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1966 Buick Wildcat convertible resurrection


Matt Harwood
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A while ago, we acquired this kind of scruffy 1966 Wildcat convertible out of long-term ownership. It had been asleep for a very long time. I know it's not a particularly valuable car, but with two owners, no major rust or accident damage, and just 44,000 original miles, it seemed like a reasonable gamble. When we got it out in the light, however, it was a bit worse than expected and I was a little disappointed. We dove in anyway. It runs and drives superbly now that it has new brakes, wheel cylinders, master cylinder, hoses, a rebuilt front suspension, new radiator and water pump, new fuel pump and rebuilt carb, and a fresh tune-up with a rebuilt distributor. The chrome is nice as-is, the top is probably original but works just fine, and as I said, it has had just two owners in 55 years. That's kind of cool. It's a local car but there's only surface rust underneath and nothing major, so I doubt it has seen many (if any) winters.

 

So I wasn't wrong that there was potential here, but this is the first time where I felt like the ends didn't justify the means. I wish these cars were more valuable than they are, but I got a little blinded by the fact that I like Buicks. We were debating whether it needed a new interior or to scuff and paint it, or just fire-sale it as-is. It didn't look like a low-mile survivor should look and while the mechanical stuff was easy, making it pretty rarely is. So we parked it and did other stuff for a while.

 

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, unknown to me, my shop manager and all-around awesome guy, Michael Johnson, came in and started grinding away on the Buick's paint. He didn't want to burn through that thin factory enamel, but he thought there was some room to bring up the shine. He also attacked the interior and managed to wipe out about 80% of the discoloration, which is the part that's really impressive.

 

It won't be a show car, but it'll be a presentable driver that can be fixed up a bit as whoever ends up owning it has time. We'll finish the body and interior, detail the engine bay, and attend to a few other little things, and then someone will be able to have some fun with it next summer. Like I said, it drives like a million bucks, doesn't have any squeaks or rattles, tracks like a cruise missile, and unlike a lot of old cars, I think I'd be willing to drive this one to California tomorrow. It's definitely a runner.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to share some of Michael's work--I was really impressed that he could do so much with so little.

 

Here's where we started:

 

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Michael likes to do half-and-half so you can see the improvement and, well, it's pretty dramatic on this car. The paint went from feeling almost like sandpaper to glossy enough to see pretty clear reflections in it. Not even close to perfect, of course, but certainly nothing to be ashamed of, either.

 

Wildcat5.thumb.jpg.9274a59f6704083f99c51e30c7204c80.jpgWildcat4.thumb.jpg.38c58f2cc4bcd63b2a777886c813ea87.jpg

 

I was actually most concerned about the interior, which had some pretty nasty brown discoloration where skin oils had obviously been working on the vinyl for a long time. Somehow Michael was able to remove most of it, both on the door panel and on the seat itself (driver's side is done, passenger's side is how it was there on top where you grab it to get in the back seat). He experiments with a lot of different chemicals and techniques, starting with the mildest and keeps at it until something works.

 

Seats1.thumb.jpg.1bdd7f96fafcd2b79e155945f18c6c3d.jpgSeats2.thumb.jpg.9282638919b2fc384402d7e0f3064f70.jpg

 

I'm eager to see the final results. It'll be a while yet, but things are quiet right now and my photographer has Covid so that part of the business is shut down until I can find the time to go out and take the photos myself. So we'll keep grinding along on this and hopefully it turns out to be a decent car that someone can enjoy right away. That's always the goal.

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Looks like a perfect car to me.......no tractor mechanics poking at it........dealing with time is easy, straight forward, and very rewarding when finished. There will be ten times more buyers for it in its current condition and price range than if you dump 15k into it. I think it will be an easy sell in the spring.........honest cars bring better money to knowledgeable buyers every time.

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I was actually most concerned about the interior, which had some pretty nasty brown discoloration where skin oils had obviously been working on the vinyl for a long time. Somehow Michael was able to remove most of it, both on the door panel and on the seat itself (driver's side is done, passenger's side is how it was there on top where you grab it to get in the back seat). He experiments with a lot of different chemicals and techniques, starting with the mildest and keeps at it until something works.

 

Seats1.thumb.jpg.1bdd7f96fafcd2b79e155945f18c6c3d.jpgSeats2.thumb.jpg.9282638919b2fc384402d7e0f3064f70.jpg

 

I have seen those brown stains on many white interiors and I had no idea they could be removed!  Thats a nice car...

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I have always enjoyed picking up those kind of cars. The work is much less intense and kind of has the flavor of art when you have them presentable. I have sold quite a few. There is a value add that goes way beyond taking the ubiquitous picture on the car hauler or trailer.

 

Here's a $50 job I bought at the old Chief Buick Pontiac in LeRoy, NY around 1978.

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Pitted chrome and faded plastic lenses respond well to rattle can clear. And for white vinyl I have rubbed in Soft Scrub bathroom cleaner with very good results.

We drove that Skylark for about 2 years and I got $200 for it from a friend. He is the one who still checks to see if I am going to sell any of my drivers.

 

When I asked the salesman a Chief how much for the Skylark he said "Fifty bucks". Sitting in his office doing the paperwork I noticed the newspaper ad on the wall. Under handyman specials was the Skylark at $49.95". I asked about the price jack up. He just brushed it off. Figured me as an easy mark.

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On 12/3/2020 at 12:00 PM, 60FlatTop said:

Sitting in his office doing the paperwork I noticed the newspaper ad on the wall. Under handyman specials was the Skylark at $49.95".

 Ha -- today that car would be listed for $4,995!  :P

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On 12/2/2020 at 2:58 PM, edinmass said:

I think it will be an easy sell in the spring.........honest cars bring better money to knowledgeable buyers every time.

 

I agree -- keep us posted on this one!

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