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.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1962 Buick Skylark Convertible
Going underneath, we find most of the original suspension still in place, but with the help of a few additional goodies. Al Perry added tubular A-arms and antiroll bars by Stoked Out Specialties. To get the ragtop down in the weeds, RideTech supplied the airbags and Koni shocks all around.
The original 215ci Buick V-8 was running just fine except for a small noise that was rather annoying. Al had Howard of NAPA auto parts in Longview, WA, machine up the block, and Cascade Auto, also of Longview, bolt it all back together. That included a new Edelbrock 600-cfm carburetor on the original intake manifold. When done, the noise was still there, so Al added a larger exhaust and the noise went away.
Wheels & Tires
Finding suitable rolling stock for the Buick was interesting because of the four-bolt pattern of the wheel hubs. Intro Wheels came up with the Ripple design in 18x8 with 4 5/16 backspacing on the front, and 4 11/16 on the rear. The rolling stock came from Diamond Back, with their Falcon brand white stripe tires (205s forward and 245s aft). With the combo of airbags to drop the car, the zoomy wheels, and a bit of whitewall, the car takes on a whole new look.
Body & Paint
Just a gentle smoothing of the body by Kevin Bishoff, of Kevin's Restorations in Vancouver, WA, was all that was needed for the body. He also removed the emblems and door handles to give the convertible a good start toward its final look. Bishoff then laid on the Glazurit paint hues in Lapis Blue and Silver Blue. The finishing touches were applied by pinstriper Mitch Kim (winner of the Von Dutch award at the Grand National Roadster Show), including his perfect silver leaf to separate the blues.
GM has had some good ideas over the years and the interior, dash, radio, and steering wheel are some of them. Not wanting to mess with success, Al had Jim Enger of Guy's Interiors in Portland, OR, do the all white pleated seats and door panels in good old vinyl. The dash was covered in leather by Jeff Shelton, right there in Longview, WA, and the beautiful blue Hartz cloth top was finally added by Enger's upholstery, also in Longview. As so often happens, the car had nice upholstery, and a good top, but after you add show-quality paint and new chrome, by Oregon Plating in Portland, they just had the look of yesterday's news.