This unique Skylark is a one-of-a-kind concept car documented by General Motors. It was created by Buick to test public interest in a Skylark hardtop.
This unique piece of automotive history was so stunning that the wife of the general manager of Buick, Mrs. Ivan Wilkes, purchased this car after it’s Motorama tours for her personal use, which was quite a departure for concept cars as most were retained by General Motors or crushed.
This special one-off car came with every option available at the time plus some that were not. Options that make this car special include trunk mounted factory air conditioning, foot controlled signal seeking radio, Autotronic eye headlight dimmer, Skylark chrome wire wheels with knock-off hubs, special interior and exterior badging, and much more.
It was shown for the first time after a full restoration was finished in January 2010 at Amelia Island, where it earned the prestigious Amelia Award in the “Cars You Never Knew Existed” class.
I have always felt the ’53 Buick Skylark convertible was one of the best auto designs ever, but now that I have seen this hardtop version, I don’t know which one I would pick if I was lucky enough to be able to own one of them.
I turned 16 on a Sunday in 1959, so the first thing thing I did after school on Monday was get my drivers license.
I didn’t have a car of my own for a while, so would borrow my dad’s 1955 Ford station wagon when it was available. What a thrill it was when I got my own car. It wasn’t new by a long shot, but it was mine.
I think I paid about $100.00 for this nine-year old car. I got it a couple of months after getting my driver’s license. It was nice looking and big. I polished it often and it looked great. I remember it had a switch on the floor that would change radio stations when you pushed it. Pretty neat, huh? I don’t think I strayed out of the San Fernando Valley with this car, but to me it was a great car.
I paid about $250 for this used car and bought it from a guy who owned the gas station I worked at on the weekends. It was the cheapest model they offered in 1953. I put a floor shift kit in it, painted it fire engine red and had black naugahyde tuck-and-roll upholstery installed in Tijuana. It wasn’t fast, but was reliable. I drove this car all over the L.A. area, to Disneyland in Anaheim a couple of times and of course to the beach regularly.
This was the first car I owned that was truly fast. I bought it from a classmate in college for $600.00. It was what we called a “sleeper” back then, because it looked stock. However, it had a powerful police interceptor engine with three two-barrel carburetors and a racing transmission. For it’s day, it was very fast. I really loved that car and drove it all over Los Angeles county, Orange county and lots of trips to beaches along the coast.
The video below shows the streets of L.A. and surrounding areas back then. It is definitely a trip down memory lane as I drove most of them in my youth.
I saved it from deteriorating like the one for sale and restored it to look better than the one on the road. See below for some of the steps that took it from an oxidized mess to a real beauty.
Before it was sold for the first time, it probably arrived at the dealership on a truck like this.
Here is a TV ad for the 1955 Oldsmobile Holiday lineup from back then.
I bought this Oldsmobile 88 Holiday Coupe in early 1994. The car was complete, with 135,387 miles on the odometer and a big dent in the right-rear quarter panel. I can still remember the first words out of my wife’s mouth when I pulled up in front of our house with it on a car trailer, “You paid $1,000 for that!”
I didn’t do a full body-off restoration, but the engine compartment and underbelly of the car were sandblasted and painted black. The body was sanded down to bare metal with a special coating applied before priming and then it was painted to match the original factory colors. In addition to the professionally done body work and paint job, all of the chrome and stainless steel was redone, along with new glass all around, except for the rear window.
I originally planned to rebuild the stock 324 cubic-inch engine and Hydromatic transmission but found a ’68 Olds big-block 455 with over-sized valves and Turbo 400 combination that had been built for a hot rod but was never installed in the intended car. The engine was balanced and blueprinted and had a racing cam as well as dual AFB carburetors installed on a nice Offenhauser intake manifold. (I later replaced the ignition with an electron setup for a stronger spark and reliability.)
So why the big-block? When I was in college I had a ’55 Olds with a ’58 Olds engine mated to a B&M hydro. This car was definitely a sleeper and provide many happy times. (That’s me, back then, with a side view of my original Olds below. If you look in the wind-wing you can see a reflection of my girlfriend, who later became my wife, taking my picture with her Brownie camera.)
Consequently, the 455 Olds big-block was something I just couldn’t pass up.
The upholstery follows the original patterns, using two shades of gray Naugahyde and pleated gray material, which looks better than when new. I must say that my latest little sleeper would definitely embarrass my original one at the drag strip.
After driving it for a while I realized it was pretty hard to stop, so I fitted the front with disc brakes. Now it stops fast and straight.
It took a little over five years to complete the car and I am proud to say it gets lots of attention. People are used to seeing a lot of ’55-57 Chevy’s here in California, but not many ’55 Oldsmobiles.
In case you are wondering, my wife loves this car now.
7-12-22 Update – Sadly, I recently sold it to a car collector that will give it the love and attention it needs to provide many more happy miles to its owner. It only had a little over 7,000 miles on since the restoration so it should continue to provide lots of fun times. The new owner sent me a photo showing what it looks like now.
Click Here to see all the cars I have owned over the years.