Settle An Argument: The Buick RoadMaster Wagon

RoadBastard: Greatest Car Ever, or Greatest Car of All Time? You Decide!

Alright, Hoons, it’s time to settle an argument that’s slowly simmering behind the scenes. One of our Editors, who will remain nameless, is looking for an appropriate vehicle to accommodate his gradually-increasing family, multiple pets, extended relations, luggage, cargo, spare parts, camping gear, hitchhikers, science lab, servants, and a fleet of F-14 Tomcats.
So help settle an argument here. Why is the Buick Roadbastard the greatest vehicle of all time, and what other vehicles should he be ignoring altogether in favour of this fantastic piece of vehicular magnificence?

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  1. crinklesmith Avatar

    The Roadblaster and it's derivatives have one strike against them. Their old. Rubber rot, dry seals, etc. Other than that, they are the pinnacle of human transportation, nothing can compare.

    1. Paul_y Avatar

      That's a minor issue. Their engineering is basically sound, and there are enough of these cars and their derivatives that it will be a long time before parts get tough to find.
      …but the Roadmaster is the best of the bunch, in pretty much every way. Buick was once a respectable purveyor of stylish, nice-but-not-"luxurious" cars that meant business in stoplight drags, and the Roadmaster was the last of them.

      1. P161911 Avatar

        Drivetrain and hard parts will be around for a long time, but unless the aftermarket steps in, I'll bet the trim pieces and minor things like that start getting scarce soon, if the haven't already. The newest Roadmaster wagon is now 15 years old.

  2. Smells_Homeless Avatar

    Roadmasters suck. Everything about them screams "I hate life and can't wait to be rid of this mortal coil." Anyone who would consider even looking in the direction of a parking garage containing a bit of rust from the control arms of one of these "cars" should summarily be shot. Awful, awful business. They should be rounded up, crushed, and sunk into the Marianas Trench in hopes of squishing those damned Abyss monsters.
    (Seriously, quit spreading the good word on these things or I'll NEVER be able to find one.)

    1. PrawoJazdy Avatar

      I was about to respond with "Quiet You!" then I saw what you did.
      "When did Highlander Brat get a Hooniverse login?"

      1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

        /Now shhh!

    2. Age_of_Aerostar Avatar

      me too, Prawdo.
      I read "Roadmasters suck." Stopped reading. Got ready to thumbs down, saw "+7" and thought, I haven't been here for a while, what the hell did this place turn into? Then I kept reading…… and added a thumbs up.

    3. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

      I too was reaching for the thumby downy button. Good thing I noticed the +9 and kept reading…

    4. OA5599 Avatar

      I never thought I'd see the day when somebody could get double-digit thumb-up points for declaring contempt for a Roadie wagon, even if it was in jest.

      1. Smells_Homeless Avatar

        Sorry man, just sharpening my troll chops. I absolutely love those cars.

  3. Spencedaddy Avatar

    it would be the best car ever if I could just have one….maybe i'll get a bunch of Xuron sales this month and make enough to pick one up!
    i'd like an LS1 and T56 as well please…
    Row your own LS1 wood paneled wagon…can you say cargasm?

  4. njhoon Avatar

    The Roadmaster is awesome. It is big, nice looking, has V8 and looks pretty cool with some rims and maybe a slam. It is a worthy addition to any hoons garage. However if said person is looking to haul the family and all of their crap but not tow anything he might want to look at a minivan…and make the wife drive it. I would say the Honda Odyssey, The Worlds Most Practical Vehicle ™.

  5. PrawoJazdy Avatar

    I don't know… The Caprice Estate and Olds Custom Cruiser would disagree.

    1. dwegmull Avatar

      This post should come with the standard GM disclaimer: "excludes other GM brands"…

      1. Deartháir Avatar

        Agreed, my bad. Around here the RoadBastard is the easiest one to find.

    2. Maymar Avatar

      Problem there is, you've got to chose – do you want the Vista roof, or do you want an LT1? Now, if you're doing the engine swap anyhow, the Olds would be mighty tempting since they're even cheaper.

  6. rtfact32 Avatar

    I'd have to say that a Custom Cruiser (wtf, seriously Olds, for that ALONE you should have been put out of your misery. An Olds wagon with a window in the roof over the middle seat is a VISTA Cruiser!) is a better bet. Sure it's got the sucky non-LT1 engine, but it's an OLDs WAGON for crissake. Next to the '60 Ford Ranch Wagon two door, they INVENTED Cool Wagons!

    1. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      What sucky non-LT1 engine? Seriously, and I know I will have to duck after hitting the "submit comment" button, if I were in the market for one I would be looking for a '93 (last pre-LT1 year). The 5 liter powerplants found mostly in the very early cars are a bit sluggish. However, I have driven both a 5.7 liter '92 Custom Cruiser and an LT-1 '94 Roadmaster, and the performance difference in the real world is not all that much, IMO, and the pre-LT1 engines seem to have fewer maintenance issues as they age. Also, the 1991-93 Roadmasters have one of the best gauge clusters GM put on any car ever; in 1994 it was part digitized and dumbed down.

    2. Jimmy7 Avatar

      I had a Custom Cruiser with he 5.7. Good around town and away from stoplights, a little weak on the top end. But god it was a pain in the ass to find a parking place that would hold it.

      1. rtfact32 Avatar

        I thought they dropped the Custom Cruiser after '92, so it never got the LT1?

        1. tonyola Avatar

          The later Custom Cruisers had a 5.7, but it was only rated at 180 hp, not 260 like the LT1.

  7. RichardKopf Avatar

    What's better than a Roadmaster? The `77-`90 B Body wagons.

    1. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      Certainly the styling was better — much classier and not as bloated looking — as well as the interior materials in most models. The top line Electra Estate wagons often had interiors that would put any Cadillac to shame. Maybe the ideal combo would be one of those with a '93 5.7 drivetrain.

  8. packratmatt Avatar

    After owning one for ten years, I can only come up with a few complaints. The rear seating sucked, the wood trim would delaminate, and the rubber trim fell off. Otherwise, the car was a haulin' son of a gun with decent power, comfort, and that cool vista roof.

  9. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Ah…but it's got one of my least favorite engines, ever. Hate the LT-1.
    Luckily, they're pre-'96, making them eligible for a smog-legal e-rod swap.
    426hp LS3? Yes, please.

  10. OA5599 Avatar

    A donked hearse would probably attract more attention and haul more people (if stacked properly), but it would have fewer seats and wouldn't offer Vista windows.
    <img src="; width=500>
    An A100 can have more pizzaz than fake wood paneling, but I imagine you might prefer a crumple zone that's thicker than a single sheet of metal.
    <img src=""&gt;
    A Brat gives you the glass roof sections and built-in rear-facing seats for up to two, uh, brats, and is about as close to a 'camino as the Japanese ever came, but your family might not appreciate being left out in the weather.
    <img src="; width=500>

    1. Feds_II Avatar

      Wow, so that's what Topher Grace spent his money on, huh? Could be worse I guess.

    2. Feds_II Avatar

      Seriously Hoonibles, that guy looks like Topher Grace!

    3. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

      Whoever donked that hearse should be beaten with his own ripped-off arm.

    4. Mad_Hungarian Avatar

      Here in Savannah, GA we have figured out that seating and vista roof thing for hearses:

  11. P161911 Avatar

    The LT1 is a pretty good engine when it is running right. Stay on top of the waterpumps. I've had two LT-1 cars, a 1994 Vette and a 1996 Z-28. Both had problems with the Optispark, good engine, horrible distributor design.
    My choice for soon to be daddy vehicle was a 2011 Silverado extended cab, Work Truck, no options, no worries with 100k miles of warranty. Not as much fun, but otherwise I would have had to go with a 4 vehicle fleet, which might have been a little too much for the driveway. I own a house, therefore I need a truck. the thought is that I might be able to keep a somewhat hoonable car too. the Silverado replaced a 1988 F-150, which was deemed by other family members to be unsuitable for baby hauling duties. (But it had seat belts!)

    1. west_coaster Avatar

      I own a house, therefore I need a truck
      Huh? I own a house, but don't need a truck. My neighbors own houses, but none have trucks. When I was a kid,, my parents owned a house, but we never had a truck. Neither did any of our neighbors. And so on.
      Did you mean you have a houseBOAT? Then I could see needing a truck.

    2. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Truck alternative: my '65 Bantam utility trailer. Stows in the side yard, towable by anything, holds as much dirty, heavy, or just plain awkward stuff as I've ever been able to throw in it.
      Currently the fleet is:
      My Commuter: '64 Falcon
      Offroad/Backup/Tow/Camping Mobile: '00 Wrangler
      Mom-mobile: '06 WRXagon
      In a year the fleet will be:
      My Commuter: '64 Falcon
      Mom-mobile: Apparently a Roadmaster [Probably a Mazda5]
      Offroad/Backup/Tow/Camping Mobile: Pre-smog Wagoneer or Pre-smog/diesel Suburban

      1. mad_science Avatar

        Let the comments be seen: POOF!
        Thanks for the weigh-in, folks. IIRC, our car seat's rated up to something pretty big, like 50lbs. But yeah, there's gonna come a "where are the shoulder belts" time. I guess I'll either deal with it, or install some 3-points. That, or I'll hunt down a newer oil-burning Burbo.
        @Jim, if they do, I doubt they've any hope of winning the general.

  12. PowerTryp Avatar

    Rutledge Wood approves this message.
    <img src=""&gt;

  13. Van Sarockin Avatar
    Van Sarockin

    If you want a bloatmobile barge, you could do worse. As for best car ever, the line has already formed and it started over the horizon from where that Roadmaster stands.

  14. VolvoNut Avatar

    My neighbor rocks one of these, he seems to successfully haul all manner of crap in it. He's an older man with a wonderful collection of stuff in his yard, including gnomes and mirrored glass balls, planters made from inside-out tires, etc. The car is suffering from a bit of the tin worm, so you may want to keep that in mind.

  15. west_coaster Avatar

    My dad has a '95 Roadmaster (not the wagon, but identical underneath and from the b-pillars forward).
    I just saw him on Fathers Day, and I'm awed at how well that car has held up. It's got just over 70,000 miles on it, and it barks a nice mellow tone through its factory dual exhaust when he fires it up. The trim is still in good shape, the leather is uncracked, and even the power antenna still works.Of those large RWD General Motors cars of the 1990s, the Roadmaster was pretty perfectly cast as luxurious but not too much so. The Caddy Fleetwoods are a little too pimp-y and have that digital instrument cluster that's bound to fail as the car gets older. The Impala SS became both ghetto-revered and hermetically sealed as museum pieces by the Fifty-And-Sixty-Something White Guy Club. The Caprice looks too "municipal". But the Roadmaster, as Goldie Locks would say, is j-u-u-u-u-u-s-t right.
    Oh, and though Dad doesn't ever do it, I'm sure that car can still lay "stripes" all the way down the block in a cloud of whitewall smoke.

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Allow me to throw on my Anorak and Pedant pants – the Roadmaster sedan has slightly different front styling from the Roadmaster wagon – it's more square-edged, whereas the wagon is basically a Caprice with a waterfall grille. As a point of comparison, the one on the left is a stock(ish) wagon, the one on the right has the sedan front end swapped on (and looks pretty decent, although I don't care for the rear spats),
      <img src="; width=500 /img>
      *if you were just simplifying, please disregard this moment of excessive specificity.

  16. TurboBrick Avatar

    Nice B-bodies are starting to become harder and harder to find. Half of them look like they've been rolled over a couple of times and the other half has been turned into mobile stereo sets for contemporary urban music enthusiasts. The only logistical problem I can think of with these is the length – can you fit these in your garage? I can put two Volvos in mine, and still be able to get in and out of the cars with the kids. B-body wagon is two feet longer and 10 inches wider = the car would technically fit but I'd have to run the bumper right up against the back wall to be able to close the door, not to mention I'd have to climb in through the window as there wouldn't be enough room to open the doors.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      The only car that fits in my garage *might* be the Falcon. Not a lot of room in there right now.

  17. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    I guess I'll have to be the lone contrarian here and say that I think these are garbage. Just because it's a rear drive biggie wagon with a pushrod V8 and simuwood contact paper on the sides doesn't make it good. The last-gen B-bodies were gargantuan, plasticky junk that were a backwards step towards the equally-stupid '71-'76 models.
    Outside of the Impala SS, these cars are completely disposable and unappealing.

    1. Feds_II Avatar

      You are not alone!

  18. Feds_II Avatar

    I'm 3 years in to this parenting thing, with 2 boys, no pets, and hobbies that include cars, both kinds of bikes, and renovating a 103 year old house. I also have aging parents, I pull the odd trailer, and live 20 kms from work.
    You have 2 choices here (and ymmv, as I live in Canada where diesel is cheap and emissions regs are lax).
    1: first gen mpv + non crappy engine of your choice. Anything from turbo 4's to rotaries to Mitsubishi diesels is basically a bolt in. You can pick 7 or 8 passenger, rwd, wad, or real low-range 4×4. 3 proper rows, lots of room for everything, while still being small enough to extract some handling from.
    2: full sized chevy van. Get a clean 1995 or earlier, fancy conversion or factory passenger van. Swap the whatever it has for a 6.2 diesel in good nick, and you should get better tha 20 mpg. Brew your own bio D for extra cheap motoring. You give up handling and not looking like a creeper, but you gain the ability to start throwing stuff in and not stop until you run out of stuff. Plus, real towing capacity.
    Ultimately, cars suck at dealing with car seats. You need something tall and with 3 rows. Sorry, that's just lifeline these here modern times.

    1. Feds_II Avatar

      Fucking iPad fucking fuck shit. Autocorrects my shit to say wad and lifeline instead of AWD and life in, and doesn't let me scroll down in the comment box to edit.
      Steve Jobs, you're on my list.

      1. Mike_the_Dog Avatar

        Turn off autocorrect. It lasted two days on my iPhone before I banished it for its misbehavior.

      2. Charles_Barrett Avatar

        And I was all ready to set out in search of my very own 7 or 8 passenger wad…

    2. TurboBrick Avatar

      Are you swapping your car seats in and out all the time? Because I've not had any issues with my two kids, and our pool of vehicles has been two old Volvos (4dr & wagon) and a Mitsubishi Lancer wagon. The Mitsu was a size smaller but made up for it by having those latch hookups – the Volvos require me to use the securing clip on the belts.

      1. Feds_II Avatar

        It's more the fact that with 2 car seats, I can't put anyone else in the cars (protege5 and r50 pathfinder). 2-3 times a month I'm out, or have people over, and we need to take 2 cars somewhere. Add a couple of camper trailer trips and shifting cars/parts/etc, and I'm knocking on 3 rows and plus sized.

    3. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Right now it's the backwards seats that make it really rough, particularly as you're supposed to keep them backwards all the way out to 2 years now. Jr's almost 1.5, but Jr 2.0 is probably a mid-2012 model, meaning I'll be rocking backwards seats well into the Romney Administration. Longer if we go for 3.
      Right now the leading candidate for a replacement mom-mobile beyond the WRXagon is a Mazda5. You can (theoretically) get one with a stick, they're based on a fun chassis, and they're no bigger that we need. Best part? They're cheap. Like, legitimately under 20k new.
      For towing, hauling and 4×4 duty, the plan is to pick up a Wagoneer or Suburban (depending on whether the final tally will be 2 or 3). Either is cheap to start with, easy to build out to awesome and ubiquitous enough that parts will be around forever.
      For really dirty stuff or really full cars, we have my 60s Bantam utility trailer.

      1. Feds_II Avatar

        I hear what you're saying. With both kids the protege came very close to getting turfed as the passenger seat had to be all the way up to clear the rear facing seat.
        My sticking point with the dedicated tow/haul rig is that I'm already insuring 2 DDs, a motorcycle, and the RX-7. My car has to do double duty or I have to lose one of the toys.
        I went down the mazda5 road for a while, but I didn't like anything aft of the front doors. Just too compromised (no armrests, seats in a weird no mans land between high and low). At the end of the day, I think I'm just going to go all in and deal with the poor mileage.

      2. OA5599 Avatar

        For towing, hauling and 4×4 duty, the plan is to pick up a Wagoneer or Suburban (depending on whether the final tally will be 2 or 3).
        Keep in mind that in a few years your 1.5-year old, and later the unborn ones are going to exceed the weight rating of the harnesses in your child safety seat (I think ours was rated for 40 lbs.) When that happens, you move up to a booster seat, nearly all of which are designed to be used with a car's three-point seat/shoulder belt.
        What's that? You say your vintage Wagoneerburban predates three point belts? Expect lots of dirty looks in the carpool lines.

      3. Jim Brennan Avatar
        Jim Brennan

        I'll be rocking backwards seats well into the Romney Administration. Um Tim, you are really joking on that comment right? Everyone knows it's going to be Michelle Bachmann or Sarah Palin who will win the nomination….

    4. Deartháir Avatar

      You do realize that all the important points of your suggestions also apply to the RoadBastard, right?
      -> You can pick 7 or 8 passenger. Check! You can pick 7 and 8 passengers. At the same time! Plus 61 more passengers!
      -> lots of room for everything Check! Plus the 76 passengers aforementioned!
      -> while still being small enough to extract some handling from …yeah, shut up. Handling is over-rated. Just mount push-bars and go through it.
      -> you should get better tha 20 mpg Sure! In Imperial gallons! Maybe! Downhill!
      -> You give up handling and not looking like a creeper Check! Woodgrain panelling means you'll never be able to drive slowly past an elementary school again!
      -> the ability to start throwing stuff in and not stop until you run out of stuff Check! In addition to the stuff you threw in before, and the 76 aforementioned passengers!
      RoadBastard VICTORY!

  19. tonyola Avatar

    I'm gonna be an iconoclast and say that the 1991-1992+ C/H-body Buicks are mostly superior to the stock '91+ B-bodies, with the only real disadvantage being the lack of a wagon body style. A FWD LeSabre has basically all the room of the Roadmaster in a tidier size package (16" shorter and 4" narrower) that weighs considerably less (by around 700 pounds vs. Roadmaster sedan, 1,100 pounds vs. Roadmaster wagon), has better steering and handling, is at least as smooth and quiet on the road, and offers much better fuel economy. In fact, a '92 LeSabre has 2.4 inches more rear legroom than a '92 Roadmaster sedan or wagon (40.9" vs. 38.5"). If I really wanted a B-body Buick wagon, I'd look for the late-'80s square style and upgrade the drivetrain accordingly.

    1. MusclesMarinara Avatar

      [youtube HwIaX61vMrA&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL youtube]
      Ummm…. LeSabres and Park Aves are alright. But can they do this???
      I rest my case.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        One trick pony on the verge of juvenilia. I drive my LeSabre more than 1/8 of a mile at a time. Besides, a supercharged 3800 ain't no slouch in itself.

        1. MusclesMarinara Avatar

          Yeah, my big V8 rwd 3.73 posi-equipped cruiser has been embarrassed by a Supercharged Park Ave and Riviera. Those things can move surprisingly well for a big FWD car.

    2. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

      I'll second that. And I'll go as far as saying that the C/H body was the best GM product of the era. Good packaging, solid drivetrain and, from '91 on, reasonably appealing styling and interiors, at least by GM standards.

    3. west_coaster Avatar

      You forgot maintenance costs when they get older.
      I'm going to guess that the FWD transaxle in that LeSabre is going to ring up about double the labor bill to rebuild compared to the conventional RWD transmission..

    4. Deartháir Avatar

      I'll agree with you on that… having owned both a Buick LightSabre and a Buick Centenarian, they're excellent cars. But MAN are they ever boring. And you're never going to have someone grin and give you the thumbs-up in one of those.
      RoadBastard for the win.

      1. tonyola Avatar

        My '94 LeSabre is in really good shape since I inherited it with very low miles from my Mom, and it shines up very nicely. I get quite a few people coming up with compliments and asking me if I want to sell it. Not just old folks either – also quite a few younger urban and latino guys. This picture isn't my own car, but it looks identical except shinier.
        <img src="; width=500>

  20. K5ING Avatar

    You might want to tell Tim, er, nameless editor, to consider a Caprice wagon. Cleaner styling, digital dash, LT1, and no wood grain on the side. Easy conversion to a Caprice SS wagon too. I got mine half-done before I sold it.
    <img src=""&gt;
    <img src=""&gt;

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      The "no woodgrain" part is why it fails right there.

  21. dukeisduke Avatar

    Ditch those stick-on portholes.

  22. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    I hope I don't get the ban hammer here but here I go…
    Considering the Missus will be driving the car with a growing brood, yeah I'm there too, I'd opt for a vehicle newer than 15 years old as a minimum. You like I have no fear of roadside repair, but the Missus could be slightly put out with angry/hungry/poopy children. I cast my vote for a Mazda5. It's not bigger than it needs to be, but seats six. It can be had used for a really reasonable price and takes Mazda3 upgrades. If you can find a 5 speed, go for it without haggling. They are rarer than hens teeth, after the hens had cavities.
    The roadmaster is cool, but do you want to fix it or fix something more fun?

  23. ptschett Avatar

    If I were in the market for a station wagon, here's what I would be looking for…
    <img src=""/&gt;

    1. Deartháir Avatar

      Does it have woodgrain? No. MUST TRY HARDER.

  24. west_coaster Avatar

    Makes much more sense in that context. I was recalling other "needs" that I've wondered about:
    "We're about to have our first child. We're going to NEED a Suburban or Expedition."
    "I just bought a Jet Ski. Looks like I'll NEED an F350 dually diesel to pull it."
    "I'm going to take ski lessons this year, and of course I'll NEED a four wheel drive vehicle to get to the resort." (On plowed roads.)

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I was a homeowner for about 5 years before I got a truck. I would occasionally borrow my dad's truck, my father-in-law's utility trailer, or use an SUV. Now I can't imagine not having a truck

  25. Jim-Bob Avatar

    The best thing about the Roadmaster is that it is NOT a crossover. The next best thing is that it is a full frame, V8, RWD wagon with woodgrain and 7 passenger seating and loads of room for all of your things. The only bad thing is that it was built by GM in an era when they were using interior plastics that make a Lada Riva look high quality by comparison. That and the fuel economy. In an era when fuel prices can move up or down several dollars in a matter of months I would be a little scared to drive something with such a fuel thirst.

  26. Deartháir Avatar

    Woodgrain > All other options.

  27. D R Gofstein Avatar
    D R Gofstein

    As the guy who does things backwards (had a Travelall before the kids) my family car for my kids formative years was a string of Grand Marquis/Crown Victoria wagons. What else could 3 kids, two big dogs, and a weeks worth of groceries fit in? Terrible on gas in town, any one of the 4 we went through would turn 20 mpg at 70 with the a/c on, while you were sitting in what was essentially a living room couch. Other than rust, they and the GM wagons are the best thing around, and if you ever wear one out, they are cheap enough to get another.

  28. B72 Avatar

    I went through this a few years back. Needed something that could haul around the brood and a couple of friends while towing a boat, and be reliable doing it. Ended up with a Chevy Express. It's just like the Roadmonster (full frame RWD 300 HP V8, 14-18 MPG the way I drive), but 15 years newer, and not much more $. After reading this, I'm thinking about adding woodgrain to the sides…

  29. Pat Avatar

    I know that this thread is a few years old, I'm the owner of the 91 Roadmaster estate that's in the picture at the top of this page. It was everything that most of you have said these wagons are. It was my 3rd Roadmaster eststate, my first became the Ratmaster, do a google image search and it come up. I also have a fully customized 93 Roadmaster estate sedan nosed woody.
    I just want to add that these wagons were well built. the wagon pictured above ended it's live in a violent traffic accident. I was traveling down a country road doing 55mph when I was T- boned by a newer mini van that ran through a stop sign doing 70mph . it hit the wagon squarely in the driver's door the wagon fully absorbed the impact and stopped the minivan dead in it's tracks the wagon then did 2.5 air born barrel rolls before coming to rest on it's roof at the bottom of a full drainage ditch.
    I not only survived but walked away from the accident. I did have some severe internal bruising in my back and left arm. lots of cuts from all the broken glass.
    this wagon saved my life,
    I've replaced it with a 1995 Caprice estate