1968-69 Skylark Custom: Wouldn’t You Really Rather Have A Buick?

Remember the Skylark? It kind of got lost over the last thirty-odd years of collector- and muscle-car mania, with Chevelle SSs and Pontiac GTOs hogging all the glory. Heck, even Oldsmobile has gotten more press with the 442, and the Vista Cruiser is even today relatively fresh in people’s minds, thanks to That ’70s Show. But what about Buick? I’m glad you asked…

Naturally, Buick was the flashiest and finest of the midsizers, with its premium reputation. And while the GS and later wild GSX are better known, the rest of the Buick bunch seem to be notably absent at shows and cruise nights these days.

1968 Skylark Custom two-door hardtop

Part of it may have been due to somewhat less cohesive styling, though I like the lines myself. The trademark Buick sweepspear was polarizing to some, as was the semi-enclosed rear wheels–almost like a partial fender skirt. The formal touches combined with the overall sporty styling may have been kind of at odds with one another, compared to, say, a Cutlass S or LeMans.

But I love them, and indeed, they might be my favorite version. Well, except maybe for a Vista Cruiser.

While the GS400 led the performance charge over at Buick, the Skylark Custom was the luxury version–far removed from the plain-jane, no frills Special. Customs came in your choice of two- or four-door hardtop, four-door sedan, or convertible.

And if you wanted a top of the line, midsized family truckster, look no further than the Sportwagon, Buick’s version of the storied Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.

I spotted the ’68 convertible at the 2013 Maple City Cruise Night in Monmouth, IL–a must-see show for me. Basically, the whole town shuts down and the streets are filled with anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 classic cars.

You never know what you will find. This bottle-green convertible was especially lovely with its Road Wheels and clean interior.

I really like that ’60s Moderne steering wheel–it has been previously mentioned that this wheel would not look out of place on, say, a 1993 Century, and I agree. Love the Sonomatic radio, too!

Whoever ordered this Custom convertible didn’t skimp on the extras, as it sports bucket seats, floor-shifter automatic, and center console–not to mention the Road Wheels and whitewall tires. No power windows, though.

The ’68 convertible was pretty rare, with only 8,188 of the $3098 drop-tops finding buyers. This one also has the optional fender skirts and chrome trim on the sweepspear, which gave it an even more deluxe factory lowrider look. And I also dig the side marker light disguised as a Tri-Shield ornament.

Skylark Custom. Doesn’t that name sound good? I can understand Buick naming their current middle offering as the Regal, but I think Skylark is a better name. “Regal” conjures up velour-tufted, opera-windowed, button-tufted Broughamism to me–GN and T-Type G-bodies from the ’80s notwithstanding.

The coupe was the most popular Custom, with 35,639 assembled. Two-doors like this one started at $3009, with the expected power options pushing that figure up several hundred bucks.. But despite its extra chrome and nice seats and door panels, it still came standard with a three-speed manual.

I’m quite sure that few went out the door that way. This one, spotted at the movie theater in Davenport several years ago, was probably originally equipped with a column-shift automatic, but these days it was sporting what appeared to be an aftermarket floor-shift automatic, somewhat at odds with the plush vinyl bench seat with fold-down armrest.

It’s a local car too, being sold new by Harrelson Motors in Moline, IL. I had never heard of that dealer before, but I imagine it later became Perry Snower Buick, and which is today Key Buick.

The 1968-69 Special/Skylark are fairly rare these days (the ’70-’72s are much more frequently seen, at shows anyway), so this one was a treat.  Despite the wear and tear (and rust) from decades of use, the smooth lines still look good. However, I’d make the case that it would look even better with the chromed Buick road wheels, and some ’60s appropriate redline tires!

7 Replies to “1968-69 Skylark Custom: Wouldn’t You Really Rather Have A Buick?”

  1. AvatarJohn C.

    I wonder to what extent the Buick small block V8 held back these Skylark’s luxury intentions. It had to be in a pretty aggressive tune to match the other GM division small blocks and that resulted in a loud exhaust and even a lumpy idle. You never see one today without the muscle car aftermarket affectations but remember at the time they were just trying to get an upper middle class man to work with a little extra comfort and style. He would have been avoiding the rumbling exhaust, premium gas engine options, or at least thought he had.

    Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      The 350 in these is very mildly tuned, only the California GS and the later 70’s and G350 had any kind of “performance” intentions with the Buick 350, the majority of these were the standard tune 2bbl and 4bbl Buick 350. Nothing really held these cars back, they sold well, and even better in the 1970-72 vintage, you really couldn’t pick a bad A-body between the GM divisions from 1968-1972 and they all offered an incredible assortment of trim levels and body styles from cheap pillared Chevelle 300’s to GTO’s to loaded GS400 convertibles, ElCaminos, Vista Cruisers, it was a great line up of cars.

      Reply
  2. AvatarTexn

    These were great looking cars, Buick (and GMs) peak in my opinion. These days, the same buyer type would probably go for an Audi or Lexus sedan.

    Reply
  3. AvatarCarmine

    That shot of the parchment interior with the black steering wheel in the coupe is ingrained in my brain as one of my earliest automotive memories, my mom had a dark green 1970 Skylark with that color interior and that black square hub steering wheel, the speedometer was different in the 70, having changed to the 3 cluster design, but everything else is very close, remember kneeling in that passenger seat as a little kid to see over the dash.

    It was bought brand new in Atlanta GA and we had it until the early 80’s, my mother sold it to and old black lady at her job who daily drove it until she retired in the early 90’s, it might still be around somewhere.

    My grandparents liked the “little green Skylark” so much, they went and bought a flame orange 1972 Skylark 350 with a white half top and white interior.

    Reply
  4. AvatarDean Edwards

    I’ve always had a soft spot for Skylarks up to 1972. I tried to convince the Old man to buy one (used, of course) for a number of years, and we ended up with a wretched Valiant, which became my first car. Everything rusted back then, but it seemed that the Buick was a little bit nicer and better built than the equivalent Mopar or Ford. GM bias, of course, on the car that got away!

    Reply
  5. Avatartoly arutunoff

    I had a ’69 skylark black vinyl/red stage 1 gran sport that was traded in on a Honda. power steering, unpowered drum brakes, 4spd. put bilsteins and a rear antiroll bar on it and cop-sil-loyed the brakes and it was a great tow car and sporty in the twisties

    Reply

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