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The 68 Rat Cat

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  • The 68 Rat Cat

    Hey rat rodders and billet killers,
    I guess it's time to introduce my ride and start asking some questions. Here's the pic I saw on Craigslist about 18 months ago advertising a 68 Buick Wildcat w/ original 430 motor;
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    I bought for $2200 it and drove it home and have spent the last year working the bugs out. My main consideration for this car was that it always run. It had to be solid enough that I could work with it as I went, and never have it up on blocks for extended periods of time. I'm also unconcerned about cosmetics, it's a city ride, I may never paint it. The guy before me sprayed it black and that works fine for me. It's a numbers matching car and I don't give a damn. I will never restore it and the guy who owned it before did enough modding to make going back impracticable anyways. I ripped out the AC within a week of owning it and will probably sell the original motor soon. I'm a run what you brung kind of guy and this is the car I brung, I'll do whatever it takes to keep it running. I also don't like aluminum or added chrome or motor dressing or stuff that doesn't function well or last long. Am I fitting in here?

    So that's my rat rod ethic. And here's some more pics and a little history.

    During the first year I added dual exhaust from front to back, a set of $200 moon rims with brand new 235/75s and about a dozen cans of spray paint. (Yes, I'm already out of the under 3000 club)
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    This spring I took her in for new front springs, shocks, ball joints, upper and lower control arm bushings and all that other jazz. Did an entire rebuild of the front brakes and replaced the miserable air shocks in the rear with a set of Gabriels. And she was running so sweet. Ok, the carb leaked when it got hot and the rear main seal was clearly shot and the radiator was nearly spent but that old 75,000 mile 430 just purred and snarled. But I knew it was only a matter of time. Even though this car was a 30 year barn sitting survivor, the guy who pulled it out had clearly run her hard for a couple of years. In fact there are fellas around town that recognize the Wildcat as having "run with the big dogs" in South Buffalo street fighting years ago. And though he may have modded her, I knew nobody had ever pulled the block and improved the oiling capability, which is essential on these 430s. So it was no surprise when I opened her up on a country road and felt the normal surge fall flat as a massive cloud of smoke blew out the back and a nasty rattle started up in the front. I pulled over and got her flat-bedded home and have only run it a few times in the lot trying to diagnose the sound while I look at options. At this point I have the motor unbolted and ready to be pulled and what promises to be a wicked sleeper build 430 coming in a few days to drop in. I'll update with more about that soon but for now here's a video from her last run this morning, maybe some of you can chime in on what blew? Be curious as to your thoughts.

    Stay tuned,

  • #2
    I think with some nice low key pinstriping this car would come alive. I like it already, big and loud! Maybe a cool stripped design on the trunk lid. Or flames? Click image for larger version

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    • #3
      Thanks Sideburns. I have thought about simple accents that go with the flat black. Might need some cobwebs pinned on at some point. Your truck looks real nice btw.

      Here's a little preview of the motor that's on the way.
      Click image for larger version

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      I may pull those chrome stage 1 valve covers in favor of the stock look. Motor is far from stock beneath that pretty paint.


      • #4
        All ways liked those big buicks, good looking car.


        • #5
          Something subtle like pinstripes would be cool. I worked with a guy that had pinstripes with tiny little characters (1/4"tall) in compromising positions. You had to get up really close to see it, but it was kind of cool none the less.


          • #6
            Thanks guys. I agree with subtle for sure, although nothing too finely detailed for this city sled, more accent than artwork. But that's all down the road a ways. After the motor swap and finishing the rear suspension I may take some time to get the interior right. It needs a headliner and some new upholstery and good speakers and the dash all sorted out with proper gauges.

            One thing I have in mind is to squeeze some wider tires under the rear and I can't find any examples of anyone doing this with a 68 Wildcat. And keeping the skirts is essential. I'm not looking for much, just going from a 75 to a 70 would give me a bit more bite back there. But those modern 75s that are on it now have to be completely deflated and forced on, it's that tight. The skirts aren't really the problem, even the lock mechanism has room to spare once the tire is in place. It's getting the meat of the tire up and in between the hub and fender that limits me. I'll post some more picks soon of what it looks like under there. I'm thinking this board is the perfect place to get ideas for that kind of mod.

            Here's a pic with the original 75s that slid right off.
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            • #7
              Cool car man, Keep the pics coming.


              • #8
                Welp, a little update on how easily a simple motor swap gets complicated.

                Got my motor and the first thing I noticed was a long shaft waterpump that wouldn't fit my car. No biggie, not wanting to put my old pump in I ordered a new one. Next up was the fact that my stock exhaust manifolds were never going to come off in one piece and this motor definitely deserved better. The choice between TA headers and paying $350 for a set of used stock casts was a no brainer, but an expensive one. Headers finally got here and I lifted the motor from it's crate only to find a rear sump oil pan where I needed a center sump. Ok, pull my old pan, clean it up, drop the old pan .... uggh .. rear pickup tube for the oil pump of course! Well, there's no pulling my old tube, not even gonna think about anything but a proper 5/8" from TA. So now we wait another week. I guess it gives me time to tidy up some other things under the hood but man I'm itching to get connected and fire her up. The nice thing is not being daunted by any of this, it's just parts. As Tom Petty said "the waiting is the hardest part".

                Happy roddin' folks,


                • #9
                  I'm a little late to teh show here...

                  You have a sweet ride there!

                  I understand how a simple thing can turn REALLY big REALLY quick!

                  Stick with it!


                  • #10
                    De-chroming the 430: I just couldn't chill with those chrome valve covers so I got out the elbow grease and cleaned up my old stock covers. While I was at it I took some 200 grit paper to that dinged up old Edelbrock air cleaner that I've had on every 4 barrel I've owned for decades and gave it a nice dull "vintage" look. Now if only I had a good excuse to ditch those blue wires ..

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                    As you can see, I've had very good help with this project.
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                    Hoping to drop the motor in this weekend, fingers crossed!


                    • #11
                      Looks sweet... I see how you could get rid of those blue wires with your little helper... I mean a dog has to have 'chew toys' right? That could explain where they went LOL.....


                      • #12
                        Aww, that 'lil angel won't even destroy his toys without permission!


                        • #13
                          Dropped the motor in today with a chain on the bucket of a Skidsteer. Fit with headers between the bolts of the upper control arms was really tight and now the clearance between headers and transmission coolant lines is worrisome but otherwise it's bolted up and half wired. Tomorrow morning I'll mount the flex plate to the converter and hang the starter and finish up the wiring. Oh yeah and the new radiator and hoses and ... Well, I gave myself until tomorrow night to be ready to turn the key. Hopefully Monday morning I'll be able drive it a couple blocks (with open headers) to the exhaust shop and get my down-pipes welded.

                          Doing this job in the parking lot of a huge multi-use building brings in quite an audience. Everybody just assumes that I know what I'm doing, and to some extent I do, but I'm always quick to point out how much I've learned from people willing to share their knowledge online. I certainly never would have tackled an old big block Buick without the resources of the Buick boards. And the kind of can-do attitude that is prevalent on this site is a great inspiration for a parking lot mechanic like me.

                          So thanks for sharing and giving me a space to share, more to come,


                          • #14
                            One little trick I learned today that may be common knowledge but I'll share anyway: Jacking the transmission up a little higher than it should be allows the motor to drop into the mounts and you can still line the pins up, get a couple bolts in place to hold it and let the jack down slowly and the tranny drops right in place.

                            Worked for me at least.


                            • #15
                              She lives!