In 1953 Buick introduced the Skylark - a vehicle built to celebrate the company's 50th anniversary and intended to be produced as a limited edition off of the Roadmaster line. Designed by the famous Harley Earl, the car had style and performance. The vehicle appeared to be lower than the standard convertibles, this was due to the body design. Ventiports, also known as port holes, were absent from the vehicle. Under the hood was a 322 cubic-inch 8 cylinder engine capable of producing nearly 190 horsepower. Only available as a convertible, this 4300 pound vehicle had a top speed of just over 100 miles-per-hour and a zero-to-sixty time of around 12 seconds. The interior was elegant, with leather seats and many standard features. During the introductory year, 1690 examples were created making it a highly collectable vehicle even by today's standards.
Even fewer examples were produced in 1954, with just 836 examples. The engine was still the 322 cubic-inch eight-cylinder Nailhead except it was now producing 200 horsepower. A chrome tailfin could now be found at the rear of the vehicle, a unique design that was new at the time. The DynaFlow automatic transmission, air conditioning, and Kelse-Hayes 40-spoke rims were just some of the standard equipment. Of the 836 examples produced in 1954, it is believed that less than 50 exist today.
The Skylark was not produced in 1955. This limited production vehicle would not be produced again until 1961. When it did return, Buick had used its name on their intermediate sport-coupe model. Under the hood was a 215 cubic-inch 8-cylinder with a four-barrel carburetor resulting in 185 horsepower. A year later the compression ratio was increased and as a result, so did the horsepower. The Skylark had also gone design changes for 1962, one of them being a Skylark badge now adorning the front fender.
By 1963, the 215 cubic-inch engine had finally been tuned enough to produce 200 horsepower. The Skylark emblems could now be found on the vehicles pillars. The performance increase continued in 1964 with the addition of a four-barrel carburetor attached to the 300 cubic-inch 8-cylinder engine. The result was 250 horsepower.
In 1965 Buick debuted the Gran Sport package which, in the years that followed, would become its own series. The 300 cubic-inch two-barrel option produced just over 200 horsepower while the four-barrel version produced 250 horsepower.
The muscle car era was beginning to heat up. The cars were becoming smaller and the interior were being gutted to take advantage of weight-saving techniques. The engine cubic-capacities continued to climb and the horsepower-to-weight ratio was astonishing. This was true for the Skylark which saw its engine-size and horsepower climb throughout the years.
By 1968 the engine had been enlarged to 350 cubic inch. Depending on the configuration, the horsepower inched towards the 300 mark. The torque was equally as impressive with 375 foot-pounds for the high-performance engine. 1969 was similar and saw little changes in both its mechanics and its aesthetics.
The muscle car era saw its peak in the 1969 and 1970 years. After that the automobile manufacturers were forced to decrease their engine sizes in order to comply with strict government regulations and safety concerns. Insurance premiums were on the rise and it became economically infeasible for many to continue to own these high-performance machines. All this lead to the general public craving alternatives such as luxury and fuel-efficient vehicles.
1970 was a great year for the Skylark which saw its horsepower come closer to 300 horsepower. With the four-barrel 350 cubic-inch eight-cylinder engine, horsepower was rated at 285. In two barrel form the 350 cubic-inch engine produced an impressive 260 horsepower. For 1971 the horsepower began to decline as Buick began complying with the new government regulations. This trend continued in the years to come. By 1973, the production of the Buick Skylark had ceased. It began again in 1976 sitting atop a 111 wheelbase and offered in seven bodystyles including sport coupe, coupe, sedan, and hatchback. Standard was a 231 cubic-inch six-cylinder engine with a 3.8 bore and a 3.4 stroke and produced 11 horsepower. A 260 cubic-inch eight-cylinder was optional but still produced 110 horsepower. The 350 cubic-inch eight-cylinder brought the horsepower up to 165.
Production of the Skylark continued until 1997.
By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006
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