If there was ever a car that proved that the definition of "Sports Car" by the American car buying public and the U.S. automakers was hazy at best, it was the Skylark by the Buick division of General Motors. Not only did Buick's entry have better than a 121" wheelbase, but it weighed in at a hefty 4,300 lbs! Originally based on the exciting 1951 Motorama show car, the Buick XP 300, the Skylark was touted by Buick's brass as "The Answer to the European Sports Car!" The prototype sported Borrani wire wheels to prove the proclamation. Starting in 1952, this special car made the show circuit. Although it had already been slated for production, the public was told that it would only be built if enough orders were received.
In 1953, 1690 Skylarks were built at a cost of a little over $5000 (that is almost $1000 more than a new Cadillac Convertible!). At that price, Skylark was no doubt the flagship of Buick, in the year that they were celebrating their 50th anniversary. This Milestone sported a chopped windshield and a radically lowered belt line, and full wheel cutouts which exposed the beautiful wire wheels (Production cars traded those most lovely Borrani wires for Buick designed Kelsey Hayes models). The power plant was a brand new 322 cubic inch "oversquare" V-8 set at a compression ratio of 8.5 to 1. The transmission was also redesigned for 1953 to a twin turbine Dynaflow, adding 10% more torque over the previous model. The interior was as impressive as the exteriors, sporting red Helsinki leather upholstery with such standard accessories as a signal seeking radio, power antenna and of course what every sports car enthusiast needs, power steering, brakes, seat, windows, and top (Obviously
Ferrari and Lamborgini owners didn't realize what they were missing). To indicate the exclusiveness of this Golden Anniversary car, the owner's name was engraved on a tag on the steering wheel.
1954 saw the Skylark drop both in price ($500) as well as in production. Only 836 of these cars were produced. Unlike the '53, Skylark for '54 was one of those love-hate designs. You will seldom meet anyone who doesn't have an opinion about this car. Although the front is pretty much a stock Buick, the side and rear views were certainly not. From the deeply scooped fender cavities to the exclusive sloping rear deck with the huge chrome plated fins housing three-way tail lights, Skylark was most certainly its own car. Skylarks now sported tubular front shocks, a beefed up convertible crossmember and 12 extra horsepower as new features also shared with the completely redesigned fleet of Buick's for 1954. One of the stunning examples of the 1954 Buick Skylark you have seen featured here today is owned by Ron Spindler. Ron's car is a winner wherever it shows.
The name Skylark was dropped in 1955 but has reappeared several times since that time. The subsequent models never came close to having the flair and excitement that their older brothers had. No matter what your definition of sports car is, these two years of Buick will always remain an excellent example of one of the American interpretations of what America wanted in a sports car. Accolades to G.M. stylist Ned Nickles for these true works of automotive art.
FREDERICK J. ROTH
Copyright June 2003