Buick Special Skylark – 1961

You could base a social history on the Buick Special Skylark. It was conceived as a conventionally cynical exercise in the idiom of contemporary supermarket salesmanship. The Buick Special had performed reasonably well for the company, which wasn’t quite ready to launch a whole new series of models.

The Special Skylark was going to pep up the existing range, and prepare America for the next one. Using the same chassis as the Chevrolet Corvair, Pontiac Tempest and Oldsmobile F-85, Buick based the new car’s styling on the 1960 Buick Special two-door coupe.

The Buick Special Skylark was launched in mid-1961 with a vinyl roof, lower body side mouldings, new rear light cluster, and the crucial, unique Skylark badging. Inside it was luxurious and well-made: a four-star rather than five-star car, with all-leather bucket seats as optional.

Buick’s real target was the wannabe ‘Wild Ones’, the younger generation’ just beginning to make the connection between rock ‘n’ roll and the highway ethic of ‘the endless grey ribbon’.

All the other manufacturers were chasing them but it was the Special Skylark that hit the spot. Improvements to the V8 engine gave it substantially more muscle than other comparable cars – a higher compression ratio and a four-barrel carburettor boosted it from 155hp at 4600 rpm to 185 hp. With its other features, the Special Skylark was something new – a sporty compact with a big-car feel. It was a pioneer.

By 1962, the transition from Special was deemed successful, and the identical car became simply the Skylark. This was available as a two-door convertible coupe as well as a hardtop. In 1963, the frame was made bigger, the engine became even more muscular – and the pioneer was absorbed into the next cycle of automotive marketing.




1961 (until 1963)


3.5 litre (215 cid) V8


Top speed of 107 mph (172 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 10.2 secs


The Skylark name regularly appeared on Buick cars, always denoting a step up in power or comfort from whatever series preceded it. The name Is attached to numerous special editions and to whole series of cars. it still is – but every Skylark model has fulfilled its initial promise, at least to begin with.


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