In 1931, GM's Buick Division introduced an eight-cylinder engine in its stolid rear-wheel-drive sedan models, and Americans could buy big, comfortable Buick four-doors with straight-eights and — starting in the 1954 model year — V8s driving the rear wheels for more than a half-century after that. Then, the last rear-wheel-drive LeSabre left the assembly line in 1985, and it seemed that an era had ended forever. But wait! For the 1992 model year, Buick revived the Roadmaster name and applied it to an old-timey giant sedan with a V8 engine sending power to the proper wheels. Production of the Roadmaster sedan continued through 1996, and I've found one of those throwback Buicks in a Denver self-service car graveyard.
Yes, in an America full of front-wheel-drive cars contaminated by European or — even worse — Japanese influences, The General brought back the spirit of the 1931 Buick sedan. Sure, it was really a near-identical twin to the "whale-body" Chevy Caprice, complete with Chevrolet small-block V8 engine, but that didn't matter. This was the kind of Buick that our prosperous great-grandparents bought in 1932 and 1948 and 1957.
And the appeal of the great big eight-cylinder Buick sedan wasn't just limited to the United States. When the film adaptation of the great Marguerite Duras novel, L'Amant, was made, only a 1932 Buick 90 sedan would have made sense for the wheels of the wealthy Saigon heir. A big reason Buick is such an important brand in China right now is the legacy left by the memorable Buick machinery that owned the roads of 1930s China.
These days, most of the 1992-1996 Roadmasters you'll see will be the station wagons, but we mustn't forget the sedans.
Looking at the interior of this car is like a flashback to the 1960s, when stately Buick sedans had squishy seats you'd just disappear into when you climbed in.
Cool-sounding names for ordinary features had gone out of style decades earlier, but not for the Roadmaster! Dynaride was a rear suspension that used air shocks and a compressor to keep the ride height level regardless of load.
The last model year for a genuine Buick V8 engine was 1980, though you could make the case that the Rover V8 (made until 2006) was really a Buick all along. The engine in this car is pure Chevrolet: a 5.7-liter small-block V8 rated at 180 horsepower.
Speaking of the 1993 Buick-buying demographic …
This car didn't get much past the 100,000-mile mark and it's still reasonably clean.
CDs were mainstream by 1993, but this car has a proper cassette deck.
When Edward VIII abdicated, he had a Roadmaster sedan. That's really all you need to know about this car.
It's more car than you need every day, but then Roadmaster isn't your everyday car.
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