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Sunday, August 12, 2012

1972 Buick Skylark

The 1972 Buick Sylark GS Coupe.
The trend toward owning and operating smaller cars in the post-war economy become so pronounced that imports no longer filled the need alone. In the early 1950s several North American automakers fielded small cars but only Nash, with its Rambler, was successful in penetrating the market. Hudson, Willys and Kaiser-Frazier failed miserably with its small cars. Independent Studebaker did very well with its 1959 entry of the Lark.
The 1960 Chevrolet Corvair Monza.
With nearly 30 percent of the domestic market being claimed by small cars, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler took note. Chevrolet introduced the rear-engined Corvair for the 1960 season. It was designed to take on Volkswagen. Ford’s Falcon and Frontenac and Chrysler’s Valiant, on the other hand, went after the market created by Rambler and Studebaker.
When the Corvair did not fare well in the sales game, disappointed GM designers hurried back to the drawing board for a second stab at the small car market. This time around, a more conventional Bowtie passenger car evolved. The Chevy II bowed for the 1961 selling season. To make sure that GM did not lose a single sale, Chev's corporate sisters were given small cars of their own: the Pontiac Tempest, the Oldsmobile F-85 and the Buick Special.

The 1961 Buick Special Station Wagon.
The Buick version was the most luxurious of GM’s compact offerings, with standard equipment and trim levels above its kin. Small did not mean cheap, either. The Special opened at $2,952 with tax—and that was for a completely stripped model. The Deluxe station wagon listed for $3,462.00 before any optional equipment was added to the price tag. A total of 1,091 units were sold throughout the Dominion during the calendar year. Sales dropped to 885 for calendar year 1962, even though it could be ordered with the newly minted Fireball V-6 engine. Sales rebounded to 1,497 units for 1963.
The 1964 Buick Special.
A new, larger body style was bestowed upon the Buick Special and the Skylark for the 1964 selling season. The smallest Buick now rode a 2 921-millimetre (115-inch) wheelbase and was now classed as an intermediate-sized car. Sales mushroomed to 5,448 units in 1964 and inched upwards to 5,901 units delivered in 1965. General Motors opened a new factory in September of 1965 in St. Therese, Quebec, a suburb north of Montreal. The plant turned out Buick Specials.

The 1966  Buick Special.

Substantially revamped look prompted sales to rise to 7,646 units in 1966 but the finish was only good enough for 31st place—a drop of four notches on the nameplate sales chart. Climbing back up to 29th place in 1967, Buick Special garnered 8,343 sales. GM Canada began to take advantage of AutoPact, the international trade agreement that came into effect in 1965, and shipped 6,523 Buicks to the USA in 1967.
The 1968  Buick Skylark.

Revamped again and given a much heavier look for 1968, Buick Special was dropped and the Skylark rose to the 20th spot with 12,862 units sold. Special was returned and along with Skylark racked up 13,851 sales in 1969 and inched up to 19th place. No doubt the tag line, “Wouldn’t you really rather have a Buick?” helped increase sales. The 1970 season saw Special retired—again---and the Skylark tally was 10,111 units, enough for 21st place. A total of 13,444 sales in 1971 earned Buick’s Skylark 22nd place.
The 1972 Skylark two-door coupe was the least expensive Buick model. It carried a list price of $3,366.

When the 1972 models bowed, it was the third year for the body style. The car was pitched to young couples with such lines as “you take your wife to a quaint little restaurant” and “It’s your first new car together.” Skylark was also pitched to young black executives, “Skylark goes well with your first great job.” The car came in four trim levels—base, the 350, the Custom and GS. No Buicks were built in Canada that year.

The station wagon was treated separately from the sedans. It was given a standard dual-action tailgate.

The GS designation was given to the high-performance convertible and Sport Coupe. These models were trimmed with all the best that Buick had to offer. Goodies included dual exhaust, functional hood scoops, side terminal energizer, heavy duty springs, shock absorbers and a stabilizer bar. Even the sunroof was standard equipment. These posh speedsters carried the 5.7-litre (350-cubic inch) mill but could be upgraded to the 7.5-litre (455-cubic inch) monster, generating 225 horsepower.
With a price tag of $3,917, the 1972 Buick Skylark Custom four-door hardtop weighed  1 691 kilos (3,729 pounds).
The Custom boasted its own grille and came as a four-door hardtop, a four-door sedan, a two-door hardtop and a convertible. The doors operated the interior light; it got front and rear ash trays, a deluxe steering wheel and carpeting fore and aft. Under the hood was the 150-horsepower V-8 engine, mated to the three-speed manual transmission. The automatic shifter was an extra cost item. The four-door sedan wore Roulet-grain Expanded Vinyl and Madrid-grain Vinyl upholstery.
The 1972 Buick Skylark 350 four-door Sedan weighed in at 1 630 kilos (3,595 pounds).

The Skylark 350 was more modestly trimmed and carried special “350” plaques. It could be had as a four-door sedan or a Sport Coupe. Interiors were upholstered in Kalmara cloth and vinyl and the floor was carpeted.
The all-vinyl “notchback” seat with centre armrest was optional on the 1972 Buick Skylark.

The base Skylark was offered as a four-door sedan, a Sport Coupe and a two-door pillared coupe. It came with heater and defroster. Its cabin was dressed in modest Kasmar Cloth with Madrid-grain Vinyl. It could also be dressed in all Madrid-grain Vinyl.

Magic Mirror colours for the Skylark were Arctic White, Crystal Blue, Hunger Green, Sandalwood, Antique Gold, Silver Mist, Seamist Green, Fire Red and Cascade Blue. The Sportwagon and GS could also be seen in Stratomist Blue, Heritage Green, Burnished Copper, Cortez gold, Sunburst Yellow or Flame Orange. For extra cash a Skylark could also wear Regal Black, Royal Blue, Sierra Tan, Nutmeg, Champagne Gold, Charcoal Mist, Emerald Mist, Deep Chestnut, Burnished Bronze and Vintage Red.
The instrument panel of the 1972 Buick Skylark carried all the luxurious cues of its larger, more expensive brothers.

Optional equipment included an AM/FM stereo radio and tape player, a centre console, power seats, Climate Control air conditioning, Soft-ray tinted glass, rear window defroster, power windows, an electric clock, a mirror map light, tilt steering wheel, speed alert feature, front lamp monitors, a luggage rack, bumper guards, vinyl tops, sport wheels an electric trunk release, a child safety seat, remote-control outside mirrors, seat and shoulder belts and a sunroof.
The 1972 Buick Skylark Custom Convertible weighed in at 1 605 kilos (3,540 pounds) and listed for $3,967 f.o.b. Oshawa, Ontario.

When the dust had settled on the 1972 calendar year, the Skylark had registered 13,448 sales giving it 23rd place, between Mercury Comet and Plymouth Satellite. It would not return for 1973. In its place was the compact Buick Apollo and in the intermediate slot was filled by the Buick Century.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2005
All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic, Impala, Bel Air and Biscayne

The full-sized 1974 Chevrolet was Canada’s favourite passenger car, selling 49,970 units during the calendar year.
Chevrolet has long been popular with the buying public since its introduction to Canadians in 1915. Assembled by the McLaughlin concern in Oshawa, Ontario, the inexpensive Chev complemented the higher-priced McLaughlin and competed head-to-head with Ford.

The 1915 Chevrolet Royal Mail.

In 1974 Canadians could choose among four full-sized models in the bowtie clan: The top of the line Caprice Classic, the Impala, the Bel Air and a model not available in the United States—a very modestly dressed Biscayne with a V-8 engine.

Advertising announced the car with bold words. “A lavish measure of comfort, fine handling and beautiful styling; these are the distinguishing marks of the new Chevrolets.” It further crowed, “there’s much to admire, even more to enjoy in driving the spacious new Chevrolets for 1974.” The wordsmiths had to work their magic to the best of their abilities because even to the untrained eye these cars were virtually unchanged from last year.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

All of the big Chevs carried 5.7-litre (350-cubic inch) V-8 engines this year and automatic transmissions both features calculated into the base price of the vehicles. The standard equipment V-8 used in Canadian Chevrolets was rated at 185 horsepower--20 more horses than its stateside cousins received. The 18 different models sold domestically were sourced from GM factories in Oshawa, Ontario; Janesville, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri and Wilmington, Delaware.

The 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic carried its own distinctive rear deck moulding. Triple taillights were long a Chev hallmark. The coupe listed for $4,933 f.o.b. Oshawa.

Though the basic envelope looked a great deal like that of 1973, the Caprice Classic was more graceful and distinguished than its relatives, courtesy of a dressier front end and a sculptured deck in the rear. Body styling was crisp with voluptuously finished rectangular lines throughout. This car’s philosophy appealed to those who “think driving is something the car should do.” It was the reasoning behind the exceptional luxury. Caprice Classic had a “sure talent for putting pleasure into driving.” A dramatic new Colonnade roof--one with expansive fixed rear glass--appeared on Caprice Classic two-door sedans.
With its $4,441 price tag, the 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic had the full-sized ragtop field to itself as Ford, Chrysler and American Motors had all withdrawn its convertibles from the market.

Interiors of the Caprice Classic boasted a fold-down centre armrest on sedans. The upholstery was a velvet-look plush knit cloth with vinyl inserts in black, blue, green, red or taupe. There were all-vinyl interiors available in black or neutral. Faux wood accents were used sparingly and tastefully throughout the cabin. Doors featured slim, vinyl door pulls. 

The 1958 Chevrolet Impala.
The Impala first bowed in the 1958 model year. Its name evoked glamour and graceful glory then. In 1974 its name had dropped a notch and rode on Chevs that were designated as the marque’s traditional value leader. Impala promised to deliver not only during its years in the driver’s hands but at resale time, too.

The 1974 Chevrolet Impala four-door sedan weighed in at 4,338 pounds and carried a $4,506 price tag, f.o.b. Oshawa.
 The Sport Cloth interiors for Impala were patterned cloth in black, blue, neutral or green with matching nylon cup-pile carpeting. Also there were all-vinyl upholstery schemes in black, neutral, green, blue or saddle.

The 1953 Chevrolet Bel Air four-door sedan.

The Bel Air name first appeared in 1953 as the top-of-the-line model and 21 years later still graced Chevrolet but this time on a modestly trimmed line of bowties. 

The 1974 Chevrolet Bel Air.

Bel Air’s practical all-vinyl material could be ordered in Green or Neutral for a few bucks extra. The standard interior was a stylish pattern cloth and vinyl in black, neutral or green and still boasted nylon cut-pile carpeting and a colour-keyed steering wheel and column.

The 1974 Chevrolet Biscayne was popular with police departments across Canada.
The Biscayne was a Canada-only model offered as a plain-Jane four-door sedan and an equally utilitarian four-door station wagon. The former listed for $4,139 and the later carried a $4,894 price tag, f.o.b. Oshawa.
Instrument panel for the 1974 full-sized Chevrolet was angular and spare, complimenting the exterior.

Chevrolet could be ordered in any of 16 colours—ten of them new this year. To top things off, extra cost vinyl roof covers could be had in black or white plus blue, cream beige, green red, brown russet, saddle or taupe—for two-door coupes and sedans.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!
There were as many options for one’s 1974 Chev as there are kids in the backyard pool on a hot summer’s day. Included among the extras were front bumper guards, steel belted radial tires; an outside remote-control mirror for the right hand side; simulated wire wheel covers; full wheel discs for Impala, Bel Air and Biscayne; “Love” (baby) seats; a plethora of radios and tape players; a new litter container, deluxe seat and shoulder belts; carpeting in black, blue red, gold or russet; a choice of Comfitron or Four-Season air conditioning; 50/50 reclining seats; power seats; power door lock system; power windows, Comfortilt steering wheel; Soft-Ray tinted glass; Cruise-Master speed control; positraction rear axle and a rear-window defogger. 

The 1974 Chevrolet Impala.

If that didn’t complete the shopping list, there was a Quiet Sound Group, designed to give extra insulation for those lesser than Caprice Classic models; superlift rear shocks; trailering equipment; a heavy—duty batter; auxiliary lighting; an electric clock; a dome reading light; door edge guards, a visor vanity mirror; rear bumper guards and rear fender skirts.

Sales were off badly for the biggest bowtie. For calendar year 1974 the numbers were 49,970 units delivered, down from 53,225 units delivered in 1973. Despite the low numbers management could heave a collective sigh of relief that Chev was still the number one best selling car in Canada—better than its 1972 finish when Toyota beat out Chevrolet as the nation’s best selling passenger car.

The 1972 Toyota lineup found favour with many Canadians and toppled Chevrolet from its traditional first place in sales.

Visit my old car website at: The Oilspot Eh!

Copyright James C. Mays 2004
 All rights reserved.