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1965 Buick Skylark - Bed Time

Photography by Marko Radielovich, Matt King

Sleeper: a vehicle built to cloak its true nature and capabilities. What do you get when you combine one stock-appearing '65 Buick Skylark with the complete drivetrain of an '87 Grand National? A sleepy-looking Buford that quietly smokes the competition. We first spotted Tim Lee's Skylark while trawling the pits at Irwindale Raceway's eighth-mile drags in Irwindale, California. There's nothing really unusual about this resto-clean Buick with nice rims-save for the boost gauge in the dash. Something was up. Next, we saw the green bomber casually pick its left front tire a foot off the ground and carry it well past the 60-foot mark. Something was definitely up.

Tim, owner of Don Lee Auto Service in Rancho Cucamonga, California, has a history of building fast street machinery. When the opportunity to purchase a complete, low-mileage '87 Grand National turbo powerplant presented itself, Tim bought it with hopes of someday putting it to use. Scouring the local papers netted a slightly used TH200-4R trans and an 8.5-inch 10-bolt rearend-both of Grand National origins. The match was a natural. Modern Buick power in a classic Buick chassis.

The initial swap resulted in 13-second timeslips. Tim wasn't content, so he performed a couple of upgrades that included a handful of Kenne Bell bolt-ons that allowed him to turn the boost up to a whopping 24 pounds. A tankload of C16 race fuel and 24 pounds of boost are good enough to propel the 3,400-pound Buford to 11.30s at 116 mph. Tim is usually able to make one 11-second pass before the track officials send him home for lack of safety equipment.

The Buick's exterior was smoothed and painted by Signature Auto Body, of Tim's native Rancho Cucamonga. The original green was reapplied, but all the emblems were shaved. Tim then added the exterior brightwork, and a set of American Torq-Thrust Ds shod with skinnies in the front and Mickey Thompson stickies in the rear. The interior is all stock and mostly original, providing the comfort of '60s-era accoutrements. Tim was able to put the whole mess together for a minimal cash outlay as he did all of the mechanical work himself. Owning an auto repair shop doesn't hurt either. Combining the looks of a classic early Buford with the thrust of a rocket, this Q-ship will get you when you least expect it.

Car Craft Q & A
Car Craft: What prompted you to mate a Grand National with a Skylark?
Tim Lee: I happened to have the drivetrain from a Grand National sitting in my shop collecting dust, and I was looking around for something to put it in. About this time, my brother was restoring a '65 Buick GS and he bought a '65 Skylark as a parts car. I ended up saving the '65, and my brother never managed to strip any parts off of it. Come to think of it, he still hasn't finished his GS!

CC: Did you set out to build a sleeper?
TL: I really didn't build it to go fast. I wanted a car I could drive and occasionally cruise to car shows, but my Buick is the victim of the snowball effect. It wasn't much of a sleeper when I first put it together, as it only ran in the 13s-it was more like a sleeper that never woke up.

CC: What is the next step?
TL: I'm in the process of putting another motor together. This one will have aluminum heads, a roller cam, and a bigger turbo and downpipe. It should put out an additional 250 horses over this combo.

CC: Does this mean that you're going to actually invest in some safety equipment?
TL: I don't know, some day maybe. I want to make a 10-second pass before I put a bar in it. I just don't want to compromise the utility of the car with a rollbar. Guess I should step up the braking system, though.

The Details
Car: Tim Lee's '65 Buick Skylark
Engine: 231ci Buick V-6
Heads: Stock '87 Grand National
Induction: Stock '87 Grand National, 50-pound injectors
Power Adder: Kenne Bell Stage 3 turbocharger, Kenne Bell intercooler
Camshaft: Stock '87 Grand National
Power: 400 hp @ 5,700 (est.), 420 lb-ft @ 3,500 (est.)
Transmission: GM 200-4R, Art Carr 3,500-stall converter
Rearend: Stock Grand National 8.5-inch 10-bolt , 3.42:1 gears
Suspension: Stock coil springs, front; stock four-link, rear
Brakes: Stock 10-inch drums, front and rear
Wheels and tires: 15x4 American Racing Torq-Thrust Ds with Kumho 165R15 tires, front; 15x8.5 American Torq-Thrust D with Mickey Thompson 26x11.5-15 ET Streets, rear
Paint: Original Buick Green bySignature Auto Body, Cucamonga, California
Best e.t.: 11.30 @ 116 mph (quarter-mile)
Cost to build: $12,000

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