General Motors made a bold move for the 1953 model year with the introduction of three cars whose sole purpose was to demonstrate GM’s superior design capabilities under the direction of the great Harley Earl. The Cadillac Eldorado, Oldsmobile 98 Fiesta and Buick Roadmaster Skylark were the three, special edition, limited production convertibles designed to show what GM’s design department could do when given free reign. In the middle of this special lineup was the Buick Skylark; a stylish and luxurious convertible based on the Roadmaster chassis, featuring Buick’s all-new Nailhead OHV V8 engine and 12V electrical system, both firsts for the Buick brand. The styling bore a family resemblance to the Roadmaster, but it featured a dramatically sweeping beltline that was clearly inspired by the radical XP-300 Le Sabre dream car. Another XP-300 inspiration came in the form of the swoopy chrome swage that curved downward on the body side. Only the hood, trunk lid and a portion of the convertible top well were shared among other production cars; the rest of the body was comprised of unique stampings that were hand-leaded and carefully fitted by GM craftsmen. All three of these special models were largely hand built, and as a result, were eye-wateringly expensive in their day. A standard Roadmaster convertible was certainly not an entry-level car, stickering at a hearty $3,200. By comparison, the Skylark cost nearly 50% more, coming in at $5,000. As a result, sales were slow and many had to be deeply discounted to clear dealer inventory. In spite of the high price, the Buick was the best seller of the three specials models, albeit with just 1,690 examples finding buyers. Such rarity makes them among the most highly prized 1950s American convertibles among today’s collectors, and their impeccable style makes them a design icon. Harley Earl and his team undoubtedly accomplished their mission.
This gorgeous 1953 Buick Skylark was the subject of a comprehensive, nut and bolt restoration approximately ten years ago and has seen only light use since, remaining in wonderful condition throughout. It is finished in a very beautiful shade of Reef Blue over a two-tone red and white interior, which, in combination with the extensive brightwork, imparts a certain nautical feeling. It is easy to imagine pulling up to a marina in Martha’s Vineyard or Kennebunk, Maine. This was once a high-point show car that has seen only light use over the years, still presenting beautifully. Paint, bodywork and panel fit are exemplary and the massive swathes of chrome and mirror-polished stainless remain in excellent condition. It rides on a correct set of Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels wrapped in wide-whitewall tires. The blue bodywork is complemented by a white convertible top, which is hydraulically operated for maximum style points.
The Skylark’s fabulous interior is straight from the textbook of mid-century design elegance. The two-tone dash, which carries over into the door panels, is adorned with lots of gorgeous chrome detailing on the radio, speaker and instruments– all in exquisite condition to match the exterior. The red and white leather seats have been beautifully restored, and show only the very slightest signs of use. The seat is power adjustable, and the windows raise and lower swiftly and smoothly thanks to hydraulic lifts. Of course, such an expensive car would not be complete without power steering and power brakes, all of which add up to make driving this gorgeous Skylark a sublime experience.
While most Buicks retained the L-head, inline-eight cylinder engine in the 1950s, the Skylark highlighted a special new overhead-valve V8 called Nailhead. The Nailhead was vastly more refined and powerful than the straight-eight as well as much more compact. Thanks to a healthy 188 horsepower, the Skylark returned brisk performance for such a large car. On our featured example, the clean and tidy V8 is beautifully finished in correct green paint and detailed down to the smallest fastener. Correct labels adorn the valve covers and accessories such as the power steering pump and glass washer bottle. A period correct battery keeps everything looking proper under the hood.
This fabulous Buick Skylark was once part of the extensive collection of the late Jim Miller, and is reported to be one of the last cars restored under his guidance. It is a gorgeously presented, very correct and totally usable example of one of the most stylish and desirable American cars of the period.