Monday, April 2, 2012

XP-75: A Buick with Italian Flair

XP-75 Skylark III in white

The more one studies General Motors, the more it becomes clear that very unusual cars did indeed happen and one should "never say never"- especially when someone in a position of leadership wants something. So it is unwise to dismiss grainy photographs of what seem to be very unusual cars without more research.

Take for instance the 1959 Buick. Now it is well understood that the whole 1959 GM program was developed in a mad rush- so much so that GM styling was running 16 hour days to gets the cars finished and they even went so far as to develop all of the cars on a single body platform (instead of the usual three) because Fisher didn't have time to do more than one.

So how did it come to be that there was time, in the middle of this chaos, to create a special prototype two seater based on the 1959 Buick styling and actually have two of them built? The answer must be that the right person wanted it. The concept was designated XP-75. The clay model was done in 1957 and called Skylark II. It featured 1959 styling with a slightly modified tail. The clay also shows special "Skylark" logos on the frony fenders and had a modified tail treatment. It was rendered in black. One must assume that it was done in the advanced studio, because the production ones were swamped at the time. This would not have happened without Bill Mitchell's insistence.

XP-75 Clay Model of 1957- called "Skylark II"

Note modified rear treatment of Skylark II

The project was taken so seriously as to create a full interior buck as well. And then Pininfarina Studios in Italy were contracted to build two running cars- one white, and one silver. They seem to show stock 1959 styling except for a flourish in the rear fender that would be repeated on the 1960 Buicks. The two cars were known internally as "Skylark III". They are remembered by GM Styling employees who recalled that they were created for members of the GM Board of Directors. We have not yet been able to determine who they were actually built for.

According to accounts, the white car was scrapped in 1964. The silver car seen above was modified with Cibie headlamps, a straight-car grille and wire wheels in the early 60's. This car was kept in existence until at least 1967.  Bill Mitchell is known for having a fondness for both Cibie lamps and wire wheels- was he the one that kept this very special car around?

While this car had no serious production intent, it does seem to be the very early planting of a seed which will ultimately be known as Riviera.

No comments:

Post a Comment