Written by Eric Becker
The two decades that followed World War II reflected an ascendant economy, unprecedented exploration and a sense of unbounded possibility. Reflected in design, art, industry and the automobile, the forces that drove a uniquely American statement of the roadways is apparent in these four vehicles ‒ a 1953 Buick Skylark, a 1967 Corvette convertible, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air and 1957 Dodge D100 Sweptside pickup – all offered from one collection with No Reserve at the 2020 Barrett-Jackson Fall Auction.
1953 Buick Skylark Convertible
A true example of Harley Earl’s “dream car,” the 1953 Buick Skylark is one of the most revered Buick’s ever built. Celebrating the marque’s 50th anniversary, the Skylark was part of Earl’s “Triple Crown” – essentially hand-built cars ready for the road, unveiled at the 1953 GM Motorama along with the Cadillac Eldorado, Oldsmobile Fiesta and the forever iconic 1953 Corvette. The Skylark won hearts and minds with its sleek curvaceous styling. The trademark front fender Buick “VentiPorts” were absent; the beltline dropped down and notched at the rear. The windshield was sat low – chopped nearly 4 inches – similar to what the California hot-rodders were doing at the time. Except this design was done in-house. The commanding design was further accentuated by the chrome “Sweepspear” line running the length of the body with added side medallions, creating a truly unique on-road presence and perfect reflection of the post-war optimism. For ’53 the Skylark was also the first Buick to debut the 322ci overhead-valve V8 – the “Nailhead.” Topped with a Stromberg 4-barrel carburetor, the “Nailhead” sent 188hp through a Twin Turbine Dynaflow automatic transmission.
This matching-numbers Skylark underwent a professional rotisserie restoration completed in January 2014. The body was stripped to bare metal, with the flooring and inner body sandblasted, epoxy-coated and painted before being reassembled. The glorious Matador Red exterior is contrasted by a white convertible top, and the interior is finished in matching red and white leather. A beautiful patterned dash surrounds the various period-correct switchgear. A large center gauge conveys all the necessary happenings to the driver, and plush carpeting further adheres to the epitome of Eisenhower-era luxury. A full suite of luxury amenities came standard, including power steering, brakes, locks, antenna and seat. Chrome plated Kelsey-Hayes 40-spoke 15-inch wire wheels with wide whitewall tires were also standard. As part of the restoration this Skylark received stainless-steel brake and fuel lines, as well as a full stainless exhaust system. The ’53 Harley Earl “dream car” Skylark cemented Buick as an automotive luxury powerhouse. Only 1,690 Skylarks left the factory, and the design today is fondly remembered as a true icon of upscale 1950s Americana.
1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Convertible
Unlike the Buick, one of a myriad of country club classics that drove the postwar American dream, Chevrolet was viewed as the “meat and potatoes” brand of General Motors – the largest automaker in the world at the time. The Chevrolet Bel Air changed all that, bringing the rakish and rocket-esque styling cues of the ’50s to the masses. The design was simultaneously minimalist and assertive; the body appeared canted forward, giving the impression that it was reaching 100 mph even when standing still. The car’s flank was kitted with ribbed aluminum brightwork, adding a perfect contrast to the heroic rear fins.
A remarkable design, particularly when finished in Larkspur Harbor Blue over a beautiful matching two-tone navy and turquoise interior. Mimicking the interior, the turquoise-colored power soft-top provides a delightful contrast to the chrome brightwork, making this 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air convertible a standout. The well-optioned car’s 283ci Power Pack V8 engine is topped with a 4-barrel carburetor that exhales through a dual exhaust. The Chevrolet small block sends well over 220hp through a Powerglide automatic transmission and onto the pavement via a set of gorgeous whitewall tires. This Bel Air underwent a meticulous full frame-off, nut-and-bolt restoration and comes with multiple options, including factory air conditioning, Wonder Bar radio with dual antennas, and optional lower rear deck trim. Arguably, the 1957 Bel Air could be viewed as the quintessential American classic car. Chiseled good looks, peerless get-up-and-go (when outfitted with the V8 engine) and, of course, mass appeal.
1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427/435 Convertible
The 1953 General Motors Motorama at the New York Waldorf-Astoria was a significant historical event in the automotive world. Not only did it introduce three of Harley Earl’s “dream cars,” but also Chevrolet’s very own small warship – the Corvette. Some 10 years later, the second-generation Corvette emerged, with styling that could only be done by those on a diet of red meat and fine wine. The C2 Corvette’s design looked unabashedly forward, capturing acceleration, speed and launch. The design borrowed heavily from Bill Mitchell’s 1959 Sting Ray racer and gave the second-generation Corvette its iconic moniker. The Mitchell lead design team would go on to create the bar-none, most iconic American sports car.
With 435hp on tap thanks to a Turbo-Jet 427ci V8 Tri-Power engine, this 1967 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray convertible is a fine example of the breed. The thundering V8 connects to an M21 4-speed manual transmission with a heavy-duty clutch. The Corvette underwent a nut-and-bolt rotisserie restoration inside and out, and is finished in Rally Red over a red leather interior. The immaculate paint is topped off with a white Stinger hood and white convertible top. Riding on a set of Rally wheels and breathing through side exit exhaust, this Sting Ray is certainly no fish out of water when it’s carving up the open road.
1957 Dodge D100 Sweptside Pickup
And now for something completely different. Still maintaining that vein of classic luxurious Americana, the 1957 Dodge D100 Sweptside took a radically different approach. Launched in a bid to spruce up Dodge’s ailing pickup truck sales and attract customers away from the hugely popular alternatives from Ford and Chevy, it was conceived by Joe Berr, manager of Dodge’s Special Equipment Group – a sort of in-house skunkworks division, normally used for tackling fleet or individual customer needs.
A product of its time, the Sweptside boasted a uniquely ’50s appearance, integrating the “Forward Look” design of the road cars into the pickup’s aesthetic and merging the finned quarter-panels from a 1957 Dodge Suburban station wagon to the bed of a long-wheelbase pickup. Marketed as a luxurious option, the Sweptside featured chrome trim pieces running down the side integrating the finned quarter-panels with the cabin. The Sweptside became one of the rarest American pickups to emerge from 1950s Detroit with only a handful (1,260) produced over the two-year production run from 1957 to 1959.
Sporting a 315ci Chrysler Poly V8 engine with push-button transmission, this 1957 Sweptside stuns in its two-tone Pacific Blue and white finish. Inside, a refined tan-colored bench seat with a contrasting white dashboard showcase a period-correct minimalist utilitarian design. This gorgeous Sweptside truck received a total frame-off rebuild and features a varnished oak box floor and chrome wire wheels shod in whitewall tires.
Sometimes lost in the crowd of classic cars, the posh Skylark, iconic Bel Air, journeyman’s Sweptside pickup and the playboy’s convertible ’Vette speak to the diversity of the era’s sweeping jet-like design and diversity of Barrett-Jackson’s collector car docket.
THIS GERMAN ICON IS ALSO AN AMERICAN CLASSIC
From the same consignor as the classic Americana featured above comes this 1957 Volkswagen Beetle, also offered with No Reserve during the Fall Auction. Although Volkswagen is a German make, the Beetle itself is a globally recognized icon, one that became a staple of U.S. roads and helped put America’s burgeoning youth behind the wheel. In under a decade, the Volkswagen Beetle would become a clarion statement of American counterculture, a “counter-commercial” means of effective, efficient – and differentiated – transportation, set against a sea of land yachts that populated American roadways. VW’s legendary “Think Small” ad campaign became an integral part of American life, discussed at cocktail parties, the water cooler and later making a cameo appearance alongside Don Draper in the “Mad Men” television series.
The Beetle is a symbolic piece of motoring history, and this highly sought-after oval-window example from 1957 is perfect for those who want to cruise the California coast in style. Powered by the original 1200cc 4-cylinder engine producing 36hp and paired with a 4-speed manual transmission, this Bug received a concours-quality, factory-correct restoration that included rebuilt mechanicals. A lifelong California car, it features the original sheet metal in the floors with matching-numbers body and pan. With 85,700 original miles, the Beetle is brilliantly finished in its original color of Coral Red and comes with the factory sliding rag top, as well as swan-neck mirrors, an Audiovox accessory radio, Venetian blinds and even a porcelain bud vase.
To register to bid on these and other vehicles on the docket for the 2020 Fall Auction at WestWorld of Scottsdale, click HERE.