GM production vice president Harley Earl wanted to sell the public a small run of hand-built dream cars in the tradition of his fantastic Motorama shows as the booming postwar period got going. Nash, Kaiser Fraser, Chevrolet, Ford, and even Hudson offered exclusive versions as part of the wartime sports car craze. Earl and his styling team set out to create a line of highly customized factory cars with a sporty bent.
Each GM division had its own exclusive convertible: the Oldsmobile Fiesta, Cadillac Eldorado, and Buick Skylark, which outsold the other two by a wide margin. Not to mention Chevrolet’s thrilling latest Corvette, which debuted the same year.
The Skylark was a custom based on Buick’s top-of-the-line Roadmaster convertible, with its own fenders and doors, chopped top, special wraparound windshield, full cut-out wheel openings, chrome wire wheels, 12 volt electrical system, and V-8 power. When a well-equipped Roadmaster convertible was out the door for $3,200, it sold for over $5,000.
For 1954, the Skylark was extensively reworked. It had dramatically cut out wheel wells in a matching hue and chrome-plated fins bearing taillights flanking a radically angled trunk lid, and it was based on the smaller Special body. While the ultimate result was much more dramatic than the 1953 model, the public was unimpressed, and sales fell. The Skylark name was dropped from Buick’s lineup the next year, only to resurface in 1961 as a special luxury iteration of the compact Special.
The Fiesta was a one-year-only Oldsmobile model. The Skylark only lasted two years, and Cadillac’s Eldorado went on to become a top-of-the-line model.
GM’s limited-production dreamboats are considered landmark cars and hold a special place in automotive history. Except at auctions and exhibits, sightings are rare today, as they were when they were new. Close concept cars influenced by Motorama are timeless icons of American automotive art, irreplaceable objects of a powerful, optimistic nation capable of putting radical dream cars on the road.