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1 of 1,000: 1986 Buick Skyhawk T-Type

What do you get when you take an ordinary 1980s Buick Skyhawk and drop in a turbocharged engine with a tuned suspension? The Skyhawk T-Type, a compact cousin to the larger and more well-known Grand National. The seller offers one such car, said to have been part of fewer than 1,000 built in 1986. At 10,000 original miles, this car’s owners must have thought of “future collectible” when driving the automobile sparingly. Located in Eaton, Ohio, this Buick is available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $5,100, but the reserve has not.

The second-generation Skyhawk used the same J-platform as the Chevy Cavalier, Oldsmobile Firenza, Pontiac Sunbird, and the unsuccessful Cadillac Cimarron. These cars were designed to be fuel-efficient and budget-friendly, so their build quality was never particularly high, a problem with many 1980s Detroit automobiles. And they were underpowered with 4-cylinder engines that barely reached 100 hp. Buick decided to give the car some much-needed punch and the T-Type was added in 1984.

These autos were now powered by a turbocharged 1.8-liter Brazilian motor that produced 150 hp, potent in a lightweight package, helped by a 5-speed manual.  The new “Hawk” also featured a tuned suspension and several changes to the appearance of the car to set it aside from the grocery-getter Skyhawk. A sedan at first, a hatchback coupe was added in 1986, which would have included the seller’s car.

The seller’s 1986 T-Type is a low-mileage survivor that seems to lack nothing but a recharge of the air conditioner (freon provided; why not do it before putting the car up for sale?). We’re told only about 1,000 of the T-Types were built that year and only five hatchbacks, but the latter statistic sounds a bit hard to believe. The time capsule portion of this car includes its original factory tires which the seller has encased in plastic wrap. It’s only used for jaunts to shows.

T-Types were fast cars, especially for the day, capable of reaching 60 mph in seven seconds. This one has a clean Experian Experian AutoCheck Vehicle History Report to help sell the car although better photographs would be a bigger asset. We found another of these cars for sale in 2019 and the description sounds a lot like this one, enough so that perhaps it’s the same 10,000-mile automobile. But you don’t see these cars capturing the kind of collector attention as the 1980s Grand Nationals.


  1. JCA Member

    Its the same car. Bid to $4.5k on BAT, then listed on Ebay for $15.5k. Now it’s on auction but who knows what the reserve is. Probably too high. Maybe next time around she will accept that she paid over market value from the original owner and take the L

    Like 13
  2. David Zornig

    6071 built.
    I ordered dozens of these when I was the fleet manager at Fanning Cadillac-Buick in Chicago.


    Like 11
  3. That 80's Guy The Tower

    That’s a normally-aspirated engine…looks like a 1.8. Nice car, but not even remotely the hot rod it would have been if equipped with SOHC 1.8 turbo mill.

    Like 6
    • Bick Banter

      Nope, not a turbo. That was optional on the Skyhawk T-Type that year. They came standard with the 88-horse 1.8 liter 4-cylinder that all other Skyhawks had.

      With the turbo, it’d have had 150 HP and been able to hit 60 MPH in 8 5 seconds and run the quarter in the 15s with manual (4-speed only, standard engines had the 5-speed). This car would take nearly 13 seconds to hit 60 and 20 seconds to complete the quarter.

      Big difference! Maybe the biggest spread between a standard and optional engine in U.S. automotive history.

      Like 8
  4. Big Len

    No wonder bidding slow – Picture taker should be given basic photography lessons.

    Like 12
  5. Terrry

    T-Type? Only if the T stands for Turkey. It’s not worth nearly what they’re asking for it. Why not spring for what it really is, a Chevy Cavalier with a fancy paint job? This one’s not even turbo’d.

    Like 8
    • Dave Suton

      Same goes with Honda and it’s “r” designation. R stands for rot and rust.

      Like 9
  6. Todd Fitch Staff

    Nice find, Russ! Not a turbo, but still pretty cool. I helped my Mom factory order a Skyhawk of this vintage, with the 2.0 and (I’m thinking it was a five-speed) manual gearbox. Mom’s had the luxury interior and was quite a nice-looking car. If I knew about the Turbo, I’d forgotten it. 150 HP would have been smoking in those days in this little body. Chevy’s ’85 Z28 made 155 and had to have weighed at least 700 lb more. Thanks for the memories!

    Like 4
  7. Chris

    Nice car but wasn’t it on here before? And is it or isn’t it a turbo? Lots are saying it isn’t and I don’t know that much about them to tell by the engine pics.

    Like 1
    • Bick Banter

      It’s clearly not a turbo. If it were, it would say “Turbo” on the plenum cover and would have a pipe going over the valve cover from the turbo at the front of the engine to the intake at the rear.

      And yes, it was on here in early January.

      Like 7
  8. JimmyJ

    Ya Dave the Honda type r lets see 300hp and fastest front wheel drive around Nurburgring just a typical Honda?

    Like 6
  9. Michael Fagone Member

    Window sticker from the eBay ad looks like it says 1.6 Liter

    Like 0
  10. Ed H

    I had an ’84 Firenza S coupe almost the same color and body style with the louvers on the rear window as well. That engine made decent power and was more than enough to keep up with traffic in the early ’90s when I owned it. Probably one of the better GMs I owned and kept me in the family longer than I should have to experience the what GM is now.

    Like 3
  11. Racer417

    Wow! Rare car. We were Buick dealers at the time and I don’t even remember these… No age comments please :-)

    Like 4
  12. S

    Interesting and a bit unusual now. Not your typical Buick. It appeared at the time that all cars were going to become this small. That, plus CAFE is why all GM divisions offered the J body.

    Like 1
  13. charlie Member

    The coupe/hatchback body on these was MUCH tighter than the 4 door sedan version, owned a Cimaron, drove a Buick like this, a world of difference, and despite all the naysayers, the Cimaron (if bought used for $2000, rather than new for $12,000) was a great commuter car – great visability (unlike most of what is sold today), 5 speed manual, great gas milage, and went well over 200,000 miles with only major repairs being to steering and ball joints.

    Like 3
  14. FireAxeGXP

    Had a friend named Bob who had one of these in college but the “real” T Type with the turbo engine. Only a couple years old when he got it and a HUGE difference from the Toyo POS he had been sharing with his brother. They may not seem special now but back then they were a big step forward from what most people drove. He went on to a series of GM cars at the top of their respective models. A Grand AM SE ( which his newlywed wife promptly wrecked) then a Grand Prix STE ( paid for by his father in law lol) then a Buick Riviera Supercharged.
    In there somewhere he had an Olds Calais (?) with the Quad 4 engine as well.
    Then in the space of a few years GM murdered Oldsmobile, killed Pontiac, and turned Buick into a potato factory.
    Bob drives a Volvo now. Thanks GM!

    Like 1
  15. Mike

    Rather have a Z24….. and that isn’t saying much for it. Everyone is trying to make top dollar while they still can. If things keep up, we’ll be able to find tons of deals, but everyone will be too broke to buy anything!!!!!

    Like 3
  16. Dustin

    The ad is a little misleading – “T-type” lends people to think this car is a turbo – but it ain’t. I owned one of these with the same exact engine. I actually did put a turbo on it aftermarket – so I recognize every nut and bolt of this car’s naturally aspirated engine, air cleaner, and associated plumbing. I had to drop the compression and pick up an actual turbo manifold which was hard to find. If this car was an actual turbo it would be worth a mint. Because its in such nice shape, and its a manual (I converted mine to manual), I’d give 3 or 4 grand for it. I paid $1000 for mine in 1998 and it was mint. This one’s up to almost $7K – way overpriced. But gives you an idea what’s happened in the used car market. A shame.

    Like 3
  17. Bruce

    My sister bought one with turbo on it. It was a automatic and wild ride. When you stepped on it, it would torque very hard. When that turbo kicked in.

    Like 0

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