1953 Buick Skylark - $119,900
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  • Overview & History
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This Skylark is right in every way that matters.

1953 was a big year for Buick in a variety of ways. It was the company’s 50th anniversary. The “Nailhead” V8 debuted. The cars switched to 12-volt electrical systems. And they built the Skylark, arguably the most beautiful car of the ‘50s. Standing alongside the Cadillac Eldorado and the Oldsmobile Fiesta on the Motorama show floor, the Skylark was brilliant, a dramatic re-imagining of what an American convertible should be. Unfortunately, it was also outrageously expensive to build, involving extensive hand labor to section, chop, cut, fill, and smooth a Roadmaster ragtop into a sleek, cut-down convertible. Buick called it a sports car, which is definitely a stretch, but there’s no denying that the dropping door line was directly inspired by European sports cars and gave the Skylark a sporting look. 1690 were built in 1953, and with a sticker price over $5000, it shouldn’t be a surprise. Today, they are among the most highly prized collectables of the ‘50s, standing tall among names like Biarritz, Seville, and Imperial.

This bright red Skylark was originally sold to a customer in Germany and spent the first 40 years of its life there. It was maintained and preserved, always treated as an object of value, and when it was repatriated to Florida in 1996, it was still a complete, attractive, functional car. Found in the garage of a luxury high-rise in Florida, it changed hands twice before ending up in the hands of the owner of a Buick dealership in the early 2000s. At that time, it was in good shape albeit well used, with a replacement black and white vinyl interior and a black vinyl convertible top. In 2005 it was treated to a cost-no-object frame-off restoration that stripped it down to a bare frame and restored it almost at a molecular level. Photos of the work show a completely solid body with no rust issues and no signs of accident damage, so it must have led a good life in Germany. All the unique Skylark components were retained and the hand-leaded seams were duplicated to give the body its low, sleek shape. Refinished in the original Matador Red, it looks spectacular today. The finish is deep enough to deserve a seat on the Motorama show stand once again and panel fit is quite good given the car’s largely hand-built nature. There are a few minor signs of use, since this car was a favorite driver and was restored for the road rather than the show field, but it remains just beautiful from any angle.

At the same time, all the chrome was restored, a process that is extraordinarily expensive even when starting with good base stock. The toothy Buick grille alone probably cost $5000 to restore and the unique “sweep spear” trim along the flanks remains the Skylark’s trademark design feature. Standard Buick ornamentation gives it a clear link to the other cars on the showroom floor: the bombsight hood ornament, the BUICK EIGHT trunk emblem (which also says ROADMASTER, which is why the Skylark is denoted Model 76X), and the unique tri-color emblems celebrating Buick’s 50th anniversary. The brightwork remains in exceptional condition with no issues or degradation and even the notoriously fragile pot metal parts look almost new with crisp details. This was some high-quality work.

That black vinyl interior was replaced by correct red and white leather upholstery that works well with the Skylark’s flashy image. Aside from the cut-down doors and their matching door panels, most of the interior is the same as the Roadmaster on which it’s based, although the patterned applique on the dashboard is unique to the Skylark. The steering wheel showcases Buick’s 50th anniversary and offers a space for the original owner’s name where it says “Customized for:” Oddly, this car has no name emblazoned on the horn button—a fact likely due to its European delivery. A full array of gauges monitor the engine and they’re all operational, as are all the secondary controls in the center stack. The factory AM radio is disabled, but there’s a modern AM/FM/satellite head unit in the glove box, which has been cleverly integrated with the original power antenna. The power windows work properly and the power seat motors forward and back as it should. Upholstery and door panels are in excellent shape, with the only demerit being the front seat carpets have shrunk slightly. Overhead, there’s a fresh white convertible top that powers itself up and down easily and stows under a matching red boot. In back, the Roadmaster’s spacious trunk remains and is correctly trimmed with burlap-type material and carries a matching chrome wire wheel wearing what appears to be a ‘50s era spare tire (check out the whitewall pattern!).

The other big news in 1953 was the arrival of the “Nailhead” V8, Buick’s first all-new engine since 1936. Displacing 322 cubic inches and rated at a rather modest 188 horsepower, it was a huge step forward in terms of performance and packaging over the previous straight-8. It’s impeccably smooth and makes effortless torque at any speed, pulling the sleek Skylark around with ease. Fully rebuilt to stock specs, it’s topped by a 4-barrel carburetor and that massive air cleaner, plus distinctive chrome valve covers and Buick Green paint. Power steering was standard, which is a good idea on something this big and heavy, and it carries Buick’s first 12-volt electrical system so it spins to life easily and offers bright headlights at night. It starts easily using Buick’s familiar accelerator pedal-mounted system and hums quietly, muscular but not at all aggressive. It’s never fussy, it stays nice and cool under any circumstances, and even though it’s been driven a bit, it’s clean and well-detailed under the hood.

The undercarriage is likewise nicely detailed, with a correct satin black frame on a bright Matador Red background. Most Buicks and all Skylarks in 1953 used Buick’s famous Dynaflow automatic transmission, which finally found its perfect dance partner in the Nailhead V8. Don’t listen to the naysayers who say it’s slow and sucks up too much power—they just don’t get it. The smooth, shiftless Dynaflow gives the Skylark the acceleration of an electric locomotive: no interruptions in the torque, no hitches, just an unending pull that is quite addictive. Try it and you’ll understand. 3.60 gears make it an awesome highway flier that keeps up with modern traffic and it never feels like it’s working very hard. You also get a capable suspension that’s supple without being sloppy and massively powerful brakes augmented with optional power assist. At some point in its past, it received a custom dual exhaust system, which was faithfully replicated in stainless steel during the restoration, giving this Skylark a pleasing V8 exhaust note that’s suitably hushed. And be sure to check out the ultra-solid floors, unmarked rockers, and the spare tire well that has never been rusty. Original Kelsey-Hayes chrome wire wheels are impossibly shiny and are fitted with 235/70/15 Goodyear wide whitewall radials that ride and handle great.

Documentation includes restoration receipts, photos, manuals, catalogs, and more.

If you’re a 1953 Skylark fan (and you’re either a ’53 fan or a ’54 fan) this well-restored example strikes just the right balance between show and go. It drives superbly with zero issues and delivers the kind of high-end experience that you would expect from Buick’s finest. With a great history, lots of documentation, and a no-stories restoration, you can buy with confidence and use it as intended, something that many trailer queens can’t claim. This Skylark is right in every way that matters. Call today!

Harwood Motors always recommends and welcomes personal or professional inspections of any vehicle in our inventory prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1953 Buick Skylark
Price: $119,900
Stock Number: 117110
Mileage: 37,659
VIN: 14480876
Engine: 322 cubic inch V8
Transmission: Dynaflow Automatic
Gear Ratio: 3.6
Wheelbase: 121.5 inches
Wheels: 15-inch chrome wire wheels
Tires: 235/70/15 BFGoodrich wide whitewall radials
Exterior Color: Matador Red
Interior Color: Red and white leather
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