Q: Greg, a friend of mine gave me one of your articles that you publish in The News-Item, so I thought I would share my story with you.
I have always loved old cars from the time I was a young girl. I was born in the late 1950s, so growing up I had the pleasure of being around all the beautiful, now classic cars. I said one day I would have one of these cars and now I am proud to say I recently do own one.
It is a 1971 Buick Skylark Custom convertible and I have sent you a few pictures. My Buick has been fully restored and it is a beautiful, sweet ride. There are a few little things that need to be taken care of, but nothing major.
It has a Buick 350-inch V8 small block, all matching numbers, original white interior and wheels, and just a great cruiser. Everywhere I go I get so many compliments, waves, horn honking, thumbs up, and that is such a good feeling knowing that there are so many car lovers like me that appreciate what was and how they are still part of our lives, 60 plus years later.
It’s not too common to see a female owning a classic car of her own, unless I am mistaken, but I haven’t seen any. So if you are out there, “high-five” to you!
Your article that I read was about the 70 Challenger, and I see you do a great deal of research on cars. I would be very appreciative and would love to read anything that you can write about the 1971 Buick Skylark and its history.
On that note, Greg, I hope to see more great articles and I will keep cruisin’ and smiling from ear to ear. Thank you. Jane Wolfe, Milton, Pa.
A: Jane, I am happy to oblige and give you some information on your beautiful 1971 Buick Skylark Convertible. Before I get to the information, I must agree with you as according to the pictures you sent, your ’71 Skylark is indeed a beautifully restored, show quality classic automobile. Further, being you live in Milton, you won’t have to go far to pick up a copy or two of the feature story as my column appears every Saturday in The Milton-based Standard-Journal, located at 21 Arch St., Milton, Pa. 17847.
With that, let’s get started on some specifics on the Buick Skylark and its interesting legacy.
Your 1971 Skylark is part of the second generation (1968 to 1972) of the Skylark model that debuted in 1964. The first generation (1963 to 1967) arrived thanks to the popularity and impressive sales of previous Skylarks that were add on options dating back to the first ever Skylark, specifically the 50th Anniversary 1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible. The ’53 featured Buick’s new overhead valve 322-inch Fireball V8 that replaced the Straight-8, and its retail price was a very expensive $5,100. In today’s dollars that equates to $55,053, yet even at the high price a total of 1,680 Skylarks were sold.
However, the re-styled 1954 Skylark model was not as successful, and Buick dropped the model from its lineup. Still, this 50th Anniversary 1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark special edition is today one of the most cherished Buicks of collectors everywhere.
The Skylark name sat dormant for several years but then in 1961, General Motors introduced three new compact sized cars including the Buick Special Skylark, Pontiac Tempest and Oldsmobile F-85. In my opinion, this was the year that the Special Skylark not only became a bestseller, but it also paved the way for its standalone model production.
Although not a completely standalone model until 1964, the Skylark popularity grew each year it was used, and lasted six production runs and 46 years of popularity. In 1962, the Special line included two somewhat standalone Skylarks, which featured different body styles from the Special, yet many Buick purists still don’t recognize these 1961 to 1963 Skylarks as the trim’s first standalone model.
In 1964, the Buick Skylark was indeed a standalone production model run, along with new dimensions and styling and joined by siblings Chevelle, Tempest and F-85. All were considered a first-generation vehicle and were running on GM’s new intermediate A-Body platform instead of the B-Body compact assembly line. This pretty much sums up when we arrive at the great years of the Skylark, the second generation 1968 to 1972 Skylarks mentioned above. (I don’t cover the third to sixth generation Skylarks which concluded in 1999, mostly as front drive, compact size Buicks.)
When it comes to overall good looks, your 1971 Skylark Convertible is clearly one of the best-looking Skylarks ever produced. The 1971s used two engines, Chevrolet’s Inline-6 cylinder that delivered 155 horses or Skylark’s 350-V8, which had delivered up to 285 horsepower in previous years. By 1971, horsepower was calculated in net ratings due to the government emissions standards, which saw lower compression ratios and unleaded fuel pushing horsepower down on your 350-V8 to 230 horses. However, the big positive where your Skylark is concerned is that the 350-V8 is still 100% Buick as there was much sharing going on between the GM manufacturers during the government mandate and low compression era.
As for more good news, production numbers find the 1971 Skylark Convertible resulting in just 3,993 ever built. Considering the total Skylark production came in at 162,380 units in 1971, you are sitting on the rarest of the Skylarks as just 2.4% of Skylark owners ordered a ragtop.
Skylark dimensions in ’71 include a 112-inch wheelbase for the two-door models while the four-door versions rode on a 116-inch wheelbase. The curb weight comes in at 3,814 lbs., quite a bit heavier than the “regular” Skylark two-doors, which weighed in the 3,181 lb. category. This ragtop increase in curb weight is normal considering the extra work it took to build a convertible. I also feel the heavier the car, the safer you are on the highway.
Here’s more good news. Your 1971 Skylark Convertible is valued well according to one of the reputable online classic car values concerns, namely JD Power. As of Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023, your car is listed at an average retail of $23,760 to a high retail of $40,700. Personally, I’d lean to the high number because of its rarity and excellent restored condition.
I hope this information helps, and I’ll end with my personal Buick tidbits and some trivia. Many people aren’t aware that the Buick brand was GM’s first ever offering back in 1908. It arrived in 1899 thanks to David Dunbar Buick, and was then purchased by William C. Durant who established GM in 1908. Before he founded GM, Durant was Buick’s general manager and major investor. Today, it is the Buick brand that is the oldest active American carmaker.
In my lifetime car ownership driveway, I parked a beautiful 1951 Buick Special two-door with the Straight-8 engine hooked to a Dynaflow automatic. I paid $275 for it in 1971 and spent $500 to have it painted red with a white top. It only had about 40,000 miles on the odometer, a nice interior, and I sold it to a traveling Ford executive around 1977 for $1,500. (Big mistake, but I needed money to buy a racecar.)
My other Buick was a used 1983 Electra Park Avenue, white with a vinyl white top and burgundy interior. It was underpowered thanks to a 307-V8, but in the looks category it was beautiful with wide-whitewalls and wire wheel hubcaps. It served my growing family well for about five years.
Thanks again for your letter and kind remarks, Jane, and good luck with your Buick.
(Greg Zyla is a syndicated auto columnist who welcomes questions and comments on collector cars, auto nostalgia and motorsports at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail mail to Greg Zyla, Roosevelt St., Sayre, Pa. 18840.)