6 Years to Complete,
No Expense Restoration,
Fact. Matador Red,
Designed by Harley Earl,
No Expense Restoration,
1 of 1690 Produced,
Work of Art,
322ci./188hp Nailhead V-8,
Built for the New York Auto Show,
Power Disc Brakes,
Power Convertible Top,
Kelsey Hayes Wire Wheels,
White Wall Tires,
Original Antenna Rebuilt,
Radio and Clock Reconditioned,
Everything Re-chomed or Polished,
Black Convertible Top,
None Nicer Anywhere,
Must See To Believe,
Finest Convertible built of the 50's era,
*COMPLETE START TO FINISH PICTORIAL OF THE FRAME OFF RESTORATION INCLUDED*
RESTORATION PICTURES -
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We proudly present one of the best looking most revered vehicles ever produced: The 1953 Buick Skylark. This car was built for the New York Auto show. It is a car which needs no introduction to the faithful; its name strikes a chord with classic car collectors worldwide. Finished in a beautiful Mandarin Red Poly over the Skylark-specific red and white leather interior this proud Buick stands today as an excellently restored example of a bygone time when dreams became sheet-metal, regardless of cost.
In the 1950s, Americans were more prosperous than they had ever been. So were America’s automakers, who — in a burst of enthusiasm — fielded a fleet of glitzy flagship models for 1953. Buick reached high with the 1953-1954 Buick Skylark. Looking back, it all seems so flaky. Buick built the Skylark because its general manager, Ivan Wiles, saw and liked a customizing job chief stylist Ned Nickles had done on his own 1951 roadster convertible. How different the Detroit of two generations ago! Today a general manager would never okay so radical a product, priced 40 percent higher than the top-of-the-line model, unless it had been through waves of review boards, PR men, lawyers, and government compliance experts. Imagine hanging on to a model that sells only 1,690 copies in its first year because the styling vice president likes it. Yet, that’s the only reason Buick built a second-edition Skylark in 1954. It sold only 836 copies!
Check out the fantastic stainless and chrome trim on the exterior. The grille in all of its individual pieces, the side spears, the frame around the cut-down windshield and more are excellent and shine like new. Newer B F Goodrich Silvertown 7.60×15 wide whitewalls surround the original Kelsey-Hayes wheels – any other style simply wouldn’t flatter the car. Built on a Roadmaster chassis, the Skylark went into production in January 1953, and deliveries began by spring at a cool $5,000 retail. Buick touted the Skylark’s “sports car” features: "Styling is very similar to Buick’s present line, except the new bombsight on the front has been recessed into the hood and the trunk lid has a faster slope to the rear. The ‘taper-through’ fenders, first introduced by Buick a decade ago, are fully cut out to reveal the Italian-made wire racing wheels. “The new rapier-styled sweepspear molding consists of a fine strip of chrome originating on the front fender and curving gently downward to the rear wheel. From this point it sweeps sharply upward, outlining the wheel housing and flowing back to the taillight. A medallion carrying the Buick crest, located on the rear fender in front of the wheel housing, is the only other decoration on the side of the car.” The top and its mechanism are both in excellent condition, as is the glass. The dramatic low look of the car is somewhat of a clever mirage, because the “chop” amounts to only three inches, with the beltline following the slope of the fender line. The front seat was lowered so that the seatback sat level with the tops of the doors. The body on this car is all original, which is both unusual and necessary – most of the sheet-metal is exclusive to the Skylark!
Interiors of the first production cars such as this one were done in Helsinki Red leather with narrow vertical pleats, and the upholstery here is like new. The red carpeting, also exceptionally clean, is likewise special: A needlepoint style, vulcanized to a sponge rubber base. The dash retains its specific “3D checkerboard” pattern around all of the original, clean chrome switchgear. Skylarks included power everything: steering, the Delco “Selectronic” radio, brakes, seat, windows and top. There’s even an electric antenna controlled by a toggle switch to the left of the steering wheel. The banjo-style steering wheel is excellent with a clean center medallion. You do sit lower here than other cars of the era – you simply feel special in here!
Open the hood and see the new-for-1953 322 cubic inch V8 that would serve Buick as the basis for all of their big power-plants until the widespread use of Chevrolet engines in all GM cars. Rebuilt and purring, the nail-head V8 here runs as well as it looks. Proper finishes are used throughout and what you see here is how the car looked in ‘53. There’s the 12 volt electrical system, four barrel carburetor and many other items not commonly seen for another few years. Buick backed the new V8 with an updated version of its smooth Dynaflow transmission, upgraded for more power handling and better take-off. The unit here is rebuilt and runs fantastically. Drop underneath and you’ll find the results of the thorough restoration in the clean floors and frame and the proper use of undercoating and paint. The brakes, shocks and suspension pieces function as they should. The exhaust is well muffled but still announces itself when the engine room is pressed for more power.
As a compact and then as an intermediate, the Skylark lived on. As late as 1972, Buick still issued press releases describing its current “popular intermediate car” as “the namesake of a special, limited production sport convertible built as part of the division’s Golden Anniversary celebration.” Although there would be additional Skylarks making a name for themselves in later iterations the original stands apart in its reckless excess, gorgeous lines and its exclusivity. The Skylark is one of the finest postwar cars built, and this car is a superb example of its blue chip heritage.
This great example was ordered new by Bill Campbell, of Campbell’s Soup and therefore was appropriately finished in red with red and white leather (just like the soup cans) and showing just 39k miles on the odometer.
This newly restored Frame-Off Restoration, completed by Tom Shalda and Mike Brewer, both extremely talented professionals. Over the past 6 years, it was disassembled and rebuilt correctly. The original AM Selectronic Radio and Clock were cleaned, refurbished and rebuilt by Buick Expert Alan Kriss. The original antenna was rebuilt by Klaus Wojak. All of the side trim, top frame supports, emblems, bumpers, moldings, frames, and grille are either re-chromed or polished. The engine (Bramer Machine, Traverse City , MI) and transmission (Total Transmission, Traverse City, MI) were professionally rebuilt. We installed a stainless exhaust system with a Waldron muffler. We used YnZ reproduction wire harnesses($1550) throughout. We installed 5 new reproduction BF Goodrich Vintage reproduction wide white wall tires (2 7/8). We installed a new windshield, and all the glass is new. On this restored Skylark, we used the correct original color Matador Red paint in modern base clear coat for durability and it is beautiful and shiny. The interior is also new (Mike Brewer) Louisville, KY in the correct original pattern and leather materials. This Skylark show beautifully and runs excellent. A true investment 50's convertible, the absolute icon of GM's production.
INFORMATION ABOUT THE 1953 BUICK SKYLARK
Feature Article from Hemmings Classic Car
April, 2008 - George Mattar
Of the many outstanding American cars from the 1950s, one of the most recognizable, by both name and appearance, is the 1953 Buick Skylark. The Skylark was brand-new in 1953; its name was chosen to celebrate Buick's 50th anniversary. This stunning automobile was based on Buick's experimental sports car, the XP-300, which created a huge amount of excitement in 1952. With so many customers wanting to place orders for an XP-300, Buick banked on that interest and built the Skylark.
The 1953 Skylark was one of the most expensive cars in Buick's lineup and today is a bona fide collector's item, with excellent examples bringing more than $100,000. After the 1954 Skylark, of which only 836 were built, some will argue that the 1953 Skylark is the next most collectible Buick. Some say it's the 1970 GSX or the last Grand National GNXs, but those experts we talked to say the 1953 Skylark is the one to collect. So, if you're a diehard Buick aficionado and are willing to spend the money, this is the car for you.
Built only as a convertible and based on the Roadmaster drivetrain, these were the cars of the stars; Milton Berle, Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason were some of the better-known celebrities that drove them. The Skylark's exclusive nature was such that Buick engraved the original owner's name in silver on the tripartite medallion in the horn button.
With only 1,690 built, searching for one will certainly take some time. As one would expect for such limited-production cars, they're not cheap, and restoration costs can easily exceed six figures. In 2006, a '53 Skylark was sold for $383,400, yet the world-record price for one is $495,000; that car was sold during RM Auction's sale of the McMullen Collection. However, these were both concours-restored cars of the highest quality, so take heart--one in #3 condition (if you can find it) should be in the mid-five-figure bracket, depending on how much work it needs and how many of its original parts are missing.
The sole engine for the Skylark was an all-new "Fireball" 322-cu.in. V-8 with 188 horsepower. With a bore and stroke of 4.0 x 3.2 inches, these were well-built engines that featured specially designed dome-shaped cylinder heads. Those cylinder heads were engineered to concentrate the fuel charge at the precise point where its explosive force would most effectively push the piston down its bore. Each piston was custom-fitted to its cylinder, which ensured longer life and quieter operation. Internally, the crankshaft featured cam-ground balancing of the counterweights.
The T-Type intake manifold was another unique feature; it distributed fuel to each cylinder more evenly than the conventional Y-Type arrangement. There were two different brands of carburetors used: a Stromberg 4AUV-267, or a Carter WCFB-996S. Both are four-barrels. New for 1953, too, was the use of the new 12-volt electrical system.
The only transmission used in the Skylark was a Twin Turbine Dynaflow, which was an updated version of the original, introduced in 1948. The Twin Turbine debuted in 1953 and used a four-element torque converter featuring two turbines interconnected through a planetary gear set. This setup gave a more positive connection between the engine and the driveshaft.
According to the 1953-'54 Skylark Club, maintenance costs for these cars are lower because the oil cushioning of the transmission minimizes strain on the engine, driveshaft and differential. Rebuild kits are readily available, and there are many transmission specialists still around who are able to repair them if needed; however, these are very durable and reliable gearboxes that rarely need any major repairs.
With coil springs at all four corners and hydraulic lever-arm-type shock absorbers, the suspension rarely gives any problems. The front suspension is a robust independent design that incorporates an anti-roll bar to reduce body lean. The rear axle is incredibly stout, with many units lasting for several hundred thousand miles without giving any troubles. Complete rebuilt kits, including all tie rods, king pins, bushings and bearings, are readily available and quite affordable, and the hydraulic lever shocks can be rebuilt if needed.
The worm-and-nut steering box rarely requires any repair; power assist was standard. As was the case with many cars of this era, the turning circle is huge at 42 feet, so don't expect it to steer anywhere near as precisely as a modern car.
Just like its GM siblings, the Skylark used a full-perimeter frame, the same frame that the Roadmaster used. It has deep-silled girders and an X-brace across the middle, which gives the big Buick staunch resistance to twist. The section aft of the rear axle does rust on both sides, so inspect this area closely. With a wheelbase of 121.5 inches, it provides a pleasant ride quality.
The chrome wheels measured 15 x 6.5 inches, had 40 spokes and used a five-bolt lug pattern. Several shops can rebuild them if required, and if you need tires, the size to look for is an 8.00 x 15 four-ply tube type. Used wheels are easily found at swap meets or via the classifieds in the Buick Club of America's magazine; our search turned up a decent set with a $1,400 price tag.
The original low-restriction exhaust system incorporated a resonance-chamber muffler for a quiet sound. Reproductions are now available from a variety of sources. The entire system is suspended by rubber-fabric hangers to eliminate vibrations.
Power drum brakes were standard, and were painted with a high-temperature heat-resistant paint in either red or white, to match the color that was used on the inner fender wells. Measuring 12 inches in diameter, each has a total lining area of 219 square inches; that size provides good braking performance and a reassuring feel.
Reproduction drums and new brake linings, as well as new wheel cylinders and all associated hardware, are available from many different sources.
The cockpit of a 1953 Skylark is quite inviting. In addition to sumptuous leather seats, carpets and door panels, power windows were standard. The leather seats were soft-tanned cowhide, and were available in four colors. An interesting feature was that when the front seatback was tilted to gain access to the rear compartment, the front bench seat moved forward automatically.
The entire lower section of the dashboard is a veneer called Dynoc; replacement veneer is available for $160. If the original Selectronic radio is still in the car, it should have a power aerial, which is activated by the driver's foot.
Replacement carpet sets, headliners and upholstery kits can be found in all the original colors. The dual heating system works well, but the blower motor under the driver's seat is the troublesome one of the two; access to it is easy once the seat is unbolted.
The convertible top, seat and power windows are all hydraulically operated and are usually trouble-free once the old relays have been replaced, presuming that the mechanisms are properly maintained. The rearview mirror bracket is specific to the Skylark, which makes finding a replacement, if needed, a difficult proposition.
Even with the convertible top in the up position, the Skylark stood less than five feet tall. The fairly custom body, with its low-positioned roofline and cut-down doors, is made of thick sheetmetal, which makes repairs a bit easier. The lower sections of the front fenders, quarter panels and even the doors can rot out, necessitating expensive repairs.
"The convertible-specific frames had an additional quarter-inch piece of steel welded to the top of the X-frame," according to Glenn Tyler, who restored our feature car. "And look closely at the rocker panels in front of the rear wheels; this section seems to hold water and always ends up rusting through."
The body panels were most, if not all, hand-modified Roadmaster panels, Glenn told us. "The windshield was chopped three inches, the front fenders had the wheel wells opened up, and the VentiPorts were shaved. All Skylark convertible tubs were finished with various amounts of lead filler, so it's not unusual to find great amounts of lead just behind the doors, near the bottom of the window line.
"The doors were sectioned in Flint and then re-welded to create the low, sweeping bodyline. This also meant that all the side glass was special to the Skylark." Glenn added that finding glass is not a problem, but the window operators and frames were special.
The side molding, called a "sweepspear," is made from heavy, flat stainless steel and can be a little expensive to repair if it's dented. The Skylark badges also are specific to this car, so make sure they're intact on the car you want to buy--finding replacements will cost you plenty.
"Some 1953 Skylarks have continental kits; however, they were never a factory option," said Vin De Peppo, the treasurer of the 1953-'54 Skylark Club. Vin has one on his '53 Skylark, but it was a dealer-installed option. "Many companies produced after market continental kits, so finding one if you desire shouldn't be a difficult task.
As one might imagine, restoration parts for a car of which just 1,690 were built are quite hard to come by. Engine and other mechanical parts are readily available, but Skylark-specific parts are nearly impossible to find. One hard-to-find item, the special Skylark badges, are being reproduced, Glenn said.
We cannot replace this car, it's truely irreplaceable on all levels.