Al Perry's ragtop is exactly that: sweet and very low. The car's basic look is pure GM, from the styling department headed by Bill Mitchell. It was the beginning of the transition from the huge fin-adorned creations of Harley Earl, to smaller cars with less ornamentation, but a smooth design.
Earl was the first head of an automotive design studio in the industry, and pioneered the changing of models each year; planned obsolescence, as it were. Having seen many of the British sports cars arrive on our shores after World War II, his idea of a two-seater sports car was bounced off the Chevrolet division, and the Corvette was born. The pinnacle of the period was, of course, the '59 Cadillac, with its huge tailfins, reminiscent of a military aircraft.
His influence was there when, in 1953, the first Buick Skylark came into existence, and in Convertible form only. It was a gorgeous machine, with a laid-back windshield, side chrome spear, and no portholes. By 1962, Earl was counting coupons in Florida, and Bill Mitchell's new Skylark hit showrooms across America.
We all have regrets about the car that got away, and sometimes even have the opportunity to get them back, in one way or another. Al's was dropping by Dale Mathew's Memory Lane Classic Cars in Portland, Oregon, and seeing one of his latest finds-another '62 Skylark convertible. Thinking that he didn't need another car ("need" is not the question here), his clouded mind came up with the thought that it would make a very nice Christmas present for his wife. You have heard that one before, I'm sure. One thing led to another, and it was decided that a little updating would be nice.
As Al says, his first mistake was to take the car to Kevin Bishoff, who is one of the finest pigment squirters anywhere.
By the time he was done, the emblems, mirrors, and door handles were removed, the seams filled, and the body blocked for a perfect, two-tone blue paintjob. Naturally, that made the more-than-serviceable upholstery look a little tatty, so off to Guy's Interiors for a new set of seat covers by Jim Enger. The dominos theory applied to the nice white top, and it was replaced with a blue one by Jim's Upholstery. The cracked dash was owner restored and covered in leather by Jeff Shelton. Then it was down to the studios of pinstriper Mitch Kim, who laid on the silver leaf to divide the two shades of custom blue paint.
The last dominoes to fall were the wheels and tires. Having a four-bolt lug pattern caused a real problem, as it did not leave many options. Fortunately, he found the Ripple-designed 18-inch wheels, manufactured by Intro. These goodies, which really put the finishing touches on the car, were
shod with Diamond Back white stripe tires, for the final look that really blows off your doors.
Styles change, and we have our own ideas as to what is acceptable or not in today's fast-moving world. But, like the old masters who painted the scions of the day, or the architectural wonders of Greece and Rome, good design is timeless. GMs '62 Buick Skylark has all the basics of that design, making it a pallet for guys like Al Perry to take it to another level for the new millennium.
Wouldn't it be interesting if Harley Earl or Bill Mitchell could see some of our custom ideas of today, and we could get their take on the transition? I am betting they would be surprised by how good their designs still look after all these years.