The Buick Roadmaster was actually a name applied to two entirely different cars. The first Roadmaster was the name given to the Buick 80 series in 1936. Production of the model, which was available in a variety of body styles, continued uninterrupted until 1958. Following a lapse of more than thirty years, Buick brought back the Roadmaster name plate for the 1991 model year. This time the Roadmaster was a full-size model that was available as a sedan or station wagon. In 1996, declining station wagon sales, largely a result of the popularity of the minivan, led Buick to discontinue the Roadmaster.
What variants of the Roadmaster were available?
The original Roadmaster was available in several body styles, including a four-door sedan, a two-door coupe, a two-door convertible, and a five-door station wagon. In the 1940s a hardtop coupe was added and given the Buick Riviera name. The station wagon was discontinued in 1953, making it the last American station wagon produced with a wooden body. During this time, the Roadmaster was Buick's top-of-the-line offering, and was priced above all other Buick models. The 1991 Roadmaster was available as a new station wagon version known as the Roadmaster Estate Wagon, with a four-door sedan following in 1992.
What engines were used in the Roadmaster?
The first Roadmasters were powered by Buick's second generation of "Nailhead" V-8 engines. Two different versions were used with respective displacements of 322 cubic inches and 364 cubic inches. The Roadmaster of the 1990s was again powered by a series of V-8 engines. These engines were also used by other GM divisions, such as Chevrolet, and included the small block 5.0 liter "L03" V-8, the 5.7 liter L05, and the 5.7 liter LT1 which was shared with the Camaro, Firebird, and Corvette sports cars.
What were the Roadmaster's notable features?
As Buick's most expensive luxury model, the original Roadmaster contained features that were unavailable on other Buick cars. More than anything else, its size distinguished it from among the rest of the Buick lineup. The second generation of Roadmasters were notable for round, aerodynamic styling which had been applied to relatively few luxury cars prior to that time. It was also among the earliest models to include a driver airbag and standard anti-lock brakes. The Roadmaster Estate Wagon included seating for eight and a unique extended glass "vista roof" over a large section of the passenger cabin.
What other GM models was the Roadmaster related to?
Besides the models with which it shared an engine, the Roadmaster of the 1990s was similar to several other GM vehicles. The 1991 Roadmaster was built on GM's "B" platform, which was the same architecture used by the recently restyled Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser station wagon, as well as the Chevy Caprice. The Caprice was also available in both sedan and wagon body styles, making it a less expensive version of the Roadmaster with fewer optional and standard features.
The Roadmaster was a car model offered by General Motors' Buick division at various times during the mid to late 20th century. The Roadmaster was a new name applied to an existing model in 1936 when Buick revamped its entire model line. Today the Roadmaster name may be more memorable than the car itself.