Gunners Garage

TALES of 40 YEARS #15 – THE OLD BUICK SKYLARK

In my early years at OLD CARS WEEKLY Ken Buttolph and I would drive to the swap meet in Dunkirk, N.Y. every spring. The swap meet was always the same weekend as high school or college graduation in that area and the few hotels in town were always filled up. You had to book early. The swap meet was at the Dutchess County Fairgrounds and started very early. The fairgrounds also had an old roller skating rink with lights outside. Our swap space was across from the roller rink. At night, Ken would go roller skating and I would keep selling subscriptions under the lights. At swap meets most of the vendors are very busy all day, but at night they can relax and walk around and buy stuff. So we always sold a lot of subscriptions at night and came home from that small meet with more money than anyone expected us to bring back. By the time we returned to Wisconsin, it would be warmer and the June bugs would be out. So our windshield was a usually a total mess when we got back to Iola. Another vendor at Dunkirk was a fellow named George from Texas. He sold a lot of Chrysler parts and later got into breaking up vans and selling the seats at Dunkirk. One year George told us to stop in the Buick dealer in Northeast Pennsylvania on the way home. Northeast was actually the name of the small town and the dealership he told us about sold several GM lines. It was a “throwback” place with some of the cars displayed on the lawn of the owners’ home. We entered the main showroom and an older salesman with a cane got up and greeted us. All we said is “we came to see the Buick” and he knew what we had come for. He took us around a corner and there sat a BRAND NEW 1953 Buick Skylark 50th anniversary convertible. The car had never been sold! It was a light metallic green with a white top and a red and white interior, which seemed like an unusual color combination. The car had around 11,000 miles on it, since it had been used in parades and other promotions. The story we heard was that the car didn’t sell when it was new because this model retailed for something like $5,000 back then. We were told that two brothers owned the dealership and they just kept the car. When it started to get collectible, one brother wanted to sell it and the other did not. So they left it in the showroom to gather dust. But it was in perfect condition under the dust. There were old cars stored in other dealership buildings, too. I saw what I remember as a ’39 Pontiac touring sedan with leopardskin seats. But none of the other cars were like the Skylark. I think we could have maybe talked the brothers out of the car for around $10,000. Talk about a missed opportunity! Lately, I have been looking to do a trade deal for a 1953 Skylark. I just turned 64 and I would like to have less cars and motorcycles for my kids to worry about when I’m gone. But so far, I haven’t found a Skylark that anyone wants to trade for what I have . . . especially a metallic green one with red and white seats.

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