By on May 16, 2022

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, RH rear view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsDuring 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.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, emblem - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFrom 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.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, padded roof - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsIt appears that one thing all these cars had in common was a faux-vertible padded roof.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, fender skirt - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThey 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.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, interior - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsSome LeSabre Wildcats got custom-embroidered leather seat upholstery, allegedly, but this one has the regular scratchy crypto-velour stuff.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, engine - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThe 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.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, emblem - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsThese 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.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, radio and HVAC controls - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsNo CD player, but at least the factory Delco cassette deck has Dolby.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, odometer - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsGM finally went to six-digit odometers around this time, so we can see that this car made it just past the 150k-mile mark.

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWas it worth more than a stock LeSabre? Not at all!

1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat in Colorado junkyard, emblem - ©2022 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsI 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]

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31 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1996 Buick LeSabre Wildcat Edition...”

  • avatar

    Wow a column shifter, fender skirts, landau top and drum brakes. Compare this garbage to what Lexus/Infiniti/Acura were producing at the time and it’s a wonder how GM survived as long as it did.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I’ll take a column shifter over a dial, anytime.

    How can you rock your car out of a snowbank with a ‘dial’ style shifter?

    This car must have an interesting history. Not enough serious body damage to take it out of circulation. Still has The Club on its steering wheel. Only 150,000kms. Upholstery still looks like it only needs a quick steam cleaning.

    • 0 avatar

      Ten bucks to a donut says it was the transmission. The 4t60-E is a weak link in these otherwise solid cars, but usually will survive a good long time if scheduled maintenance is actually adhered to. That engine was good for double those miles, but I bet that tranny fluid is black as ink.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      @Arthur–I miss column shifters and bench seats as well but I am getting use to the rotary dial on my Maverick. The more I drive my Maverick the more I like it. My worst mpgs so far is 40 and my best is slightly over 50.

      • 0 avatar

        Is it a hybrid? I also like rotary dial in my Fusion. It takes much less space and is automated – i.e. may turn into park by itself.

      • 0 avatar

        @Jeff S I like the Maverick hybrid too. For me it would be perfection if it had a column shifter and a bench seat with an armrest and seat bottom console that flips forward like my 2000 Taurus had.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        @Jeff: For me the 60/40 split bench was ‘king’. Preferably in velour with a colour that matches the instrument panel, door inserts, etc. I am still hoping for your review of the Maverick. I feel like a a childless uncle living vicariously through your Maverick.

        For those who have or prefer rotary/dial shifters 1) How can they take less space? They take up space on the console. Whereas there is nothing else in the area where a steering column shifter is located. 2) How can you ‘rock’ a vehicle out of a snow bank using a rotary shifter? You need to be both looking and shifting quickly back and forth. Is there something that I am missing?

  • avatar

    Good thing this beauty has “The Club” steering wheel lock to prevent junkyard theft of that airbag…

    Serious question, I notice most of these junkyard photos feature a missing Oil fill cap. Is that indicative of the car being a victim of Cash for Clunkers and the Sodium Silicate used to destroy the engines of the surrendered vehicles?

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      Good question and good observation. This car might have been running especially with a 3800 and its value as a 13 year old car wouldn’t have been that great in 2009 so it would have been more valuable as a Clunker especially for $4,500. Could have been a grandpa car given to a grandchild and then Cash for Clunkered for a smaller more efficient car but if I recall these cars easily got in the 20 mpgs and over so it might not have been part of that program.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      I doubt any non-special Clunkers are left in the junkyard ecosystem. More than likely the oil cap gets discarded when they drain the fluids from the cars before they show up on the line. I would speculate that the oil cap missing is a tell for the boss that the oil’s been drained.

    • 0 avatar

      My guess is that this car was not a Cash for Clunkers victim; that was ten years ago (as hard as that is to believe), and the vast majority of those have already been crushed away. More likely it was a (lack of) maintenance issue, or some customer needing an oil filler cap, perhaps the same customer who took the C-pillar emblems.

      • 0 avatar
        Jeff S

        I am going to guess there is nothing wrong with this car mechanically exception the mileage and the customization made this car not worth much and therefore it was bought by the salvage yard or it could have been towed away for parking violations. As good of shape that interior is and the body is in good shape except the vinyl top this car appears to have been taken care of. This car might have been handed over to a grandchild or sold to a 2nd owner.

    • 0 avatar

      C4C was 13 years ago.

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Buick…WHAT A DISGRACE!!!

  • avatar

    It’s safe to say that none of these were sold in the Greater Louisville Metro/Jefferson County area. You show up with anything Wildcat related and you need to be ready to defend you and your school’s honor!

    Even the area Honda dealers sometimes sell a special Cardinals Civic with the school’s colors and badging.

  • avatar
    Marty S

    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!

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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