Buick Skylarks of compact dimensions sold quite well from 1961-1963. Nevertheless, the 1964-1965 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport added some inches, competing in the mid-size rather than the compact league.
The new A-bodies were larger, stretching nearly a foot farther overall. Yet they were similar in slab-sided appearance to the 1963 evolution of the original design, which had already deleted the deep sculpture lines that gave it such a unique look.
The same basic body, with its conventional straight-up silhouette atop a 115-inch wheelbase, also went on the new Chevrolet Chevelle.
Two new engines went under Skylark (and Special) hoods: a standard 225-cid Fireball V-6 that cranked out an impressive 155 horsepower; and a new 300-cid V-8 that delivered 210 bhp with a two-barrel carb, 250 with a four-barrel and tight 11:1 compression.
That kind of extra power cost only $71 and $93 extra, respectively. Either a four-speed manual shifter or Super Turbine 300 automatic could replace the standard three-speed.
Leather-grained vinyl front bucket seats and console were optional in the sport coupe. Skylarks had bigger brakes with finned cast-iron drums, a new front suspension, and a step-on parking brake like their big brothers. Tires grew to 14-inch size. Skylark's sport coupe went for $2,669, while a convertible set a buyer back $2,823.
To learn more about the 1964-1965 Buick Skylark & Gran Sport production and mechanicals, go on to the next page.
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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.
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1964-1965 Buick Skylark & Gran Sport Specifications
The 1964-1965 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport stretched to a mid-size, adding extra inches to the wheelbase and power under the hood.
Engines: ohv V-6, 225 cid (3.75 × 3.40), 155 bhp; ohv V-8, 300 cid (3.75 × 3.40), 210/250 bhp; 1965 Gran Sport, 401 cid (4.19 × 3.64), 325 bhp
Transmissions: 3-speed manual; 4-speed manual and 2-speed Super Turbine 300 automatic optional
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Suspension rear: 4-link live axle, coil springs
Brakes: front/rear drums
Wheelbase (in.): 115.0; Wagon, 120.0
Weight (lbs): 3,057-3,750
Top speed (mph): 99-116
0-60 mph (sec): GS, 7.0-7.8