Mike B 1949 Buick Roadmaster Model 76R 2dr Riviera Hardtop

My dream car for not your usual reasons...

Today I bought my personal dream car. Not the same make & model. The actual car: 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera.

Ok, now for the back story. Buckle up folks, this is going to be a ride.

In 1976, my father's good friend Bob asked if my Dad and Mom wanted to take a trip to Minnesota to check out a car and help him get it home if he bought it. Well, Bob bought the car and my Dad & Mom drove the car back from Minnesota to Michigan. Not long after returning from the trip, my Mom found out she was pregnant with me. They say nothing “happened” in the car.... From that moment on, Bob always associated the car with me often asking my dad how old I was so he could figure how long he had owned the car.

After spending 10-15 years collecting the parts he needed, Bob then began a full restoration on the car. From time to time he would ask my Dad to come give him a hand with the work and I would come along. Bob quickly put me to work doing the dirty jobs on the car. Cleaning and painting the chassis, polishing chrome, just simple things a teenage boy couldn’t really screw up. This was the time in my life when my love for cars matured from a shoe box full of model car scraps and posters haphazardly pinned to my bedroom wall to “I cannot wait to have my own car. My own Buick.” I can’t say I took a huge part in the restoration of the car, but I can say I helped. More importantly, I gained valuable knowledge by simply watching Bob and my dad work.

Bob eventually finished the restoration and the car was spectacular. This wasn’t a simple restoration, he spent a lot of time researching every little detail of the car and searching for new old stock parts to keep the restoration as genuine as possible. Bob was invited to show the car at the 1992 Concours D’Elegance at Meadow Brook car show. The car was so nice and complete, The Franklin Mint came to his house and photographed the car inside and out. They used his car as the base for their own scale model version. As a thank you for letting them document his car, The Franklin Mint gave Bob ten of the models free of charge. Bob gave one of those to me. I cherished that model so much I rarely removed it from the protective packaging to look at it.

A few years went by and enjoyed seeing the car when I would see it at car shows. After I graduated from college and started getting on my feet financially, I started envisioning myself owning that car and I wanted to find an opportunity to ask Bob if the car would ever be for sale. Sadly, I never had that chance. In early 2003 Bob passed away suddenly. After some time had gone by we heard Bob’s car collection was for sale. His daughter had inherited everything and she sold some of the cars to other Buick collectors who were friends with Bob. All of the cars were sold except the ‘49.

After everything settled down, the car seemingly fell off the face of the earth. I would eagerly look for it at every local car show but I would never find it. From time to time whenever my dad and I were talking about cars I would ask “Have you heard anything about Bob’s ‘49?” For the next 12 years I would always receive the same disappointing answer: “Haven’t seen or heard anything. I think Cathy and Brian might still own it.” I guess that answer is better than hearing “John just bought it”.

This past January, I had missed a call from my dad and he left a voice message. When my dad leaves a voice message it’s always one of two things “Hey, give your dad a call.” or “Relative X is suffering from ailment Z and I thought I’d keep you in the loop”. This time he says “Call me back as soon as you can.” I had no idea what to expect. I called him right away and he said “I found Bob’s car. Cathy and Brian still have it, and it’s for sale.” My heart stopped.

My dad said he thought Brian worked at GM so since my wife works at GM, I had her get his contact info for me. I contacted him the next day and told him the entire story. He was fascinated by my story and confirmed it was for sale. The car had actually been on loan to the Gilmore Car Museum for the past ten years which explains why I couldn’t find it anywhere. Brian and Cathy are about to retire and move to their lake house in northern Michigan and they wanted sell the car preferably to someone who would appreciate the car. They both knew my dad but hadn’t really seen him since Bob’s funeral and they were thrilled to be able to sell it to me because of the history my dad and I had with Bob and with the car.

I was able to inspect the car at the museum in early May and the condition of the car blew me away. The car looked like it wasn’t even driven at all even though I know it had to have at least 1000 miles on it since the restoration. With the exception of a couple tiny paint chips, the car is perfect. We agreed on a price and yesterday I completed the deal to take ownership.

I’ve been dreaming of owning this car for almost 20 years and now I finally do. I cannot thank my wife enough for trusting my decision to buy this car. She admittedly doesn’t “get it”...well, not yet. She’s not a car person and doesn’t even try to fake it. I have a feeling she will come around before too long. My son: he “gets it”. He loves the car already and he’s only seen pictures. He’s already told me he wants to drive a Buick when he gets older. One day this car will be his and he will be able to realize a childhood dream as well.

1 Reader Comment

  • 1
    Davey Hawaii August 31, 2016 at 23:33
    Great story. Glad that you got the car. We had a 52 Buick (Roadmaster?) when I was growing up. It was pretty run down by the time I was in high school, mid 60s. Sold to a friend but it probably ended up in the scrap pile.

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