1996 Buick Roadmaster
8-cyl. 350cid/260hp MPFI
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
As the 1990s dawned, GM was redesigning a range of front-wheel drive cars. The square–bodied 1977 B model rear-wheel drive sedans like the Oldsmobile 88 and 98, Buick Electra and Le Sabre, and Pontiac Bonneville were about to be joined by rounder, smaller, lighter front-drivers with more interior space.
These new models would soldier on for the next 15 years, but there was one last hurrah for the 350/350 V-8-powered rear-wheel drive sedans – the bulbous Chevrolet Caprice and its siblings. One in particular would find a place in the heart of traditional American motorist. It was the reintroduced Buick Roadmaster sedan and station wagon – last seen in 1958.
While the sedan model was almost an afterthought, the Roadmaster really connected with the public through the Estate Wagon and the model represented a significant proportion of sales throughout the model’s 1991-96 production. It was the only model offered in 1991.
The Roadmaster got a slight boost in power in 1992, with a 180 bhp 5.7-liter V8 and improved torque, but 1994’s LT-1 option provided the punch that the 4572-pound leviathan needed. It was a close relative of the Corvette’s 350 cubic-inch V-8, but with cast iron cylinder heads instead of aluminum and a re-profiled camshaft to for low-end torque. That year also saw variable assist power steering available on the Estate Wagon as well as the sedan. By this point the wagon had earned a niche following that it still enjoys.
The Roadmaster was a throwback to the days before the 1973 gas crisis, with an additional benefit that the gearing was so tall (about 1200 rpm in top at 70 mph) and the aerodynamics genuinely efficient that it could return 25 mpg or better on the highway. However a heavy foot in town could cut that mileage in half.
Both the wagon and sedan have sofa like seats with six-passenger comfort, while a couple of children can fit in the Estate Wagon’s rear-facing third seat. When the wagon’s second and third seats fold down, 92.4 cubic feet of carrying space opens up, and the tailgate can open both down and sideways. Leather interiors were a reasonably common.
Ultimately, the Roadmaster represented the last hurrah for GM’s 1955 small-block V-8, rear-wheel drive design. Apart from a few quality control issues the model is comfortable, fast, and durable. Call it a wolf in (XXL) sheep’s clothing and a legitimate alternative to the