Junkyard Find: 1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat Edition

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

During the bling-and-horsepower-crazed 1960s, The General’s Buick Division took the full-size B-Body platform, added a hot engine and flashy trim, and called it the Wildcat. Not many well-heeled grandfathers felt interested in doing land-yacht burnouts in the VFW parking lot, it turned out, so Wildcat sales ended after 1970… but a yearning for the glory days of the Wildcat must have inspired some Buick dealers to create their own Wildcats during the 1990s. Here’s one of those rare special-edition cars, found in a Denver-area self-service yard.

From what I can puzzle out from various poorly-spelled-and-punctuated forum posts, the LeSabre Wildcat (or maybe it’s the Wildcat LeSabre) was crafted at several American dealerships during the 1990s and a bit into the 2000s. How many were made? Nobody will ever know.

It appears that one thing all these cars had in common was a faux-vertible padded roof.

They also got fender skirts, either custom-made for this application or lifted from some other H-Body from earlier in the decade. GM went to non-removable fender skirts on some cars during the 1990s, with painful results.

Some LeSabre Wildcats got custom-embroidered leather seat upholstery, allegedly, but this one has the regular scratchy crypto-velour stuff.

The original Wildcats got great big engines that enabled Grandpa Leadfoot to outrun the law, presumably while he nipped at a pint of Schenley’s and chained Winstons. This Wildcat has the ordinary 3.8-liter V6 and its 205 horses. You’d have thought the swap of the supercharged version from an Olds LSS or Grand Prix GTP would have made it more of a proper Wildcat, but I’ll bet the fender skirts used up most of the budget when these cars were set up.

These cars had special Wildcat badges on the C pillars, but someone has pried them off this car. I hope they incorporated the image of a snarling, rabid cat licking blood from its fangs.

No CD player, but at least the factory Delco cassette deck has Dolby.

GM finally went to six-digit odometers around this time, so we can see that this car made it just past the 150k-mile mark.

Was it worth more than a stock LeSabre? Not at all!

I think it would have been better to have revived— if that’s the word— the Invicta name.

Back in 1996, families that wanted to avoid flattening churchgoing grandmothers and/or being eaten by bears chose LeSabre.

The original Wildcat, on the other hand, kept you intact during encounters with Pancho Villa’s time-traveling desert outlaws.

For links to thousands of additional Junkyard Finds, please visit the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.

[Images by the author]

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • Marty S Marty S on May 16, 2022

    That is certainly a weird vehicle, and the Pancho Villa ad is hilarious. However, it reminds me that the first auto I purchased on my own was a 1969 Buick Wildcat coupe in British Racing Green with a black vinyl top. Very handsome, restrained and sporty car for the period, with bucket seats and console, with gear selector on the console. Later bought a 72 Grand Prix, which was gorgeous, and was stolen, and then a 75 Buick Riviera. Liked Buicks a lot (my dad had a 65 Riviera). Then had an 85 Electra T-Type, which was nice but totally unreliable (failed fuel pump, transmission, rusted radiator and exhaust system). That was my last Buick!

  • Jeff S Jeff S on May 16, 2022

    My 2012 Buick Lacrosse was very reliable and was a beautiful car. GM still made good cars in the last generations of Lacrosse and Impala.

    • Lorenzo Lorenzo on May 16, 2022

      Yes, they did. But they overpriced them and they didn't sell. Thought they could get the same margin as SUVs, they did. 30-40 years earlier, they'd have taken a smaller margin and built many more of them, not just Chevy Impalas and Buick LaCrosses, but Caprices and Electras, Olds 88s and 98s, and Pontiac Bonnevilles and Catalinas. Costs would have been amortized among more models to keep the price down and maintain margins. They don't do that anymore, preferring to build fewer vehicles at higher profit margins.

  • Bob65688581 We bought zillions of German cars, despite knowing about WWII slave labor. Refusing to buy something for ideological reasons is foolish.Both the US and the EU have imposed tariffs, so the playing field is level. I'll buy the best price/quality, regardless of nationality.Another interesting question would be "Would you buy one of the many new European moderate-price EVs?" but of course they aren't sold here.Third interesting question: "Why won't Stellantis sell its best products in America?"
  • Freshblather No. Worried there will be malicious executable code built into the cars motherboard that could disable the Chinese cars in the event of hostilities between the west and China.
  • Bd2 Absolutely not - do not want to support a fascist, totalitarian regime.
  • SCE to AUX The original Capri was beautiful. The abomination from the 90s was no Capri, and neither is this.It looks good, but too similar to a Polestar. And what's with the whacked price?
  • Rover Sig Absolutely not. Ever.