John_S_in_Penna

Are 1980-1985 Buick Skylarks really so scarce?

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In the "August" 2019 issue of Hemmings Classic Car

that just arrived, columnist Milton Stern has an article

on 1980-1985 Buick Skylarks.  They are underrated,

he says.  Significantly, he checked many sources and

COULD NOT FIND A SINGLE EXAMPLE CURRENTLY FOR SALE.

 

Are these really so scarce?  Production numbers for cars

don't tell the story, usually, because many cars become

forgotten and cease to exist in their formerly large numbers.

I remember seeing one at an AACA national meet in Virginia

a few years ago--I think it was white.

 

But have they really become so scarce?  Do any Buick fans

own them?  They were nice looking little cars with luxurious

velour interiors.  What do forum-goers remember of their quality?

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I can’t speak directly to your question, but last night in Blair, NE, a young lady was intrigued by the Skyhawk and mentioned that her first car was a 1984 Somerset that she purchase from her cousin.  She wished she still had it as it was the best car she owned.  I’d packed the 2017 BCA roster for the meet, so if I can find it, I could see how many are registered in the club.

 

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Those were the "throw away" or "disposable" cars of the decade.

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I had one....1981 Skylark 2dr v6. Total piece of crap that should have never been released. 

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I had an 82 Phoenix LJ coupe and an 84 Skylark Limited sedan, both gave me 100k trouble free miles. Both were loaded examples and were very comfortable in all driving uses. The Skylark Limited was even rather plush. 

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16 hours ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

In the "August" 2019 issue of Hemmings Classic Car that just arrived, columnist Milton Stern has an article on 1980-1985 Buick Skylarks. They are underrated, he says. Significantly, he checked many sources and COULD NOT FIND A SINGLE EXAMPLE CURRENTLY FOR SALE.

 

Are these really so scarce? Production numbers for cars don't tell the story, usually, because many cars become forgotten and cease to exist in their formerly large numbers. I remember seeing one at an AACA national meet in Virginia a few years ago--I think it was white.

 

But have they really become so scarce? Do any Buick fans own them? They were nice looking little cars with luxurious velour interiors. What do forum-goers remember of their quality?

 

These fit my definition of vanished in my Eighties Cars blog—cars I haven't seen even one of in years:

 

https://eightiescars.com/category/vanished/

 

When I did a blog entry on the 1983 Skylark T TYPE coupe last year I couldn't find any Skylarks of that generation for sale either:

 

https://eightiescars.com/2018/08/19/1983-buick-skylark-t-type-coupe/

Edited by J3Studio (see edit history)

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I think disposable is the operative word.  It was about that time that the general attitude regarding cars (and all consumer goods) was really starting to change from maintenance and repair to replacement. 

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The magazine article states, "A switch from a floor-mounted

handbrake lever to a pedal-operated one would plague the

cars in their first year, causing the rear wheels to lock up,

and the cars to lose control.  The GM X-body compacts

could never shake off this blight on their reputation, but

by 1982, they were pretty good cars."

 

Surely that problem led to a recall, to eliminate that problem.

Does anyone remember that problem, or others specifically?

Rather than just saying the cars weren't good, be specific!

 

I wouldn't mind having one of these Skylarks, but since

I can't own everything and they aren't on the top of my list,

I probably never will.  But I'd like to see one at a show.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)

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Well, I tend to like to see everything at shows and do lament the cars that are gone, in the modern sense.  I graduated H.S. in 1982 and remember these cars and on Sundays would go look at them.  I liked the Somersets.  Good small car styling but most sold were 4 doors and I wanted a 2 door.  

 

This to me is a fascinating subject.  Look at some of the 70's cars that are gone - the Pinto, the Vega, sure we decry them, but do we want them gone?  On the Buick side. the 80's Skyhawks, the late 80's T Types in LeSabres, and Electras, I just don't see them anymore, rarely.  I saw a nice low mileage Somerset on Denver C.L. about a year ago and posted it on the Buy-Sell.  With a small V6, it had bucket seats, console with floor shifter.  Add factory aluminum rims and these could be nice.  

 

My 1st Buick was a 1982 Century 2 door which I liked, but it had the Iron Duke.  

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1 hour ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

The magazine article states, "A switch from a floor-mounted handbrake lever to a pedal-operated one would plague the cars in their first year, causing the rear wheels to lock up, and the cars to lose control.  The GM X-body compacts could never shake off this blight on their reputation, but by 1982, they were pretty good cars."

 

Surely that problem led to a recall, to eliminate that problem. Does anyone remember that problem, or others specifically?

 

I wouldn't mind having one of these Skylarks, but since I can't own everything and they aren't on the top of my list, I probably never will.  But I'd like to see one at a show.

 

Along with the other X-cars, early 1980 model year Skylarks had 9 recalls—unheard of at a time when cars were not recalled as quickly as they are today:

https://howtune.com/recalls/buick/skylark/1980/

Edited by J3Studio (see edit history)

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Being that this new platform (fwd) was very important, GM wanted to get things right.  We had new Citations about 6 weeks before their show date, with "no sale" orders, as I recall.  The Citation had six recalls before it was released, but many were for things like a different jack hook and other minor things.  In general, the Citations and others could be had in somewhat luxurious (for the time) interior trim levels.  Nothing spectacular in the powertrain department, with the GM/Chevy 2.5L 4-cyl and new 2.8L 60-degree Chevy V-6.  They were decent cars, as I recall, with each carline division that got the platform doing their best to distill their divisional essence into the new smaller vehicles.  I do believe they were successful in their efforts.

 

The Citation X-11 was the sole performance offering, as I recall.  A new Holley staged 2bbl carb help increase the power output, plus the normal chassis upgrades (wider allow wheels, stiffer shocks, and f/r sway bars), along with the requisite blacked-out trim did the trick.  For whatever good it did for overall sales.

 

By the time the Citation became the Celebrity, "second gen" for the fwd platform, things got better.  Trim was evolutionarily better.  Fit/finish were improved, as was paint sheen.  Still solid products, by observation.  Brought us the variable-displacement a/c compressors and other improved components.  Just "normal cars" for many.

 

As far as GM cars, they were as good as anything else GM had back then.  The sophistication of the powertrain did not match the Hondas and such, by observation, but had a bit more horsepower/torque in the spec sheets.  Similar or larger interior sizes, which would give them lots of "checks" in the "Advantage GM" comparisons, but these things did not reflect the additional sophistication/refinement of the foreign machines, which they had been known for.  The GM 4-cyl cars were supposed to be better, with 4 more horsepower than a foreign competitor, for example, but the GM 4-cyl engine did not match the smoothness and such of the Honda 4-cyl.  The Hondas usually won the magazine road test performance segments, BUT no magazine mentioned how the Honda engine had WEAK power below 3000rpm.  Their NVH levels were less than the GM cars' characteristics, so the smooth shifting Honda automatic (syrupy) and quieter engine masked this situation, from what I could tell after I finally drove a Honda Accord in the '90s.  The Hondas had quicker acceleration due to their lower low gear ration, too, whereas the GM automatic transaxle had a more normal ratio spread.

 

The fwd X-cars did fit the need for GM in those somewhat recessive early-80s years.  A smaller alternative for most of the GM brands, that did reasonably well.  There was no cult following of them (as the Hondas tended to have), so they were "just cars" that were used, had probably 4 trade cycles before they went into recycling operations.  For the time, they were "Typically GM".

 

IF GM's powertrain programs had been more "upscale" rather than otherwise, with OHC engines rather than pushrods, things might have been different?  But the pushrod engines worked fine, just a bit rough in nature, "more pedestrian" rather than otherwise, possibly?  The "polish" wasn't there to the same extent as it was with Honda, by observation.  

 

As with the prior rwd X-car platform, the Buick versions were the forgotten ones, by observation.  VERY nicely trimmed.  But being lower-volume Buicks, they didn't sell as many as the flashier Pontiac versions.  After the new wore off, they were forgotten by the buying public.  Generally more reliable and durable than many gave them credit for being, but the generally generic nature of their common powertrains might have hurt them a bit.  As soon as the national economy improved, the buyers went back to the larger cars.

 

In the middle '80s, GM had two unique platforms, with only about 1.5" differences in their wheelbases!  Completely different engines, completely different automatic transmissions, with not a lot of real differences to justify the added expenses, it seemed.  Buick later got their 90-degree V-6 in them (with the longer front end overhang to compensate for the additional width of that engine, which could have a 4bbl carb).  

 

AND then came the J-car platform, which is now even more "rare" these days!

 

Just some recollections,

NTX5467

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I suspect some of the Buick SUV's and the Terraza minivan will be joining the early 80's Skylark for obscurity.  There appears to zero interest in their preservation, and by the time they hit 40, there will be none left.

 

Craig

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If you had a Citation formerly used to deliver citations it might make a good conversation starter..... but you'd probably have to explain it.

image.png.15611c38f76c1a2b95781d28207ccada.png

 

I had citations before 1980 and the name didn't give me the warm, cozy feeling. All it did was start with a "C".

 

Car names. I just remembered the first time I saw a Ford Bronco II. I did a double take. I thought it said Broccoli.

 

Bernie

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16 minutes ago, 60FlatTop said:

Car names. I just remembered the first time I saw a Ford Bronco II. I did a double take. I thought it said Broccoli.

 

Bernie

 

Kinda like those Pontiac's of the mid-80's, the 6000's?  First time I saw one the LE model's name badge read GOOOLE to me...

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My Mom had a '81 4door Skylark, I only remember one recall for power steering hose fire. I ordered it with sport mirrors, sport steering wheel, sport wheels and imitation bucket seats, it met it's demise in Hamilton, Ontario when a dodge van rear ended it and totaled it, with only 16K miles!

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12 hours ago, Brad Conley said:

Kinda like those Pontiac's of the mid-80's, the 6000's?  First time I saw one the LE model's name badge read GOOOLE to me...

 

Or the Pontiac Grand Am.  If you read the name

quickly, you might think it was a Pontiac GRANDMA!

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19 minutes ago, cjp69 said:

 

Not just one, but two! That 1985 seems to have held up well.

 

Interesting—over the six weeks and eight revisions to my blog post in fall 2018, I saw none.

Edited by J3Studio (see edit history)

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15 hours ago, J3Studio said:

 

Not just one, but two! That 1985 seems to have held up well.

 

Interesting—over the six weeks and eight revisions to my blog post in fall 2018, I saw none.

Two really isn't that many, considering it was a National search, I actually thought there would have been a lot more results.  Perhaps they really are that scarce! 

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Here is the information from that Craig's List ad.

It's certainly interesting in its burnt-orange coloration.

Wouldn't it be nice to find a home for this survivor

in the BCA, rather than have it worn out as someone's

daily driver?

 

"1985 BUICK SKYLARK CUSTOM 4DR, 4 CYLINDER, ONE OWNER VEHICLE, AM/FM RADIO,

TILT, AIR CONDITIONING, REAR WINDOW DEFOGGER, ONLY 44,000 ORIGINAL MILES.
CALL FOR DETAILS 712-546-5983 
712-540-4400
712-540-2683"

 

1

00D0D_8E2WWwqe3iy_600x450.jpg

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I know I haven’t seen many for sale. I know of three Skyhawks for sale within 100 miles of NYC. 2 84s and an 82. All very low miles and under 3k each. There’s two skylarks of similar vintage also same ballpark price and miles. I’ve only seen one  t type lesabre and that was in a junkyard. See some for sale here and there. But really not to often. 

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I wish I had one of the '84 Skylarks that I had as company cars.  I had several of them, I think I drove 1% of the production of Skylark T Types for that year.  At that time I was able to order my cars. 

 

The order was simple.  Checked every box except the automatic transmission.  If memory is correct, they had a 4 speed transmission and the high output V-6, sun roof and everything that you could get on the car. 

 

Great road car and fun to drive. Less expensive than the Grand Nationals, but equally fun to drive.

Edited by Larry Schramm (see edit history)
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I have been to a lot of BCA National events and I do not recall seeing any Skylarks from this era.

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