Cheap Wheels: 1978 Buick Skylark Custom

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From its first outing as a top-of-the-line convertible in 1953, the Skylark name represented a range of Buick products over the years. In the late 1970s, it was a compact car, based on the X-body platform spawned by the Chevy Nova. This ’78 edition is a Skylark Custom Coupe, so it was well-outfitted for those who wanted to treat themselves to comfort (but not well enough to buy something like a Cadillac). It’s in New Westminster, British Columbia, so we assume the asking price of $5,500 here on craigslist is in Canadian currency (roughly $4,000-USD). A “high-5” to Rocco B. for the tip!

The third generation of the Skylark ran concurrently with the last run of the venerable Chevy Nova (1975-79). Most Skylark buyers chose the 4-door sedan, yet nearly 53,000 2-door coupes rolled out of Buick’s dealerships in 1978. Most were the basic edition, but 12,700 buyers opted for the Custom Coupe with its big-brother interior and half-vinyl roof. Six-cylinder power was adequate and the first V8 available was the 305 cubic inch version borrowed from Chevrolet. It was peppier than a V6, but not by much.

As the story goes, this Buick was in storage for many years. The seller or someone else must have done enough work on it to get it to run, drive, and stop again, though we’re not told how well these functions are performed. The odometer reads 88,000 kilometers and the car has newer brakes, tires, exhaust, and – get this – headers.

The body is said to be mostly rust-free, and the paint looks more than passable, though the plastic pieces tucked behind the rear bumper are falling apart (a typical problem of the era). On the other hand, the interior looks good and doesn’t seem to exhibit any wear that you wouldn’t expect for miles and age. If you’re in the vicinity and are looking for some “cheap wheels”, would this Buick do the job for you?

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  1. Marky Mark

    No. My ex had the same car, white on white with a red interior, when we got married in ‘81. Wasn’t a bad car but nothing special. Can’t say the same for her.

    Like 14
    • Dan C.

      Thank you for the laugh, that was hilarious!

      Like 0
  2. Jack M.

    All of the good suspension pieces made for a Nova should also work under this car. If the 350 Buick is not strong enough for you a 500 cubic inch Cadillac engine will fit like it was born there.

    Like 5
  3. Troy

    Nope, I had a 77 Nova basically the same car and although it was the last dependable GM product I ever owned there are a lot better cars out there for the money, if the rule a I had to buy something made before 1982 I would hunt for a dodge or Plymouth with the slant 6

    Like 3
    • Herbert

      Late 70s slant sixes were awful. Ran poorly, very low HP. 2bbl, helpped a lot, but you would be better to get a 318 in those years. A 72 SS, maybe even a 73 or 74, was pretty good. Starting in 75, they had much too lean carbs. Once the lean burn controllers came out, the game was almost over. A truck SS didn’t have such strict controls, they were pretty good.

      Like 5
  4. Jake Thesnake

    Malaise era car? I don’t think so…

    Like 1
    • Big C

      ’78 was right in the middle of the malaise era. Been there, done that.

      Like 3
      • Robert Eddins

        My 1989 fancy GM Cutlass Supreme or something was pure unreliable junk. Only the AC was actually ice cold for SW Arizona July.s
        Never bought or though about GM after that piece of crap. Bought a Mazda 626 with a 5 speed and was in heaven. Kathy loved it too, was a great great car, nothing ever went wrong, we simply put grew it with addition of kids. Her Dad made her learn to change oil and drive all stick shifting vehicles as a condition of owning her own car.
        Me too, my Dad brought home so many cool cheap cars and trucks in the late 60.s and he.d wash them up, and I.d change the oil, then he.d add 2 or 3 hundred on and resell them as fast as he.d find them. Oh how I wish I could have kept some of them now.
        Really, those were the good ol days.

        Like 2
  5. Tony Primo

    Less than half the price of a Nova, what more could you want?

    Like 7
  6. Fox owner

    I remember the bigger Buicks of this era, but not this. The formal styling looks strange on a compact car. What a bring down from the Skylarks of the sixties and seventies.

    Like 3
  7. Richard

    It looks nice for the price, but I’d want to see pics of the undercarriage. Canadian Winters are not kind to cars.

    Like 3
  8. BA

    Would make a pretty good sleeper! With that puffy top & creme puff color no one would suspect the LS lurking unde that wrapper!

    Like 2
  9. Kenneth Carney

    Mom had a ’76 4-door and that thing
    was a real pain in the ass! Broke two
    timing chains and a set of those plastic timing gears to boot. Hers was the V-6 model with more problems than Carter had liver pills.
    Wound up having to rebuild the engine in Mom’s car at under 50K miles so that tells you something about just how bad the V-6 really was
    back then. And that wasn’t enough, the silver paint started flaking off not
    long after Mom and Dad bought the car. The engine rebuild was the last
    straw and not long after they traded
    it for a brand new Toyota Corolla wagon so go figure. For years after
    my folks bought Toyotas and didn’t
    buy American again til they bought
    a ’96 Cadillac sedan DeVille in ’98.
    As I said, what a POS these things were. Just sayin’.

    Like 2
  10. TinIndy

    An ex-girlfriend bought a new copper Pontiac Phoenix this same year with this same engine. Pretty little Japanese thing. She looked like Yoko Ono Thank God she was more exciting than her car, which I recall being rather dull. I would be tempted to swap out the motor for something more spicy. Thankfully any small block Chevy will drop right in it.

    Like 1
  11. Jason V.

    I always wonder why those making unfavorable comments about “malaise” era cars even bother to look at the post. Assuming some malaise fetish of sorts, but I digress…

    In any event, while I personally think many of the cars from era are much better drivers than they get credit for, the fact is during this era cars were very easily modified to perform much better with very simple tweaks (remove catalytic converter, better exhaust, timing change, perhaps a lower gear in the rear and subsequent cam change), something that on ‘80s computer cars you just can’t do. Btw, the big jumps in HP really didn’t happen until the ‘90s, and late ‘90s at that….

    Maybe not this particular car, but give me ‘70s personal luxury that I can make run as sweet as apple pie any day over some overdone and overrated late ‘80s 5.0 Mustang

    Like 4
  12. Ignatius J. Reilly

    This generation of the GM X-cars was notorious for having the locator pin in the leaf springs shear off. After that happened, no matter where you were driving to in it…you were going, crabbing.

    Like 0

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