By on May 8, 2017

1980 Buick Skylark Limited in California wrecking yard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

We saw a Cadillac and an Oldsmobile as our last two Junkyard Finds, so how about another member of the General Motors family? Yes, it’s a rare example of the Buick sibling to the Chevrolet Citation, the first of the front-wheel-drive Skylarks.

25-1980-buick-skylark-in-california-wrecking-yard-photo-by-murilee-martin

The Skylark name had already endured the 1975 through 1979 model years on Buick-badged Chevy Novas, but that humiliation was nothing next to the misery of the Iron Duke engine. The worst car I have ever experienced was the Pontiac version of this car, so I admit having some anti-X-Body/Iron Duke bias.

1980 Buick Skylark Limited in California wrecking yard, Iron Duke badge - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

They spell it this way over there in England, so Detroit switched to the “litre” spelling on its displacement badges during this era. Those 2.5 litres produced 84 horsepower in the ’80 Skylark’s Iron Duke, by the way.

1980 Buick Skylark Limited in California wrecking yard, door panel emblem- ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Inside, much blue and purple Nearly Velour™ fabric, much aggressively fake wood, and many LIMITED badges.

1980 Buick Skylark Limited in California wrecking yard, instrument cluster - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The MSRP on a new 1980 Skylark Limited sedan was $5,306, or around $16,500 in 2017 dollars. A Duked Citation sedan was just $5,153, the Oldsmobile Omega version was $5,266, and the Pontiac Phoenix listed at $5,251. Fortunately, the rear-wheel-drive Nova-based Skylark was available through the 1988 model year … in Iran.

1980 Buick Skylark Limited in California wrecking yard, dashboard - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

This car managed to outlive 95 percent of the Hondas and Toyotas sold for the 1980 model year, so there’s that.

“They made their efficient smaller cars luxurious, and their luxurious larger cars efficient!”

“Skylark also gets a lot of votes for its stand on the economy.”

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51 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Buick Skylark Limited...”


  • avatar
    pdog_phatpat

    “1980 Buick Skylark Limited” HAHAHAHAHA…no, seriously…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    Mine rode ok but its nagging issues made it untrustworthy for any kind of road trip, so it had to go.

  • avatar
    3XC

    The last new car my late grandfather bought was a 1984 Skylark. After his stroke he didn’t drive anymore, and my grandmother didn’t drive, so it sat. As bad as it was, and it was bad, it was worse after sitting outside in the Florida heat and humidity for 12 years. I’m gonna co-sign the “worst car I’ve ever driven.” By way of comparison, the 1984 Dodge Colt I drove was a vastly better small car.

  • avatar
    Sobro

    My ex wife had one, I think a 1982 model with the 2.8, given to her by her Dad. It drove OK, the seats were comfortable, but it tended to eat struts. I much preferred the ’66 Bonneville 4-door hardtop he gave us after we got married in ’86.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    The nearly velour upholstery seems to have held up well .
    .
    -Nate

  • avatar
    tonyola

    I see that this one had the optional “gage” (GM’s spelling) package.

    • 0 avatar
      Superdessucke

      I believe you added an “e” to the package name, and it was standard on all X-cars.

      • 0 avatar
        tonyola

        Nope. The standard Skylark dash had just a speedometer and fuel gauge.
        https://tinyurl.com/mdg4bo5

        • 0 avatar
          CobraJet

          Agree about the gage package. I ordered a new 80 Olds Omega and shopped the Buick as well. Gages were an option. My Omega had all idiot lights. My Olds was a V6 and had the same color interior made of the same material.

          This one looks pristine. Must have been stored in an old garage, and the roof fell in on the car.

          • 0 avatar
            Salzigtal

            Our local “automotive recycler” stacks the vehicles-in-waiting until the customers wrench enough parts off the yard cars to make room. I guess nobody ever shows up with a sawz-all and asks for a center section.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    This car appears to have been a creampuff before it got rolled over.

    My father used to sell these. This Skylark Limited was very strangely ordered. It’s the first one I’ve seen without power windows and digital clock. Aside from the upmarket seats, the original buyer would have been better off just ordering a Skylark Custom.

    I always liked those silver Buick gauges. When they switched to black around 1983 or so, I thought it was a mistake on their part.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      Silver needles and thin black numbers on a silver back must have been impossible to read with any kind of sunlight on them.

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        I drove plenty of them equipped like that, never experienced such a problem. Really, how often would you have sunlight directly splashing at instrument panel gauges? Plus, all Buicks of that vintage had an overhang over the gauges. You can see it on the 12th pic of this article.

        • 0 avatar

          My 2004 Rendezvous has silver faces with teal backlighting, certain times of the day, (dawn and dusk) the automatic lights turn on and make the dash go invisible, so turn the dash lighting down, great can see speedo, but cant see the radio display.

      • 0 avatar
        gearhead77

        My first car was an ’81 Regal (in 1994) with these gauges. Never had a legibility issue at all. One of the more appealing aspects of these cars to me. I just had an Envision as a rental and these gauges would have been in improvement in the cheap gauges it had.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I was about to comment on those gauges. As bad as the car itself may have been, the clean black markings on brushed silver background looks really cool(assuming they don’t wash out during the day). Backlight the markings with a clean pale blue and provide just enough ambient light to show the shine and texture of the metallic faces and it would be sharp looking gauge set. The late-aughts Lexus GS had a similar setup.

      How were these old Buick gauges lit at night?

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        They were backlit in a fluorescent green, and looked really cool. Similar to a watch with fluorescent digits and needles.

        • 0 avatar
          Superdessucke

          Sounds cool. He should pull it and rig it up to a car battery and take a picture!

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          My Mom’s 1983 Regal Custom Sedan had guages similar to this, backlit white, IIRC, but it could have been slightly green. The dash had three guages across: fuel, speedo, clock, with two guages on either side of the steering column in the T-Type for, likely, volts, temp, and turbo boost.

          Buick went to a white-on-black horizontal speedo beginning in 1984, which was the last year you could get a Regal G-Body sedan; the A-Body Century was meant to be the family sedan. (That was the first year of the Delco DIN.5 ETR radios in the G-Bodies, which all used the two-shaft design previously.)

          Too lazy to look it up, but Murilee had a last-year (1985) X Skylark in this series a year or so ago, and the guages were similar to this, but also went white-on-black. (And somebody had punched out the bezels to get the needles.) That year had the same door mirrors as the A-Bodies.

          The “Little Limousine,” recalling Bruick’s tag line back in the day.

          • 0 avatar
            CobraJet

            I sort of remember that “little limousine” was how Olds described the Omega, a sister version of the Buick. I still have my original sales brochure of the 1980 Oldsmobile line. I’ll have to check.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    My only memory of this car involves a road trip up to Michigan Tech. When I was 14 I went up there for a summer school / computer programming class that lasted a week. My parents called up some other family that was also sending their son up there. So at 5AM, I’m dropped off in a parking lot, meet some complete strangers, and hop in their car for the long driver to the Upper Peninsula. It was a 1980ish Buick Skylark; so incredibly cramped – especially with 5 people inside – compared to my dad’s Olds 98 B-body.

    For a person such as myself with very uh, low social skills, it was a terrible experience. But at least my parents picked me up for the trip back so I didn’t have to sit knee-to-knee with the person next to me. I felt like a rich kid riding in that Oldsmobile (white leather!) compared to the Buick penalty box.

  • avatar

    My sister traded in her 1974 VW Dasher for a 1981 Buick Skylark Limited. So yeah, not great car buying choices in either case.

    The Skylark was loaded with leather (blue leather!) and the V6. To my 16-year old eyes it seems like a pretty sweet ride at the time. Bucket seats and a console seemed soooo sporty. I don’t recall her having any particular problems with it, but maybe by 1981 they had worked out a lot of the bugs.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    My mom had a Citation, and absolutely hated it. But she replaced it with a 1981 Olsmobile Omega (with a V6, I believe), and that Omega was probably her favourite car she ever owned. They might have been the same platform, but it seems like there was quite a bit of variation between the brands.

    • 0 avatar
      Geekcarlover

      If she bought it used, the difference was probably the first owner. Higher grade models were more​ likely to be garaged, have maintenance done on time, and little problems taken care of before they became big problems.
      Also, the 6 cylinder was vastly better than the I4.

  • avatar
    stckshft

    Wow time warp!! My father owned one of these when I was a child. Same color combo! As I recall ours had more Brougham. It was a big deal for our family as this was the first car he purchased with air conditioning! It even had a CB radio. But it was a total dog. He kept it for 9 months and went back to an Olds Cutlass.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      The Regal I talked about up-thread was originally a company car for my Dad, and the first car he’d ever had with an AM-FM stereo (two-shaft Delco which sounded arguably as good as the “premium” stuff offered today).

      Next car he bought was an ’86 Century Limited, first car with cruise. (Also the first car he’d bought “off the lot,” with typical GM options for such vehicles: Delco cassette stereo, wire wheels, power windows/locks/steering/brakes, air/cruise/tilt [steering].)

      Combined with my having to replace a head gasket in a 1984 Sunbird on a college budget, the dangerous hesitation while cold in the “Computer Command Control” carburetor (and GM’s refusal to refund part of the money spent throwing parts at the problem, corrected later with a TSB) turned my Dad (and my family) to non-domestic automobiles for life.

  • avatar
    SaulTigh

    My Dad got laid off in the early 80’s and lost his company car, so he needed wheels and picked up one of these used from the local MOPAR dealership. Same color, and I believe it too was a Limited. My most vivid memories of that car were sitting at a stop light and everything shaking…steering column, dash, us. I remember asking my dad why that was and remember him telling me this car was a “4-banger” and 4-bangers sucked, but they were cheap. He drove it until 1987 when he won a Honda Civic in a raffle and got the donating dealership to take it back and give him the sticker price on it towards an Accord DX. My dad traded in my Mom’s ’82 Celebrity in that same transaction, and my dad sold the Buick privately. My parents have owned nothing but Accords since.

    • 0 avatar
      Safeblonde

      However you get there, your story about leaving behind GM in favor of Honda or Toyota is very common!

      • 0 avatar
        Roberto Esponja

        GM was simply brilliant about handing over its customer base to the Japanese and European competition in the 1980’s. They should have asked for bird dog money.

        • 0 avatar
          Sobro

          My ex-wife ditched her Skylark in 1989 for a Toyota Corolla FX with a 5-speed.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          “They should have asked for bird dog money.”

          Hahahahaha! I’ve never heard it put quite that way.

        • 0 avatar
          JimC2

          I never understood back then how GM could build medium and large four cylinder engines with such low output (the plain Jane Vega four too). Horsepower-per-cubic inch, the Europeans and Japanese were getting 100hp out of smaller engines. An extra 10-20hp made a difference! So did being short that much.

  • avatar
    Jagboi

    For it’s age, this car looks to be in very good shape. Any that I have seen now are rusted out.

    • 0 avatar
      matador

      Assuming this is from the Denver junkyards, rust is pretty uncommon. Paint bakes in the Rockies, but rust is rare.

      Likely this is the typical case of the car owned by the “Little old lady” and either was run into the ground by the next owner, or was unsalable at a dealership, and ended up here. The presence of the factory radio makes it more likely the latter

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Amazing that you could “upgrade” from a Citation to an Olds or Buick for <$200.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      Back then the wife and I looked at all four. The Chevy and Pontiac had a hatchback roof in the 4 dr sedans. Olds and Buick had a normal sedan body with rear deck lid which we liked better. The Olds dealer was easier to deal with so that’s what we ordered. We kept the car for 5 years which is the shortest time I ever kept a car before or since. It became clear this car would not make 100,000 miles.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    I had an 82 Olds version. Low mileage, second owner, only completely died once, and very cheap were the best parts. Other than that it lived down to GM’s reputation for the era.

  • avatar
    CaptainObvious

    The $153 difference between the Chevy and Buick works out to $453 in today’s dollars. Getting close to a 10% difference.

  • avatar
    JSF22

    My girlfriend in 1980 was the daughter of an extremely high ranking GM executive — you’d recognize his name. She was nuts but he was cool as all get out. These X-bodies, and the A-body rampbacks that came out two years earlier, spelled the end of the GM company car policy that let you order whatever you wanted. You took what they gave you when you showed up in the company garage with 3,000 miles on your old car. Even this guy had to surrender his Blazer and take one of these … a two-door with this same interior and a dark blue exterior. The day he picked it up we drove in it from Birmingham, Michigan to downtown Detroit and back. By the time we got back to his house he said, “It’s time to retire.” And the next year he did.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    A friend’s parents had one of these POS’s. You could be driving down the road and the radio would go on or off or change stations spontaneously. The speedometer needle would drop to zero – they’d figured out some way to make it start working again, like turning the lights on and off and signaling for a left turn or something like that. What a gimp automobile….

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    The X-Cars were terrible, but the Skylark was probably the least offensive, looks-wise, and with the nicest interior (before the Cimarron came along).

  • avatar
    plee

    I drove a 1982 Olds Omega Brougham 4 door with the 2.5 engine as a demo for a couple of months back then. The droning from the engine was loud and the steering wheel tingled when stopped in drive. Not much Brougham about it.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Hate to see survivors, particularly of unloved models going to the crusher.

    It looks like this vehicle was well cared for for decades and seems to have served faithfully.

    As for the ‘rollover’ damage on the roof that seems to have heralded its demise, from what I can see at the moment on a lousy screen in direct sunlight, based on the condition of the interior, I would guess that it was tipped over, while not moving and uninhabited.

    • 0 avatar
      AJ

      Yes, garage kept and waxed often I’m sure, probably by an older couple. They died, and some punk relative ended up with it.

      My dad briefly drove a new one, and it was a nice ride with a comfortable interior.

  • avatar
    taxman100

    This is the car I took my driver’s education class in, back in 1982.

    At home we had a 76 Ford Maverick with the only options being AM radio and automatic transmission, and a 79 Ford Club Wagon, to which my father added the only option of air conditioning. That was our vacation car for a family of nine.

    So, the Buick felt like a rich guys luxury car to me.

  • avatar
    TrstnBrtt89

    My Mom had an ’83 Skylark, Same colour scheme as this one (although the Gauges were different) in the late 90s. It was a monster as the muffler was totally rotted out by this point (my only memory of it, that and the gas gauge didn’t work on it so it was always running out of gas)

    Speaking of the gauges my Volvo has has the brushed aluminum with two LED “spotlights” that shine down on it at night, it’s kind of a black aluminum though. I’ve never had a problem reading it in any light. My only struggle has been reading the odometer and clock displays during the day when the sunroof is open.

  • avatar
    altdude

    My grandmother had one of these. Same blue also, but hers had a vinyl bench seat in the front. The car would leak water on the passenger every time it would rain, and the dealer could never fix the problem while under warranty. Finally years later when it became a very large problem, an independent mechanic looked at the car and said the roof was rusted out inside. Water from the drains was going through the rust holes, into the car, and at that point the holes had gotten huge. That early recycled steel quality, I guess. Otherwise it wasn’t a bad car, had a decent ride. A little bit small, but it was a Skylark after all. She kept it for about 12 or 13 years, but with the leak and a rusted roof, no one would buy it from her and it went to the junk yard.

  • avatar
    bobmaxed

    Limited:
    “restricted in size, amount, or extent; few, small, or short”

    To me a car that brags that it is limited has never made any sense.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    This is one of the very first rental cars I remember riding in. My Dad was working out of town and we went to visit him. It was certainly an Skylark in this color. These cars were everywhere in Pittsburgh, all X bodies were, and then suddenly they weren’t. But every once in awhile, you’ll see one that has survived.


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