1964 Skylark build thread

Discussion in 'Pro-Touring' started by 64G-lark, Apr 27, 2013.

  1. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    1964 Skylark build thread Project Angry Bird

    First a little background. I have been a long time Buick Fan and have owned a 65' Special and a Triple black 72' GS 350 cloned to a 455 stage one car prior to this car. My grandfather was a die hard Buick man and I guess he passed it on. After selling my last project (72' GMC Sierra Grande truck) I was ready to start something new but it was going to have to be on a budget since my family comes first. I wanted to start with a solid driver and the 70-72 GS cars were to expensive at the time. I always liked the 64-65 cars for there simplicity and they fit in my budget better.
    I purchased this car from a board member in March of 2007. It was a nicely optioned early build car with back-up lights, AM radio, all the exterior trim, bucket seats, ironing board console, and an automatic. My orginal intention was to purchase a nice stock car and transplant a Grand National drivetrain. Shortly after the purchase I began to collect the parts and aquired a 87' GN engine and trans. I promised myself I wouldn't tear the car down until I had the majority of the parts for the conversion. While slowly collecting parts my family and I enjoyed the car with the stock drivetrain. We did weekend cruises and the occasional car show. Here is a picture of me and my Grandparents circa 1965 (notice the car in the background). The next pic. is the car as purchased and the GN engine and trans.

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    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  2. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    Before starting any drive train conversions I needed to get the look I wanted for the car. The car was suffering from sagging coils that also looked as if they had been heated with a torch at one time. The first time I took it off the road I added Hotchkis 1" drop coils to all four corners, KYB gas shocks, some new bushings and lots of cleaning and detailing of the engine compartment. After lots of measuring and hours of looking at wheel designs I selected 17" Intro Vista Wheels and Nitto tires. I thought the wheels accented the side trim on the car with their unique finish on the spokes. This change greatly improved the handling and looks of the car but this was just the beginning.

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    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  3. elagache

    elagache Platinum Level Contributor

    Thanks for sharing (Re: 1964 Skylark build thread)

    Thanks Mark for sharing your experiences with this build,

    Putting a 87 GN drivetrain into one of these cars should be really need combo of performance and better fuel-economy. Should become a really fun car! :3gears:

    Best of luck with this conversion and do keep us posted!

    Cheers, Edouard :beer
  4. D-Con

    D-Con Kills Rats and Mice

    Do some searching on the board here, a couple of fellas have done this conversion and very nice jobs I might add. Their knowledge may come in handy for you.
  5. 1989GTA

    1989GTA Silver Level contributor

    Nice car. I will be following along on your conversion.
  6. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    Sorry to disappoint guys. The GN engine didn't happen. I was trying to make this thread in order of the build. Until this Pro touring section opened up I didn't really have a catagory this car fit in well. This will take a little while.

    Back to the build. In 2008 I met board member Brian Stone and we began to exchange emails and talk about the 64-65 cars. I eventually made a road trip to Mocksville to meet Brian and see his cars. Brian has one of the finest 64' Skylark four speed cars in existence not to mention his 65' GS 4 speed. After seeing, riding and driving his car I caught the 4 speed bug.

    My family and I continued to enjoy the car on the occasional weekend drive and I really enjoyed how reliable the Lil' 300 V-8 was. After this I made the decision to find a four speed car or convert the existing car if the parts could be found. Well I looked for a while and did finally find a four speed car in Mobile, Al. After exchanging pictures and e-mails I coaxed my understanding wife into a long weekend mini vacation. The car was fairly nice but a low option model, needing paint and a new interior to replace the velour interior that had been added over the years. Most of the sheet metal was solid as it had come from Oregon a few years before. After a test drive I found the trans mount was broken and the shifter jumping out of gear. After some time to think about it I decided I needed my existing car and this car to make one nice car not to mention the trans needing to be gone through. I couldnt afford to keep both cars so this option was out and I was worried how tough it might be to drive this car back to North Carolina. The family enjoyed the weekend in Mobile and we came back without the car.

    Back home I decided to sell the GN engine and trans and find all of the factory four speed parts. The engine and trans sold quick and the parts hunt was slow. Brian helped me in identifying the parts as I found a piece here and there. While hunting on E-bay I found a bellhousing but noticed in the picture it had a transmission attached. When I got in touch with the seller I found out he had found a 64' Skylark in a junk yard in Calif. that was a four speed car. He had stripped most of the four speed parts in hopes of using them on an Impala. I managed to coax him into selling me all of the parts after explaining most would not work on the Impala. I asked him if he would go back to the yard to hunt a few more parts exclusive to them. I bought all he could get but unfortunately on his next trip back he found the car had been crushed. The parts arrived in better than anticipated condtion and at this point I had all but the steering column, flywheel, and a few small items. Tom, (member 65GS76Limited) was parting a 65' convertible four speed car that was beyond saving and after some coaxing allowed me to purchase the unqiue steering column.

    After learning about these cars and the long hours spent searching for parts I created the 64-65 SBB 4 speed thread in the U-shift-em section to help others identify the required parts and unique items to the cars. See the thread in the sticky section if you are interested as I won't go over all the details in this thread.
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013
  7. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    In the fall of 2009 I took the car out to take pictures to submit to PHR magazine for their annual readers photo contest issue. On the way home the brake booster went out. I managed to limp it home and it went into the garage for the beginning of a long hibernation to improve every mechanical part of the car. The pictures I took that day didn't win but did manage to make it into the magazine. See the Jan. 2010 issue. Ironically this same issue kicked off a magazine project car called project Olds. This car is editor and photographer Robert McGaffins 65' Olds Cutlass. I would later follow a similar build on my car.

    The brake booster turned out to be a tough fix. Being an early 64' car it was equipped with the Kelsey Hayes booster. After trying multiple rebuilders I could never find the correct parts to rebuild. The drum brakes had always made me nervous driving the car as you had to plan in advance to stop and leave much more distance between yourself and other cars. So I made the decision to upgrade the braking system to the Delco booster and front disc brakes.

    While I was into the brakes I decided to clean and paint the entire underside of the car. In hindsight I should have done a frame off but after all this was a budget build. We all know how one thing can lead to another and before I knew it I had stripped the car to a shell on the frame.
    I started by moving the car out into the driveway and pressure washing it. Over the years the engine and transmission had both acquired leaks and it seems most of it coated the bottom of the car. Under that was a coat of undercoating then paint and finally the sheetmetal. Pressure washing in December can get a bit chilly laying on a creeper under the car. Once I cleaned as much as the pressure washer would remove I spent the next few weeks scraping, sanding, using scotchbrite pads and wire wheels to remove everything to the bare metal. I treated any corrosion with a phosphoric acid cleaner. While using the acid I wore gloves, goggles and a respirator while laying on a creeper. This stuff works great but will cause skin burns. I found out the hard way my gloves didnt go high enough and ended up with some pretty good burns around my wrist for Christmas.

    Once everything was cleaned I applied two coats of POR-15 and one top coat of POR-15 Blackcoat. This is great paint but don't get it on your skin as you will have to wear it off.

    PHR, My youngest helper Chase. Cleaning begins, more cleaning, Kelsey Hayes Booster and the New booster and master cylinder.

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    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  8. Nothingface5384

    Nothingface5384 Detail To Oil - Car Care

    nice car.
    I really enjoyed reading about the background.
    Hope to seem some more progress pics..or jusr more pics :Brow:
  9. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the compliments.

    As is the case in most builds I did find a few rust repairs to make. The RH inner fender had the typical rust under the battery tray and had a dent in the upper rear portion. I managed to fab a patch and weld it in this area and gently tap the dent out. Each rear inner fender had a small area by the rear body mount and I found one small place in the floor. I borrowed a friends mig and patched them up.

    One of the more humorous events I had envolved sandblasting. I purchased a cheap portable pot style blaster to do parts outside as needed. I had a few places on the underside of the car I just couldn't get to with conventional tools so I thought sandblasting might just be the trick. I bought a roll of plastic and a few bags of sand and carefully planned the event. I was going to have to do this inside the garage so I planned to do this when my wife was going to be gone for the better part of the day. You have to understand my garage is in the basement and any time I use chemicals or paints my wife notices right away. As she pulled out of the drive I made a bee-line for the garage and set up a make shift booth around the car with the plastic. I proceeded to spend the next few hours blasting away at my trouble spots and anything else I could find that needed blasting. After that I tore down my booth, cleaned and swept up all of my evidence. A short while later my lovely bride arrived back home, so I ran upstairs to greet her. She asked what I had been doing and I quickly replied the usual working on the Buick. Her eyes began to pan the kitchen and she picked up some mail on the counter and when she did you could she a dusty outline of where the mail had laid. She went from room to room and each time she picked up an object the outline remained. My gig was up and I spent that evening and the next day cleaning and vacuuming the whole house. You dont realize how fine that dust becomes. Never sandblast in a closed garage no matter how well you think you have sealed it off. Sandblasting is banned to the great outdoors!

    I continued to remove parts and strip, clean, repair, and paint. One by one I picked off items such as the wiper motor, heater controls, core support, bumper brackets, heater boxes, steering columns, etc.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 30, 2013
  10. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    Next thing to address was the rear axle. The orginal rear had a open type carrier 2.78 gear which was great for gas mileage but was not what I was looking for for more spirtited driving. I debated about rebuilding the orginal rear but stumbled across a 64' GTO rear that was identical and had been upgraded to a Eaton Posi and a Richmond 3.55 ring gear and pinon. The 64' axle housings are unique in that the top cast ears for the upper control arm mounts have smaller diameter bushings. I tore it down inspected it, cleaned, powdercoated the backing plates, rear cover and painted the main housing. I used ARP stainless bolts for the rear cover.

    The fuel tank in the car had a dent in the center underside. I made several attempts at removing the dent with no success so I elected to replace it with a Goodmark tank and upgraded the pick-up to a 3/8". I replaced the main fuel line from the tank to the front crossmember with a 3/8" stainless line.

    At this time in the build I was still headed for a resto-mod type build and had planned to use factory style boxed rear control arms and swaybar. The front suspension would continue to run the factory parts but with an upgraded swaybar, the Hotchkis springs and KYB shocks. Along the way I collected NOS pieces to add rear defrost, rear speaker, fader control, and the vaccum trunk release. The one area that still bugged me was the steering gear. I did not like the feel of the stock unit as it had zero feedback. So I began to research the various options. This led me to look at alot of stuff the pro touring guys were doing.

    In May of last year (2012) my brother and I attended an All GM event in Commerce, Ga. at the Atlanta Dragstrip. My car was still on jackstands waiting for time and money to replace and paint suspension parts so I rode with him in his Camaro. Once there we enjoyed the show, the vendors and drag racing but we had more fun at the autocross event than anything. This was probably the third autocross event I had attended in my life. This one was different in that there was no import cars and it was all GM stuff. My brothers car is mostly stock but he entered the event and loved it. Everyone at the event was friendly and welcoming. He left with a plaque and his car appeared in a couple magazines shortly after.
    The highlight of the event for me was meeting Kyle Tucker and riding with him on the course. For those that dont know Kyle and his wife are the owners of Detroit Speed and Engineering one of the leading companies that develope parts and build cars that are typically classified as pro touring. This is one of the ways he promotes his product and buisness. He and his wife were on hand with three cars to let people experince first hand the improvments his products have to offer. I had the pleasure of talking with him before and after the run and I have to say the experience of riding in a 1963 Chevy II that is equipped with his suspension componets, LS7 (650+HP)engine and 5 speed. was unreal. The car handles unbelivable and the power is nothing short of crazy. The thrill from that day changed my thinking for the car. I enjoy going to car shows but I am not crazy about sitting in a chair in the hot sun for hours behind the car. I enjoy driving it the most.
    Project Angry Bird begins!

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    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  11. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    Re: 1964 Skylark build thread Project Angry Bird

    The first thing I addressed was the steering gear. I replaced the original 800 unit with a Delphi 600. This will give me the 12.7:1 ratio I like while also losing a little over 6 lbs of weight of the front. This is a direct bolt in with the exception of changing the rag joint and some adapters for the hoses.
    I spent a lot of time talking with members here, at Lateral G and Pro Touring.com as well as the vendors themselves before I determined what suspension components to purchase. I wanted to use tall spindles for the improved geometry so this narrowed the field down to a handful. I also wanted to gain some articulation for the rear control arms. Ultimately I kept coming back to Detroit Speed so that is what I used for the majority of the components. I was most impressed with their patented design for the rear swivel link control arms. I think these are superior in ride, noise and wear compared with helm style or Johnny joints used in other brands. Here is the run down on my set-up.
    Detroit Speed 1 ” taller forged spindles with 2”drop
    Detroit Speed upper and lower tubular control arms with delrin bushings
    Hotchkis 1” drop coil springs
    Viking aluminum body double adjustable shocks
    Pro Forged tie rods, idler arm, center link and billet adjusters
    Ride Tech Muscle bar 1.5” tubular sway bar.
    Detroit Speed swivel link upper and lower rear control arms
    Detroit Speed chassis brace kit.
    Hotchkis 1” drop coil springs
    Viking aluminum body double adjustable shocks
    Detroit Speed 1 1/8” tubular sway bar

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    Last edited: May 4, 2013
  12. 1989GTA

    1989GTA Silver Level contributor

    Coming along nicely. What size tires are those on the front and how much is the offset on the front wheels? I am getting ready to order mine and looking at a 5.25" offset with Nitto 255/45ZR17 tires. Wheels in the front will be 17" x 8".
  13. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    Front tires are 225/50R17 the wheels are 17x7 with 5" backspacing.
  14. 19richie66

    19richie66 4:13

    Very nice. Something else to give me some motivation. Enjoy the reading and the pics. I agree if I had the cash I would go Detroit Speed all the way. I have checked out thier projects section and I am amazed at what they do to the vehicles they build.Top quality all the way. Gives me something to shoot for. Later,Richie
  15. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    Thanks Richie. Hang in there these projects take a while.
  16. GGreen289

    GGreen289 Active Member


    Thanks for sharing. I like what you're doing with the car, and it reaffirms some ideas I have for mine. I have always preferred to have a build that was more suited to the driving that we do every day, so handling is a must, and the thought of taking a screaming Skylark (Special Deluxe in my case) to an Autocross event and performing well is awesome:spank:. What's been strange is that I've always wanted a Mustang, and know exactly what I would do to it, but when I bought this car I was at a loss (keep it stock/original or what???) but now seeing your build, I realize that I can translate all of what I want to do with a Mustang to this car, just finding parts will be a bit more difficult:dollar:.

    Keep up the great work and keep the build updates coming. I just bought my 1964 Special Deluxe...and have already had to tear the engine down due to blown valve stem seals. I have the 300 with Aluminum heads so I have to find someone that can get the most flow out of these heads. I have a line on a complete 340 that I can rob the crank from to make mine a stroker:Brow:...but like you, I want to have most everything lined up before I go much further.

    Again, thanks for sharing!:gp:

    Best Regards,
  17. Willby70

    Willby70 Well-Known Member

    Keep the progress photos coming, watching this build for some time.
  18. 64G-lark

    64G-lark Well-Known Member

    Took a little time off from the car. Attended the Chevy Nationals on 6/1 to go watch the autcross. Took a couple laps with Brian Finch this year in his Camaro. He drives harder than anyone I have ever rode with on an autocross track. The braking and acceleration is over the top. Of course having 14" rotors on all four corners and 750 HP on tap helps. I dont think I will ever be able to have a car that performs at the level of him or Kyle but I would be happy to be on the road again and make a few autocross events. I havent had much time for the car, my yougest made the Allstar team in Little leaque so they have been practicing every night and preparing for games. I will get back on the car in a few weeks. Thanks for the encouragment.
  19. 19richie66

    19richie66 4:13

  20. Willby70

    Willby70 Well-Known Member

    Still here Mark, it's winter...well sort of in the Carolina's time to build.

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