Junkyard Find: 1976 Buick Skyhawk

junkyard find 1976 buick skyhawk

The 1975-1980 Buick Skyhawk was a sporty-looking two-door based on the Chevrolet Vega platform, and Skyhawks (and their Chevrolet Monza, Oldsmobile Starfire, and Pontiac Sunbird siblings) were once all over America’s roads. They weren’t build particularly well, and they hemorrhaged resale value in a hurry; by the end of the 1980s, nearly every single one of them was gone.

Here’s a very rough example I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard last month.

You could get a Monza with any one of a half-dozen engines, including I4s, V6s, and V8s, but there was only one engine available for the 1975-80 Skyhawk: the 231-cubic-inch version of the venerable Buick V6 engine. 1976 was the last model year for the “odd-fire” 231, which used a shortened V8 crankshaft design and provided a not-so-luxurious level of vibration. These cars could be made very quick with the swap of a healthy V8, but few Skyhawk owners performed that modification.

I had a high-school friend with a ’76 Skyhawk, and he was extremely proud of his then-seven-year-old car. He installed a pretty good sound system (for 1983) and cranked Bauhaus and The Clash on it. The car wasn’t very quick, but it handled a lot better than the jacked-up Plymouth Satellites and Oldsmobile Cutlasses that our peers drove. The welds holding the driver’s door striker plate failed and no subsequent re-welds could be made to hold, the engine never could be made to idle correctly, and then he wiped out the front suspension on a guard rail in the Oakland Hills.

This one shows evidence of attempts at bodywork and paint upgrades, but its final owner must have given up on the project.

Even an AM radio was once a costly optional item in cars like this.

Inside you’re free. Inside you’re free after all. You hear freedom’s spirit, like a wild bird’s call.





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  • Sfvarholy Sfvarholy on Sep 13, 2016

    Judging by the new rear drums and a lot of new stuff on the engine - including what appears to be a new/recent refurb carb, the last owner spent some money on this car.

  • Butterfly81 Butterfly81 on May 22, 2022

    My childhood neighbor had a nice white Chevy Monza with a blue design on the hood. They were cute. I like those houndstooth seats in that Skyhawk.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.
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