'53-'54 Buick Skylark Club

Skylark – The Name

We all know Buick started producing the Skylark model in 1953 to commemorate their 50th Anniversary, but did you know that the first automobile named Skylark was the Hupmobile Skylark built in 1939-1940 by the Hupp Motor Car Co. in Detroit, MI.  The Hupp Motor Car Co. barely making it through the depression followed by a long union labor dispute.  The result was that the Company was forced to sell most of their plant assets.  In 1938 they acquired the body dies of the Gordon Buehrig designed Cord 810/812 from the defunct Cord Automobile Co.  Hupp hoped to use the striking Cord design in a lower-priced car called the Skylark, in order to restore the company fortunes.  Their advertising slogans were “The Sensational Hupp Skylark –America’s Most Distinguished Low Priced Car” and “Breath Taking Beauty – Built for Action”.  In those days Hupp required a $50 deposit from prospective buyers and apparently initial sales orders were in the thousands, but due to production delays most orders would be canceled.  Because Hupp lacked production facilities they worked out a deal with another ailing car company, the Graham-Page Motor Co. to share the cost of the dies, and to build the cars.  I say cars because the Hupp Skylark had a sister car, manufactured by the Graham-Page Motor Co. called the Hollywood.  The Hollywood and the Skylark had only minor differences.  The Hupp Skylark was produced both as a hardtop and convertible, with a 245 CID straight 6 cylinder 101 HP engine.  The Hupp Skylark was 190 inches long, stood 60.5 inches high, had a curb weight of 3000 lbs., and sold for between $1,095 - $1,400.  The Hupp Skylark emblem was chromed and had the name Skylark resting above an airplane propeller.  Production of the Hupp Skylark started in late 1939, but lasted less than one year with only 319 Hupp Skylarks built when production stopped in the second week of July 1940.  In November 1940 the Hupp Motor Car Company began reorganization under bankruptcy and some of the last Hupp Skylarks built were sold as 1941 models.

I’m sure we have all seen many Skylark Motels, Hotels, Cafes, and Skylark Bars.  If you Google “Skylark” you will find many more uses of the name Skylark;

Bird – The Skylark is “part of the genus of larks with four species found across much of Europe, Asia, and in the mountains of North Africa.  The bird is 14-18 cm long, lives in open habitats and has a characteristic song which it delivers in flight” - Wikipedia.  As you know the ‘54 Skylark emblem has a winged bird under the name.

Aircraft – Cessna produced the 175 Skylark, the Czechs produced a Skylark ultralight aircraft, the British produced both a rocket and a series of gliders named Skylark, there is a Skylark miniature unmanned aerial vehicle developed by Elbit, and even an American helicopter called the Vortech Skylark.

Books – Skylark was the sequel title to “Sarah, Plain and Tall” by Patricia MacLachlan, Skylark (publisher) and imprint of Bantam Books, a series of 4 novels by E.E. Smith which features a spaceship called Skylark, and even a poem “To a Skylark” by Percy Bysshe Shelley in June 1820.

Film – Dave Skylark, host of “Skylark Tonight” in the action-comedy The Interview (2014 film), two films called Skylark (1941 & 1993) with the 1993 film starred Glen Close and Christopher Walken, and Sky Larks a 1934 Walter Lantx film.

Music – the “Skylark” song a 1942 jazz standard by Johnny Mercer & Hoagy Carmichael, Skylark songs on albums done by Renee Olstead (2009), Paul Desmond (1973), and Shirley Scott (1991), the bass player with The Doobie Brothers was called Skylark, there is a Canadian pop group and Italian power metal band called Skylark, and the Skylark Lounge is a world renowned Blues Club in Austin, TX.

Other – The Skylark Group is a North Indian Poultry Company, the USS Skylark is a Penguin-class Navy submarine rescue ship launched in 1946, Skylark is the current name for a fictional comic book character, and “Skylark” is the unofficial name of the Edward E Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction which annually recognizes someone for lifetime contributions to science fiction.

 

500 MILES WEST OF FLINT
Al Malachowski


Another division of the General Motors Corporation whose name you might recall seeing on a few original 1953-1954 Buick Skylark parts is the Moraine Products Division (Moraine) who called Dayton, Ohio, home for the majority of their later 1923-1991 years of operation. Originally created by GMC as a manufacturing division for their research division, Moraine pioneered the development of two significant components during their early years for cars and trucks: engine bearings and porous-metal filtering elements. Moraine’s patented Durex 100 bearing material consisted of a steel backer bonded to a nickel-copper matrix with a babbitt overlay that was produced in strip form and later machined for main and connecting rod bearings. Filtering elements consisted of metallic powders bonded to form durable and reusable oil and fuel filters, diesel injectors, and fuel/water separators. As a side note that’s also worth mentioning, the Delco Brake Division of DELCO (originally Dayton Engineering Laboratories COmpany) and Moraine combined efforts in 1936 to develop early hydraulic brake controls. During the WWII effort, Moraine was a major supplier for air, marine, and land-craft engines and military armament. It was during this time that Moraine introduced their disc-shaped gasoline filter’s porous-bronze filtering element on the 1942 Buick carburetor. This style continued to be original equipment on Buicks through 1956. Moraine also built a glass-bowl style gasoline filter, their Durex-labeled Model #830, using the same porous-bronze filtering material but in a different shape for other makes of cars and trucks. Additional original parts that were built by Moraine and can be found on 1953-1954 Skylarks include brake wheel cylinders, starter and generator bushings, the improved 1954 MORVAC power brake cylinder with its auxiliary electric vacuum pump that replaced the problem-prone 1953 Kelsey-Hayes power brake cylinder, and the Hydro-Lectric pump for the convertible top, seat, and window operations. In the early-1960s, Moraine merged with another Delco division to form Delco-Moraine.

An original gasoline filter on a Buick Skylark V-8 engine with either the Stromberg or Carter four-barrel carburetor (1956 Buick Rochester’s also) can be found attached to the rear of the carburetor with a threaded nipple to the fuel supply’s inlet port. This filter is in addition to the fine-mesh cylindrical strainer (.4375”-diameter x .8750” long on a Carter WCFB) that’s located in the carburetor’s fuel bowl just inside the inlet port. A picture on page 84 in a 1952 Buick Shop Manual with cleaning instructions confirms that the Moraine disc-shaped style and not the easier-to-clean glass-bowl style of gasoline filter is the correct gasoline filter for the 1953-1954 Skylarks. The first of four pictures below also shows this correct style of filter. Note the threaded-metal drain plug’s location and the inlet port. The outlet port on the front side of the filter, not shown in any of the pictures, is located in-line with the inlet port.


All the cleaning instructions in the 1953-1956 Buick Shop Manuals also apply to this drain-plug style of filter: to do a quick occasional cleaning, remove just the threaded-metal plug . . . for a more thorough job, you need to remove the filter from the carburetor and gas line and back-flush the assembly from the outlet side. Here are a few items that the Shop Manuals don’t tell you: the filter is not exclusive to Buick, it was used on other GMC marques and independents, two and four-barrel carburetors, and the filter doesn’t come apart. The front-half is crimped over the rear-half and unless you peek through the drain/inlet/outlet holes, the composition of the filtering element is unknown. The second picture above is a rare shot of what you see after you filet the filter with a Dremel cut-off wheel. As advertised, the porous all-metal filtering element looks like micro-sized bronze beads glued together somehow to form a more-durable than a fabric or pleated-paper style element. A thin cork gasket seals the two 2.50”-diameter halves together, the assembly holds one liquid ounce and the beaded element mic’d out close to .100” thick. Moraine labeled this disc-shaped style filter as their Model #100; Buick parts books list this under Group 3.203, Part #1390612; I call it the 400-point style.


Fourteen years later in 1956, Moraine came out with a better way to clean out years of accumulated rusted-metal fuel line particles/water/varnish/dirt from their early-style disc-shaped gasoline filter. Moraine labeled it their Take-A-Part Model #150 filter and it is shown in the last two pictures. Buick lists this as Part #5452170; I call it the 399-point style. Note the centrally-located machine bolt that holds everything together after you align the nibs on the bottom. Moraine also came out with a replacement kit for this style, Part #5452162, which included the bronze element, plastic spacer and the 2.50” x 2.25” x .125” rubber gasket. I have not heard of any leakage problems with this Take-A-Part style since corn gas came out; a replacement nitrile gasket could fix that. In 1957, Buick relocated the gasoline filter inside the gasoline tank at the tank’s lower outlet port. A better way yet? Your roadside mechanic will let you know after you inform him that you just topped-off the gas tank a few miles back. TOODLE-LOO!

500 MILES WEST OF FLINT
by: Al ‘Junior’ Malachowski

Have you ever noticed the pointer needle on your oil pressure gauge take a nose dive to the left toward the L (for low or lost?) after a high-speed panic stop, and while the engine was still running, how long it took for the oil pressure to recover back to the mid-point N (for normal, 35 psi)? If so, did you ever figure out what the likely cause was for this to happen? I came across a copy of a Buick Red Band (urgent) Service Letter to Dealers dated 5.05.55, advising that Buick engineers might have finally came up with a possible answer for this sudden loss of oil pressure, possible contributing factors, resulting damages, and a quick fix for all 1953 and early-1954 Buick V8 engines with the 1953 oil pump. The change point for the newly designed, factory-installed, oil pump was Engine Serial Number (V)626632(7) that translates to the June/July-1954 production months.

According to the letter and to duplicate this scenario after the oil pump’s by-pass valve checked out okay, possible contributing items found included an excessively dirty, plugged, or greatly restrictive oil filter and/or the oil level read more than two quarts low on the dipstick. During a rapid deceleration with one or all of the contributing items existing, it was determined that the oil rushing forward in the oil pan uncovers the oil pump’s rectangular pick-up screen that allows air to be sucked into the pump and oil system. Due to the air lock, the reduced oil pressure is insufficient (6 psi needed) to open the oil pump’s by-pass valve immediately. Recovery time was noted as dependent on both the oil level and filter restriction amounts. Field service personnel attributed a few burned out main crankshaft and connecting rod bearings to this loss of oil pressure.

Compare the two pictures shown below, taken from 1953/1955 Buick Shop Manuals, and notice the differences in the engine’s lower crankcase. My first impression gave me an inkling that an investigation into this problem might have been brewing for a while. After the original one-year, one-hit wonder 1953 oil pan’s run ended, a new double-dipper oil pan was introduced at the startup of the 1954 production run along with a redesigned crankshaft baffle profile. Then later in 1954, the new oil pump with a circular pick-up screen was introduced and located more-forward to eliminate the possibility of an air lock. Lastly, the baffle was completely eliminated before the end of the 1955 production run. Oil pans have a 10-quart capacity and the suggested oil fill for a completely dry engine is 8 quarts. An oil change with a new filter requires 7 quarts with the residual oil film throughout the engine accounting for the 8th quart. I took the time to fill up a spare oil pan to confirm the total capacity and the referenced 2-quart-low line and noted it accordingly with the dashed line. For those with sharp eyes and good memories, note the short 1953 dipstick depicted in the picture with the high markings that was a 1953 recall item I addressed in a previous Newsletter. The original dipstick readings indicated no oil with 3 quarts remaining.




So what was the quick fix, short of replacing the oil pan and pump, for preventing an air lock in the oil system that took so long to figure out? A single hole, 3/32” in diameter, drilled into the underside of the doubled-walled oil filter canister’s base assembly’s lid, once the canister and oil filter were removed, was suggested. Buick service personnel were instructed to make this change and charge the customer when their car came in for Buick’s Lubricare Service. It might be a good time to drop the oil pan (24 bolts), clean out the sludge, clean out the pick-up screen, check out a few rod bearings, and verify which model oil pump you have. Looking for a drilled hole during your next oil filter change would be a good idea too. Do you think your engine rebuilder would know of these upgrades? TOODLE-LOO!

Skylark Meet Tech Session

Vin De Peppo opened the tech session talking about how gas spilling on his foot while using his new riding tractor.  By the time Vin was done mowing the gas had soaked through his shoe.  Besides being in extreme pain for a week, Vin went to five specialists, and was lucky he didn’t need a skin graft.  Vin has a friend in the refinery business that provided him with 16 pages of the harmful effects of Ethanol.  Apparently fuel refineries are having great difficulty even storing Ethanol because it is eating away the seals of their storage tanks.  The moral of the story was that today’s Ethanol gasoline is extremely toxic and should be rinsed off immediately.  The implied message is that engine parts without the proper Ethanol resistance rubber parts can fail.

John Garrett showed everyone a vacuum advance control from his “53 Skylark.  He asked how many in the room have ever checked their distributor vacuum advance control.  The vacuum advance control works in conjunction with the centrifugal advance mechanism of the distributor.  As the engine RPMs increase the vacuum advance rotates the point base plate in the distributor.  “This moves the contact points so that the distributor cam lobes open the points earlier in the compression stroke, thus advancing the spark.  At high speed, the spark must occur earlier in the compression stroke in order to give the fuel-air mixture ample time to ignite, burn and deliver its power to the piston as it starts down on the power stroke” (Buick Shop Manual pages 10-54 & 10-55).  John noticed that when timing his ’53 Skylark the timing would be off when the engine was revved.  So he decided to check his vacuum advance control.  John explained that you can buy a small pump to test the unit and visually see if the vacuum advance lever is operating correctly and holding vacuum.  If the lever does not move when 12 PSI is applied, you probably need to replace or have the vacuum control rebuilt.  John said that both Bob’s Automobilia and CARS, Inc rebuild these units.  John mentioned that if your vacuum advance control isn’t working properly your engine probably isn’t running correctly.

Marvin Pickens brought a dirty lifter cover from one of his Buicks to show the group.  He had drilled the spot welds out to expose the baffle and the copper gauge breather filter element.  Marvin wanted us to see firsthand how dirty and caked the filter element can get, and the main reason why your engine may not be ventilating crankcase pressure properly.  This issue was coved in our June 2016 Newsletter, and recently in the Buick Bugle.  It appears the copper mess filter could be replaced with a similar coarse steel wool.  It was agreed that the two ways to clean this filter was to remove the lifter cover and open up the baffle as Marvin had, or boil the lifter cover in a bath of degreasing agent for a few hours.

Eventually we got around to that age old discussion about vapor lock.  Ken Mitson said that the problem of vapor locking is centered on the carburetor and the boiling of the fuel in the carburetor created by heat from the manifold.  Although it was agreed that this was the final culprit many felt there are several factors which can contribute to the engine overheating and ultimately the fuel in the carburetor.  Many owners remove the heat control valve in the left exhaust manifold because this valve has a tendency to rust closed.  The purpose of the valve is to warm the engine when starting in colder weather. 

Is it time to put your Skylark in moth balls, or moth balls in the Skylark?  Ken Mitson talked about how he was given a fuel injector/carburetor cleaner sample at a Sema show years ago.  The sample was two wafers that you add to your fuel tank.  He put the sample in his suitcoat and forgot about it.  The next time he wore the jacket he noticed the wafers and the familiar smell of moth balls.  Ken talked to a chemist friend, and the wafers were indeed made out of the same active ingredient as moth balls.  For years now Ken has been putting 1 moth ball in his tank for every 2 gallons of gas.  Ken feels the moth balls increase the octane of the gas, clean the carburetor, and minimize the harmful effects of Ethanol as well as other additives available today.  FYI, you can buy the moth balls at Walmart.

500 MILES WEST OF FLINT
by: Al ‘Junior’ Malachowski


Hey Sven, duz dat Teal Blue fifty-tree Lark stop anyting bedder ven de enyun goes kapuut after youse brot dat inta da fixer-uuper shop? No such luuke, Ole. After dem guys vorked and vorked on dat contraption unda da floor, dey give up and yust made dee horn toot a yiddle yowder.

UFF DA! It sounds to me like Sven’s power brake system might be missing a few parts and his mechanics are looking in the wrong location for an answer. Given that his problem happens only when the engine stalls on his original early-1953 Skylark (Teal Blue was discontinued in May, 1953), the power brake system auxiliary electric vacuum pump (EVP) and its relay might be the answer to solving his hard brake-pedal problem. Together with an operational OE power brake cylinder (PBC), the EVP should provide a soft pedal and good brakes when the engine stalls, contrary to an alternative fact that appeared in the August 2012 Skylark Club Newsletter addressing the troublesome 1953 PBC…the original unit in your Skylark does not work if your car stops running (you will have no brakes).

The EVP was a factory-installed item on all 1953 Buicks with the power brake option built during the last month of the production run, beginning with Car Serial Number 17150754, on Skylarks with a body production number of ± 1679-1690, and on all 1954 Buicks likewise equipped. The intent of the EVP was to start running and provide adequate vacuum to attain a soft pedal for the power brake system only when the ignition key is turned to the ON position and when the generator doesn’t generate sufficient voltage to turn the pump off, which according to Buick specifications, is an engine speed of ± 250 RPM compared to a normal idle speed of ± 450 RPM. Once the required RPM are reached, the relay cuts-out and stops the EVP from running and the engine’s manifold vacuum takes over.

Missing and considering installing one for added assurance? Working OE parts are somewhat hard to find but here is what’s out there for literature. Since the rushed-into-production Buick power brake system wasn’t introduced until 1953 B.C. (before Cadillac), and the EVP came out in late-1953, both after the 1952 AND SUPPLEMENTARY-1953 BUICK SHOP MANUALS were already published, you’re out of luck if your reference library is limited to these two manuals. A better source would be to find a 1953 BUICK PRODUCT SERVICE BULLETINS, Abridged Edition, or the October 15th BUICK BULLETIN 2.353, that has the information on how the TRICO EVP should work, pictures of a completed installation, limited instructions, and a wiring diagram. Reference is also made to a template with all the dimensions, CHART 53-730, that is included in a TRICO ELECTRO-VAC installation kit, Group 4.899, Part 1391768, pictured below. The suggested location is under the hood, on the rear face of the sloped driver’s side front fender skirt (inner fender), in a triangular depression below the fresh air intake opening. A flat-rate installation time was noted at 1.0 hour. Good luck on the one hour without a lift.


Being that all 1954 Buicks with power brakes came standard from the factory with the EVP, the 1954 BUICK SHOP MANUAL includes servicing information, exploded-view comparison pictures of the newer MORVAC (built by Moraine Products Division) and the original TRICO ELECTRO-VAC EVPs, adjustment specifications for the cut-out relay, and a more-detailed wiring circuit diagram (Figure 10-95). Information on the differing mounting brackets and a layout template for the MORVAC EVP is not included. It does note that an EVP can supply 10” (Hg) of vacuum to the PBC in two seconds once the ignition is turned to the ON position with a maximum output of 20” (Hg). A BUICK MASTER CHASSIS PARTS BOOK covering the 1953-1954 years has comparison drawings of the two different pumps, motors, mounting brackets, hardware, and all the parts numbers.

The 1954 BUICK PRODUCT SERVICE BULLETINS, Abridged Edition, addresses customer’s complaints and situations to avoid: internally-grounded EVPs that shorted out; sealing the EVP’s motor wires from moisture penetration with a body calk (Permagum); removing the EVP’s inline fuse whenever you’re troubleshooting other electrical problems for an extended period of time with the ignition key turned to the ON position and the engine’s not running, to prevent burning out the motor; and running the pump dry without the special PBC 5W oil. Installation time was now bumped up to 1.5 hours to complete the following work: disconnecting or removing/replacing the battery cable, LF wheel, starter splash pan, fresh air intake hose, and the ignition’s anti-theft plate; drilling the five mounting holes from the wheel-well side; installing the EVP and relay; rerouting the 11/32” vacuum hoses; and tying-in all the wires. Don’t put the tools away yet. Take her out for a test run on a quiet backroad stretch and while free-rolling at a good clip, turn the ignition to the OFF position and then after a few seconds later, turn it back to the ON position and listen for the EVP to start running. With everything wired and working correctly, you should have soft brake pedal-pumps to get da Lark to a complete stop and then some, until you turn the ignition back to the OFF position.

Starting in 1955, Buick abandoned the EVP and went with an oversized soup can (180 cubic inches) for an auxiliary vacuum reserve tank, located under the floor, near the PBC. TOODLE-LOO!