Junkyard Gem: 1985 Buick Skyhawk Custom Coupe

General Motors began building cars on the compact J Platform in 1981, and J-based machinery stayed in production all the way through the 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire. The best-known of the J-cars in North America was always the Cavalier, but The General’s Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and even Cadillac divisions each sold their own Js here. The Buick version was the Skyhawk, built for the 1982 through 1989 model years. Here’s a sporty ’85 Skyhawk coupe, found in a Northern California boneyard recently.

The Custom trim level was the cheapest version of the Skyhawk in 1985, and the two door was the most affordable configuration (midgrade Skyhawks were Limiteds and the T-Type was at the top of the Skyhawk pyramid that year). The MSRP on this car started at $7,512 (about $21,220 in inflation-adjusted 2022 dollars), making it the least expensive new Buick offered for sale in the United States in 1985.

The Skyhawk name had been used on the Buick version of the Chevrolet Monza during the 1970s.

The Chevrolet-badged sibling of this car was much cheaper, with the list price of the base ’85 Cavalier coupe set at $6,872 (around $19,410 today). There were cheaper new Chevrolets that year, of course; a new Chevette cost just $5,470, while the Isuzu-built Spectrum was $6,295 and the Suzuki-built Sprint a skinflinty $5,151.

The base engine in the Custom and Limited was this 2.0-liter SOHC straight-four rated at 86 horsepower. A turbocharged 1.8-liter version with 150 horses was available for an extra 800 bucks ($2,260 now).

A four-on-the-floor manual transmission was standard equipment in the 1985 Skyhawk, but the buyers of most of these cars insisted on automatics. The price for this one was $425 ($1,200 today). A five-speed manual cost just $75 ($210).

Velour-ish upholstery in Bordello Red (Buick didn’t use that name) was all the rage during the 1980s and well into the 1990s. This car’s interior looks pretty nice, considering where it’s parked.

Community Buick GMC in Iowa is still in business today.

The five-digit odometer means we can’t know how many miles were on this car at the end.

I brought a Chicago-made 1950s Pho-Tak Foldex 30 film camera with me to the junkyard that day, as one does, and I photographed the Skyhawk on Kodak Portra 160 film.

The irritatingly perky Skyhawk owners in this TV commercial appear to be about one-third the age of typical mid-1980s Buick shoppers.

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