Auction Pick of the Week: 1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon
For many decades, the large, rear-wheel-drive, American station wagon was a staple of family road trips. There’s a good chance you have fond memories of spending hours in the back seat of one. By the mid 1990s, however, the minivan had completely taken over as the preferred family hauler.
Buick was unfazed by this threat and released the Roadmaster Estate in 1991, a full year after the GM “DustBuster” minivans hit the streets. Unfortunately, Buick couldn’t beat back the storm and Roadmaster was dead in the water by 1996. If you want one of these final big-body Buick wagons, take a look at this 1996 Roadmaster Estate offered at no reserve on Hagerty Marketplace.
The ’90s Roadmaster was the first Buick to wear that nameplate since 1953. The station wagon was based on GM’s full-size, body-on-frame B platform and was positioned as an upscale version of its Chevy Caprice cousin. Typical of ’90s Buicks, the 18-foot-long Roadmaster had plush seats and an equally plush ride. Its cavernous interior could comfortably seat eight passengers with the fold-down, rear-facing third row. Sure, it was available as a sedan, but there’s something especially cool about a big ol’ American wagon with woodgrain body trim.
Nineties Buicks may have a reputation for being stodgy and listless, but from 1994 onward all Roadmasters received a hot-rodder-friendly LT1 V-8. It was the same engine found in contemporary Corvettes and Camaros, albeit detuned by 40 horsepower compared to the ‘Vette. Still, the 260-hp V-8 was potent for the time, especially in this class.
Because of its beefy frame and muscular engine, a Roadmaster Estate gave pickup trucks a run for their money in the hauling department. When equipped with the towing package, the Estate could tow up to 7000 pounds.
This Bright White example with Light Colonial Oak woodgrain vinyl has an indicated 84,982 miles on the odometer. It is equipped with the desirable “Limited Wagon Package” that features power-adjustable mirrors and six-way power-adjustable driver and passenger seats.
The original owner looks to have kept this big Buick wagon in solid shape. It’s described as garage-kept since new and it will come with comprehensive maintenance records. The only notable flaws are a small tear in driver seat by side controller and a small dent on the left body side trim piece.
If you haven’t heard it already, the secret is out on Roadmaster Estates. They were the last of a breed, and people are nostalgic for the days before minivans and SUVs were the de facto family haulers. We even featured the big Buick on our 2019 Bull Market List. The auction ends on Wednesday, March 22nd at 4:30 p.m. ET. Snag it while you can.
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Oh does this beg for a turbo 454 LSX and fat, sticky tires mounted on widened OEM rims!
I had a customer who renovated a ’90s GM wagon with a built LT1 and some fancy rims. He painted it white and inscribed, “Save the Whales” on the tailgate. Cool car.
My mother drove station wagons all her life (except for a brief Toronado-Grand Prix interlude) and a white ’96 Roadmaster was her last. After her child-rearing years she segued into antique and estate sales and loved those wagons for the room and comfort. And they were CARS, not trucks like a Yukon or Suburban. Her life spanned most of the 20th century so she came from a generation that understood the distinctions between fad, fashion, and Style, and the Roadmaster is nothing if not stylish.
The pillowy ride of the big Buick wasn’t appealing to younger drivers and the line died out. Wagons have been replaced by the pretensiously named Sport Utility Vehicles. But it surely would be nice to see a modern iteration of a car-based longroof like a Country Squire or a Vista Cruiser or a Volvo 240 wagon.
Great… Another affordable weirdo classic ascends to “collectible” status. Remember when you could get these for $50 and a beer?
The Roadmaster name lasted until 1958.
I worked on the Roadmaster program in its early stages. Originally Roadmaster was the code name for the program, not the car itself. When marketing did some consumer clinics, they threw the Roadmaster name in just as an after thought. Response was so positive that they changed the name of the car. We had to change the name of the program. There was a big kerfuffle about immediately changing the signs in engineering to keep the media, and the public, from knowing that the new car was going to be called Roadmaster.
The Buick, sedan and wagon, was done in conjunction with the Caprice and Fleetwood program. The Chevy and the Cadillac, and the Roadmaster station wagon failed miserably in the market, selling only about a third of the projected volume. The Roadmaster sedan, which differentiated itself more from the Chevy, was a huge success, selling twice the projected volume. Sales were limited by suppliers of some of the unique Roadmaster sedan parts.
These are great GM cars, comfortable and roomy, we had a 1992 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser wagon which was the Olds version. It was the last big rear wheel drive Olds and was a great car, drove it for close to 200K with no problems, wish that we would have kept it.
Thanks for mentioning the Oldsmobile version. I was going to since the article didn’t. The Custom Cruiser was as important as the other two.
Buick was unique in creating completely unique front ends from the front doors forward. Sedan had different fenders, hood, headlights, grille and front bumper from wagon. No idea why Buck did this.
Still own the white 1996 Roadmaster whale. Great purchase. Stable of GMs from blue 66 BB 425hp Corvette, gold 1977 Eldorado and the 1996 Buick.
My seats are nicer leather and my wagon has the tow package
My father had one, didn’t have the wood grain sides, but I think it was the limited. A great cruising and freeway car, one thing I still remember thinking is “Big car, small rearview mirrors”.
Probably better in the long run to boost the oomph in the LT1 rather than put in the 7.4 or 8.1L, but I can’t say i haven’t thought about how fun that would be…