Special thanks to Tom (silverfox103) for the invitation to talk about my Roadmaster. He also gave me permission to provide a rundown of all the cars I've owned.
My family had a few wagons early in my existence: I have no memory of them in use, but I began life with them owning a pair of ’59 and ’60 Studebaker Lark wagons. Later they drove a '67 Dodge Polara wagon as well as a '77 Plymouth Grand Fury Sport Suburban wagon.
Early in my motoring career I developed an odd collection, a print ad from every car I had owned:
'76 Mercury Monarch (302 V8)
This was the family car that got passed along to me. I never held title, but it was a starting point. It was a 2-door with the Ghia interior (which meant nicer plastic seats). I do think the Merc had a more upscale appearance than the Granada. In retrospect, I remember it as not as horrible as everyone thinks they are today, but at the time, my number one priority was to get my own car.
'84 Dodge Daytona (2.2 turbo I4)
Moving from the Monarch to the Daytona felt like going from horse & buggy to rocket ship. The Merc had marshmallow suspension and the Daytona rode like a halftrack. The Merc was an automatic, the Daytona had a 5-speed. Here’s the thing, the car had an extremely narrow power band. Even with the turbo, it only put out 148 hp (later IROCs were bumped up to 224), but my memory was this was a really fun car to drive. I wonder if I’d find it as fun today.
'77 Dodge D150 (318 V8)
This was beat up by the time I was ever behind the wheel. No doubt, mine was a dog, but my Dad had a ’78, also with a 318, and it moved out OK, so I’m probably letting both trucks morph into one happy memory. This was the basis for the Lil' Red Express. With a 360, Car and Driver
claimed it was the fastest American-made vehicle from 0 to 100 MPH in '78. It was also the last of the truly uncluttered engine bays.
'78 AMC Pacer Wagon (258 I6)My first wagon.
With a width of 77 inches (just 1.1 shy of a Roadmaster) and a length of 176.8 inches (almost 41 shorter) this was indeed a short-wide car. My self esteem wasn’t high enough to drive this; complete strangers would honk, point, and laugh. I kinda miss it now, though.
'78 Jeep CJ-7 (258 I6)
As much as I despised my first AMC, I loved my second. This one was a tired one! When the light would turn green, I’d push the pedal to the floor, and by the time I got through the intersection, five cars in the left lane had passed me. Nevertheless, I loved this thing. I had a hardtop and no soft top. At the first sign of spring, the to would come off and I’d spend the next several months fighting snow, sleet in hale in an open car. Fun times.
'78 Mercury Zephyr Wagon (302 V8)Wagon #2.
This was a friend’s car and he blew the motor. I put in a fresh 302. This was the car that I though if I replaced everything, eventually it would be reliable. After a transmission and carb, I never could get it quite right. Was happy to move along.
'96 Plymouth Breeze (2.0 I4)
Partly due to the Zephyr never quite running right, and partly due to working my first real job, but mostly due to a girl I kinda liked, I took the plunge and signed my name on a line. For those who have never had the experience, driving your first new car, is a pretty magical moment. Unfortunately, cars don’t stay new for long. I never quite bonded with the car. Words of wisdom; if you're a dude, don't ever buy a new car to impress a girl. And if you're a girl, even if you're not impressed, don't dump the dude in his new car.
Four years later I was married to someone else (FYI: I still am) and we were looking to move to Hawai'i. We heard that everything, including cars, were more expensive and looked into shipping the vehicle. Just prior to our trip, we ended up having some significant mechanical issues. Even though the car was only four years old, the cost of the repair added with the cost of shipping was more than the blue book of the car. We knew someone who wanted the car, so we repaired it and sold it to him for the cost of the repair.
'91 Chevy Lumina Z34 (3.4 LQ1 V6)
The high prices we expected in Hawai'i were not enough to prepare us for the high prices we experienced. The combination of shipping expenses, high taxation, and a captive market make for significantly higher cost of autos. There is a loophole, however. When servicemen are scheduled to ship out, they are going whether their cars have sold or not. I always thought the Z34s were kind of funny looking, but the guy was ready to deal. I really did enjoy this one, it had a decent amount power and handled OK. Our plan was to stay two years and had the car lasted another 30 days I would have thought it one of the best ever. Unfortunately, it quit just before we were to go.
'78 Buick Regal 2-door (Pontiac 301 V8)
Four weeks before we are schedule to return to the mainland, the Lumina crapped out. I needed something cheap. A friend knew a man named Daniel, a Hawaiian who, and I quote, “always had junk cars for sale.” Daniel was anxious to strike a deal and wanted to know what I was looking for. “Something cheap,” I said. “I’ve got something just right for you, it’s total junk, but it’s cheap.” At the time, it didn’t even run, but Daniel assumed it was a bad alternator. I showed up with tools, an alternator for a car I did not own, and a tiny bit of cash. A little while later, was driving away in my new car. It’s important to note, Daniel is an honest man and when he says he’s selling you a junk car, he can be trusted. This one was a complete mess, but I really only needed it to get me to work 20 times. I lived 18 miles downhill. Every morning I’d chug up the hill, wondering if it would make it. Every evening I’d try to crest the first hill at 72mph, shift into neutral and coast downhill to within a mile of home. Sorry as this car was, if you peeled away the layers of the onion, you could see what was at one time a decent car. It was a well proportioned car, which was later used for the T-Type, Turbo-T, Grand National and GNX. This was my first Buick; sad as it was I had the feeling it would not be my last.
'93 Buick Roadmaster Wagon (350 L05)Wagon #3:
Back on the mainland, first baby on the way, I needed a car. Honestly, I'd never looked twice at these things, but once behind the wheel, I was hooked. It just felt right. It was a really nice car which I drove it for quite a long time, but a couple of things brought about it’s downfall. First, I constantly thought, it doesn’t have the LT1, which was unfortunate. It was a fine car and could even do a little burnout, which my '94 can't due to the 2.93 posi. It had what I believed was a dealer installed alarm. It worked fine for a long time, but eventually the key fobs started to get flaky and if the battery died, the alarm reset itself and the car wouldn’t start. Two mechanics said they couldn’t figure out how to dismantle it. Then someone else got into a fender bender. Nothing serious, but the cost of hood, grill and lights seemed like a lot. It looked bad and we already had the Jetta which I was driving a lot more. One of the brakelines rusted out and my mechanic warned me all of the lines needed to be replaced, but it's wasn't going to be him. "I'll patch this, but you need to think about another car." Soon another one popped and he refused to fix it. One day I took a look at the undercarriage was shocked at how the tin worm had left it's mark. I ended up selling it cheap to someone on the Impala board. That was hard, but I knew I’d always want another.
'94 VW Jetta GLS (2.0 I4) 5-speed
We bought this from a family member who got hit with too many repairs too close together. We paid him for the last repair and the next, and it was ours. It served us well. It was the first German car I’d owned (or foreign, for that matter) and it had a precise feel they are known for. It was good to drive a manual transmission again. Had it for awhile, passed it along cheap when we got the Caravan.
'03 Buick Century (3.1 L LG8 V6)
I bought this car in 2006. It was much newer than I typically purchase, but it had been a rental and even though it was only three years old, it had racked up nearly 100,000 miles. This thing, although hard to get excited about, has run like a top. We’ve still got it, but at over 200,000, it’s served it’s time.
'96 Dodge Caravan LE (3.3 L EGA V6)
Baby #3 on the way and my wife wanted something with three rows. Roadmaster? I naturally wondered. She planned on nursing and wanted to sit next to the baby. Our eldest was still pretty little and neither of us thought it would be good to send him into the wayback of the wagon all alone. “You could nurse the baby in back,” I suggested. “No, too distracting for other drivers.” So, minivan it was. Again, another vehicle no one can get excited about, but we bought it cheap and it ran reliably for a long time.
'03 Chrysler Town & Country (3.8 L EGH V6)
When the Caravan died we were looking for more of the same. Cheap, reliable transportation. By this time we were taking care of my elderly parents and needed seating for seven. Looked at a couple of SUVs, but the humble minivan seemed to offer more for the money. The Chrysler is much better appointed then the Dodge, with heated leather, AWD, and a low price, we pulled the trigger. It’s also one of the last holdouts to not have an EDR.
'94 Buick Roadmaster Wagon (350 LT1)Wagon #4:
At this point, we were down to the Century and T&C. I primarily work from home and on the days my wife went to work, I only had the Century. Theoretically, it seats six, but in the event of some kind of emergency, I didn’t want to figure how to load it up with three kids and two parents. We looked at a couple more minivans, but nothing seemed right. Then my wife was perusing Craigslist, “Would you like another wagon?” We made the hour drive and I was hooked as soon as I saw it. I got a good read from the guy who was selling it. As we were about to leave he said, “I really think it’s a good car. You should get at least two or three years out of it.” Two or three? I was hoping for 20 or 30.
So now that I've had it for a few months, I really feel this is the car for me. Roadmasters have been far and away the nicest cars I've ever owned. Smooth, powerful, and relatively inexpensive to repair. I'm someone who can get excited about a lot of different cars, but I think the last of the B-bodies are some of the best cars that have ever been made. Recently, my wife was driving the RMW, I was in a friend's Subie, and briefly a Caprice sedan rolled up behind us, "Heaven forbid," I thought, "if we were to get into a three car pileup, I am most definitely in the wrong part of the sandwich." Thankfully, there was no issue. I see myself in this for a long, long time.
Planned improvements/repairs to the ’94 RMW:
- The heater needs to be repaired
- Rear glass struts need to be replaced
- Rust on rear quarters is not too bad yet, but should be addressed soon
- Wheels have some road rash
- Woodgrain trim is a mess
- Passenger sail panels need to be repainted
- Hood ornament is broken
- Stainless tailgate trim needs to be mounted
- Interior woodgrain trim on passenger rear door is broken
- Would love to give a nose from a sedan
- Liking the idea of a Z28 gauge cluster
So what’s next?
- I’d really like to save my pennies and get a low mileage ’96 RMW.
- I’m also a sucker for any two- or six-door wagon.
- 1968–1972 Chevrolet Chevelle Wagons are nice. For size alone, I like 1971-1976 Buick Estate Wagon: (With 75/76) At 231.8” in length, that’s 14.3 inches longer than my Roadmaster!) In fact, I could go for any 1971-1976 GM with clamshell tailgate. 1968-1969 400ci Buick Sportwagons are amazing. Would really like a 455ci 1968–1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.
- Like everyone else, I like 1955 to 1961 Chevrolet Nomads.
- Any real woodie wagon: I particularly like fourth generation (1942–1948) Buick Roadmasters. Gen 5 (1949–53) are beautiful, as well, but I prefer the earlier models that use more wood. Also, Pontiacs from the 40s catch my eye; love those elongated fender spears.
- Newer cars are a harder sell for me. But the Cadillac CTS-V is pretty incredible. Callaway has designed a new hatch for new Corvettes and titled it the Aerowagon. Since we’re dreaming, both the Ferrari FF and the GTC4Lusso are rather attractive.
Thanks much for the invite to share my story. Thanks also for keeping this helpful resource online.
Thread with still recent photos of car: https://gmlongroof.4umer.com/t13288-it-s-been-nealy-a-decade-but-i-m-glad-to-have-another-rmw