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Turbo-Charged 4-Speed: 1984 Buick Skyhawk T-Type

The second generation of the Buick Skyhawk (1982-89) was the corporate cousin of other GM FWD compact cars built on the same platform, the Chevy Cavalier, Olds Firenza, Pontiac Sunbird and Cadillac Cimarron. The T-Type was the 1980s equivalent of the 1960s GS (Gran Sport), a designation used on several Buick products, including the Skyhawk. That gave the little car more muscle through the use of a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4 with a 4-speed. The seller’s 1984 Skyhawk T-Type looks to be a nice survivor and currently calls Daly City, California home. It’s available here on craigslist for $3,500. Thanks again, Pat L, for bringing cars like this to light for us!

The Skyhawk would see its best sales year in 1984 at 134,000 units. Of that, 11,300 were the T-Type like the seller’s, so it’s not quite as rare as he or she believes. But it was more potent than other Skyhawks because the Brazilian-based 1.8 engine produced 150 horsepower. Buyers would have to settle for a 4-speed than the 5-speed that was catching on elsewhere. Those looking for an extensive list of automobile production numbers should check out Production Cars.

This ’84 T-Type looks to be in good original condition, although the photos provided don’t show it in a flattering manner. They seem blurry or “unsharp.” The machine is said to have 97,000 miles on the clock, so the car hasn’t been sitting on its laurels the past 36 years. The turbocharger is the main selling point of this Buick and the seller tells us it sounds good and has plenty of power. We’re told that the car has not been modified or chopped, so we must assume that happened to more than one of these cars back in the day. It’s recently had a thorough tune-up which should make it ship-shape for the next owner.

The body and interior look good from what we can see. The driver’s side seat may be worn or just very dirty, but that might be about it. Since this is a California car, it would be important to know that its smog tags are all up to snuff. The rub on this car is that it comes with a salvage rather than a clean title because the car was stolen and then recovered many years ago. As we get the impression that the seller has had the car a while, it’s curious that he didn’t get the title straightened out before putting it up for sale. Perhaps that’s reflected in the asking price, although it’s already more than NADA says it should bring.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to obtain a Cars & Coffee candidate, this could be it. $3,500 doesn’t go far these days in collector circles and it might be a stretch to think of this as a collectible. As a side note, when the Skyhawk ceased production in 1989, it would be the last Buick vehicle to come with a manual transmission for another 22 years.


  1. nycbjr Member

    I like it, irrationally I do lol

    Like 4
  2. Tony Primo

    When we were first married my wife had a 1984 Buick Shyhawk T-Type. It had the Brazilian built 1.8 litre engine but no turbocharger. It was also an automatic. I never seen another one on the road while we owned it or ever since.

    Like 3
    • mike

      I had the Pontiac Sunbird version with the 1.8 Brazilian engine. It was plenty powerful enough for me and got good MPG. Plus you couldn’t kill it. It never let me down.

      Like 3
      • CCFisher

        Your experience was not typical. Mine had issues with head gaskets, exhaust manifolds, and oil consumption – at only 70,000 miles. I traded it in after graduation on a Mustang LX 5.0 and never looked back.

        Like 5
  3. CCFisher

    11,300 includes turbo and non-turbo T-Types. To put things in perspective, the turbo 1.8 was the only available engine for the contemporary Pontiac 2000 Sunbird S/E, and there were ~5600 of those built in 1984 across three body styles. A turbo Buick Skyhawk T-Type with a manual transmission is likely very rare, though not necessarily very desirable. My guess would be no more than 500 units.

    Like 5
  4. Argy

    A rare sight even in 1984 to be sure. Too bad it’s not a couple years newer after the facelift with hidden headlamps. When you consider the 1984 Mustang GT Turbo only made 145 horsepower from 2.3 litres the 150 horsepower Skyhawk must have been a genuine rocket!

    Like 2
    • Jim Verge

      It was a rocket. I could hunt down mustang gt’s on the highway at over 125. They’d get me on the line but not get more than 10 cars out before I’d real them in. Mine had the mfi and turbo with the 4 speed. That car surprised a lot of people. I’d love to find one again.

      Like 1
  5. Rhett

    Sharp car, priced right. These were fun cars in the day, but not quite as quick as you’d hope. This is probably the best of the J Bodies (with the possible exception of the 2.8 Z/24 Cavalier), and I’d be proud to have it.

    Like 3
  6. Gremlin X

    Virtually 1 of 1 now. They were beat unmercifully and those Brazilian turbos liked to eat head gaskets.

    Like 1
  7. Mark

    I had one of these for seven years and loved it. Mine was one of the non turbos though. I’d love to find a similar one again. But this one has a few details that don’t add up. The salvage title would give me pause as to what it actually is. To begin, the interior is wrong for an 84. For that year, Buick used the interior from the Custom in dark grey. This car has a Limited interior, which was used in 85 and later, but had tri-color fabrics. The placement of the T-Type badges is incorrect, and their font is from 1985 or later. Also, there should be no Buick badge on the trunklid as it was already between the tail lights. There should be no chrome around the windows or the headlight bezels, it should be all black. Also, the car appears to be riding on 13 inch rims. Turbos had 14 inch rims with 225/60 tires. But the front clip is correct as the grill is the right color and it has the cutouts for the driving lights. Looks like somewhere along the line someone took a couple Skyhawks to create this car.

    Like 8
    • MarveH

      Always love the folks with deep knowledge. That info would turn me off the car even thought the turbo and manual are strong selling points.

      Like 0
    • S

      You’re definitely the expert here. I did think the Buick badge on the trunk was odd since it already says Buick between the tail lights. Or, in this case, BUC.

      Like 0
  8. wjtinfwb

    Awful cars, an example of GM leaving the final development to the customers. We had 40 in our daily rental fleet and all of them were notoriously undependable. The Ford Tempo’s that replaced the Skyhawks didn’t drive much better but ran like Corolla’s in comparison.

    Like 2
  9. Tim Jones

    I had a new 85 non turbo 1.8, 5 sp. We called it the Sky Chicken. Not a bad commuter to go back snd forth to work. It was loaded with everything and the sunroof. Only issue was a blown head gasket when it was about 6 years old which was fixed and ran great for another couple of years. Traded it in for a new 96 Mazda B3000 truck.

    Like 0
  10. Bestguest

    Had one in high school. The abuse these little turbo cars could take is beyond understanding. Neat car. GLWTS !

    Like 0
    • Brian Wilson

      Is your name Loren Smiley by chance?

      Like 2
      • Larry S.

        Loren is my brother. You must remember our parents 86 Skyhawk T-Type hatch back. I loved that car. Never seen another one like it.

        Like 0
      • Loren S

        Hi Brian. This is Loren. It’s been a long time! We sure did put that Skyhawk to the test. That car was so cool.

        Like 0
  11. Maestro1 Member

    Thank you Mark excellent and very interesting.

    Like 0
  12. chrlsful

    was the ford EXP 1st? or this…


    Mom hada ford w/low pressure turbo

    Like 0
  13. Tony Primo

    What finally made us sell ours was a malady known as “morning sickness”. When the car was cold (and Toronto has lots of cold days) the power steering would feel like manual steering for the first few minutes. The power steering rack would wear out and the power steering fluid would be full of metal shavings. The only cure was to replace the power steering rack, or sell the car on a warm summer day like we did!!!

    Like 0
  14. ACZ

    I had one new in 84. Turbo and manual trans. A little rocket ship. Hammer down and hold on. Plenty of torque steer but otherwise handled quite well. Never had a problem with it. Traded it in on a GN.

    Like 1
  15. JCA Member

    Either the Tach is stuck or the oil pressure is low

    Like 0
  16. Thrashercharged

    I have a 1986 Hatchback Skyhawk T-Type with the hidden headlights. Black of course with the Shelby 205-60-14 wheels and rear window louvers. 1.8L Turbo Automatic. Anyone know how many were made? How many left? Also since there are Skyhawk experts and ex-owners posting here, was the turbo available as a manual in 1986? Wikipedia says a turbo never came with a manual but this article obviously makes that untrue, at least for 1984. I’m looking for parts, especially the front spoiler if anyone has a line on any! I’m in the process of restoring it, had to retrofit a Chinese eBay turbo on it.

    Like 0

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