In 1996, America said its final goodbyes to the last model of an iconic 20th Century car that defined middle class luxury for decades, the Buick Roadmaster. A few are still available on the used car marketplace for collectors to grab before the car becomes a true collectible.
The Buick Roadmaster’s specs read like a recipe for a gas guzzler. With a 5.7-liter V-8 as a powerplant mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, this rear-wheel drive sedan put out 260 horsepower. Getting only 15 miles to the gallon in the city, the Roadmaster became more efficient on the open road, true to its name at 24 miles per gallon—not bad for its time.
The Roadmaster had a long and storied history. Introduced in 1936, the car maintained a strong presence on the market for a good portion of the 60 years before its retirement in 1996.
According to Wikipedia, the car’s debut on the highway impressed the company brass so much that they immediately dubbed it the “Roadmaster.” Its name never changed throughout its history.
In the late 1940s, the Buick Roadmaster made a huge leap in automotive technology. It was the first recipient of the first torque converter transmission in automotive history. Called Dynaflow, the shifter quickly caught on with the public. Demand for the transmission breakthrough became so high that the company quickly made it standard.
In the early 1950s, Buick introduced a station wagon version of its flagship family car. With the nation becoming more mobile, family trips became a popular pastime. During the 1960s through the 1980s, Buick shifted its large-car market to a model called the Electra. The Roadmaster made its comeback in 1991.
In the last two years of its life, the Buick Roadmaster in its station wagon incarnation could be ordered with a towing package. Horse-show dads who needed a comfy ride to work during the week could haul their offspring and their steeds to the shows on the weekends without the need to purchase another vehicle.
After the demise of the Roadmaster, Buick big-car fans could choose between the smooth, more efficient LeSabre, or the impressively-sized Park Avenue. It was not only the end of a century, it was the end of the grand era of American automakers.