1965 Skylark Gran Sport: The Forgotten Buick Muscle Car That's Still Affordable Today

1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport 13 photos
Photo: Mecum
1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport
Conceived as a direct response to GM sibling Pontiac's 1964 GTO and based on the same A-body platform, the Gran Sport was Buick's first foray into the realm of 1960s muscle.
Throughout its history, Buick has been responsible for building premium vehicles that bridged the gap between Chevy's budget-friendly offerings and Cadillac's ultra-luxurious flagships.

With the rise in popularity of factory-built high-performance intermediates during the first part of the 1960s, the GM division decided to try its luck and ended up creating some of the era's most iconic muscle cars.

When discussing Buick's most fascinating high-performance models, enthusiasts usually mention the 1968–1969 GS, the 1970 GSX, or the 1987 Buick GNX.

However, many fail to mention the GM division's first thoroughbred muscle car (by 1960s and early 1970s standards), which paved the way for the legends mentioned above and held its own against the competition.

Transforming the Skylark

1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport
Photo: Mecum
The Skylark nameplate originated in 1953 when a special, limited-production Roadmaster convertible was introduced to mark Buick's 50th anniversary.

That initial, one-year model was followed by another Skylark in 1961, but this time, it was a luxury trim level for the compact Buick Special.

Finally, the Skylark became a separate model in Buick's lineup for 1964. Based on the A-body intermediate platform, it became the upscale sibling of Chevy's Chevelle and Pontiac's Tempest.

Following Pontiac's resounding success with the Tempest/LeMans-based GTO, Buick decided to enter the muscle car arena with a beefed-up version of its new intermediate.

Thus, in the middle of the 1965 model year, the Skylark Gran Sport was born.

Nearly identical on the outside but much different underneath

1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport
Photo: Mecum
Aesthetically, the Gran Sport wasn't much different from the top-of-the-line Skylark. Except for unique badges, there was nothing to set it apart.

Even the bucket seats - standard on the convertible and a mandatory option on the other two body styles - could be equipped on non-Gran Sport trims.

Offered as a "thin-pillar" coupe, hardtop, or convertible, the new Skylark received a strengthened chassis, heavy-duty shocks, a thicker front anti-roll bar, and bigger drum brakes.

While all those chassis upgrades were welcomed additions, the most exciting and unique feature of the Gran Sport was nestled between its shock towers.

Dodging GM's 400-ci displacement limit

1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport
Photo: Mecum
The 1965 Skylark lineup featured a range of engines, starting with the entry-level V6 and finishing off with a performance-oriented, four-barrel version of the 300-ci (4.9-liter), which could make 250 hp.

But, for the Gran Sport, Buick opted against harnessing more power from the 300 and added the 400-ci (6.6-liter) "nailhead" V8 borrowed from the division's full-size models.

Donning a beefy cast iron block with five mains, a 10.25:1 compression ratio, a heavy-duty radiator, dual exhaust, and a four-barrel carburetor, the big lump was capable of spitting out 325 hp and 445 lb-ft (603 Nm) of twist.

Though its actual displacement was 401 cubic inches, the engine was marketed as a 400 - with Wildcat 445 written on the air cleaner to emphasize the enormous torque rating.

This was done to didge GM's self-imposed 400-ci displacement ban on all intermediate models.

A solid performer

1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport
Photo: Mecum
Developed using the same recipe that made the Pontiac GTO popular, the Gran Sport wasn't the fastest, most impressive muscle car of 1965, but it wasn't a slouch either.

According to a test conducted by Car Life magazine that year, Buick's high-performance intermediate could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (0-97 kph) in just under eight seconds and run the quarter mile in 15.3 seconds at 88 mph (141 kph).

Compared to the GTO 389 Tri-Power, the fastest muscle car of 1965, which sprinted to 60 mph (97 kph) in 5.8 seconds and ran the quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 100 mph (160 kph), the much heavier Gran Sport was not far behind.

On the drag strip, it was sensibly faster than a comparable Mercury Comet Cyclone 289 and could also embarrass high-performance pony cars like the Barracuda Formula S or Mustang HiPo 289.

Currently, it's twice as cheap as a 1965 GTO

1965 Buick Skylark Grand Sport
Photo: Mecum
Available with either a standard three-speed manual, the optional two-speed Super Turbine 300 automatic, or the highly sought-after four-speed box, the 1965 Skylark Gran Sport was built in just 15,780 units.

This rather small figure resulted from a hefty price tag and, not in the least, the fact that it debuted in the middle of the model year.

Today, this very first thoroughbred Buick muscle car from the 1960s is unfairly forgotten. Consequently, its value hasn't reached the same eye-watering values as the GTO or Chevelle Malibu SS396.

A highly original example in good shape can be bought for around $25,000, while one that's still drivable but requires a little bit of work can be found for around $10,000.

This makes the gorgeous 1960s gentleman's muscle car more than twice as cheap as a 1965 GTO.

Therefore, if you're looking for an iconic muscle car from the golden age, the 1965 Skylark Gran Sport deserves serious consideration.

Beautiful, powerful, and classy, it may be forgotten by many, but it remains one of the most fascinating models from the early days of the original muscle car era.

For more on this underrated icon, we recommend watching the YouTube video below by Lou Costabile

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About the author: Vlad Radu
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Vlad's first car was custom coach built: an exotic he made out of wood, cardboard and a borrowed steering wheel at the age of five. Combining his previous experience in writing and car dealership years, his articles focus in depth on special cars of past and present times.
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