Car Restoration Projects
This car is owned by Jim and Yvonne Casey, and has won Best Classic Car Awards. It is a 1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark and is headed for its 70th birthday.
The Skylark was manufactured by the Buick division of General Motors and was introduced in 1953 to mark Buick’s 50th anniversary.
The Skylark name was previously used by short-lived Huppmobile for its sporty 1939 Skylark, based on the Cord 810. Its Buick namesake was one of three specialty convertibles produced in 1953 by General Motors: the other two being the Oldsmobile 98 Fiesta and the Cadillac 62 Eldorado.
All three limited-production vehicles, aimed at promoting General Motors’ design leadership. Of the three, the Skylark had the most successful production run of 1690 units. That was considered an amazing sales feat, since the car had a list price in 1953 of just over US$5000. According to the Skylark Register in the US only 205 were still on the road in 2015.
The 1953 Skylark was a hand-made car in many respects. The stampings for the bonnet, boot lid and a portion of the convertible tub were the same as the 1953 Roadmaster convertible, but the stampings for the front and rear mudguards, outer doors skins and a portion of the convertible tub were unique to the Skylark.
The inner doors of the Skylark were made from the inner doors of the two-door Roadmaster, by cutting the stamping in two approximately parallel with the ground and then welding the two pieces back together in a jig at an angle that produced the necessary door dip.
The wheels were true wire wheels, produced by Kelsey-Hayes, with everything chromed except the plated and painted ‘Skylark’ centre emblem. They were high style in 1953.
The Caseys purchased the Skylark in 2010 in Auburn, Indiana, while on visit to Jim’s native country. They were the fourth owners and were given the original Bill of Sale that showed a new purchase by A P Aiken on 12 June 1953, from a Buick dealer in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr and Mrs Aken’s names are both engraved in the steering wheel of Casey’s car and this service was carried out at Buick’s Lansing, Michigan assembly plant. On receipt of order and deposit the dealer would send the relevant information to the factory.
While serving in the US Navy in 1953, Jim Casey saw his first Skylark parked by a dockside and ventured a look at it. He was smitten and lusted after one ever since that first encounter.
This model Buick has every conservable option as standard equipment. The new purchaser had a shortlist of body and convertible hood colour choices. The buyer also had a choice of two under-guard colours – white or red – and this immaculate black example has the red under-guard option.
After its arrival in Australia, suspension specialist Racing Car Technology in Batemans Bay fitted four brand new coil springs and updated it to telescopic shock absorbers.
The Skylark’s almost 2000kg mass is propelled by an OHV 322cid V8 of big-bore, short-stroke design that offers tremendous torque, spread over a wide rpm range.
It musters 188bhp with the help of vertical valves (nicknamed ‘nailhead’) and a pent-roof combustion chamber (like Chrysler’s Firedome profile). Because of this engine’s relatively small valves and tight intake and exhaust ports, Buick used a very interesting camshaft as its stock offering, with higher lift and longer duration.
A four-barrel Stromberg carburettor quenches its thirst. GM’s Twin Turbine Dynaflow automatic transmission – the torque converter incorporates two turbines and a planetary gear set, with a single stator – transfers its raw power to the rear wheels.
Recognised as one of Buick’s all-time greatest cars, the 1953 Buick Skylark Convertible was the centrepiece of Buick’s 50th Anniversary. The Skylark came with standard equipment beyond anything previously offered by the marque.
Based on the premium-series Buick Roadmaster chassis, the Skylark had a look all of its own and was the only Buick offered that year that didn’t feature the ‘trademark’ and stylish VentiPorts.
The Kelsey-Hayes 40-spoke chrome wheels are acknowledged by collectors as among the most beautiful wheels to ever enhance an American production car.
Powered by Buick’s first modern V8 engine, labelled the ‘Fireball’, which developed 188hp from its 322cid, this car’s performance matches its spectacular lines. In fact, period ads and brochures labelled the Skylark as a ‘stunning new luxury sports car’.
The Twin-Turbine Dynaflow automatic transmission was highly publicised and was standard fitment.
The Roadmaster – the previous top-of-the-line Buick – had an excellent reputation and all equipment and accessories that were optional on the respected Roadmaster were standard on the Skylark.
Buick offered a ‘Million Dollar Ride’ that was impeccably smooth, with ease of handling that was matched by quick throttle response.
The Skylark was lavished with then-modern automotive advancements, including hydraulic control of the side windows, convertible top and front seat. Also standard was a retractable antenna for the Buick AM radio. Naturally, power steering and brakes were part of the luxury-laden package.
The interior provides a great deal of comfort and style, with a damascene-trimmed dashboard fascia that carries onto the door panels.
The exterior offered contrasting wheel-well colours that were co-ordinated to enhance the main body hue. A sweeping V-shaped side trim element also added distinction to the obviously cleanly executed profile.
The soft-top has a very low profile and joins a tasteful, curved windshield, so the car looks stylish with the top up or down. With a base price of $4596, the Skylark was not an inexpensive choice of the period. Sales in 1953 totalled just 1640 units, making the 1953 Buick Skylark a rare and collectible car.
Beautifully and fully restored, this superb 1953 Buick Skylark was an opportunity to snare a first-class classic. The restoration included new paint, chrome, convertible top, and leather interior. The Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels are even more beautiful in the flesh, complemented by wide whitewall tyres.
By owning a 1953 Buick Skylark, your greatest expectations of truly luxurious US 1950s motoring are realised.