Spins Tires Into 2nd: Vortec-Powered 1978 Buick Skylark

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The Skylark name was a part of the Buick roster on and off between 1946 and 1998, usually a compact or intermediate car. For its third generation (1975-79), the Skylark shared its platform with the last rear-wheel drive Chevy Nova. This 1978 Skylark looks to be a very clean car and comes with a later-model V-8 engine and transmission, with some recent mechanical work done to boot. It can be found in Box Springs, Georgia and is offered here on eBay for the Buy It Now price of $5,800. Thanks, Wyatt Donnelly, for the tip!

Borrowing from the Nova, Buick got back into the compact car business in 1973 with the Apollo. In 1975, when GM’s compacts got a redesign, Buick reverted to the Skylark name for the two-door versions of these cars (and later the four-doors, too). With this run, Buick brought back its “VentiPorts” on the front fenders, a trademark element that was last used on the Skylark in 1968. The car was little changed during its third gen run, mostly related to engine choices and comfort levels. For 1978, there were three trim levels of the Skylark offered, regular Skylark, Skylark S (bare bones) and Skylark Custom, which is what we think the seller’s car is. Buick built about 114,000 Skylarks for ’78, with nearly half of them being coupes.

This 1978 Skylark Custom seems to be a nice survivor, with no obvious flaws in the body or paint. But the photos aren’t plentiful of the exterior, so we can’t be entirely sure. The glass and chrome look good, part of the era before chrome bumpers gave way to plastic covers. The aftermarket wheels aren’t bad, either. The interior seems nice, although there is some minor splitting on the front seat due to age and the driver’s door pull handle is broken (replacements should not be hard to find).

The car has a reported 125,000 miles on it, but that does not apply to the engine and tranny. The car could have come with a V-6 or various V-8’s, but the seller believes there is now a 350, tuned-port injection Vortec V-8 under the hood that came from a 1999 Chevy Suburban. It sounds like a very peppy car as we’re told the old girl will spin the tires in first and second gears. The fuel tank was replaced along with the engine in order to accommodate the fuel injection. The seller has recently replaced the air conditioning compressor and condenser, the idle circuit solenoid, and the automatic transmission, which is a 700R4 with overdrive. The A-frame bushings must be getting noisy as the seller mentions a possible need to change them.

These cars don’t seem to have hit the collector radar screen yet and NADA doesn’t assign much resale value to them. But given the kind of cars we see on Barn Finds, $5,800 sounds like a pretty decent buy for this one. It must have been $6,500 to begin with as that figure is used in the ad’s body copy, but the lower price is the one on Buy It Now. The seller is happy to accept cash, but would also trade for a Foxbody Ford, Bronco or first-generation Mercury Cougar.

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. phil1

    Love the car it’s a sleeper but $5,800 sounds like ALL the money and then some.

    Like 9
  2. Pat LMember

    Wonder if it is the same owner that had it for sale last year on Craigslist?

    Like 1
    • Russ Dixon Russ DixonAuthor

      It looks like the same car, but a different seller given the change in location. The latest ad suggests he’s selling because he’s not up to going mod with it.

      Like 2
    • George Musselman

      Same car but new owner. I had a number items fixed on it like the 700R4 trans rebuilt, new A/C compressor and condenser.

      Like 1
  3. Steve BushMember

    Always liked this series of GM compacts and this looks to be a nice driver for a good price. Had a light blue 1978 Omega 2dr in the mid 1980s with a 231 Buick V6 with ps, pb, AC and posi. After the oil pump failed, I sold it to my best friend Bob. With his stepdad’s help, he put a 350 Olds in it, took off the ac, added a small rear spoiler and had it repainted a darker blue with white stripes. It was sharp and pretty fast. Unfortunately, he had to sell it when he got divorced a few years later.

    Like 2
    • Phlathead Phil

      🧐hmmn, looks pretty clean. And, shows little signs of rust.

      You can always tell if a previous owner took care of his ride by looking in the engine compartment. This one is clean as noticeable with a quick look at the underside of the hood.

      Like 2
  4. Mitchell GildeaMember

    Pray tell what is this Vortex 350 you speak of?

    Like 3
    • Skorzeny

      What the hell is a Vortex motor??? I have never seen a Suburban with a Vortex.

      Like 3
    • Jeff

      Isn’t a Vortex 350 is slightly smaller than a titty twister 400?

      Like 9
      • Mitchell GildeaMember

        I spit my coffee out reading this

        Like 4
  5. Michael Keil

    Need to get new fact checkers. It’s Vortec not Vortex

    Like 6
    • Russ Dixon Russ DixonAuthor


      Like 2
    • Jimbo

      Or is it the Voxhall motor? 🤣

      Like 0
  6. Stangalang

    Its that thing that the starship Enterprise kept trying to avoid (or go through..I can’t recall) a temporal vortex!! 🤔🤣👍

    Like 6
  7. Claudio

    These cars don’t seem to have hit the collector radar screen yet

    And they never will because they were and are still FUGLY

    Chevrolet had the right design but buick and olds turned the cars to fugly

    Best kept for parts for other runners …

    Engine, trans, frame , doors etc, this one is a treasure trove of parts …

    Like 1
    • Poppy

      Always nice to hear from you, Claudio. Is there ANY American car you don’t find ugly? That seems to be the main point of most of your comments on here.

      Like 7
      • Claudio

        Well, you obviously dont know me yet …

        Like 0
    • Dave

      It’s a unit body car, no frame to donate. This current iteration is nearly as good as this car will ever be. Ungainly when new, but far from fugly.

      Like 3
  8. Keefer Crawford

    Had a vortec in a van I had in the 90s. Good strong motor, not a lot of problems. Prob more torque than hp. I agree w other guy about fugly. Had a 70 cutlass that was much better looking a body

    Like 0
  9. Rhett True

    Looks like cheap fun to me.

    Like 5

    Looks more like a tuned port motor set up from a Camaro. Vortec motors didn’t look like that on a Suburban that I can recall.

    Like 3
  11. Phil D

    There needs to be some sort of clarification as to what engine is currently in that car.

    If it’s a Vortec out of a ’99 Suburban, then it wasn’t TPI (and that’s clearly a TPI intake in the picture), and if it’s a 5.7 TPI engine, then it’s neither a Vortec or out of a Suburban (unless it’s a conglomeration of unrelated components bolted together). The TPI engines were never used in trucks, and intake manifolds for Vortec and non-Vortec engines are not interchangeable because how the intake bolts to the heads is different. If non-Vortec heads are bolted onto a Vortec block to accommodate a traditional SBC intake then it’s no longer a Vortec engine, because it’s the cylinder heads that define a Vortec SBC engine.

    Like 9
    • George Musselman

      Same car but new owner. I had a number items fixed on it like the 700R4 trans rebuilt, new A/C compressor and condenser. The motor I reported is what I was told by the guy I got it from and he was told same by who he got it from. He garage that worked on it said the motor and trans may be from a 1992 Z28 but he did not run numbers to verify so who knows. All I know is it that it is finally road but it must go because I have too many projects.

      Like 0
  12. Stu Richter

    According to Super Chevy Magazine, there is a conversion to put TPI on a Vortec engine.

    Like 0
  13. ericelk

    thanks phil its an lt1 think caprice, iroc 285 gross hp

    Like 1
    • George Musselman

      The garage told me the power train most likely came from a 92 Z28 cameo or IROC. I took the car on trade for a bike I didn’t need and since I used to have a ‘68 GS400 Skylark this seemed like it would be fun. I jade hoped to put side pipes on it and jack rear up with old school N50 sized tires. But now I just want to sell it I already have ‘93 Lightning that hardly ever gets driven. I just don’t need two rides doing nothing but sitting. I tried to update info on eBay but it won’t let me. I’m near Columbus GA. 17063662582

      Like 0
    • George musselman

      I’m the current owner and think you are correct on the motor, based upon the mechanic told me later after fixing everything. Thanks for your input. And to those who cal,it fugly, didn’t your momma ever tell you that if you nothing good to say, then say nothing. Wha do this haters drive, a Kia?

      Like 2
      • Claudio

        I am the one that called it Fugly and i stand by my word
        I drive a civic , a f150 a z3 and a corvette
        Just to help you with your next friendly comment if need be


        Like 0
  14. Troy s

    Whatever configuration of the 350 cubic inch small block Chevy it is I’m sure it’s a lot better than the smogged down pile of junk that originally came in the Skylark. No doubt about it. Better clarification always beats out I think so or it might be, however.
    Cool wheels, it’s no fuglier than most of the new cars I’ve seen, and no one will suspect the Buick that sure looks like a Nova has any bones under the hood. I say that cause some people weren’t born yet when these were new and those folks are into their forties now. No point, just observation.

    Like 0

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