Junkyard Find: 1976 Buick Skyhawk

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

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.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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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.

  • Calrson Fan Jeff - Agree with what you said. I think currently an EV pick-up could work in a commercial/fleet application. As someone on this site stated, w/current tech. battery vehicles just do not scale well. EBFlex - No one wanted to hate the Cyber Truck more than me but I can't ignore all the new technology and innovative thinking that went into it. There is a lot I like about it. GM, Ford & Ram should incorporate some it's design cues into their ICE trucks.
  • Michael S6 Very confusing if the move is permanent or temporary.
  • Jrhurren Worked in Detroit 18 years, live 20 minutes away. Ren Cen is a gem, but a very terrible design inside. I’m surprised GM stuck it out as long as they did there.
  • Carson D I thought that this was going to be a comparison of BFGoodrich's different truck tires.
  • Tassos Jong-iL North Korea is saving pokemon cards and amibos to buy GM in 10 years, we hope.