It was 1954. Marilyn Monroe marries Joe DiMaggio, Elvis releases his first single, “That’s All Right,” “From Here to Eternity” dominates the Academy Awards, the words “under God” are added to the Pledge of Allegiance, the Supreme Court rules that segregated schools are unconstitutional, Willie Mays makes “The Catch” in game one of the World Series, and the Buick Motor Company produces its second and final year of the imaginative Skylark.
Arlington classic car collector Mike Ames’ wife, Joy, identified the car that Buick offered only as a convertible as her favorite from the era – especially in Ocean Mist Green – so he presented this one to her on their 49th wedding anniversary in 2014.
“I saw the car while visiting Sam Pack’s collection in Dallas,” Mike says. “It was just a few days before our anniversary. I made the deal with Sam, hid it in my garage until time for our anniversary dinner and had it on the driveway as a surprise gift that we drove to our celebration that evening.
“With controversial styling and pricing that rivaled Cadillac, Buick dealers sold only 836 Skylarks in 1954, and the model was discontinued at the end of the year. Joy always thought it was exceptional.”
Buick had introduced the first Skylark as its 1953 model celebrating the company’s 50th anniversary – a noteworthy point in automotive history considering that Buick was General Motors’ first brand.
It proved to be the most successful among all of GM’s top-of-the line vehicles that year, selling 1,690 units at a list price higher than the Cadillac.
Inspired by the famous GM Motorama experimental cars that toured the country in the ‘50s, Chief of GM Design, Harley Earl, insisted on completely redesigning the ’54 Skylark.
“Production was hard to justify” but, as Mike explains, “Harley had extraordinary power because his styling successes helped GM control 60% of the total U.S. car market.”
Built on a different platform and with no interchangeable body or chassis parts, it was completely changed from the ’53 Skylark.
“Styling features exclusive to the ’54 version included large, swept back wheel openings, chrome plated true wire wheels, and a dramatically sculptured rear deck flanked by rounded rear fenders with large, chrome taillight housings.”
And something all Buick enthusiasts would immediately notice: The trademark front fender portholes weren’t there – another feature that makes the Skylark a one-of-a-kind among the brand’s long history.
Notably, the hood ornament was unique, and adopted the following year across the entire Buick lineup.
Buick would go on to build a total of 444,609 cars in 1954, but only those 836 mentioned earlier were Skylarks – 1.88% of the company’s total production and, again, selling for more than a new Cadillac convertible.
The interior presented an upholstery “waffle iron” pattern – highly visible when the top is down, which was most of the time. After all, buyers who wanted a convertible did so because they enjoyed cruising around in the open air.
Under the hood is a big 322 CID Fireball V8 200 horsepower engine supported by a 122-inch wheelbase spanning the car’s total length of 207 inches and weighing 4,260 pounds.
The rare ’54 Skylarks are highly collectible, and bring prices today well into six figures. However, Joy has made it clear, “this one is not for sale.”
Mike concludes: “With 58,715 original miles, fully restored and driving perfectly, it is a beautiful, dramatic design that always attracts a crowd. Regardless of all of that, you don’t sell anniversary gifts, so this member of my classic car collection is permanent.”