1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible


1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible

1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible

The 1953 Buick Skylarks were a limited production car built by General Motors. All of the Skylarks during the 1953 model year were built as convertibles. The 1953 Buick Skylark convertible is considered to be a specialty car and helped to mark the 50th anniversary of General Motors. The automobile was one of three specialty cars built by GM during 1953 with the others being Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs. The best selling of the three was the Buick model. The fact that the 1953 Buick Skylark convertible was a limited run edition makes it a very popular collector’s car. The Buick Skylark went into production in January of 1953 and was in the showrooms by spring.

The 1953 Buick Skylark Design

The overall design of the 1953 Buick Skylark was essentially taken from the Roadmaster model. The Skylark had the same dimensions as the Roadmaster with the exception that the car’s height. The Skylark was based on the big 1953 Buick Roadmaster convertible, which because of it’s bulk and size couldn’t really be considered a sports car. Regardless of it’s large size, Buick did refer to the auto as a sports car. Cited were it’s low lines and wire wheels. The front seat was lowered to the point where the seatback sat level with the tops of the doors. What the Buick Skylark didn’t have were the front fender “portholes” to keep its styling clean. The car did have special body side emblems ahead of the rear wheels.

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible interior

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible interior

1953 Buick Skylark buyers were able to enjoy just about any luxury available on a car that year. These included soft-tanned two-tone cowhide seats and the buyer could have his or her name engraved on a gold-colored emblem plate on the steering wheel hub. All of these accessories came as standard equipment which even included tinted glass, whitewall tires, power seats, power windows, power steering and power brakes.

Of special note is that the Buick Roadmaster Skylark sported genuine Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels. The Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels made to Buick specifications and sported red, white and blue “50th anniversary” emblems in their hubs. Another standard feature mentioned above were a leather interior and reshaped wheel openings.

1953 Skylark front end with a 4 inch lower windshield

1953 Skylark front end with a 4 inch lower windshield

As if this wasn’t enough, Buick put in their “Selectronic” signal-seeking radio with a power antenna and a floor-button control that changed stations. This truly was an auto accessory ahead of it’s time. The radio had a  “more/less” knob that when adjusted would stop the radio at more or fewer stations.

Buick’s Skylark was sold for two years with sales for 1953 being 1,690 units. The car sold new in 1953 for about $5,000. Interestingly enough, and because of it’s relatively steep price, only a little over 800 cars sold in 1954 and at a reduced price of around $4,500. To give you an idea of the high price of the Skylark convertible, a 1953 Cadillac convertible cost even less than the Buick Skylark convertible.  In a way, this limited production over two years made the Buick Roadmaster Skylarks even more of a popular rare collector automobile.

Whitewalls with Kelsey-Hayes wure wheels

Whitewalls with Kelsey-Hayes wure wheels

Total Buick Skylark sales in 1953 represented a small portion compared to other 1953 Buicks however this special edition auto created a publicity bonanza for Buick. The car in essence was an auto show concept car in every regard that was available to the average buyer who could afford the price.

Links to two additional AutoMuseumOnlne photo articles you’ll enjoy are the 1953 Pontiac Chieftain and the 1953 Chrysler Windsor.

1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible Specs

The engine was a four-barrel-fed 322-cid V-8 that produced 188 horsepower. This was considered a fairly powerful engine in 1953. The engine was called the “Fireball V-8“. The new engine replaced the inline eight cylinder engine that had all cylinders set in a row. Official top speed for the vehicle was 105 MPH. The automobile’s official weight came in at 4,315 lbs.

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible. Notice emblem in front of rear wheel well

1953 Buick Skylark Convertible. Notice emblem in front of rear wheel well

The car’s wheelbase was 121.5 inches, the total length of 201 5/8 inches, a width of 79 7/8 inches and a height of 63 inches. Front suspension were independent coil springs and a rear suspension of coil springs. The transmission was a “Dynaflow” automatic and the 1953 Skylark could seat six people.

Collectors Car Information

Auto auctions show that the 1953 Buick Roadmaster Skylark Convertible sold for prices of $100,000 and up even to near $200,000. The condition and restoration performed dictated the selling prices.

(Photos from author’s private collection)

1949 Ford Coupe


1949 Ford Super Coupe

1949 Ford Super Coupe

The 1949 Ford models ushered in a significant styling change. 1948 was the final year for the old-style Ford. The 1946 through 1948 models were mostly a continuation of the 1941 models and the short lived 1942′s due to the war.

The 1949 Fords gave forth a new modern look. The design for the 1949 Ford’s actually began in 1946 when designers were tasked to come up with designs and quarter sized models in a matter of only a few months. There were several features that the bosses wanted and among others these included an entirely new design and a larger interior. How the 1949 Ford design was conceived is one of the more interesting stories about the automotive industry.

The Two Design Teams

The design of the 1949 Ford turned out to actually be a contest between two groups of designers. One group was headed by Bob Gregorie and the other by George Walker. Gregorie had at one time worked for General Motors as a designer and the went on to work for Ford Motor Company several times on and off through 1946.

1949 Ford coupe

1949 Ford front grille

Gregorie was also  considered Ford’s first designer and worked close with Edsel Ford. Bob Gregorie and Edsel Ford worked on many projects together and this helped elevate Gregorie to be head of Ford’s design department in 1935. Edsel Ford died unexpectedly in 1943. The story is that Gregorie had differences with the new management team brought in after the younger Ford’s death and opted to resign in 1946 at only thirty-eight years of age.

George Walker started his automotive career at the Peerless automobile company, then moved to General Motors and later to a few smaller companies. At the time that designs were made for the 1949 Ford, Walker was working as an outside design consultant.

Your first impression might be that any design rushed through in this short of time might have something lacking. You may be correct. In some ways, many have said this was the case with the 1949 Fords.

1949 Ford Coupe design

1949 Ford Coupe rear end design and new tail lights

The tale of this hasty design challenge is that each of the two designers actually purchased another automaker’s car to use as a starting point. The Gregorie designers bought a Kaiser and the Ford engineering department bought a Studebaker.

The Competition

For years there have been several different versions floated about as to how the design teams came up with their designs and clay models in such short time. One interesting and true story has clay modelers from Studebaker helping the Walker team during evening hours. It’s been alleged that several features of the Walker design had actually been drawn by Studebaker employees working off hours.

The model presented by Walker’s group ended up being chosen as the winner over that of Bob Gregorie. This wouldn’t be the end however. It was decided to have another contest between the two groups. This contest would be at the Ford facilities and Walker’s team would move in and set up shop in Ford’s design department. Supposedly security was set up to keep each design team’s work secret. The second contest would call for full size clay models. As it turned out, the design submitted by Walker’s team again won the competition.

1949 ford coupe modern design

Good looking exterior sun visor on this sporty looking 1949 Ford Coupe

The Finished Product

The 1949 Ford was a sleek looking automobile. It was quite different from the fender heavy models before it.  It was also known for its horizontal taillights and eye-catching circle on the front grille.

Both of these additions were actually added by Ford to the original design. Supposedly the Gregorie team entry design did have a more rounded look to it similar as you see on the old Kaiser autos. It was the Gregorie team who it’s been said used the Kaiser as a starting point.

Richard Caleal

The 1949 Ford design story isn’t complete unless you mention Richard Caleal. Caleal had worked free lance on the Walker team after having worked at Studebaker. It was reportedly in Richard Caleal’s kitchen at home that the winning 1949 Ford design was created. It’s been said that the quarter size clay model was actually baked in Caleal’s kitchen oven. I’m not sure there’s any similar design story involving a major American automaker. It’s certainly unique.

The story states that Caleal was promised by George Walker that if Walker’s entry won the competition that he would use his influence to obtain a design job at Ford for Caleal.

As it turned out, Richard Caleal did succeed in getting the Ford job based on his success with the 1949 design and moved his family from Indiana to Detroit. Later in his career Caleal worked for Chrysler.

Links to three additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles you’ll find interesting are the 1949 Chevrolet Deluxe Woody Wagon….. Kaiser Dragon and the 1949 New Post War Design Cadillac.

1949 Ford Coupe Specs

The 1949 Ford had a wheelbase of 114 inches. Engines were both a V-8 and a L Head Six. Transmissions were a standard three speed or automatic. Front suspension was independent, swinging link with “Hydra-Coil” springs. Rear suspension had longitudinal, semi-elliptic leaf springs. The 1949 Ford had a height of 63.1 inches, a overall length of 196.8 inches and a width of 72.8 inches.

See our article on Antique and Classic Car Serial Numbers

(Photos and article copyright AutoMuseumOnline)