I figured out a long time ago that the Skylark was the best FWD X-Body, and by a healthy margin. I had one as a company car, and it served me fairly well, and they’ve clearly outlived their Citation, Omega and Phoenix brethren, based on how many seemed to survive. Canadiancatgreen found this one, in the Calgary area, I presume.
Of course your Skylark experience may have varied.
I guess I’m in the minority here, but I have always liked the X cars, especially the Skylark.
(I’m a major Buick fanatic). I’ve never owned a Skylark, but I have been driving Buick
Centurys for 20 years, and my current Century is a ’96 with 96,000 miles (3.1 V6), and
still looks like new. I LOVE these cars! I’ve owned 26 cars in the past 26 years, including
4 Cadillacs, 4 Lincolns, 3 Marquis, 2 Crown Vics., and 6 Centurys and 4 Cieras. I can honestly say the Century is my favorite, except maybe my 99 Lesabre I inherited from my
parents, and have been driving for 11 years with no problems.
Anyway, I do agree that the Skylark was definitely the best looking of the X cars, and
probably the best in overall quality. Back when these were new, I rarely ever saw any
Phoenix or Omegas. I believe the Skylark was even more popular than the Citation in
their final year, 1985.
I suspect the demographics of the original owners has had far more to do with the survival rates of the various x-bodies. The Skylark almost certainly had the oldest, most conservative, and most financially secure demographic versus the rest, which meant they didn’t get driven hard, but did get regularly serviced, and probably more likely to be garaged and perhaps stay with the original owner the longest. And when the 2nd owner eventually came into the picture taking over “grandpa’s” Buick, it was so cherry and well taken care of they felt bad about abusing it and also took better care of it than the 2nd owner of a smoking/rusting/sagging/dented Citation, Omega, or Phoenix.
I’ve often wondering how much of the difference in CR reliability ratings and insurance rates between different brands and models has to do with who the major buyer of the particular vehicle is rather than inherent quality of the vehicle itself. Near clones like the GM X-bodies, J-Bodies, A-Bodies, Chevy vs. GMC truck/SUV, etc. would offer an interesting statistical analysis to test this hypothesis – I wonder if anyone has every done it?
There is some truth to your demographic theory, but it is also the case that Buicks had the best reputation for quality of any American cars in the ’80s. A friend had a Skylark as a lightly used car in about 1984 or 1985, and it really was much nicer than any similar age or new X or J cars that I encountered. That being said, a friend’s father had an ’85 LeSabre that was as lemony as any other GM car of the era. I believe it was the final straw after a 100% pure lemon Cutlass Supreme which sent his family into the hands of the Japanese brands.
I saw a very bashed-up ’81 Skylark sedan pulling out of Target a few months back but couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to capture it.
One reason more Skylarks survive than other X bodies is that they sold better when new than the Omega or Phoenix, or even the Citation in its last year. The Pontiac and Olds weren’t sold at all by 1985 but the Skylark (and Citation) still were. I’ll guess that Skylark buyers tended to be older and wealthier than Citation buyers and may have taken better care of their cars. But yeah, they did seem better built, with less plastic-y interiors and maybe a stronger body with the stiff notchback body rather than the hatchback on most Citations or Phoenixes.
This is an ’82 by the way – later years had low-back front seats with separate headrests; earlier years had different taillights.
Mom had a lt aqua 82! Other than a corrected torque converter issue it ran flawlessly and was dead reliable. Unfortunately it was T-boned in 1989 by an F150 and totaled. Bought a very gently used 87 Celebrity as a replacement which was even more reliable!
I agree with the rest of the comments (Mitchel G, Ole, la673 and Joe) above. I actually sold for Buick for a total of 12+ years starting in 1988, so we had the newer style Skylarks then. However, we still had a good number of this X-body models traded back in and they were normally driven more easily and with care. The body style did lend itself to be a better looking car than the Citation and Phoenix (4dr hatch), but the Omega was very similar. I just seemed to like the notch-back style with a trunk better.
Last week there was a fantastic black Pontiac Phoenix 2 door (with trunk) for sale on Bring a Trailer. It was really nice in the black with red cloth, low miles, very good condition and the rare snowflake alloy rims. I would have loved to buy it, but don’t want to drive a stick any more. That one also had the rare manual.
My Dad bought a 1980 Buick Skylark Limited, brand new, for my Mom to drive. He had owned Buicks since the 1950s, but that Skylark turned out to be the last in the family. It was reliable but the build quality was terrible. None of the body panels lined up, with large gaps between them or no gaps at all. The edges of the hood literally scraped the edges of the fenders in the closed position. Dad went back and forth to the Buick dealer to have them fix oil leaks, anti-freeze leaks and transmission fluid leaks. It stalled frequently when taking off from a stop – always a thrill with oncoming traffic. To top it off, the folks on the assembly line installed an Olds Omega escutcheon over the trunk lock. It eventually fell off. It was kept in the garage and only had 20,000 miles on the odometer when she sold it, so the problems could not be due to abuse. It was just a junky car.
This paint colour and wheel cover combination, almost seemed defaults, for the Skylarks I remember.
A friends wife drove a 1982 Buick Skylark. It was a pretty nice car for what it was. When a drunk driver totaled it she wanted another Skylark. This time it was a 1985 model that was well optioned and even nicer than the one it replaced. They were both good reliable cars.
I always thought these were the best looking of the bunch, too.
I will never forget my first encounter with one of these. My neighbors got a navy blue sedan – these always looked best in dark colors, in my opinion. When I popped the hood to check out the engine bay, it nearly took my head off coming back down, because it was the first American car without a counterbalanced hood I’d personally encountered…
My mom had a 1980 Phoenix with the Iron Duke 2.5 L 4 popper with an immediately recognizable engine sound. This motor has been used seemingly forever, and to this day, in US mail trucks which were built by Grumann.
I looked at a Pontiac Phoenix in 1981 when I was shopping for cars…frankly I don’t know exactly why, but I can guess, I was looking for a FWD car to replace my ’74 Datsun 710 which was a light RWD car, having spun out on black ice on a trip to my parents. It seems funny now, but FWD was just starting to become common in early 80’s, but unfortunately for me I’d just started my first job after college, and couldn’t really quite swing a new car. Yes, there were used FWD cars (I ended up getting a used ’78 Scirocco) but they tended to be pricey……I almost got a clone of my Dad’s ’80 Omni, that wasn’t too bad, but my Dad used to have a FWD Subaru, which I didn’t care for, I had a Fiat I didn’t like, Saab was a bit out of my range, Honda and VW were pretty dear (though I did end up with a used VW). The domestics just started going FWD, and I was looking at each of them. The Plymouth Reliant was new, I did look at one of them, plus the Phoenix but probably more to satisfy my curiosity, though I spend a lot more time 5 years later shopping for even different types of cars, which I’ve not done since.
The funny thing is I had a co-worker who had one of these, with a V6, and he claimed it was a very nice car….of course he could have gotten a good one, but I wondered if the V6 might have been a bit better than the 4 in these. My Uncle had an Olds Omega (one of these, not the RWD version) but only kept it a short time, I never asked him about his experience but don’t think it was good. He replaced it with an Audi 4000 which he would claim was his favorite car.