Mystery Four-Speed: 1966 Buick Skylark

The seller of this handsome Buick Skylark Sport Coupe calls it “one of a kind,” and at first I thought that referred to its four-speed transmission. The usually reliable automobile-catalog.com indicates that the four-speed was limited to the muscular GS version; the not always reliable Wikipedia mentions a Hurst long-throw four speed available on any Skylark; and a mainstay of my library, the Standard Catalog of American Cars, 1946-1975 does list an optional four-speed for the V8 Skylark with no mention of Hurst. Which was it? Those who have memorized vintage Buick order sheets are encouraged to clarify in the comments. The rest of us are encouraged to check out the link shared by reader Michael, here on craigslist, to learn more about this $8,700 hardtop in Medford, Oregon.

The other half of the powertrain combo in this Buick is the 300-cubic inch OHV “Wildcat 310” V8. I can’t find a rhyme or reason for the numbering system of Buick’s Wildcat family of engines—the bigger optional V8 was the Wildcat 445, but only displaced 340 cubic inches—although, conveniently, the Wildcat 310 does put down 310 lb.-ft. of torque, so I can pretend that’s what it means and ignore my OCD tendencies. Output was claimed at 210 gross horsepower, and the condition of this unit is described as “excellent running.”

My OCD tendencies are bothered anew by the mismatch between the narrow pleats on the door panels and the wide ones on the bucket seats, but, well, that’s on Buick—all is original in this all-black cabin. Overall condition seems very good, with just a bank of auxiliary gauges hanging off the dash showing off the customizer’s touch.

Mileage is undisclosed, but the overall originality level seems very high. The period-correct Oregon plates suggest long-term ownership, or at least that this car hasn’t gone too far when it’s changed hands. The body is claimed to be rust-free, but the seller acknowledges that it will need paint soon. The old saw, “it’s only original once” is certainly true, but I can attest from experience that it’s also true that at some point old paint will cease to protect the metal underneath from corrosion, and then you’ve really got to do something about it.

When I was planning what to write about this ’68 Oldsmobile a few weeks ago, I tried to come up with a grand unified theory of mid-60s GM design, but then got tired and decided I didn’t need it; this car has me chewing on the thought again. It’s true that in many ways, a Chevelle, a Tempest, a Cutlass, and a Skylark are very similar in overall shape and form, but the detail differences and the ways that common form is subtly manipulated by each division also give each a distinct, cohesive character. All are elegant and attractive in a way that affirms the maturity of GM’s design efforts at the time; I think I like the Buick the best of the four, even though it’s not as clean as the Pontiac or Olds, or as straightforward as the Chevy. There’s a slight softness to it that suits the division’s laid-back character well, without sacrificing the size-defying light touch that all of the A-bodies shared.

All of that is to say, I clearly haven’t come up with my grand unified theory yet, but if, like me, you like mid-60s midsize Buicks, this seems like a pretty appealing, original option—originality, of course, dependent on the resolution of the mystery of the four-speed! Comment-section detectives, what do you have for us?

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Comments

  1. Steve R

    It would be nice to see the passenger side of the steering column to see if a shifter stub is present. There is no mention if the transmission is a Saginaw or Muncie.

    The car would make a nice cruiser, as is, it’s hard to say if it’s worth the asking price. It might be close enough that someone could close a deal with the seller.

    Steve R

    Like 6
  2. redwagon

    buick engines of this age are listed in terms of torque not cubic inches or horsepower. it’s confusing but that’s the way buick marketed its engines and engine choices

    Like 13
  3. 68custom

    You do know that Hurst manufactures shifters not transmissions right? Like aSteve says its a Muncie or a Saginaw, my money says it has a saginaw, with a Hurst shifter?

    Like 4
    • james m kollett

      could also be a borg warner t10

      Like 1
  4. Dean

    Squint and it looks like an Olds..or a Chevy Caprice..Pontiac, not so much

    Like 2
  5. Falstaff TR

    The number on the air cleaner on early 60’a Buick’s represented the torque. The Wildcat 310 was a 2 Barrel 300CI. With a 4 Barrel it was the Wildcat 340. The 300 also was a Wildcat 355 when in a Lesabre and larger. Same with the 401 and 425CI. I think when they moved away from the nailhead with the 350, 400, 430, and 455 they went to CI on the air cleaner.

    Like 8
    • scottymac

      FTR: “The 300 also was a Wildcat 355…”. Are you sure it wasn’t the 340 cubic inch engine that was advertised as the 355?

      Like 1
      • ACZ

        The 340 came in 67. 66 was the last year of the “nail head”. I had one just like this except in dark green, years ago. Trans was a Muncie. When I bought it there was a terrible engine vibration off idle. Engine had a fresh paint job that couldn’t have happened with the engine in the car. On a hunch, I pulled the trans and clutch and lo and behold, the dowel index pin was missing from the crankshaft. This is an externally balanced engine. I indexed the flywheel and put everything back together. Ran smooth as silk. Never a day goes by without learning something. It was a GS which came with a 401.

      • Capt Jim

        The 340 did not come out in ’67. I know because I owned a ’66 Skylark Sport Coupe with the 340 4 bbl. It was in my family since new and I had the original window sticker. Unfortunately, mine was a 2 speed powerglide, not a 4 speed manual.

  6. Retired Stig

    The unifying factor in these GM products, at least to my eye, is everything above the top of the doors. The A pillars, roofline, and especially the sail panels all look the same. The front and rear treatment varies, as do the flanks, but I’m guessing sub bodies are all the same.

    Like 4
  7. 86 Vette Convertible

    That’s nice enough someone will buy it I’m sure. Had a 67 Chevelle, that era had something special to it IMO.

    Like 4
  8. Beatnik Bedouin

    I’m with Steve that the buyer should check to see if there’s a shifter stub on the steering column. However, the shifter boot looks correct for a four-speed without a centre console. My brother’s ’66 Goat had the same set up.

    I’m guessing that the trans, if original, is a Saginaw.

    Falstaff is correct with Buick’s use of torque figures. The 401 in my Wildcat coupe is a ‘445’; the 425 was a ‘465’.

    Looks like a cool car, and if it’s as solid as it looks in the pics, could be pretty good buying.

    Like 5
  9. 86 Vette Convertible

    One more thing, anyone looking at this one should check behind the front and rear tires along with area around the rear window for rust. They had issues in those areas.

    Like 3
  10. Dom Colucci

    Saw a 67 2dr post striper with a 310 4spd a while back it was said to be an all original Buick. Neat sleeper!!

  11. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    This is my most desirable of the Buick’s. Only thing that’s a negative for me is the color. Nothing wrong with white, just not my favorite. Ever since I saw an ad for one, while overseas in the army, is a bright yellow with black trim. But the 4 speed is what makes this one special, even though my clutch leg is worn out now it’s a must for me in these cars. Love it.

    Like 1
  12. A.J.

    Damn, I’m sitting here in Chicago thinking a good way to end the summer would be to go out to Oregon, pick this thing up, change all the fluids and belts, and drive it home. Could be a fun road trip.

    Like 4
  13. Dom Colucci

    Go for it you only live once…

    Like 2
  14. Dom Colucci

    AJ, before you go make sure that it not a spray on vinyl top…

    • A.J.

      Yeah Dom, you might be on to something. I don’t see any seams and shouldn’t there be trim at the bottom of the c pillars?

  15. Dom Colucci

    Your right…

  16. Paul

    First off My high school ride in 1969 was a GrandSport with the 401 nailhead. That was the Wildcat 445 not the 340. The 340 was the Wildcat 350 and both were nailheads. Buick always put the torque rating on the engine name located on the air cleaner lid. Just saw a mint original 66 LeSabre today with a Wildcat 350 it was a 340 nailhead with 2bbl carb. This picture is of the 66 GrandSport

    Like 2
    • Peyton

      Only the 401 and 425’s in 1966 were nailheads. 1966 was the last year for nailheads. a true mid sixties GM car with a factory 4 speed would have the 2nd group option code “L” on the body plate.

  17. Paul

    picture of engine

    Like 2
  18. Gaspumpchas

    I’m a ford guy and I’d be the first to say that GM’s intermediate size cars were great cars because they had coil springs all the way around, full frame. Unibody fords were awful between the ironworms eating the unibodys and that awful front end. This is a nice affordable car for someone to start out with. would love to run thru the gears!

    Good luck to the new owner.

  19. Moe Jim

    It’s not difficult to remove knub off steering column and smooth it out. JS..

    Like 1
  20. Little_Cars Alexander Member

    1966-67 “Chevelle, a Tempest, a Cutlass, and a Skylark are very similar in overall shape and form” which also includes their tendency to rust out terribly around the rear window inset from the sail panels engineering into the design.

  21. Joe Brown

    Don’t forget the Wildcat “465”…as found in larger Buicks in the mid sixties. Basically a 401 nailhead with dual 4bbls.

    • A.J.

      My dad had a ’65 Wildcat with that 2/4bbls engine. He taught me to drive in that car. Just about everything since has been a letdown!

    • Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

      No, that’s not right the 401 could be had with one 4bbl or two. It was listed as 445 which in Buick terminology is lb.ft. torque. The 425 could be optioned the same way but called 465 for torque designation. There was 20hp more with two 4’s. My 64 Riviera is a 425 c. i. 340 hp with 465 ft. Lb. torque with single 4 bbl carburetor. With two 4’s it put out 360 hp.

  22. Cattoo

    I’d love to have this car as my first car was a gold 1966 Skylark. Mine had the 375 Wildcat 340ci v8 with a two speed power(slide)glide transmission. It would run up to 65 mph before sliding into second gear. Very smooth running and fast car. These have the 1967 Chevelle look a year before Chevrolet did.

    • CaCarDude

      On the transmission the 2 spd was the ST300 Super Tubine, and was a switch pitch setup, I swapped my 2 spd out of my ’65 Skylark for a TH350 3 spd, makes a big difference for hiway drives! I like the 66 and 67 Skylark but would not trade my ’65 for either year, IMO the ’64 and ’65 were a much better design early “A” body ride. My original 2 bbl was updated to the factory 4bbl setup making the 310 at 210hp now a 355 rated at 250 hp. The 300 SBB engine was an excellent runner when properly maintained. The 66 in this write up has been for sale on CL for several weeks now, not sure why it has not sold but may have some rust issues common on this, especially around the rear window base and trunk. I would recommend a good visual inspection before I handed over any $$$

      Like 1
  23. Al Coffman

    I owned one of these with a 401 Nail head, and it had a Buick 4 speed …not a Hurst. Have always thought one day I might find one exactly like the one I had. I still have the Sun tachometer I installed that I took out when it was totalled.

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