Only One Left? 1981 Buick Skylark Convertible

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American Custom Coachworks Ltd. was a customization shop based in Beverly Hills, California and they made convertibles out of cars that were never meant to be convertibles, such as this ultra-rare 1981 Buick Skylark convertible. This example is listed here on Facebook Marketplace in Racine, Wisconsin and the seller is asking $8,500. Here is the original listing, and thanks to Hans H. for the tip!

A 1981 Buick brochure touted the ’81 Skylark here: “When we introduced the new Skylark, Buick’s version of the “X” car, we were more than pleased by your acceptance. Skylark quickly became the car Americans couldn’t get enough of. The 1981 Skylark promises more of a good thing. You’re going to like the traction of front-wheel drive, its compact exterior (the engine is turned sideways to conserve space), its very roomy interior, the spacious 14.3 cubic-foot trunk.”

All of that flowery marketing lingo doesn’t even take into effect having the top cut off, which is often the ultimate option. Sadly, the seller doesn’t show this car with the top down or even one photo from the rear so we can see what it looks like. But, they have provided many good photos, including two engine photos (!), so they get two gold stars from Scotty G on this one. You can see the innards of the top here. It’s not exactly Bentley elegance, but this is a Buick Skylark from 1981. I’m sure a good interior shop could make a nice liner that would work when the top operates. Our friends at Curbside Classic show a couple of examples, one in a junkyard here, and a very nice red one here. I also found a nice red one listed here in Kansas, but it was sold.

The X-body Skylark was made by GM along with the Pontiac Phoenix, Oldsmobile Omega, and Chevrolet Citation from 1979 for the 1980 model year until the end of 1985. It would be the first of the front-wheel drive Skylarks that would last for two more generations until the 1998 model year. The interior looks great. This car appears to be loaded, as you’d expect in a Buick, even a small one. The small back seat looks unused, but the front seat shows a bit of sagging, and that would be an easy fix for any good upholstery shop. The seller lists the mileage as 15,925.

Two engines were available in 1981: an Iron Duke four-cylinder and a 2.8-liter OHV V6, which this car has. It would have had 110 horsepower and 145 lb-ft of torque. The seller gives no information about its operating condition and shows some surface rust. It isn’t unusual if it’s been next to Lake Michigan (Racine), even if it hasn’t been driven in the winter. It sure looks like an excellent example, and you will likely never see another one parked next to you. Have any of you seen a convertible conversion of a GM X-body?

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  1. jwzg

    Unsafe at any speed?

    Like 13
  2. Nelson C

    Never saw one of these before. I give them credit for sticking with the roof line even if it looks a little awkward. It’s got the V6, air and power windows so those boxes are checked. What I wonder is how it drives?

    Like 3
    • steve

      “you think you hate it now, but wait’ll you drive it”

      Like 14
  3. Claudio

    Moons ago , i saw a a convertible monza coupe in downtown montreal , could not get up close , looking at this box , its an oddball for sure !

    Like 3

    Back in ’81 my parents wanted me to be like my older brother and wait 3 yrs until my senior year in college to buy a car. By doing so he bought their ’77 gold Honda Accord hatchback with hardly any miles for cheap. The problem with that argument was if I waited I would be getting an olive green, 4 door Buick Skylark with wire wheel covers. Hard pass and I bought a ’70 Nova SS (black with blue flames, since restored to original cranberry red) which I still have today…mom didn’t talk to me for a week.

    Like 0
  5. Herbert

    Note to self, if ever going to sell a convertible, how about a topless picture in the ad? The top up shots sure do not help here, kind of homely. How well were these engineered? I can feel the cowl shake from here.

    Like 25
    • Terrry

      It would look a lot better “down” than it does “up” that’s for sure. I think it’s an amateur conversion.

      Like 8
    • normadesmond

      Kind of homely????

      Like 8
      • jwaltb

        Ultra ugly.

        Like 3
  6. Terrry

    They don’t show the top except once, thank God for small mercies because it looks hideous. And can you say “cowl shake”? This is because this type of body is extremely difficult to reinforce, which a convertible needs to make up for the lost roof structure.

    Like 8
  7. KC

    K-Car // X-Body… difference, same quality.

    Like 8
    • S

      I can tell you from personal experience, having driven an 81 Buick Skylark sedan daily for 20 years, and still owning it to this day, that that is not true. That may be the generally accepted opinion, but they became much better cars after the initial teething problems in 1980. If you got one as a Buick, you got a much higher level interior, noise isolation, etc and overall a much better car than if you got one as a Chevrolet. Not all X cars were created equally. I was quite pleased with mine, which is why I kept it all these years. It’s smooth, quiet, and surprisingly good on gas. I’ve heard all the criticisms throughout the years and I can tell you the issues these cars supposedly had were all been blown out of proportion. This convertible is a bit unusual, since they were not offered this way from the factory.

      Like 6
      • nlpnt

        The Pontiac Phoenix was probably the way to go, you got the hatchback but also the B-O-P upgrades.

        Like 0
  8. jeffschevelle

    Looks like they wrapped the entire A-pillar in vinyl. Very awkward looking at the bottom. But not as awkward as quarter window area looks.

    Like 2
  9. Shawn Fox Firth

    Cool .. How about an LS4 swap ?

    Like 1
    • jwaltb

      Not cool.

      Like 2
  10. Harry

    Only one left you say? Let’s hope so!

    Like 10
  11. HemiBoy63

    YIKES! Looks like the first client of Hair Club for Men, only for cars though. that rug does not fit the head!

    Like 5
  12. Bj

    I always am a sucker for a convertible, but in this case I’ll make an exception.

    Like 5
  13. FrankTA

    Looking at the wear on the engine, interior and the windshield wiper switch on the steering column, I would say this car has been driven at least 115,000 miles. I doubt it only has been driven 15,925 miles as advertised.

    Like 1
  14. Gary

    Did I miss the part where the chassis was reinforced during the conversion? Otherwise a FWD that doesn’t have the stability of a rear drivetrain has to twist more than licorice over bumps.
    I had a 93 Allante’ Northstar that was GM’s halo car and the cowl shake was still significant.
    Even factory convertibles leak, but I can just imagine what the floorplans look like from water leaks?
    Buy a Reatta!

    Like 3
  15. AzzuraMember

    Just when you thought the 81 Skylark couldn’t get any uglier…

    Like 6
    • Bob WMember

      But it can! My father bought an ’81 Olds Omega in ’84. 4-door V6, air. It had the powder-blue paint that flaked off of the black primer.

      It had two problems:
      – the power steering hoses were like 6-feet log, so in the winter, it took a full minute before the PS fluid warmed up enough to actually function.

      – One of the spark plugs on the V6 – I believe it was the #1- required removal of the A/C compressor & bracket to access it. I replaced the factory plug there; the other five had been done previously.

      The upside was that no cop would ever stop you.

      Like 0
    • steve

      In a stunning shade of pea soup / baby puke green no less….

      Like 0
  16. SA

    I wouldn’t buy it new. Crap.

    Like 2
  17. S

    This car is interesting – it has the base interior (vinyl) but has some nicer options, such as the floor shifted transmission (most were on the column), power windows, a/c, and the V6 engine. It would be nicer with the Limited (velour) interior but most likely someone did not want that since it’s a convertible. There was also a better vinyl and even a leather interior available if you chose to get a Skylark Limited. This is the base model with some options added.

    Like 1
  18. Robert Atkinson, Jr.

    I wish we could see some pictures of the underside, to see if the body has had the appropriate reinforcements added before the roof was cut off! These weren’t great cars when in new, factory original condition. Having the roof cut off with the passage of forty-three (43) years in time since this car was built, doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the final product. A mildly interesting oddity, that doesn’t inspire much interest in me, unfortunately.

    Like 0
  19. Ignatius J. Reilly

    “U won’t find another one.””
    Nor would you want to.

    Like 1
  20. DLO

    “Only one left”… and thank God for that. I’d hate to go through this again.

    Like 0

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