Fastlane

December 19, 2013

Buick Turns 110: 11 Best Buick Concept Cars

From the brand credited with inventing the concept car, we look at 11 highlights

In Buick’s rich, 110-year history, the brand has produced some of the world’s most beautiful, comfortable, and reliable automobiles. But looking beyond its production cars, Buick has also shaped the automotive landscape with concept vehicles that feature stunning design, advanced technology, and innovative powertrains. Once known as “dream” cars, here’s a look at 11 of Buick’s best concepts.

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Considered to be the industry’s first concept car, the Y-Job was developed by GM’s first design chief, Harley Earl. Built with the sole objective to gauge consumer response, rather than production intent, media hailed the Y-Job as the “Car of the Future.” Commencing a foreshadowing practice that continues today, this black two door sports convertible also made other everlasting marks on the industry, showcasing features that would later be found on production cars such as power windows, flush-mounted door handles, disappearing headlights, and a concealed convertible top, among others.

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A radical departure from production cars of its day, the XP-300 concept placed an equally strong emphasis on performance as design, with the then Buick chief engineer, Charlie Chayne heading up the project. The white two-door convertible had a body made of aluminum and a supercharged V-8 engine under hood. This high-compression, 215-cubic-inch engine was fed with a mix if methanol and gasoline, producing some 335 horsepower. Reportedly, the XP-300 could achieve speeds of 140 mph, making good use of its four-wheel disc brakes.

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Successor to the original Wildcat concept, which was primarily built to test the use of fiberglass bodies, the Wildcat II was a distinctive new take on the fiberglass-bodied sports convertible. Designed by Harley Earl’s team, the concept debut a unique front fender design that exposed its chrome-plated front suspension. The headlamps were mounted under the leading edge of the fender cowl. Power came from a 322 cu. in. supercharged V-8 engine.

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The last of the three Wildcat concepts designed by Earl, Wildcat III was much larger than its earlier siblings and also more realistic. The four-seat convertible was powered by a 280 hp V-8 with four carburetors and debuted many styling cues that would be found on 1956 and 1957 production Buick’s, including parking and directional signal lights housed in the prominent front bumper pods.

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This two-door, four-seat fiberglass concept was both a design and technology pioneer of its time. The long hood with sloping nose and recessed headlights from the bumper was a revolutionary automotive style. Its “wing-type” rear fenders would preview cues later found on the 1959 Buicks. The Centurion also featured front seats that would slide back when the doors were opened and it even previewed a screen in the dashboard that would display images from its rear-view camera.

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Its design is unmistakably inspired by 1960’s futuristic aerospace influences and though it was based on the earlier Firebird IV concept, the Century Cruiser had its own significance. Aside from a refrigerator, television set, and front luggage compartment that adjusted for easier access, this concept previewed autonomous driving, something the industry is still working on today. When the driver enters an “automatic highway,” the car was said to automatically drive its occupants to their exit, using a punch card with programmed route. From there, the driver would take back control of the arm-wrest-mounted control grips. The Century Cruiser also previewed a long-range two-way telephone designed for hands-free use.

1972-Buick-Riviera-Silver-Bullet

Designed by Bill Mitchell, the Silver Arrow III was based on a production Riviera, but showcased many advanced features including four wheel anti-lock brakes and a Max Trac traction control system that paved the way for today’s traction control technology. The exterior had a lowered roofline, restyled quarter windows, and six halogen headlights for better nighttime driving. The Silver Arrow’s plush interior eliminated the need for fore-and-aft driver seat movement with its adjustable pedals and telescoping steering wheel.

1985-Builck-Wildcat-Concept

Reviving the Wildcat name used on the trio of concepts in the 1950s, this edgy prototype had a fully-functioning version that served as a Buick test and data platform. Distinctly styled with a long rear deck, the Wildcat had no traditional doors, but a canopy that raised and lowered to allow access for its two passengers. Behind the cabin and powering all four wheels sat a McLaren engine based on the Buick 3.8L V-6, with 24 valves, dual overhead cams, and port fuel injection. A head-up display cast a wealth of driver information onto the large windshield. The Wildcat’s body was constructed of lightweight carbon fiber and fiberglass.

2001-Buick-Bengal-Concept

Inspired by the Buick Y-Job, the Bengal concept is a sleek roadster displaying retro cues and beautiful proportions with its wheels pushed to the corners. A small third door behind the driver’s door opened to reveal storage space for golf bags or seating for two additional passengers. The Bengal’s interior was freed of the usual gauges and buttons, using a reconfigurable color head-up display and relying on voice-activated commands or use of a joystick on the steering wheel. It was powered by a 250 hp supercharged 3.4-liter V-6 engine paired to a six-speed transmission.

2004-Buick-Velite-Concept

This four-seat convertible, designed in Warren, Michigan and built by renowned coachbuilder Bertone in Italy, was named after an elite class of soldiers in Napoleon’s army. Portholes on the front fenders and a rear deck contoured in a boattail shape reminisce Buicks of the past. But under the hood and driving the rear wheels is a pure modern technology in the form of a 3.6L twin-turbocharged V-6 engine producing 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. A similar engine can now be found some of GM’s latest vehicles.

2013-Buick-Riviera-Concept

Representing a new era of Buick design is this stunning concept inspired by the natural movement of water. The Riviera is as progressive underneath as it is on its ice-like surface. It features a dual-mode W-PHEV (wireless plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) propulsion system, four-wheel steering, and an active safety systems that processes information from 10 high-definition cameras. Under the coupe’s gull-wing doors is a 4G LTE internet connection with an integrated information system that casts a holographic image onto the windshield.

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