Junkyard Find: 1985 Buick Skylark Limited Sedan
Remember the misery of the Chevy Citation, which had such outstandingly bad build quality and horrifying public reliability problems that the damage to Chevrolet’s image took decades to repair? Only the staggeringly nasty Pontiac Phoenix (a Pontiac-badged Citation sibling) might have been worse; meanwhile, the Buick Division leaped on board the oil-leaking, prematurely corroding, Iron Duke-powered X-Body bandwagon, and fired a full spread of torpedoes into the once-beloved Skylark name.
Not many of these best-forgotten automobiles remain uncrushed, but I was able to spot this ’85 sedan in a Northern California wrecking yard last winter.
If America tried Roger Smith for treason for allowing this car to help befoul the reputation of what was once the most respected American icons in the world, the Iron Duke engine might have been Exhibit A. It was a noisy, rough-running, primitive, 2.5-liter pushrod four-banger. The Iron Duke managed to make the optional 2.8-liter V6 seem sophisticated. It wasn’t.
The interior is a cacophony of low-bidder velour, greasy offgassing plastic, and some of the phoniest-looking “wood” ever ineptly glued into a car by angry drunks. The base price of this car was $8,283, which is just about exactly half the price of a then-new 1985 BMW 318i. However, a simple-but-well-built 1985 Mazda 626 could be had for $8,295, while the comfy 1985 Ford LTD sold for just $8,874 with its four-cylinder “Pinto” engine.
Mercifully, 1985 was the last year for the X-Body Skylark; after that, the Skylark name went on the N-Body, where it stayed long enough to be a sibling to the revived Chevy Malibu in the late 1990s.
“We couldn’t get all the reasons people like Skylark into this commercial, but we sure got them into the car.”
Even when the X-Body Skylark was new and exciting, Buick had to dole out big cash bonuses to get these off dealer lots.
[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]
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