly don't know how you make the time for all things Buick!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I drove the Wildcat 17 miles from my Bonham, Texas garage to Leonard, Texas garage on Friday--highway driving. It ran quite hot but did not boil over. I may try to remove freeze plugs and see what is in the water jacket. But driving this beast is a real experience. My, oh my, the power in second gear is absolutely endless. 50 or 60 mph in second gear comes up very quickly, and there is plenty more remaining. I run out of nerve long before the engine runs out of RPMs and power.

Link to post
Share on other sites

It's that crap they call fuel that's part of the running hot issue. It burns hotter than normal gasoline. Another thing is the engine was probably made to use 95 or so octane fuel. IIRC high octane fuel is supposed to burn a little cooler too.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, I just caught this thread Pete. What an amazing find and an amazing transformation you've done to the car in just a short period.

Thanks for rescuing another one.

BTW, I would love to see a step by step guide in the Bugle on how you do such an amazing job on engine detailing.

FANTASTIC!

Link to post
Share on other sites

Brian,

That's a good idea for a technical article in the magazine; next time I'll take more photos.

I just did some research on 1970 full-size Buicks. Some Editor wrote an article in the Bugle about them three or four years ago, and then forgot about it. In that article, there is documentation that only seven 1970 Wildcats came with the three-speed stick shift. This car is one of 7! That makes it the rarest car I've ever owned. Not that 1970 Wildcats are rare, but the 3-speed stick shift ones are more rare than I ever dreamed! Look for this car at the 2015 BCA national meet in Springfield, MO. It will be driven in, of course. I'm filling out the registration form today.

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

Gave the Wildcat a wax & polish yesterday, and figured out the "overheating" problem: A defective add-on guage. There it is in the second photo, under the dashboard. Engine is cold, hasn't been run more than 10 seconds to back it out of the garage, and it already reads 185 degrees! I probably could have saved myself a whole new radiator...!

post-32059-143142680778_thumb.jpg

post-32059-14314268079_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 weeks later...

Pete- Wildcats are B-bodies, so a repro package tray for an Impala or Bonneville/Catalina should fit. We used one for a Grand Prix in my bud's 66 Olds Starfire and it dropped in like it was made for it. Now, whether the Chevy and Pontiac vendors have one for four door hardtop may be another tale.

I don't know how Buick did things, but on Oldsmobiles, cars with factory installed rear speakers generally got a mesh tray. Interior trim level figured in too- higher-line cars had mesh

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Put new tires and chrome wheels on it today. The old tires had lots of tread but also lots of large cracks. The chrome wheels change the look a lot. They also rub the brake backing plates!

And I still need to do the back package shelf.

Pete Phillips, BCA #7338

Leonard, Texas

post-32059-143142806065_thumb.jpg

post-32059-143142806076_thumb.jpg

Link to post
Share on other sites

I like those rims pete. Regarding the rubbing, Are those the last generation of the rims which are for a 72 - 83 ( no register ring and the center sticks out past the rim?).

If you are interested, I happen to have a decent set of the full sized 67- 69 Disc brake rims, which will fit both disc and drum brakes up to 71. The register rings are still in them too. But I don't have any center caps.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Pete, It appears you have installed the shallower `71 and up road wheels, as has been stated. All `67 and 1/2 and later road wheels are "disc brake" wheels and have a deeper offset which will bring the inside edge of the rim outboard relative to the brake drum. I`m not sure regarding quality (would need to check) but I`m sure I have the correct center caps for the correct wheels if you decide to acquire them.

BTW, a huge THANKS for the job you do on The Bugle!

Tom Mooney

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...