The 1964-1965 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport evolved slowly. In 1964, Buick Skylark production approached that of the cheaper Special, and was destined to whiz into the lead. Therefore, the Skylark series got the nod in 1965 when the time came to take careful aim at the youth market.
If excitement was lacking in either the enlarged Special or the marginally sportier Skylark, Buick's Gran Sport set another tone entirely. What came to define the "performance" Buick of the late 1960s started out as an option package for the Skylark, introduced at midyear.
Most prominent element of that package was a monster 401-cid "Nail Head" V-8 (so named for its small vertical valves). Yanked out of the far bigger Wildcat, it enabled the Gran Sport to compete in the muscle car race started by Pontiac's GTO, and soon joined by Oldsmobile's Cutlass-based 4-4-2.
By comparison, Buick's big mill delivered an even greater wallop of torque (445 pound/feet) than either GM rival, even if its horsepower fell a trifle short at 325. All that energy could be harnessed to a three-speed or close-ratio four-speed manual gearbox, or Buick's two-speed Super Turbine with a console-mounted selector. Options included a tachometer, limited-slip differential, and chromed steel wheels.
Underneath what Buick modestly described as a "howitzer with windshield wipers" was a reinforced convertible frame carrying heavy-duty suspension and oversized 7.75 x 14 tires.
Carefully selected axle ratios, boasted the sales brochure, "lay power on the road with tremendous authority." Low-restriction dual exhausts were standard; vinyl bucket seats a required option.
Red-filled script on the grille, deck, and sail panels (or rear fenders) identified the first Gran Sports, which could be based on the Skylark hardtop coupe, thin-pillar coupe, and convertible that otherwise changed little for 1965 (apart from a loss of some brightwork).
Buick General Manager Ed Rollert called the early Gran Sport "a completely engineered performance car." True enough when stomping the gas pedal; not quite so true when trying to wrestle a GS (or any other American muscle car) around a quick corner, even though the Gran Sport carried a stabilizer bar twice as stiff as that installed in an ordinary Skylark.
Two-door Skylark sales proved rather puny in 1965, while the muscular (and spiffier) Gran Sports faced an astounding clamor of eager buyers: 69,367 produced in all, including 10,456 ragtops.
As it turned out, this opening year would be the Gran Sport's best; but what a year it was, with those 325 wild horses let loose in a mid-size body that displayed only a few hints of what lurked within.
Gran Sport wasn't the first (or last) of the Sixties "sleepers," but it's become one of the most fondly remembered. For 1964-1965 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport specifications, go on to the next page.