Something Rotten in Denmark: 1964-1967 Buick Skylark

This is one for someone with patience, some spanners, some paint and a lot of money for petrol.

1964 Buick Skylark
1964 Buick Skylark

“Tatty” describes this remnant of Detroit’s golden years, a Buick Skylark which descended from the base-model Special as a line of its own in 1964. That´s a recurring theme in GM’s model evolution, how separate lines would emerge from trim variants and sometimes fade back again. It makes these cars somewhat hard to pin down if you are not into the cladistics of the USican automotive zoo. That bifurcation of product lines is something that doesn’t happen so much now. Maybe the Ford Vignale might be a recent example of the type (though Top Gear’s 2016 Car Buyers [sic] Guide does not even deign to

give it even a postage stamp-sized entry of its own. I’d really like it if the Vignale series got some of its own body-work as it would be a way for Ford to grow their price-range without making a ridiculously large saloon which no-one really wants anyway.

Returning to the topic: the Skylark shows common styling features with Opel’s cars of the same period. The 1964 resembles in some ways the 1963 Riviera and that connects it to the 1964 Opel Kapitan/Admiral/Senator lines. It could very easily have been sold as an Opel, I would say. And at the time Opels appeared in Buick show-rooms in the US. That makes the similarity in styles somewhat illogical, doesn’t it? Did you know there is an Opel Club in the US?

1964 Opel Admiral: source
1964 Opel Admiral: source

The car here is for sale at ZK Biler in Silkeborg, one of two used-car dealers in the area who seem to end up with oddballs and eccentrics. Entropy has been nibbling at the Skylark’s interior. It has a thoroughgoing air of total decay. I suppose that while the car’s metal and glass elements can be repaired, finding an interior for this car is something of of a challenge. In all likelihood a good interior would be sourced from a car in better overall condition than the car in question here, rendering the process of restroration somewhat pointless.

In other words, if you found a good interior for the Skylark it’d be coming from a car in less need of work than this one. An even better bet would be simply to find a running, nice car in the US and import it. Unless you have a yen for long-projects, this car is probably to be avoided. For half the price of the disintegrating Skylark there’s a shiny, lovely Peugeot 607; for a quarter of the price they have a battered Citroen CX 2.2 TRS with the inevitable rusty rear door, and for the same money as the Skylark you can have its distant relative, an Opel Omega 2.2 in very good nick. One of these days I’ll have to turn up and take one of these cars for a test drive.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

18 thoughts on “Something Rotten in Denmark: 1964-1967 Buick Skylark”

  1. Sold as an Opel? Not likely, the beast is gigantic.

    From my side of the Atlantic, Opels of that era seem like shrunken Chevrolets.

    1. This is a topic I am going to look like. From my side Opels look Americanesque. Maybe the Buick is a little too big to be an Opel. The reference car for me was the KAD which is pretty big. Wikipedia tells me the Skylark was 20 cm longer than the Admiral of the same time. Is that alot or something you´d need to measure to detect?

    2. Richard, I’ve always understood that from early post-WW II through the late ’70s designs flowed eastwards from Detroit to Opel and Vauxhall, not westwards from Opel to Detroit as happens now.

      Unfortunately, I see most GM cars as Chevrolets. When I was very young and GM’s divisions had a little autonomy, they made cars with similar but different engines of the same displacement, similar but different automatic transmissions and slightly differentiated versions of the same shells. And then GM discovered the economies to be had by standardizing everything …

  2. This is the car I mentioned elsewhere that illustrates reasonably the French expression ‘dans son jus’. That is a step down from ‘oily rag’, which I can appreciate. Although someone might pay £2.7M at auction for a rusty wire wheel and a cracked engine block, that is because it is all that is left of a Bugatti that won the 1927 Eaux-Des-Bains Grand Prix.

    It might be a pleasant conceit to persuade yourself that this is just surface rust that you could polish up in an afternoon but this is more likely one of those cars that get passed sluggishly from owner to owner for decreasing amounts of money, each promising themselves that they will restore it, before finally coming to their senses.

    1. It’s a Myles Gorfe car, isn’t it? It represents hundreds of hours of futile work and sitting at a PC scanning eBay. It is fixable but not interesting enough to make it worth the pain and expense.

    1. I’m not sure what “steam punk” means, I just don’t think it makes sense to spend a lot of money on paint when their are other things that need attention. Well designed cars look good regardless the state of their paint (even wrapped in matt black vinyl for that matter). However, a well chosen colour and a proper paint job can enhance their features. I think I’m firstly looking for different qualities in cars, I can’t stand an engine that doesn’t sound “right” for example, or an overly oily engine bay.

      I love that baby blue Admiral by the way, never occurred to me that Opels could be cool cars.

    2. I’d say it was more ‘rat look’. Mostly involves burning the paint off panels to let them corroded – poor – and stupid – man’s Cor-ten. There’s also probably some misguided lowering of suspension, bastardisation of camber, and inappropriate wheel / tyre combinations. There always is with these deviant movements.

      Morgan seem to be developing a steampunk tendency in their latest designs – brass instrument bezels and heatsinks, reproduction Lucas magneto controls as transmission selectors. I thought it better to keep my opinions on this matter to myself during my chat with young Mr. Wells last month.

    3. If the rust was only superficial, I’d agree. But rust seldom is. I didn’t look at the ad in detail. Does the car actually run?

      Do we identify Spyker for the first appearance of a steampunk interior?

    1. The Series 2 CX colour palette is somewhat boring, compared to what was available in the 70s, but this red was certainly one of the nicer options. I wouldn’t mind it, together with a beige interior.

  3. Opels had some cool cars in the chrome and velour era. The Admiral, Senator and Monzas brought some mid-Atlantic style to Pfalz. The Omega didn’t manage that while some say the last Senator did (hint: it had chrome). To push the boat out, the Insignia has some cool about it while the Mondeo has none. I’d call the Insignia cooler than a 3 and equal to an A4. The XE isn’t cool at all.

    1. If you find a CX with its headliner in place, you can be pretty sure it has been fixed at some point. My CX survived its last year or two with quite some staples overhead.

  4. Fred: yes, Opel borrowed designers from Detroit which is why the Opels looked so American. Vauxhall didn’t do it so much.
    The divisions had a lot of autonomy which suited customers though led to similar products competing. It got harder to separate the divisions when someone cottoned on to the high-spec concept known as “Brougham” at CC. Then the divisions also lost dedicated engines. As GM USA became more undifferentiated, I see the US and EU branches merging as Opel provides more engineering and in turn as Opel builds in more requirements for US models. Ford has merged the Mondeo and Fusion lines. A harbinger.

    1. Wayne Cherry, at Vauxhall from 1965-83, is decidedly American. The sojourn at Luton didn’t seem to do his career any harm.

      Post-WWII Vauxhalls were very American in their styling influnces – no surprise there as everyone, even the Italians, was copying the USA. By the mid-’60s the most egregious excesses of US influence had declines (“wayned”?), but Vauxhall, along with Opel and Holden, still worked to the global corporate template.

      The one major area where Opel went their own way – at least from the early-mid ’60s, was interiors, which were very “rational”, minimal, and ergonomically efficient, and could have come from a Volkswagen, BMW, or NSU. By comparison, there was always a bit of a ‘jukebox’ tendency at Vauxhall until the Viva HC and Victor FE.

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