The Buick Skylark was born out of celebration for Buick’s already storied history in 1953. At that point, the General Motors’ cornerstone company was celebrating their 50th anniversary and wanted to create something special as a result.
That’s exactly what they did. Initially introduced alongside other GM specialty convertibles like the Oldsmobile 98 Fiesta and Cadillac Series 62 Eldorado, the Buick Skylark wasn’t intended to stick around for too long. Despite the Skylark being the best-selling out of the bunch, the first generation only stuck around for two years. It made quite the splash with the public though, and Buick stashed the Skylark name away for the next decade.
By the time the Skylark returned to the Buick fleet in 1964, the automotive landscape had changed dramatically. Gone were the swooping feminine fender lines that brought Buick to the forefront of automotive design in the 1950s and in was pure American muscle. The first-generation Skylark received its own model line to cash in on the success of the muscle car era. While the Skylark might not generate the same buzz as some other muscle behemoths of the era, it marked a high-point for one of America’s most famous manufacturers.
1953/1954 Buick Skylark Anniversary Convertible
The first time that the Skylark name would appear on a Buick model was in 1953. 1953 marked Buick’s golden anniversary, 50 years after their founding. As a result, Buick, along with a number of other GM subsidiary manufacturers, created a special, handmade, convertible promoted as a “six-passenger luxury sportscar.”
The initial Skylark was intended to serve as more of a dealership lure than anything else with its timeless design and luxurious standard equipment. As a result, only The initial design of the Skylark Anniversary convertible was penned by Ned Nickles as a one-up to British designers at MG. The Skylark convertible was based on an existing Buick chassis, the Roadmaster, and shared many design and technical features with the lesser model. While the two Buicks were similar, the Skylark Aniversary convertible was nearly twice the price of the Roadmaster.
The Skylark Anniversary convertible is credited with bringing many new design and performance-related innovations to the rest of the Buick lineup later in the decade. Some of the most notable innovations gaping rear wheel arch openings, the removal of the famous Buick “Ventiport” openings, and the introduction of the 188 horsepower four barrel 322 cid Buick nailhead V8 instead of the straight-8 that was used for the previous two decades. The 1953 Skylark was also the first Buick, and one of the first in the industry, to feature a 12-volt electrical system.
The 1953/1954 Skylark’s importance to Buick truly can’t be overstated; it was truly a flagship model and that is reflected in the collectors market where the Skylark convertible is one of the most sought-after American models of all time.
1954 Buick Skylark Convertible Changes
The Buick Skylark convertible changed pretty comprehensibly for the 1954 model year, but it didn’t lose any of its magic. For 1954, Buick decided to switch the base chassis from the series 60 Roadmaster chassis to the shorter series 40 Century/Special chassis. That not only reduced the overall size of the Skylark, but also made it around 40 pounds lighter than the previous Roadmaster Skylark. The 1954 Skylark’s appearance underwent changes, with the rear deck lid and fenders sloping towards the bumper. The extensive chassis modifications gave the 1954 Skylark a very low-profile appearance with a total height of under 5-feet with the roof up.
To take advantage of the 1954 Skylark’s reduced weight, Buick retained the 322 Nailhead V8 but with modifications from the previous year. As a result, the 1954 model received 12 additional horsepower bringing it to 200 ponies. Like the previous model, the 1954 Skylark was largely hand-built, sharing only a few body panels with the Century. Despite the bespoke nature of the 1954 Skylark, Buick was able to lower the price to $4,843, a significant discount from the previous model. That didn’t help sales though, as only 837 1954 Skylarks were ever made.
1953 Buick Skylark
322 V8 188 bhp.
322/188: 0-60 in 12 seconds.
1954 Buick Skylark
The Skylark was again a limited production model for 1954, with only 836 made. The Skylark received a new distinctive rear end which featured unique chrome tailfins that contained the taillights, a styling feature never seen before. The rear styling was accentuated by a pair of ridges that ran parallel down the rear trunk lid. The backup lights were mounted on the outside and midway up the rear deck.
The chrome wire wheels, by Kelsey-Hayes, were again in place along with a distinctive emblem located just forward of the rear wheel cutout. The rear wheelwells were opened up considerably aft of the wheels. Reportedly, the open areas were sometimes painted red at the factory. The 322 cid V8 continued, although output was increased to 200 bhp. The Dynaflow transmission was standard with a 3.40:1 rear end. The Skylark name vanished after 1954, only to reappear in 1961.
1953/1954 Buick Skylark Engine Options
|“Fireball” 322 cid V8
|188 horsepower @ 4,000rpm
|300 lb-ft @ 2,400rpm
|“Fireball” 322 cid V8
|200 horsepower @ 4,000rpm
|309 lb-ft @ 2,400rpm
1961-1963 Buick Skylark
After shelving the Skylark name for 7 years, Buick brought it back in 1961. There is a caveat to that, however, as the Skylark didn’t come back as its own standalone model. The 1961 Skylark was technically the highest trim level of the Buick Special coupe, and therefore took on the name Buick Special Skylark. With that being said, the Special Skylark did have unique styling, including its own badges, taillight housings, and wheel turbine covers. It also reintroduced Ventiports to the Skylark line and featured a four-barrel 215 cid V8 producing 185 horsepower.
The Buick Skylark continued into 1962, but this time as its own standalone model. Styling was kept mainly the same from 1961 to 1962, but the Skylark was also offered in two-door coupe and two-door coupe convertible body styles. The 215 cid V8 was uprated to 190 horsepower and a new 198 cid Fireball V6 was added to the powertrain options. The V6 was a very popular option on the Skylark, even winning the model Motortrend’s Car of the Year award in 1962.
As with the year prior, the 1963 Buick Skylark received a comprehensive exterior styling overhaul. Compared to the previous year’s model, the Skylark was lengthened by 5 inches. The overall styling of the 1963 model was much boxier than the 1962 Skylark and featured emblems mounted on the pillars.
1961 Buick Skylark
Buick brought back the Skylark name in 1961, this time on their intermediate sport coupe. Performance was again good, with a standard 215 cid V8 with a four-barrel carb rated at 185. The 1961 Skylark features very similar exterior styling to other Buicks released at the same time, including the LeSabre, Invicta, and Electra. The interior of the 1961 Skylark was also pretty bare bones, featuring only a speedometer and fuel gauge.
1962 Buick Skylark
The Skylark was back with a distinctive design and a Skylark badge on the front fender. The 215 cid V8 saw a compression ratio increase to 11.0:1 and horsepower increased to 190 bhp. 1962 was also the first year that the Skylark stood as its own model. The Skylark also received a new Fireball V6 engine option which was a very popular option.
1963 Buick Skylark
1963 marked another change to the Skylark’s styling. The 1963 Skylark received full-length body panels and was identified by pillar-mounted emblems. The dash and instrument panels also received a notable upgrade. The same 215 cid V8 saw another horsepower increase to 200 bhp. Buyers had the option to purchase the 1963 Skylark as either a two-door convertible or a two-door hardtop coupe.
1961-1963 Buick Skylark Engine Options
|Buick 198 cid Fireball V6
|135 horsepower @ 4,500rpm
|205 lb-ft @ 2,400rpm
|Buick 215 cid V8
|185-200 horsepower @ 5,000rpm
|240 lb-ft @ 3,200rpm
First Generation (1964-1967) Buick Skylark
By 1964, the Skylark name had generated enough buzz to warrant its own product line. With that change came a switch in chassis from the compact Buick Y-Body platform to the midsize A-Body platform which it shared with the Pontiac Tempest, Chevrolet Chevelle, and Oldsmobile F-85.
In addition to the major chassis change, the first-generation Buick Skylark also received a few new engines to its powertrain lineup. The base 215 cid V8 found in previous years was scrapped in favor of a new 225 cid V6 that produced 155 horsepower. In terms of V8 options a 210 horsepower, two-barrel 300 cid V8, and a 250 horsepower 4-barrel variant were offered initially. 1966 2-Door Skylarks could also be equipped with the 260 horsepower “Wildcat 375” V8.
The Skylark’s added length also allowed for new body style options. For the first time, the Skylark was offered in a four-door sedan, accompanying the other two-door coupe, two-door convertible, and hardtop coupe.
As America’s peak muscle car era was underway, Buick needed to get in on the midsize muscle action. They introduced a Gran Sport variant of the Skylark in 1965 as a result. The GS Skylark 400 received a 325-horsepower Buick 401 V8 and a later Skylark GS 340 was added to the lineup in 1967, equipped with a Buick 340 cid V8.
1964 Buick Skylark
1964 was the first year of the first-generation Skylark. Buick moved the Skylark to the midsize A-Body platform, increasing the wheelbase by 3 inches. The Skylark saw another performance increase with the addition of a new 300 cid V8 with a four-barrel carb. The top-of-the-line “High Performance” V8 engine was rated at 250 bhp.
1965 Buick Skylark
1965 saw the introduction of the Gran Sport option, which eventually became its own model, the Buick GS. Meanwhile, the “base” Skylark continued with engines ranging up to the High Performance 300 cid V8.
1966 Buick Skylark
A four-door sedan was introduced to the Skylark model range in 1966. Buick also began offering the 340 ci Wildcat 375 V8 in two door Skylark models beginning in 1966. The High-Performance 340 cid V8 engine gained 40 cid of displacement, and 10 more horsepower.
1967 Buick Skylark
1967 marked a year of federal intervention for most muscle cars. Buick was forced to equip the 1967 Skylark with new standard safety equipment including a dual circuit brake system, energy-absorbing steering wheel and steering column, shoulder seat belt mounting points, and recessed instrument panel gauges. The 225 cid V6, Buick 300 V8, and Buick 340 V8 were offered in the 1967 Skylark.
1964-1967 Buick Skylark Engine Options
|Buick 225 cid V6
|155 horsepower @ 4,400rpm
|225 lb-ft @ 2,400rpm
|Buick 300 cid V8
|210-250 horsepower @ 4,800rpm
|352 lb-ft @ 3,000rpm
|Buick 340 V8 Wildcat 375
|260 horsepower @ 4,000rpm
|365 lb-ft @ 2,800rpm
|Buick 401 V8
|325 horsepower @ 4,400rpm
|445 lb-ft @ 3,200rpm
Second Generation (1968-1972) Buick Skylark
The second-gen transformation was perhaps the most significant change to the Skylark formula thus far, with split chassis for 2-door and 4-door body styles. The Skylark’s styling moved with the times as well, with a new fastback appearance that brought it more in line with the Riviera.
The generational change also brought with it a number of powertrain changes as well. The previous V6 base engine was dropped in favor of the 250 cid Chevrolet I6. A new 230 horsepower 350 cid V8 was also introduced to the line.
In 1970, the Skylark received yet another redesign, with 2-door models receiving a reshaped roofline to match with the Chevelle. The Skylark was also offered in a number of trims including the Skylark, Skylark Custom, and Skylark 350, with the primary difference between them being the standard engine under the hood. The base Skylark replaced the Buick Special as Buick’s entry-level model after the Special’s discontinuation.
As opposed to the previous generation which included the GS in the main Skylark line, the Gran Sport was split off into its own line. The Skylark GS became the Buick GS 400, featuring a 400 cid V8.
The Skylark received a new top-of-the-line 350 cid V8 for 1968. Known as the L77, this engine had a four-barrel carb, 10.25:1 compression ratio, and was rated at an impressive 280 bhp and a whopping 375 lb-ft of torque. It was also available (as the L30) with a two barrel carb and a 9:1 compression ratio and was rated at 230 bhp.
1969 Buick Skylark
Comments: The Skylark was mostly carryover for 1969.
1970 Buick Skylark
1970 saw the peak of Skylark performance, with the two-barrel 350 gaining 30 bhp to 260 bhp and the four-barrel gained 5 bhp to 285 bhp.
1971 Buick Skylark
Performance began to suffer as all GM engines had to be detuned to run on unleaded gas. The two-barrel 350 dropped to 230 bhp and the four-barrel also fell considerably. Interestingly, the top engine was now referred to just as the 350 cid four-barrel carb V8, instead of its previous “High Performance V8” name.
1972 Buick Skylark
Comments: Horsepower ratings fell again as all engines were rated in “net” horsepower with all accessories, instead of the previous net rating. The performance era was definitely over.
1968-1972 Buick Skylark Engine Options
|Chevrolet 250 I6
|145-155 horsepower @ 4,200rpm
|235 lb-ft @ 1,600rpm
|Buick 350 V8
|145-280 horsepower @ 4,600rpm
|375 lb-ft @ 3,200rpm
|Buick 400 V8
|340 horsepower @ 4,000rpm
|440 lb-ft @ 2,800rpm