Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man Buick Roadmaster is ready for its next Cruise

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Bonhams

You don’t have to be an excellent driver to own the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible from Rain Man. Excellent credit, on the other hand—now, that’s a must.

The beautiful Buick, which played a central role in the 1988 Academy Award-winning film starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise as brothers Raymond and Charlie Babbitt, will cross the block on January 27 at Bonhams’ Scottsdale auction. Presale estimate is $150,000 to $250,000.

“The car had a very strong visual presence in the film and was featured throughout. It became a character,” says director Barry Levinson. “Dustin, Tom, and the ’49 Buick. In essence, the car had ‘third billing.’”

Buick Rain Man Roadster Convertible rear three-quarter
Bonhams

Two Roadmaster Convertibles were used in the film. One, owned by Levinson, was in the driving scenes and was later repainted by Wayne Carini. The other one, chassis #15235854—the car that’s headed to Bonhams’ Scottsdale sale—was used for green-screen scenes and was purchased by Hoffman after production wrapped.

After 34 years, Hoffman has decided to let it go. “The Buick’s been in storage too long,” he says. “It should be driven, enjoyed, and cherished.”

The iconic Buick is powered by a 320-cubic-inch OHV inline eight-cylinder engine that produces 150 horses and is mated to a two-speed DynaFlow automatic transmission. It has front independent suspension, a live rear axle, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes.

In Rain Man, the Roadmaster proves to be the conduit for a reunion between young, brash Charlie Babbitt (Cruise) and the older brother he didn’t know he had, an autistic savant named Raymond (Hoffman). After the death of their father, Sanford Babbitt, Charlie learns that he has been willed his father’s car and some prize-winning rose bushes, while the remaining $3 million of his father’s estate goes into a trust for “an unnamed beneficiary.” Learning that the trustee is the director of the Walbrook Institute, an angry Charlie drives to the facility and confronts the man, who refuses to give him any information.

After storming out of the building, Charlie finds Raymond sitting in his car. Ray insists he drives the car every Saturday.

“You know this car?” Charlie asks.

“I know this car.”

“How do you know this car?”

“I definitely know this car. It’s a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Straight Eight—Fireball Eight. Only 8095 production models. Dad lets me drive slow on the driveway. But not on Monday, definitely not on Monday.”

“Who’s your dad?”

“Sanford Babbitt.”

Charlie ultimately removes Raymond from the mental facility, and the two—along with Charlie’s girlfriend—set off on a cross-country trip from Ohio to California. During the trip, Charlie gains an appreciation for his brother and learns the reason he was ultimately institutionalized.

Rain Man premiered at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the festival’s highest prize, the Golden Bear. It was released in the U.S. by MGM/UA on December 16, 1988, to great acclaim and was nominated for eight Academy Awards. It won four of them: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Hoffman), and Best Original Screenplay. Made for $25 million, it grossed $354.8 million.

The film also made the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible a movie star. Now it could be yours. As Charlie Babbitt said, “If you get this right, Ray, you can drive anywhere you want.”

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