Right church, wrong pew.

If General Motors Corp. mated the Pontiac Grand Am body with the BuickSkylark 3.3-liter V-6 engine, it would have an unbeatable vehicle in looks andperformance.

Instead the General markets the stylish Grand Am without a V-6 but thebland looking Skylark with a powerful 3.3-liter.

We test drove the 1990 compact Skylark N-body, which takes its name fromits X-body predecessor.

As we`ve noted in the past, in switching platforms GM shorted the N-bodyin interior room. The X-body Skylark was spacious, the N-body is adequate. If you owned a GM X-body compact, you`ll feel cramped in an N-body.

The 3.3 is the reason for getting behind the wheel of a Skylark, which we drove in the dolled up Gran Sport version-if blackwall tires and a blacked outgrille can be called dolled up rather than camouflaged. Buick seemed to go outof its way to make this car invisible.

The 3.3 generates 160 h.p. The power is a bit surprising the first timeyou step on the pedal and the quiet is much appreciated. The standard 2.5-liter, 110-h.p., 4-cylinder engine pales in comparison to the smooth,powerful, yet quiet operation of the 3.3.

The standard touring suspension hugs the road and holds in the cornerswithout sway or lean and further adds to the driving pleasure.

But 3.3-liter engines alone do not a silk purse make.

After a peek at the next generation of Buick`s compact Skylark now making the auto show circuit under the name Bolero (Transportation, Jan. 7), thecurrent model`s styling looks like a Nehru jacket.

We saw Bolero at the Detroit Auto Show last week. You can see it at theChicago Auto Show Feb. 10. But you`ll have to wait until the 1992 model yearto buy one.

The aerodynamic Bolero body is clean without burden of chrome moldings.Door handles are recessed. Body colored bumpers are incorporated into thesheet metal front and rear and wrap around the body for a neat lookingpackage.

Bolero has character-as well as room. The car on display also had a 3.3-liter V-6, though unnecessarily supercharged to boost horsepower to 206.Antilock brakes were added.

The exciting Bolero aside, if it weren`t for the 3.3 liter V-6, the `90Skylark would put you to sleep.

But as Bolero`s time approaches, we wait with caution. Those who saw andfell in love with the Buick Essence at last year`s Chicago Auto Show will see the 1991 Buick Park Avenue based on it at this year`s show. It goes on salethis summer.

Like Bolero, Essence was a clean machine without patchwork chrome. Butthe `91 Park Avenue Ultra has enough chrome to keep South Africa producingthat metal into the next decade. The base Park Avenue isn`t saddled with asmuch chrome as the top of the line Ultra.

The humor that used to make the rounds among the media covering the autoindustry was that the average age of a Buick buyer was ``deceased.`` Afterdoing away with ventiports in the fenders, the average age moved down to``retired.``

Buyer age is a constant battle in Detroit because the older the buyer,the less likely he or she will buy more than one vehicle in a lifetime.

Bolero as now being displayed would appeal to youth. It is hoped thatBuick won`t mess with Bolero in coming up with the new Skylark as it did with Essence in bringing out the new Park Avenue.

The Buick Skylark Gran Sport is offered only in two-door coupe version.Base price is $12,935. Standard equipment includes power brakes and steering, AM-FM stereo with cassette and digital clock, dual outside mirrors, leather-wrapped steering wheel, wide black bodyside moldings, reclining bucketseats and steel belted radial tires.

The 3.3 is a $710 option.