Long distance relationships, which require a balance of attention and time spent alone, are one of life’s bigger compromises. This was something I did not fully appreciate last year when I decided to drive four hours to Indiana to surprise my partner as he was feverishly working to complete an essay. “Surely,” I reasoned, “he can’t be as busy as he says.”
Upon arriving, it was clear I’d judged the situation improperly.
Having been ordered out of his apartment for the next twelve hours, I decided to take a trip two hours south to Louisville, Kentucky. I was lucky that it was a sunny, dry day; a perfect occasion to scope out a new city and hunt for some classic metal, like the Skylark featured here.
The Buick nameplate, mounted on the rear bumper above the license plate, distinguishes this as a 1972, as do individual bezels for each of the four headlamps. Determining what engine hauls this car around is easier, as the 250-CID Chevy six (which replaced the Buick V6 after 1967) had been discontinued by this point, and the bigger V8s were not installed on lower trim levels. Custom sedans like this now had a two-barrel, 145-hp (SAE net) 350 V8 standard, and given the car’s mid-level trim and sad condition, I’ll wager its original buyer didn’t order the 170-hp, 4-barrel carbureted version, standard on the Skylark GS. With the Special gone after 1969, this pillared sedan was one of the more basic Buicks until the “compact” Apollo was introduced for 1973.
The 1968-1972 A-body is a very well known platform, having underpinned most of GM’s muscle cars produced during that very special time. Unlike the GTO, Chevelle, 442, or even the Vista Cruiser, the sedans are given little consideration, and as Buick’s interpretations of the platform generally received the least amount of attention, the featured car’s value as a collectible is insignificant. But as one of the more basic examples of the largest domestic manufacturer’s midsize car, it says a lot about American motoring in that period.
Oldsmobile’s and Chevy’s interpretations of the A-body were the most attractive in my eyes, with the Pontiac Tempest/LeMans (1970 LeMans pictured) also rating above the Special/Skylark. That said, the Buick was also quite attractive, its boring rear-end treatment being the only real let down. Buyers of the era expected a basic family sedan to boast dynamic styling, in addition to a large V8, and even at GM’s most conservative division, sportiness and sex appeal were in. I will concede, however, that the car could do without the vinyl top seen here.
Those not loyal to GM had their choice of FoMoCo’s zaftig, formal Torino/Montego, and Chrysler’s tidy and elegant (later cheap and generic) Coronet/Satellite.
GM’s A-body was itself all-new two years later, with ungainly styling (I don’t care for the Colonnade’s looks) and reportedly improved handling (I’ve never driven one). As far as this 1972’s handling is concerned, I would prefer to remain ignorant. This platform has miraculously avoided a place on CC’s GM Deadly Sins series, but I am doubtful any domestic sedan of the era, especially one with body-on-frame construction, heavily boosted steering and a large, all-iron V8 would handle with much precision or feel through its controls. Readers experienced with these cars are more than welcome to disabuse me of this idea, should they see fit.
My attraction to the Skylark (and all A-body sedans) is, at any rate, a result of its styling: functional, masculine and all-American. The thick window frames on this example are more appropriate to a Chevelle and, as a Buick, its mission would be better fulfilled with the optional pillarless hardtop, but both variations are fetching.
Even in its sorry condition, the sight of this car evokes a certain patriotic optimism, making it very much a product of its era (the latter is also true of its cynical successor, renamed Century) and Louisville–a vivacious city full of welcoming front porches, walkable older neighborhoods and friendly people–was the perfect place to find this most American of relics.