1988 Buick Skylark

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chicagotribune.com
GM gave the Skylark name a second chance.

The 1980 Buick Skylark was one of those infamous compact X-body cars with brakes that allegedly locked in a panic situation. GM dropped the car and the name in 1985, and a compact two-door N-body called Somerset surfaced instead. After giving consumers a year to forget, the Skylark name was broughtback on the four-door version of the Buick N-body in `86 and on two- and four-door N-cars in 1988.

Having owned an `80 Skylark, we looked forward to driving its `88namesake.

Despite detractors, the `80 was a good car in several respects, mostnotably styling and room. Small cars before Skylark looked like balloons onwheels.

The `80 Skylark looked like a midsize `80 Century, in miniature form. Ithad the same formal boxy look as the bigger car at a time when boxy was in andaero was something shot from a bow, not created in a wind tunnel.

The `80 Skylark also was roomy. Though called compact, it was built on a105-inch wheelbase and was 200 inches long overall, about the size of amidsize Chevy Celebrity.

Enter the `88 Skylark. It still looks like the larger Century, but that`s not unique anymore. The sheet metal lacks pizazz.

Built on a 104-inch wheelbase and 179 inches long, the roominess isn`tthe same as in the `80, especially front arm- and rear leg-room. And trunkspace suffers from protruding wheelwells.

The `80 came with a choice of a 2.5-liter, carbureted 4-cylinder engineor a 2.8-liter V-6. The 2.5 got good mileage; the 2.8 good performance.

The 2.5 groaned off the line. In striving for pep, it often pooped. For`88 the 2.5 is standard, but in a more energetic fuel-injected version. A3-liter V-6 and a 2.3-liter, Quad Four, 16-valve 4-cylinder are $660 options. All have the pep the carbureted 2.5 lacked. The two-door coupe we drovewas equipped with the Quad Four teamed with automatic. The 2.5 groaned in the `80; the 2.3 growls in the `88. You get up to cruising speed quickly fromthe 150 horsepower Quad Four.

Ride and handling are noticeably better in the 1988. Skylark performswell on open stretches of road or winding, twisting pavement. It`s not asports model, but with the touring suspension body, sway and roll are held to a minimum in the turns and corners.

As for other old-versus-new Skylark comparisons, the old one`s oil filter was so buried among other hardware that changing required a week`s vacation-one day to replace and six to win forgiveness from the priest for thelanguage used in doing so. The new one solves that problem. You can`t find thefilter, so leave the worry to the mechanic and his clergy.

Buick did learn a lesson from the old car and its pencil-thin chrome side moldings. The new one has thick, wide rubber moldings to guard against pockmarks from careless motorists opening doors nearby.

But Buick goofed on the front floor kickpad. The old car had a wideplastic p ad for the driver to rest his or her left foot on and keep the carpetclean. The new one is skimpy and too low on the floor to do any good. Skimpy, too, is the glove box, actually a glove drawer that pulls from the dash andholds no more than owners manual and map.

The `80 started in the $7,000 range. The `88 Limited coupe carried a base price of $11,791. Options included power seats at $240, a glass sunroof at$350, electric door locks at $145, power windows at $210, a rear windowdefogger at $145, air conditioning at $675 and tilt steering at $125. Afterthe options were added, the sticker read $15,234, to which you have to add a$400 freight charge.




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