The Buick automotive brand has always been associated with American luxury. Prior to being integrated into the General Motors industrial conglomerate, Buick vehicles were marketed towards drivers whose financial standing allowed them to purchase cars that could compete against Cadillac in terms of styling and performance. In the years following World War II, Buick focused its efforts on the successful Roadmaster platform, giving it a more aggressive look that increased horsepower without sacrificing comfort.
The Roadmaster Skylark
In 1953, GM decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Buick brand with the introduction of the Skylark, a souped-up Roadmaster that was as luxurious as it was expensive. This sharp-looking, two-door convertible featured a 322 cubic inch V8. This 5.3L engine was the first V8 installed in a Buick model, and it delivered more than 300 hp. With an almost handmade approach to manufacturing, less than 1,700 Skylarks were produced in 1953, and Buick engineers were only getting started.
1954 Buick Skylark Convertible
The 53 Skylark was a moderate success among those who could afford it. Buick decided to push the envelope the next year, and the result was an unusual design that may have been a little too aggressive at the time. Instead of opting for the Roadmaster chassis, Buick switched to the sportier Century platform to develop what engineers thought would be the ultimate luxury sports car.
Inspiration for the 1954 Skylark convertible came from custom muscle cars and a concept model named the Wildcat. The result was nothing like the previous Skylark; it was smaller and looked like the fighter jets being tested at Edwards Air Force Base at the time. The 54 Skylark is a stunning car powered by an enhanced version of the 322 V8 that was complemented by a Dynaflow automatic transmission. This time, less than 900 Skylarks were produced at a lower price; however, sales were sluggish because the target audience seemed to be owners of the 53 Skylarks, and they seemed to be content with their cars.
In the end, the 1954 Buick Skylark convertible turned into a case study for what can happen when project managers do not conduct proper market research. Buick ended up with a gorgeous classic that drivers were not interested in, at least at that time. These days, a 54 Skylark can fetch more than $130,000 at specialty auctions.
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