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Three On The Tree: 1969 Buick Skylark Custom Convertible

This 1969 Buick Skylark Custom Convertible has spent 49 out of its 50-years housed in a barn or a garage. The damage that you see to the paint is the result of spending 1-year outside, covered with a tarp. When the tarp was removed, the sun had baked the plastic to the paint in places. The result was that the paint came off with the tarp in some spots, while the tarp remained baked onto the car in others. Barn Finder local_sheriff referred the Buick to us, so thank you so much for that local_sheriff. The Buick is located in Woodbridge, New Jersey, and is listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set the BIN price at $11,999, and this represents a $3,000 reduction on his original asking price. However, the option is also available to make an offer.

Once you work your way past the badly baked and damaged Verde Green Poly paint, what you actually find is a very solid car. The floors and frame are free of rust, while the usually prone areas such as the lower quarter panels, rockers, radiator support, and lower corners of the doors look to be really clean. There is some minor damage to the grille and front bumper, but it doesn’t look like it is going to take much to have the Buick looking its best again. Even the top appears to be pretty reasonable, so there really does appear to be a fair amount of promise in this car.

The news isn’t quite as good when we get inside the Buick. It had been sitting for a number of years, and mice had taken up residence in significant numbers. Thankfully, they chose not to make a meal of the Buick’s wiring, but the owner does say that things didn’t smell terribly good inside the car. The seats and other Parchment interior trim items are still present, but it is probably going to take a fair amount of work to get rid of that distinctive odor. The owner actually says that all of the interior trim will need to be replaced, and given the fact that he can see (and smell) it in person, I’d be willing to take his word on that.

The reason that the Skylark was left outside was due to the fact that the starter had failed. In fact, once this happened back in 2003, that was the last time that the original 350ci V8 ran…up until now. The owner dragged the car out of the shed, and when he got it home, he poured the good old Mystery Oil down the plugs. He then cleaned the plugs and point, changed the oil and the faulty starter motor, replaced the gas in the tank, and the Buick fired right up. The owner is a Buick enthusiast, and one of the things that he finds most interesting about this car is that behind that 350 V8 is a 3-speed manual transmission with a column shifter. This was definitely available back in 1969, but it wasn’t a common choice amongst buyers at that point in time. However, it does seem to fit in with the rest of the car, because apart from the power top, the car has been fitted with very few optional extras. What you get is drum brakes all round, and no power assistance for either the brakes or steering. Of course, after all those years of inactivity, you can be sure that there will be a bit of work required before the Buick is ready to resume active duty again.

The next owner of this Skylark is going to face some choices. There is no doubt that fixing the interior is going to be a priority if the car is going to grace our roads once again. Likewise, the car will have to receive a pretty thorough mechanical check as well. The ruined paint is something that could be tackled at any point, so isn’t a potential priority. Good examples of the Skylark Custom Convertible are regularly fetching sums in excess of $20,000, so even with the work that is required, this one would seem to be a good buy.


  1. Arthell64

    Three on the tree in a Buick convertible who would thought. Not the most popular GM A body but this one looks extremely solid. I like it.

    Like 6
    • 71FXSuperGlide

      No kidding, wow. Thought all the manufacturers had done away with that as an option for passenger cars by 1969.

      Would make the 4 speed conversion that much easier at least, should one desire it.

      Like 4
      • Steve R

        When we were hitting the Pick N Pull every few days in the 80’s and early-90’s you’d see a lot of 3spd column shift cars. It was still the base transmission for many models. I’d assume dealers weren’t generally ordering them for stock, but in those days, people were more to special ordering their cars used.

        Steve R

        Like 1
      • Evan

        You’re off by about 10 years. The last passenger car available with 3-on-the-tree was the 1979 Chevrolet Nova.

        Chevy also holds the record for trucks. Last truck with a column-shifted manual transmission was the 1986 Chevy C-10.

        Like 8
    • Erich

      3 on the tree = millennial anti-theft device

      Like 36
      • Clinton

        Not just millennials. I worked at an auction and was one of the few that could drive 3 on a tree. I remember them coming to get me from my office because there was a really nice 73 Chevy truck that nobody could drive through the lane. I had to do it.

        Like 4
  2. Keith

    (Erich) RIGHT on BROTHER!!!! HaHa!

    Like 3
  3. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Nice solid and apparently original car. I’m thinking $12,000 is a little high considering what might be needed. Obviously, you would have to go over all the mechanicals to ensure it’s road-worthy. Standard drums, no power steering and three on the tree are drawbacks for most. You could upgrade the brakes to power discs but that’s more money. If you have to paint the whole car that won’t be cheap, either. The interior might be salvageable but what if it’s not? A new interior and installation will cost you.

    I’d be in for $8 – $9 thousand but when all is said and done, if you really want a 1969 Buick Skylark convertible, might you be better off spending $6 to $8 grand more and finding a better one with a few more options?

    Like 2
    • Pete Phillips

      I agree with FordGuy1972. I think the car is quite a bit over-priced. Needs new paint, needs new interior, and no power steering with a heavy 350 V8 and radial tires is a real drag. I like oddball stick shift cars–have several–but this car is over-priced by about $5,000 in my mind.

      Like 0
  4. Pat

    I had a baseball coach that had one of these, so obviously there was at least two like this, Conv, v8 and 3 on tree.

    Like 1
  5. JOHN Member

    Could be a fun project, $12k is a bit of a stretch. Good thing he saved the seats, smell and all, GM A body rear seats are hard to come by. A new interior is around $1500, will need a top at some point, the top material itself is relatively inexpensive, but this car also has the glass back window, the price climbs. If you can’t install it yourself, installation by a competent shop is getting up there. Add in a Tremec 5 speed, it could be a pretty cool car!

    Like 2
  6. CCFisher

    Another oddball. Was it ordered by a dealer who wanted to advertise, “You can enjoy top-down fun in a Buick for as little as $3200”? Was it ordered by an older person who “ain’t got no use for fancy transmissions or power this and that”?
    Was it ordered by someone of limited means who *really* wanted a Buick? After all, at $3152 to start, this Buick was more expensive than a basic Chevelle SS396 convertible.

    Like 5
  7. Dan

    Buick was a fairly upmarket brand back then. This is not how I typically think of Buicks being equipped, and it’s awesome for that reason! I like oddballs and basic cars, but the seller and I probably wouldn’t be able to strike a deal.

    Like 3
  8. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Three on the tree was something I ordered in my first two new cars. Put the extra $$ in other areas of the car. They were a lot of fun right up till the shifter arms in the column wore enough they slipped and didn’t shift the tranny. Moved a lot in those years so didn’t have a garage or work space other than an outside parking lot to work on the cars.
    I like this one, it has unlimited potential IMO.

    Like 3
    • JOHN Member

      You didn’t order three on the tree, you didn’t order a floor shift or an automatic! Three on the tree was the base transmission for most cars!

      Like 5
      • Ken

        When you ordered a car from the factory, you had to specify how you wanted it equipped, so yes, you did have to order column shift, floor shift, or an automatic.

        Like 0
      • JOHN Member

        Ken, what I meant, and it certainly didn’t come out that way is if you ordered a car, standard equipment in this case (and many others) is the column mounted manual 3 speed shifter. You could also order (at extra cost usually) a manual floor shifter, again, this varies between the manufacturer’s. If you ordered an automatic transmission, it would have come standard with a column shift. Your option would be a floor mounted shifter which required optional bucket seats and console. A manual 3 speed on the floor did not require a console, or even bucket seats. There were plenty of the GM A body’s with a column shifted automatic and bucket seats. Certain cars, like the Mustang for instance, came only with floor mounted shifters, the base trans was the 3 speed manual, 4 speed’s and automatics were optional, as well as consoles. Sorry for any confusion!

        Like 0
  9. Stevieg

    If it weren’t for the ’51 Pontiac convertible project I bought, I would be all over this! Anyone want a ’51 Pontiac?

    Like 0
  10. Dusty Rider

    I knew a guy in Tucson back in ’70 that had a ’63 Riviera that had a tree on the tree. never saw one before or since.

    Like 3
    • JOHN Member

      The 63 Riviera was not offered with a manual transmission, they were all equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
      There are some early Riv’s that have showed up at various shows with a modern 5 speed, but they were not built at the factory.

      Like 0
      • Dusty Rider

        Say what you will, it was a ’63 or ’64, it was a Riveria, I saw it and he and I discussed it.

        Like 2
      • Little_Cars

        Really, JOHN? A CVT in the first year Rivieras? You must be thinking of the front wheel drive versions that came later.

        As far as this Buick, couldn’t the paint be meticulously buffed and clay barred to bring it back, with judicious application of new paint where required (??) Gotta laugh about manual transmissions as theft deterrents….I too worked at an auto auction around 1988 and the boss told everybody that they must be able to drive manual. Good times even if it wasn’t Mecum or Barrett Jackson showiness.

        Like 0
  11. TimM

    I would love to own this one with the three on the tree!! I would leave it there too!!! It would be the car everyone would not want to drive in my family!!!

    Like 4
  12. James Martin

    I like the custom bucket basket 11000 dollar option.

    Like 0
  13. JOHN Member

    The transmission in the early 63 Riviera was the Dynaflow, which is basically a CVT. You will not feel a shift, even though the shifter has a drive and low position. Low was for snow, crappy conditions steep grades, etc. They essentially used high gear to start off (shifter in drive), relying on their crazy multi-turbine and stator torque convertor to provide the drive. They stopped using that design somewhere in the middle of 1963 production they went to the Super Turbine 400, essentially the GM Turbo-Hydramatic 400, but again, yes, the first 63 Riv’s came with the Dynaflow trans, which is essentially a CVT transmission!

    Like 0

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