Not everyone fell in love with the new body developed for the 1968-1969 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport (GS), its fully loaded upscale cousin. Front ends had a clean and pleasing appearance, true, focused on a grille reminiscent of the Riviera. A longer hood and shorter deck weren't the problem. Neither were the concealed windshield wipers.
No, what looked out of place to some -- then and now -- was the new deep-sculptured body sweepline, borrowing its "sweepspear" curvature from the distant past, arcing across the bodyside before it came to a halt ahead of the rear wheel opening.
No less jarring was the concave rear end, with new taillights contained in a large rear bumper below pointy back fenders. In this incarnation, two-doors rode a shorter wheelbase: 112 inches versus 116 for the four-doors (121 for Sportwagons).
Evidently, quite a few people did indeed take a liking to the new look, because Skylark sales set a record in 1968. By this time, the Special name was close to fading out, outsold by Skylarks by a nearly five-to-one ratio.
For base Skylarks, Chevrolet's familiar inline six-cylinder engine replaced the former V-6. Farther up the scale, a new GS350 model took the role of the previous GS340, powered by a bored-out 350-cubic-inch V-8 developing 280 horsepower along with a resounding 375 pounds/feet of torque. A less-potent edition of that mill (230 horsepower) was standard in Skylark Customs, and optional elsewhere.
Topping the performance charts once again was the GS400, with its 400-cubic-inch V-8 ready to unleash 340 horses. That was enough to shoot a "400" to 60 mph in a trifling six seconds. The most muscular GS still didn't look all that tough; but as in its prior guise, this kind of zest was treading closely on Corvette territory.
Automakers weren't shy about pushing their muscular products shamelessly in the male direction in those days. Buick was no exception, proclaiming its GS selection to be: "Clean. Fresh. Masculine."
Not every GS ranked as the "real thing" this time. In addition to the honest GS340 and GS400, Buick announced a California GS. Sure enough, it wore "GS" badges and carried the GS's styled steel wheels. Underneath, however, this was a sheep in wolf's garb: really a vinyl-roofed Special Deluxe pillared coupe toting the smaller V-8 engine.
The performance-plus GS coupes and convertibles were identical except for their badges to denote engine displacement. Each had a special hood with air intake near the cowl.
Learn about changes for the 1969 model year on the next page.
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1969 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport
The 1969 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport combination saw a new hood blister for the uplevel GS version, contained an integrated air intake carrying displacement badges. Functional GS400 scoops yanked incoming air into a dual-snorkel air cleaner.
No more bright strips were installed on front fenders. In fact, little brightwork at all decorated the 1969s, except for wheelwell moldings and five-spoke chrome wheels. Up front was a new eggcrate grille with large "holes." Dual paint stripes followed the sculptured sweepline down each bodyside. More noticeable yet was the lack of front vent windows.
The California GS made another appearance, wearing telltale front vents just like the Special Deluxe Coupe it actually was. Authentic or not, a California GS stormed to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds at the hands of Tom McCahill, inveterate tester for Mechanix Illustrated.
Added to the option selection for 1969 was Turbo Hydra-Matic, replacing the customary Super Turbine transmission. Acceleration freaks took greater note of the new Stage I engine package, which raised a GS400's output from 340 to 345 horsepower (at higher rpm). Doesn't sound like much, but it gave the car quite a jolt when the time came to stomp the pedal.
The Stage I package included a high-lift cam, special carburetor, dual exhausts, and 3.64:1 Positraction axle. To help keep all those horses flying, a short-throw Hurst shifter was available for the four-speed manual.
Corrosion remained a problem for Skylark/GS, and this wasn't Buick's high point for fit and finish either, but customers liked them anyway. A total of 21,514 GS Buicks were built in 1968 (including 2,454 GS400 convertibles), though the total slipped to 13,065 the next year. Even so, Buick ended the decade by regaining its long-lost fourth spot in the industry sales ranking.
Yet another "Stage" of performance would soon enter the GS lineup for the early 1970s, as the mighty V-8 grew to 455 cubic inches; after that, Buick settled back into its cushy image and the muscle-car era faded into history.
Check out 1968-1969 Buick Skylark and GS specifications on the next page.
For more information on cars, see:
1968-1969 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport Specifications
The 1968-1969 Buick Skylark and Gran Sport did not mark Buick's best work from its styling department -- or fit and finish, for that matter. But in its highest form, it had muscle approaching that of the Corvette.
Skylark Engine: ohv I-6, 250 cid (3.88 × 3.53), 155 bhp; ohv V-8, 350 cid (3.80 × 3.85), 230 bhp
GS350 Engine: ohv V-8, 350 cid, 280 bhp
GS400 Engine: ohv V-8, 400 cid (4.04 × 3.90), 340 bhp
Transmission: 3-speed manual; 4-speed manual (GS), Super Turbine automatic or (1969) Turbo Hydra-Matic 350 optional
Suspension front: upper and lower A-arms, coil springs
Suspension rear: 4-link live axle, coil springs
Brakes: front/rear drums (front discs optional)
Wheelbase (in.): 112.0 (4-door sedan/wagon 116.0)
Weight (lbs.): 3,240-3,594
Top speed (mph): 105-120 (GS)
0-60 mph (sec): 8.0-10.0 (GS4350); 6.0-7.7 (GS400)