The Skylark was designed to be glamorous - and succeeded. For me, this is one of the best looking cars of all time. It's like the Jane Russell of automobiles.
In the early fifties, the Skylark soon became famous as the car that Bob Hope drove. The millionaire film star and comedian had a cream Skylark custom built with his name embedded in silver in the centre of the steering wheel. At the time of writing, his original car is displayed in a car museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, USA.
This first Skylark model was probably the best-looking Buick of all time, and the first to use a V8 engine and 12-volt electrics. The designer was the legendary Harley Earl.
It was built to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary and so was well equipped with all-leather interior, power steering and 15-inch chromed wire wheels. Oddly, the radio featured a power aerial that had to be operated by the driver’s foot.
Parent company General Motors called their new two-door convertible “the answer to the European sports car.” But the Skylark was expensive and intended for top-of-the-range customers only. It was bought by TV comedian Milton Berle and actor Jackie Gleason.... but the price put off many ordinary buyers.
The Skylark had an unusually low-slung body and was the first Buick to have fully open wheel-wells - to show off those classic wire wheels and whitewall tyres.
The car drove well for the period thanks to coil springs in each corner and lever-arm shock absorbers that offered good handling and ride qualities. Transmission was automatic, drum brakes were power assisted but the steering would seem very sloppy to a modern driver - the turning circle was a huge 42 feet.
Production of the Skylark only lasted a year. Its misjudged price leading General Motors to cut their losses after only 1,690 were made. The low production output meant the Skylark has become one of the world’s most collectible classic cars - with pristine models fetching up to $500,000.
Engine: 5.3-litre V8
Design: front engine, rear-wheel drive, two-door convertible
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 12 secs
Top speed: 105mph/169kph
Features: radio with powered aerial, leather interior, wire wheels, whitewall tyres
Price when new: $4,596