Classic Cars Wiki
Classic Cars Wiki
Buick Skylark Gran Sport

Buick Skylark Gran Sport front view

The Buick Skylark was a passenger car produced by the Buick division of General Motors. The model was made in six production runs. In each run, the car design varied dramatically due to changing technology and tastes, as well as new standards implemented over the years.


Introduced to mark Buick's 50th anniversary, the Skylark (a name previously used by short-lived Hupp for its sporty 1939 Cord Model 810-based Skylark) was one of three specialty convertibles produced in 1953 by General Motors; the other two were the Oldsmobile Fiesta and the Cadillac Eldorado. All three were limited-production vehicles promoting General Motors' design leadership. Of the three, the Skylark had the most successful production run with 1,690 units. This was considered an amazing sales feat, since the car had a list price in 1953 of slightly in excess of US$5,000. However, many of these vehicles languished in dealer showrooms and were eventually sold at discount.

All 1,690 regular-production Skylarks built in 1953 (and all in 1954) were convertibles. The 1953s were based on the two-door Roadmaster convertible, having identical dimensions (except height), almost identical convenience and appearance equipment, and a Roadmaster drive train. In 1953, the model designation for the Skylark was 76X, while the model designation for the Roadmaster convertible was 76R. The few options available on the Roadmaster convertible were standard equipment on the Skylark, albeit the base price for the well-equipped Roadmaster convertible was only about US$3,200.

The 1953 Skylark featured V8 power and a 12 volt electrical system, both a first for Buick, as well as full-cutout wheel openings, a styling cue that would make its way to the main 1954 Buick line. Also making its way into the 1954 Buick line was the cut-down door at the base of the side window line that bounced back up to trace around the rear window (or convertible top). This styling stayed with Buick for many years and can be found on any number of automobile brands to this day.

The 1953 Buick Skylark was a handmade car in many respects. The stampings for the hood, trunk lid and a portion of the convertible tub were the same as the 1953 Roadmaster convertible (and Super convertible, model 56R). The stampings for the front fenders, rear fenders, outer doors, and a portion of the convertible tub were unique to the Skylark. All Skylark convertible tubs were finished with various amounts of lead filler, so it is not unusual to find a substantial amount of the substance just behind the doors near the bottom of the window line. The inner doors of the Skylark were made from the inner doors of the 2-door Roadmaster and Super by cutting the stamping in half approximately parallel with the ground and then welding the two pieces back together in a jig at an angle that produced the necessary door dip (see photos of finished car). 1954 convertibleAlthough there were many unique design features of the 1953 Skylark, one that goes almost unnoticed today is that the top and seating of the car were lowered a few inches below the Roadmaster and Super convertibles. This was achieved not by changing the frame, body or suspension, but by cutting the windshield almost three inches shorter and lowering the side windows and convertible top frame. To accommodate people without bumping their heads with the top up, the seat frames and steering column were lowered.

The wheels of the 1953 Skylark were true wire wheels, produced by Kelsey-Hayes, with everything chromed except the plated and painted "Skylark" center emblem. Although this was high style in 1953, the wheels were heavier than the regular steel wheels, would require periodic truing to keep them straight and balanced, and required tubes within the tires just when tubeless tires were becoming the norm, as they were throughout the rest of the Buick line.

For 1954, the Skylark returned, although radically restyled. This Skylark featured elongated wheel cutouts, the interior of which were available in a contrasting color to the body color. For example, black cars could receive white or red wheel wells. The trunk of the restyled Skylark was sloped into a semi-barrel shape. Tail lights were housed in large chromed fins that projected from the tops of the rear fenders.

The car was now based on the all-new shorter Century/Special chassis and not the top-of-the-line Roadmaster/Super chassis, also all-new for 1954. However, it did share the Roadmaster and Century powertrain, the highest output in the 1954 Buick model lineup. This powertrain was an evolutionary improvement, but very similar to the 1953 powertrain.

The model designation for the 1954 Buick Skylark was "100", which was unique to that model. The short wheelbase cars were the Buick Special, series 40; the Buick Century, series 60; and the Buick Skylark, series 100 (a "series" of just one model). All production Buick Skylarks were built as two-door convertibles and had the same luxury equipment as the 1953 Buick Skylarks.

Like its 1953 counterpart, the 1954 Skylark had a number of unique sheetmetal stampings, but without the hand labor that went into 1953 Skylark production. In addition to unique front and rear fenders with the elongated wheel cutouts, the 1954 Skylark had a unique trunk with its semi-barrel shape and huge, rounded chrome fins. The hood was also unique to the 1954 Skylark, but in a small way. The hood ornament was different from all other Buick models for the 1954 model year. However, this same hood ornament, although unique in size to this one model in 1954, was to portend the design of the 1955 Buick hood ornament used on all models of that year.

The cost of the Skylark, mixed with the public's dislike for the restyle and its perceived step down in rank to the Special/Century series versus the 1953 rank with the Super/Roadmaster series, resulted in poor sales and the car's demise at the end of the 1954 model year.


General Motors introduced a trio of new compact cars for the 1961 model year that shared the same chassis, engines (with some differences between the three models), and basic sheet metal, although each had unique front and rear styling and differences in exterior and interior trim. It shared the same chassis as the Pontiac Tempest and the Oldsmobile F-85.

Introduced in the middle of the 1961 model year and based on the basic Buick Special two-door sedan (also referred to as a coupe), the 1961 Buick Special Skylark had unique Skylark emblems, taillight housings, lower body side moldings, turbine wheel covers, and a vinyl-covered roof. It also featured a plush all-vinyl interior with bucket seats as an option.

The basic 1961 Buick Special came standard with a 215 cu in (3.5 L), all-aluminum block, V8 engine with a 2-barrel carburetor that produced 155 hp (116 kW) at 4600 rpm. The 1961 Buick Special Skylark came standard with a version of this same engine (optional on other Specials) that used a higher compression ratio and a 4-barrel carburetor to produce 185 hp (138 kW).

For the 1962 model year, the Buick Skylark became a model in its own right, instead of being a subseries of the Special. The 1962 model used the same basic sheet metal as the 1961 models, but was available in two new body styles: a two-door convertible coupe (shared with the Special and Special Deluxe models) and a two-door (pillarless) hardtop that was unique to the Skylark. Tuning of the 215 cubic-inch V8 increased power to 190 hp (140 kW) at 4800 rpm.

The 1963 Buick Skylarks used the same chassis and wheelbase as the previous 1961 and 1962 models, but adopted new sheet metal that featured boxier styling. Length was increased by five inches to 193 in (4,900 mm), and the 215 cubic-inch V8 generated 200 hp (150 kW) at 5000 rpm. The 1963 Skylark was available as a two-door convertible coupe or a two-door (pillarless) hardtop coupe. The 1963 Buick Special shared most sheet metal with the Skylark, but was available as a 2-door pillared hard top, four dour sedan, convertible, and station wagon. Engine choices included a 198 cu in (3.2 L) V6 with 2-barrel carburetor, the 215 cu in (3.5 L) V8 with two-barrel or a 4-barrel carburetor. Transmission choices were a 'three on the tree' manual transmission, a floor-shifted Borg-Warner T-10 4-speed manual, or a two-speed automatic. The two-speed "Dual Path Turbine Drive" automatic was a Buick design and shared no common parts with the Chevrolet Power-Glide transmission.


Beginning with the 1964 model year, the Buick Skylark, along with the lower-priced Special from which it was derived, would move to a new intermediate-size chassis that was shared with the Oldsmobile F-85, Pontiac Tempest, and the new Chevrolet Chevelle. The new chassis had a wheelbase of 115 in and the Buick Special and Skylark had a length of 203.5 in. The 215 cubic-inch-displacement aluminum block V8 engine was discontinued, and the associated tooling eventually was sold to the British manufacturer, Rover. That company would produce the engine in several versions for use in its sedans and Land Rover sport utility vehicles and trucks.

The standard Skylark engine was now a 225 cubic-inch all cast iron block V6 with a Rochester 1-barrel carburetor that generated 155 hp (116 kW) at 4400 rpm. This engine was introduced in 1964, very similar to the earlier V6 beginning with the 1962 model year which had a smaller displacement of 196 cubic-inch. This engine was basically a Buick V8 300 CID engine with two cylinders sawed-off. The optional engine was a 300 cubic inch cast iron block and aluminum heads V8 with a Rochester 2-barrel carburetor that generated 210 hp (160 kW) at 4600 rpm. An optional V8 version of the 300 CID engine was offered with a 11:1 compression and a 4-barrel carburetor generating 250 hp (190 kW). A long-throw, 4-speed Hurst shifter was available. For the 1965 model cast iron blocks and heads were used for all engines.

In addition to the two-door convertible and hardtop coupe body-styles, a Skylark four-door sedan became available for the first time. Skylarks, however, would continue to have higher levels of exterior and interior trim compared to the Special and Special Deluxe from which they were derived. All-vinyl bucket seats would be standard on the convertible and optional on the hardtop coupe. The sedan would come with cloth-and-vinyl seats standard, and an all-vinyl interior would be optional. The Sylark Coupe had a lower profile, sitting lower to the road than the Buick Special models. The Skylark in 1964-1965 were available in a pillar-less coupe (Hard Top) two-door sedan version, as the Specials and Special Deluxes only came in pillared coupe versions. Beginning with the 1964 model year, a two-door sedan (pillared coupe) was added to the Skylark lineup. Inspired in no small part by the sales success of the 1964 Pontiac Tempest, LeMans, GTO, the Gran Sport option became available in mid 1965 for the three two-door Skylark models. The Gran Sport option featured Buick’s 401 cubic-inch-displacement V8 engine using a Carter 4-barrel carburetor that produced 325 hp (242 kW) at 4400 rpm (it was listed as 400 cubic inches in sales literature, supposedly to escape a General Motors mandate that engines larger than 400 cubic inches should not be used in intermediate-sized cars). Other Gran Sport features were unique Gran Sport badging, a heavy-duty radiator, and dual exhaust.

In the 1966 model year, the four-door (pillared) sedan was replaced by a four-door (pillarless) hardtop sedan. The convertible, hardtop coupe, and two-door sedan continued to be available. The 1966 two-door Skylark was available with the optional "Wildcat 375", 340 ci engine which produced 260 hp and 365 ft·lb (495 N·m). torque with a 4-barrel Carter carb. 1967 Buick Skylark convertibleThe four-door sedan would rejoin the lineup for the 1967 model year, making a total of five Skylark body styles. Beginning with the 1967 model year, only the Skylark two-door sedan would be available with the Buick V6 engine as standard. The 300 cubic inch V8 would be standard on all other models, with the exception of the four-door hardtop sedan, which came with a 340 cubic-inch-displacement V8 engine using a Rochester 2-barrel carburetor and producing 220 hp (160 kW) at 4400 rpm. The previous Buick Skylark Gran Sport was relabeled as the Buick Skylark Gran Sport 400 to reflect its engine. A new model was the Buick Skylark Gran Sport 340, also using the 340-cubic-inch V8 that was standard on the Skylark four-door hardtop. The Gran Sport 340 was available only as a two-door hardtop coupe. The 1968 model year was one of significant change for the Buick Skylark. Although still using the same basic chassis, all of GM’s mid-sized cars adopted a policy of using two different length wheelbases. Two-door models used a shorter wheelbase of 112-in, while four-door models used a longer wheelbase of 116 in (the Buick Sport Wagon and Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser used an even longer wheelbase of 121 in). All of GM's mid-sized cars received all-new sheet metal.

The Gran Sport, previously an option package available on the Skylark, became a separate series. In a reshuffling of models in the lineup, the Special Deluxe replaced the previous Special. The Skylark nameplate was shuffled down a notch to replace the previous Special Deluxe. The previous Skylark was replaced by a new Skylark Custom.

The basic Skylark was available as a two-door hardtop coupe or a four-door sedan. The Skylark Custom came as a two-door convertible coupe, two-door hardtop coupe, four-door hardtop sedan, or four-door sedan.

The previous V6 was discontinued and the associated tooling was sold to Kaiser Industries, which used the V6 in its Jeep trucks and sport utility vehicles. The base engine in Buick Skylarks (and Buick Special sedans) became a 250-cubic-inch inline six-cylinder engine using a 1-barrel Rochester carburetor (borrowed from Buick’s sister Chevrolet division) that produced 155 hp (116 kW) at 4200 rpm.

Optional on the Skylark and standard on the Skylark Custom was a new 350 cubic inch V8 engine using a 2-barrel Rochester carburetor that produced 230 hp (170 kW) at 4400 rpm. This engine was based on the previous 300- and 340-cubic inch-displacement V8 engines. The Buick Special name was dropped after the 1969 model year.

For 1970, the mid-sized Buicks once again received new sheet metal and the Buick Skylark name was moved down another notch, replacing the previous Buick Special. The Skylark became the entry-level Buick available in two- and four-door sedans with the 250-cubic-inch inline-6 as standard and the 350 cubic inch V8 (260 horsepower at 4600 rpm) available as an option.

Replacing the previous Buick Skylark was the Buick Skylark 350, available as a two-door hardtop coupe or four-door sedan with the 350 cubic inch V8 as standard equipment. This 350 cubic inch engine was a different design than the Chevy's 350 CID engine (4.000 in × 3.48 in) the Buick design had a longer stroke and smaller bore (3.80 X 3.85 in) allowing for lower-end torque, deep skirt block construction, higher nickel-content cast iron, 3.0 in crank main journals, and 6.5 in connecting rods, the distributor was located in front of the engine (typical of Buick), the oil pump was external and mounted in the front of the engine, the rocker arm assembly had all rocker arms mounted on a single rod and were not adjustable. The Skylark Custom continued to be available, also using the 350 cubic inch V8 as standard equipment and still available as a two-door convertible coupe, two-door hardtop coupe, four-door hardtop sedan, and four-door sedan. Buick Gran Sport models continued to be available as a separate series. The Buick Sport Wagon name was now used on a conventional four-door station wagon that no longer featured a raised roof with glass panels over the cargo area, or a longer wheelbase, as in the past. It now used the same 116 in wheelbase as the Buick Skylark four-door sedan and the now-discontinued Buick Special four-door Station Wagon. It became, in effect, a Buick Skylark four-door station wagon in all respects but the name. For the 1971 model year, the base Skylark was available only with the inline-6, now only putting out 145 hp (108 kW) due to emission control devices, but in a two-door hardtop coupe body-style (in addition to the previous two- and four-door sedans). The Skylark 350 had a V8 engine that put out only 230 hp (170 kW). It was now available as a two-door sedan in addition to the previous two-door hardtop coupe and four-door sedan.

1972 was the last model year for the mid-sized Buick Skylark. During this model year many pollution controls were added to the Engines, Compression was lowered, engines had to accept leaded and unleaded gas, and spark timing was retarded (no vacuum advance in lower gears) while driving in lower gears to reduce emissions. For 1972, the base Buick Skylark used the 350 cubic inch V8 with the 2-barrel Rochester carburetor (now putting out 145 horsepower) as standard equipment. A new federally mandated system to calculate power was put into effect that year, and the actual engine performance was probably comparable but slightly lower because of pollution controls in the 1972 model year to the 230 hp (170 kW) that was listed for the previous year. The Skylark 350 now used a version of the same V8 engine as the base Skylark, but with a 4-barrel Rochester carburetor that generated 170 hp (130 kW).

An interesting limited-production model was the 1972 Buick Skylark 350 Sun Coupe, which was a Skylark 350 Hardtop Coupe that featured a sliding vinyl sunroof, with a vinyl covering over the front portion of the roof (a landau design). Special striping and "Sun Coupe" badges on the rear pillars completed the package. Conversion work was subcontracted to the American Sunroof Company (ASC). Production of the Sun Coupe was approximately 3,950 units.

Skylark Customs were available with the same 350 cubic inch V8 engines available in the basic Skylark and the Skylark 350. The Custom had an upgraded interior and dash with some extra chrome. Convertibles only came in the Skylark Customs and the Skylark 350s.

For the 1973 model year, the Buick Gran Sports, Skylarks, and Sport Wagons would all be replaced by the new mid-sized Buick Century. Since Centuries were available with Gran Sport trim, the Gran Sport name was once again reduced to being an option package.


In the middle of the 1973 model year, Buick returned to the compact market with the Buick Apollo, using General Motors’ X-body platform, which was heavily based on the Chevrolet Nova When the car was extensively restyled for the 1975 model year, the two-door hatchback sedan (coupe) and two-door sedan (coupe) were rechristened “Skylark”, while the four-door sedan remained "Apollo". Two-door hatchback sedan and two-door sedan models were available as the base Skylark or as the more upscale Skylark S/R. Four-door sedans were available as the base Apollo or the more upscale Apollo S/R. In addition, there was a very plain, lower-priced Skylark "S" available only as a two-door sedan with minimal interior and exterior trim.

The standard engine for the Buick Skylarks was Buick’s own 231 cubic inch (3.8 L) V6 engine with a 2-barrel carburetor creating 110 hp (82 kW) at 4000 rpm. Buick purchased back the tooling for the engine from American Motors, which acquired them when the company purchased the Kaiser Jeep division from Kaiser Industries. The Apollo used Chevrolet's 250 cubic inch (4.1 L) inline 6-cylinder engine.

Optional engines included the Oldsmobile 260 cubic inch (4.3 L) V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor producing 110 hp (82 kW) at 4000 rpm, and the Buick 350 cubic inch (5.7 L) V8 with either a 2- or 4-barrel carburetor. In 1976, the 5.7 L V8 engines produced 140 hp (100 kW) at 3200 rpm with the 2-barrel carburetor, and 155 hp (116 kW) at 3400 rpm with the 4-barrel carburetor.

Beginning with the 1976 model year, the four-door sedans used the Skylark and Skylark S/R names instead of the previous Apollo, and came with the 3.8 L V6 engine as standard.

The 260 cubic inch (4.3 L) V8 was discontinued after the 1976 model year. For the 1977 model year, it was replaced by a pair of V8 engines.

Available as an option in 1977 was a 301 cubic inch (5.0 L) V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor, which produced 135 hp (101 kW) at 4000 rpm (supplied by Pontiac). Also available was a 305 cubic inch (5.0 L) V8 with a 2-barrel carburetor, which produced 145 hp (108 kW) at 3800 rpm (supplied by Chevrolet). The Buick-built 5.7 L V8 was still available, but only with the 4-barrel carburetor.

Beginning with the 1978 model year, Chevrolet's 5.7 L (350 cubic inch) V8 with a 4-barrel carburetor, which produced 170 hp (130 kW) at 3800 rpm, also was available. Also in that year, the Skylark Custom replaced the Skylark S/R.

The 1979 model year saw the discontinuance of the Skylark Custom two-door hatchback coupe (the base V6 produced 10 hp (7.5 kW) more than 1978's version). The 1979 model year was short because, midway through it, the all-new 1980 models were introduced early.


Buick Skylarks were assembled in Iran (4-door models only) from 1977–1981 and again from 1986-88 under the brand name of "Buick Iran". The first generations were known as B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, from 1977 until 1981 and the second and last generation was known as the B2 and B3 from 1986 until 1988. The later models were made after GM released the kits and parts to Iran following the release of the 53 hostages held in captivity until 1981. These bullet-made cars were equipped with a 5.7L engine (SB 350 Chevrolet, L engine, 4BBL), and were fully equipped (power door locks, power window, power steering, automatic transmission, a/c). The Cadillac Seville and Chevrolet Nova were manufactured in Iran during the same period. A total of 40,000 GM cars were produced between 1977-1987 in Iran. It appears that these models were basically the same as those built in the U.S. from 1975-1979 (Islamic Revolution). It is said that in 1978, the Iranian Chevrolet Nova and Buick Skylark cars had order backlogs of 13 months.

GM Iran changed its name to "Pars Khodro" (meaning "Pars Automobile" in Iranian; 'Pars' being the Greek name for ancient Iran and the source of the name 'Persia') after 1979. The production continued from 1979-1987 on a part-time basis. Since the parts and manufacturing equipment were getting old and rusty, the American cars built in Iran after 1979 do not have the same outstanding quality as the ones that were made before 1979.

GM ceased the production of all vehicles in Iran in 1987.


Buick Skylark 1983 oran, AlgeriaThe 1980-1985 Skylark shared GM's new X-body architecture with the Chevrolet Citation, Pontiac Phoenix, and Oldsmobile Omega and would bear some resemblance to the G-body mid-size cars. GM's X-body would become the basis for GM's A-body mid-size cars that would be introduced as 1982 models. The new front-wheel drive Skylark was introduced in the spring of 1979 as an early 1980 model featuring front wheel drive, MacPherson strut front suspension and transversally mounted engine. The new optional 60 degree 2.8 L V6 was designed specifically for the X-cars. This platform became the basis for nearly all GM front wheel drive vehicles up to today.

The Skylark was available in two- or four-door sedan bodystyles, and in base, Sport, or Limited trims. The standard 2.5 L Iron Duke 4 used a 2-barrel Rochester carburetor and produced 90 hp (67 kW) at 4000 rpm. The optional 2.8 L V6 also used a 2-barrel Rochester carburetor and produced 115 hp (86 kW) at 4800 rpm. A four-speed manual overdrive transaxle was standard with a three-speed automatic transaxle as an option.

For the 1982 model year, the base 2.5 L engine received fuel injection. The optional 2.8 L V6 was joined by a more powerful high-output version that produced 135 hp (101 kW) at 5400 rpm. Also for the 1982 model year, the Skylark received a mild face lift in the form of a new grille (the front parking lamps moved from outside the headlights to inside). In model year 1983, the base Skylark became the Skylark Custom. The Sport model was replaced by the T-Type, which was available only as a two-door coupe and came with the high-output version of the 2.8 L V6 engine as standard equipment.

In 1985, the last year of production, the X-body Skylark was available only as a four-door sedan in Custom or Limited trim, as the two-door coupe was replaced by Buick's new Somerset Regal coupe, built on GM's new N-body platform, shared with Pontiac's revived Grand Am and the new Oldsmobile Calais.


Beginning with the 1985 model year, the two-door coupe was replaced by the Somerset Regal coupe built on the Oldsmobile-developed N-body platform. This generation of compact Buicks featured a more upscale and aerodynamic design than its predecessor, incorporating the long-hood/short-deck look popular at the time. With the start of the 1986 model year, it lost the Regal suffix from its name and was known simply as Somerset. The Skylark name was moved to a four-door sedan version of the Somerset. This version of the Skylark has a split bench seat with a center console with a column shift.

The 1986 Skylark would continue to be available as either a Custom or a Limited model. The standard engine would continue to be the 2.5 L Iron Duke 4, now available with a five-speed manual transaxle as standard and a three-speed automatic as an option. A new optional engine would be the fuel-injected Buick-designed 3.0 L V6, generating 125 hp (93 kW) at 4900 rpm (it replaced the previous 2.8 L Chevrolet-designed V6s). The 3.0 L V6 was available only with a three-speed automatic transaxle.

Beginning with the 1987 model year, the four-door Skylark was available as a sporty T-Type model.

For 1988 models, the Somerset name would be dropped and Buick's two-door N-body compact would share the Skylark nameplate with its four-door counterparts. A new engine option for 1988 models was the fuel-injected, Oldsmobile-designed 2.3 L DOHC Quad-4 4-cylinder engine that produced 150 hp (110 kW) at 5200 rpm. An S/E package for Custom models replaced the previous T-Type trim.

On 1989 models, a fuel-injected 3.3 L V6 (160 hp at 5200 rpm) replaced the previous 3.0 L V6. A new LE package become available on four-door sedans that featured a vinyl roof that covered part of the rear side windows.

For 1990, a new base Skylark was added, moving the Custom model up to replace the Limited. The S/E package was replaced by a new Gran Sport two-door sedan, reviving a name that had not been connected with the Skylark for many years. The LE ("Luxury Edition") sedan would become a full-fledged model. 1991 was the last year the N-bodied Skylarks would be offered, and there were few changes from 1990. The only transaxle offered for 1991 was the three-speed automatic. Production is said to have ended on May 1, 1991.


Evolution of the Buick Skylark[]