New to me: 1966 Buick Wildcat

Discussion in 'A boatload of fun' started by 66electrafied, Jul 15, 2021.

  1. 66electrafied

    66electrafied Just tossing in my nickel's worth

    Since the last thread about this car mysteriously vanished, I figured I'd start one on this car which I drove home yesterday. I bought a 1966 Buick Wildcat 4 door hardtop that has only 71,000 miles on it and looks far worse than it is. The car was cheap, and it is complete.

    My goal with this thing is to get it back on the road as a driver; - and teach my young son something about repairing and fixing up old cars. He's expressed an interest in working this one over, and in fact it was his enthusiasm that prompted me to pull the trigger on this car, - some of you will know that I just got rid of a very pretty 67 Wildcat convertible back in December and really had no desire to another car.

    But this one is different; - I don't know why, it just "talked to me" when I looked at it. Sure, it hasn't been on the road since 1985. Sure, it spent all of it's working life on gravel roads in rural Saskatchewan and likely never saw a wash. And yes, it is a bit crusty below the bottom chrome trim; - but the floors and the frame are still solid.

    The good thing is it has a 425 with a Quadrijet; and it runs like a top. The transmission still shifts and the switch pitch still works. In fact, it still feels very tight and crisp. Throttle response is excellent, the car will easily lay rubber, - I didn't fully work it out simply because the last time any of the U-joints and front end likely saw any grease was before the movie of the same name was released.

    By rights this car should have died a horrible death somewhere as the accelerator pump and the fuel pump packed it in due to ethanol contamination, but it didn't. At least not yet...

    So this is the ugly part; - the brakes feel like the linings are separating in the drums, and the the front hubs got pretty hot over the 6 mile journey home. I'm probably going to have to replace tie rods and ball joints as well. Shocks are a no-brainer, even though the car rode well. Steering was indirect; - the tires are old and bald and are a light truck tire of the wrong size. The car wallowed like a pig.

    So now I'm looking for some chrome road wheels, - the hubcaps just aren't doing it for me. So the first question is which years of chrome road wheels will fit on this thing? I know they were made up to about 1980 or so in 15 x 6. How tough are the period correct "grey pocket" chrome wheels to find?

    Here are a couple of pictures, these are as the car is before the boy and I clean it up on the weekend.
    IMG_0976.jpg IMG_0977.jpg
    I'll shoot more once it's clean...
    TAG, Houmark, BYoung and 3 others like this.
  2. Dano

    Dano Platinum Level Contributor

    Nice! I like it. IMHO, the caps look great but chrome will too. I know what you mean wrt a car just grabbing you. I'm not into convertibles (I can appreciate the rarity & novelty I guess) or bench seat/col. shift GS's but for some reason my '71 "talked to me:)". Nobody their right mind would take on this project either.
  3. Luxus

    Luxus Gold Level Contributor

    Congrats! I like the 65 - 66 Wildcats. I don't know what it is, but I prefer getting diamond in the rough cars over finished ones. Enjoy your time with your son working on the car.
  4. Buicksky

    Buicksky Gold Level Contributor

    Looks like a fun project !
  5. Chuck Bridges

    Chuck Bridges Well-Known Member

    Welcome to the wonderful world of the Wildcat. Enjoy working on this old girl with your son.
  6. sean Buick 76

    sean Buick 76 Buick Nut

    Great car! One of these days you can make the 10 minute drive over to my house and we can put it on my lift. Then you can easily clean up the underside.

    Attached Files:

    Max Damage, BYoung and 66electrafied like this.
  7. 436'd Skylark

    436'd Skylark Sweet Fancy Moses!!!!!

    Great movie. Huge coincidence- I met Emmitt Walsh a couple weeks ago. He played Goldie Hawn's lawyer in the movie..
    Last edited: Jul 16, 2021
  8. Luxus

    Luxus Gold Level Contributor

    Goldie Hawn was in Grease?
  9. 436'd Skylark

    436'd Skylark Sweet Fancy Moses!!!!!

  10. Luxus

    Luxus Gold Level Contributor

    LOL, Wildcats. That's a fair guess.
  11. 66electrafied

    66electrafied Just tossing in my nickel's worth

    So today we started cleaning it up. Alex, my young son, was actually excited to help out. So I started teaching him how to clean cars and look at things. Gave him a run down of the important underhood components. He's interested, but as with most 12 year-olds in this day and age, you have to keep the information coming in 10 minute snippets otherwise the attention span falters.

    The back end rust is, well, pretty extensive, a little worse than I thought. It's gone after the rear tubs and over the last body mounts as well as the inner and outer fenders, The front fenders are toasted under the trim line, and the inner supports are pretty crusty. Rockers are for the most part still Ok, but the doglegs are weak. Had one of the tires go flat already, the previous owner put tubes in because the wheels won't hold a bead anymore. I used some of that flat-tire in a can crap and it was worse than useless. Just gave an empty sigh and did nothing. Good thing I wasn't relying on it on the road.

    So we ran some of the numbers on it, it looks like they numerated blocks differently on Canadian production cars. It looks like it is an MW block, but the individual numbers are missing. The previous owner told me that the original owner said that it was a special order car, and that the 425 was never in Canadian production cars. I kinda doubt that. At any rate, the rest of the numbers seem to jive, so we do have an original car.

    My biggest challenge will be what to do with the body. I have to see if it still is listed on Alberta's motor vehicles "system". If it is, I can register it with a simple mechanical inspection. If it's not, it will require an "Out of Province Inspection" which means I have to seal up the body. I'm thinking if it comes to that I might just fibreglass it up, I have no experience tin bashing and my welding skills are abysmal. Yes, I know fibreglass and bondo comes apart within 5 years, but I'm not intending to restore the body, the car is too far gone and not worth it.

    Got the lights working, - a minor "win" for today. Even the cornering lights work, and the flasher is that old fashioned soft blinker that I haven't heard in decades. Now we have to clean up the interior, it smells like something died in there, and likely something did. So I started it up, it fired right up, and then the fuel pump crapped out and started knocking and pouring fuel. So that's where things are going to start.

    Surprisingly, the shocks are good. I couldn't believe it, but then again the car rode remarkably well when I drove it. With real tires and straight wheels, it might actually be nice.

    I'm amazed that the belts have held on and that the rad never boiled over. It smells awful and the "water" is a bit rusty. The engine oil was clean when I started the trip the other day, just looked at it now, it's jet black. Gonna have to get some Rotella or something with ZDDP in it. The tranny is right up and still red; - just showing hints of being a bit old. So eventually a fluid and filter change will be in order.

    So far haven't been able to locate any wheels. Fuel pumps for Nailheads don't exist up here either, and surprisingly, nor do aircleaner elements.

    At least the radio works...:D
    Brian Albrecht and Dano like this.
  12. Chuck Bridges

    Chuck Bridges Well-Known Member

    I found that the fuel pump for the '66 is different than the '65 or '67. One year only. I went to my local jobbers and ordered a new one so when we rebuild the I could replace it as well as other parts such as the oil pump, timing chain/sprocket....
  13. PatricksBuick

    PatricksBuick PatrickBuick

    Hey Marc,

    cool looking Cat! Best Color too. And I appreciate the 4dr getting saved and worked on.

    Good father-son project. Shame the metal is so rusty.

    Keep the pics coming.

  14. nekkidhillbilly

    nekkidhillbilly escaped mental patient

    you should be the big bolt pattern so you need the road wheels off a later 70s lesabre wildcat riv or electra pre 77. the ones for skylarks regals 77 up b bodies are small bolt pattern. the will have a silver center cap vs the black one or have a big r on it. i have a set on my 72 i would part with but i need some steelies to stick back on until i get aftermarket wheels. as for a pump you could just block off the old one and throw and click clack on. love the car btw.
  15. 66electrafied

    66electrafied Just tossing in my nickel's worth

    Yeah, I thought about putting in an electric pump, would probably be the smarter route, but if I can, I'd like to stick to original equipment.
    As for the wheels, I'm up in Canada, and shipping costs would likely be a deal killer. The joys of living in what might as well be half way around the world from the US...
  16. CanadaCat

    CanadaCat Well-Known Member

    If you want a steelie rim with a tire that holds air, I have a spare 5x5 from my 70. I’m in North Edmonton, about to move east and could clear some stuff out. The big car road wheels show up on kijiji and Facebook marketplace locally, I see a few sets for sale every year. The grey centres might be harder to find.
    66electrafied likes this.
  17. pbr400

    pbr400 68GS400

    That’s such a cool car. I understand it speaking to you. I’m glad you’re saving it (and teaching your son, too!). As for the body, fiberglass it for now and redo it in five years-maybe learn panel beating in the interim. It has a near twin in Atlanta. This one is on the set of Stranger Things (in the background of a scene at the pool).
    66electrafied and PGSS like this.
  18. 66electrafied

    66electrafied Just tossing in my nickel's worth

    Thanks, appreciate the offer, I have a couple of spares I can put on. The one in the Electra is still holding air and is at least from this century, so it might go on in the interim time.
    I've been combing Kijiji and so far haven't come across anything. Must have hit a drought or something.

    Going to be working on the car this weekend; - still have a lot of cleaning up to do. I wanted to fully case out the motor before I did anything with the brakes or suspension, but I have to wait until a fuel pump gets here from the US. The pump that's in the car is absolutely shot and pours fuel out of the seam. The diaphragm must have ruptured which is to be expected. Believe it or not, I may also have to get an air cleaner element from the US, none of the parts stores around here have one. I used my last spare on the Electra.

    I can't wait to drive this thing!
  19. 66electrafied

    66electrafied Just tossing in my nickel's worth

    Managed to get the 40 year old tree sap off the paint. Started grinding down what's left of the paint to give it a bit of a "lived in" look so it doesn't look derelict in my driveway. It's a good 20 footer. The chrome is in pretty good shape, but it'll need some steel wool love to get the grime off the bottom part. The more I look at this thing the more I'm convinced it was never washed. There is a fine clay dust everywhere. Started cleaning the interior, the primary owners were chain smokers and it stinks. The off-white upholstery is yellow-brown, and when sprayed with Spray-9 it just runs yellow. Absolutely the front driver's door card looking like new, the car really does have 71,000 on it! the interior will clean up nicely, but it'll take days to do it.
    Fuel pump is ordered; - nothing mechanical will happen until I can confirm that the the motor isn't a boat anchor. More cleaning and pics to follow tomorrow.
    Now have to locate armrests; the plastic chrome has crazed and faded in the heat, and the cigarette residue has eaten away at some of the upper chrome layers. The driver's door one totally failed and broke up.
  20. Wildcat GS

    Wildcat GS Wildcat GS

    Hi Marc,
    I`m very familiar with the `66 Wildcats and have owned many over the last few decades. I too have a soft spot for the 4 dr hardtop and currently own one. I`ve also been studying and identifying the full size chrome wheels and are very, very familiar with those also.
    Any chrome wheels made from `64 to `70 will "fit" your Wildcat because they have the same offset and lug spacing. But there are subtle differences as Motor Wheel/Buick made 4 different versions of the wheels from `64 to `70.
    The `64 wheels have a 2 inch center hole and no locating ring. These were painted a dirty silver/platinum color.
    The `65 wheels are the same as the `64 wheels but have a locating ring because Buick reduced the diameter of the hubs starting in `65. These are painted dark charcoal grey.
    The `66 to 67 1/2 wheels are the same as the `65 wheels with locating ring except the center hole is larger at 2 1/ these require a different sized retainer for the center cap as compared to earlier models. These are also painted a dark charcoal grey.
    The 67 1/2 to `70 wheels are the same as the generation before except the wheels were changed to adapt to the new for `67 disc brake option. So the inside half of the wheel has a different contour to clear the disc brake caliper and the outside half of the wheel has a very subtle difference in the contour of the lug nut area that most people dont notice. These were painted black.
    In terms of center caps, the `64-`65 wheels used a flat cap with the 2 inch retainer, the `66 through `70 wheels used a fluted "cone" cap with a 2 and 1/8th retainer. Cars has adapter retainers that enable one to go back and forth between different wheels and center caps.
    In terms of finding the wheels, I have discovered all the pre `67 1/2 (grey) wheels are hard to find in very good to excellent condition but I have had better luck finding good chrome on the `64-`65 versions as I suspect Motor Wheel did not do as good a job on the plating starting in `66, so they dont hold up as well as the earlier wheels.
    You can run chrome wheels which are later than `70 but their offset is different and you will likley need to run spacers to keep the inside edge of the wheels from contacting the brake drum fins before the wheel hubs seat on the axle flange. Then you will probably find the studs are not long enough and you`ll need to change to find pre `71 wheels.
    I`ll send you a PM with my contact info if you have any questions.
    Tom Mooney
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021

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