The cars we loved.
Well before Buick became a household name in China, it was building memorable cars in America that flirted with turbo technology. The first generation Skyhawk (1975-1980) was not one of them. The Skyhawk was the most upscale car built on the H-Body platform. Whatever made a Buick a Buick was buried under the constraints of a platform architecture that favored lower cost mainstream variants like the Chevy Monza (and Oldsmobile Starfire) . Special edition cars were an opportunity to express the spirit of the brand and no H-Body did that better than the short-lived, rarely seen Skyhawk Road Hawk.
The H-Body ended up being something of a underachiever for GM. On one hand it’s Monza was a great seller and dominated the Camel GT racing series of the day while the Buick version of the car was all but ignored by Buick customers who wanted their retirement sleds big and softly sprung. The Skyhawk could not even go fast enough to be a NASCAR contender for Buick as it was never fitted with a turbo in any official capacity. Besides, the goal of fuel crunched Buicks at that time was to use turbocharging for better gas mileage not performance. The first Skyhawk suffered on both accounts.
Generally the Skyhawk’s single body style was an attractive fastback/hatch that recalled cars like the Ferrari Daytona in theory. In reality, the measly 3.8L V6 by the late 70’s could only make 115 hp. To counter the limitations of forward motivation, all the divisions selling a H-body made the occasional special edition car. Of these Buick’s Skyhawk was the rarest and perhaps will be the most desirable to future collectors. Built for two years only, 1300 cars were built between 1979 and 1980 at the Lordstown Ohio factory. The collectors of 2030 might see the humorous irony 70’s era decal muscle cars, but for now they are sticking with Regal T-Types.
From the factory, silver metallic cars were shipped to Michigan based Robin Products Companies’ Warren Ohio facility to get the special Road Hawk package that included a front air dam, rear spoiler, quarter panel extension and special decals. A vented side rear window cover was perhaps the biggest differentiator between the Road Hawk and other special editions from Chevy’s Monza. Unlike most special editions of H-body cars, the special treatment continued inside with oyster colored front bucket seats and interior trim. The vinyl and cloth inside otherwise was a familiar environment to any Monza or Starfire owner.
Because Road Hawk cars were saddled with the same engine and transmission choices (3 speed Turbo Hydromatic or 5 –speed manual) as lesser Skyhawks, attention was paid to beefing up the car’s suspension with wider 13 wheels, tires and bigger anti sway bars. The torque arm rear suspension was a new innovation, so much so that would end up in the 1982 Camaro/Firebird. The special edition cars suspension was bolstered with improved spring rates over the standard Skyhawk.
The handling was improved, but the Road Hawk amounted to no more than a decal muscle car in typical 70’s fashion. Although not new, many of the styling themes of the Road Hawk would find their ways in many 80’s Pontaics in the form of gaudy ground effects. To Buick’s credit, the somewhat loud paint treatment was balanced by tasteful aero embellishments that were not only cool to look at, but useful in lowering the Skyhawk’s drag coefficient. Buick performance would later be more substantive as turbocharging would filter down to the entry Skyhawk in the form of a T-Type variant in 1984.