The early 1950s heralded a dynamic new era for America, captured particularly well by General Motors and its celebrated Motorama traveling roadshows. While Buick did preview several radical dream cars during the early 1950s, they were unsuited to volume production, which encouraged executives to start developing sportier upscale models. The Skylark prototype of 1952 and its limited-production release for 1953 was a perfect way for Buick to celebrate GM’s landmark Golden Anniversary. A low-slung, highly luxurious four-seat convertible based on the Roadmaster, with layout directed by legendary GM design chief Harley Earl, the Skylark was highly advanced, and it predicted the “personal luxury” market that soon emerged. The Skylark’s design progressed directly from a 3/8th scale clay styling model, to blueprints, and then actual production. Bodies were highly customized and largely hand-built with extensive lead-filled seams, and even though the Skylark was officially a production model, no two are truly identical. There is much more to the story, with the model ushering many industry firsts, including Buick’s first overhead-valve V8 engine - a 322 cubic-inch unit developing 188 bhp with development led by famed Buick engineer, Charlie Chayne. Skylarks came only one way – fully loaded, with all standard and optional Roadmaster features. Just 1,690 of these landmarks were produced, forming 1/3 of the coveted “Triple Crown” of special 1953 GM Anniversary Convertibles, along with Cadillac’s Eldorado and Oldsmobile’s Fiesta.
Finished in beautiful Majestic White with Helsinki Red and white interior and a white top, the extremely nice, show-quality paint finish was buffed to a mirror finish, complemented by excellent chrome and stainless trim and upholstery. Powered by its correct 322ci V8 engine and Dynaflow automatic transmission, this Skylark is equipped with the full complement of features, plus a Continental spare-tire kit. The seller advises the car is offered in excellent driving condition while benefiting from exceptional care and coming out of a high-end private collection.
Along with its Olds and Cadillac running mates, the original Skylark is the template for the modern high-end, luxury-class American automobile, with a powerful new OHV V8 engine, full passenger amenities, special styling cues, and limited production. They are collector-car royalty and come up for sale fairly often at high-end collector car auctions. Full stop. Values seemed to have hit a peak around 2007 and we still wonder whether those sale prices in the $200k-$250k neighborhood were due to irrational exuberance, a peak in the real-estate market, or questionable business techniques. These days, a beautiful car like this Skylark is in the $100k-$120k range, with those who restored them deeply underwater. However, smart and selective buyers and collectors now have a great opportunity to buy a high-quality example to show and enjoy as desired. Hagerty’s collector car price guides do still value these fine cars fairly generously, with $171k for a #1 concours car and a big drop to $117k for an excellent #2 specimen, although one was still bid to $190k as recent as January of 2020 at Mecum Kissimmee, while our subject was purchased at Barrett-Jackson Northeast 2018 for $99k. Still, this one looks great in excellent colors and seems to continue to benefit well from a high-quality, albeit early-2000s, restoration. At the asking price, it feels fair market, leaning ever so slightly towards the well-bought side of the ledger, and it’s one of the first made and one of relatively few top-notch cars extant. By any standard, it will always have an audience and a ready market.