The emergence from hibernation of classic cars this spring has been inhibited in Washington, DC and the mid-Atlantic region by weeks of continuous rains worthy of Washington State and the Pacific Northwest, but the few days of fair weather have brought out the annual street and curbside display of drivable classics. Among the usual Mustangs, Corvettes, and other commonly seen muscle machines was a relatively infrequently encountered example: one of Buick’s 1968-72 A-Bodies. A 1971 based on its grille, this Buick from the muscle car era added a rather menacing presence to the common downtown traffic of modern sedans and SUVs.
The 1968-72 Buick Gran Sport has already received attention here for its performance and landmark role in the history of the division, so it is unnecessary to revisit its history here. This car has a GS grille badge and Gran Sport hood scoops but is missing GS emblems from its front fenders and trunk lid, while having Skylark badges on the rear fenders and trunk lid, indicating that it is a Skylark with GS elements added. Not going all the way by adding GS badges all around is a curious omission, given how much easier it would be than changing the hood.
It is possible that the owner wanted to enhance his 1971 Skylark but did not want to create a fake GS, perhaps after front end damage requiring replacement of the grille and hood — a possibility given the misalignment of the hood on an otherwise very straight body. The reflections on the shiny paint on the sides that run perfectly parallel to the pinstripe give an indication of how straight and smooth this car’s body was when viewed in person.
With its twin racing stripes, chrome Buick road wheels with big rear tires, and large dual exhausts, this Skylark looks the part of an early 1970s muscle car, even thought it is not a Gran Sport. It no doubt makes the right noises and gives its owner most if not all of the Gran Sport experience, depending on what lives under the hood and in the transmission tunnel (probably a Buick 350 V8/350 THM). The paint may be a bit rough on the hood and the roof, but those details detract little and likely will be addressed when the owner feels like doing it.
Lightly modified 1968-72 GM A-Bodies similar to this one used to rumble around in large numbers during the 1970s and 1980s, but they usually were Chevelles/SS396s, LeManses/GTOs, or Cutlasses/442s, and in worse condition as 10-20 year old used cars driven hard by young leadfoots. Today, with all of them more than 40 years old, the survivors still roaming the streets are usually those same models, over-restored or restomodded with huge custom wheels. Skylarks/Gran Sports were relatively uncommon during the prime of this kind of car and now are even rarer. Spotting one curbside in the 2010s is an infrequent occurrence that I cannot recall having in many years, and this one was a pleasant throwback to an earlier time. It would have been even better if I had been able to hear the engine start up and ask what was under the hood, but alas the owner never appeared.
In an automotive world consisting increasingly of good-for-you hybrids and CUVs, examples of which were conveniently parked around the subject car, many of us can use an occasional dose of something that tastes great even if it is bad for you. This Buick’s owner appears to have had two in one day, a drive in his 1971 muscle car and dinner at a downtown all you can eat Brazilian steakhouse, Fogo de Chao, where you can consume as much high quality beef in one sitting as you desire. I am certain that he had what most of us here would consider to be a very good day, with plenty of Buick muscle and plenty of beef.