Flip This Car: 1994 Buick Roadmaster—Part Seven

By Christopher Smith

July 24, 2011


I've been everywhere....
Oh how the time flies when you’re driving a quiet, faultless (nearly), comfortable battle cruiser adorned with for sale signs (since early March) and white lettered truck tires (since part one of this series, way back in October.) The Buick should’ve long passed into the realm of new ownership, but alas the market for older V-8 sedans that can boogie in a straight line just isn’t very hot, unlike the temperatures gripping pretty much all of the continental United States at the moment. Admittedly, I’ve also been pretty firm on a $2500 price tag—that’s just about what I have in the Beast but the current heat wave has also dampened my motivation for selling because, well, it’s a cool car. And I mean that quite literally.
Last year the previous owner told me the air con didn’t work but I was never given a reason why. So back in May I sprung for $20 in R-134 and rolled the dice on whether or not the charge would take, and then rolled another set of dice on whether or not the compressor would scream like a slasher movie victim once engaged. I scored big on both accounts—the air conditioning came back to life with no fanfare and it has held the charge ever since. So yeah, the kid in the first generation Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX that pulled next to me at a traffic light today might have a smaller, quicker, more nimble performance machine that’s fun to drive, but the amount of sweat draining from his temples told me he wasn’t having much fun at that particular moment. I, on the other hand, dialed the temperature up a notch because I was getting a bit cold, and I had the added advantage wheeling into the local pub not smelling like a pig’s sphincter. Having a cold air conditioner may not seem like much, but for an $1800 car, having cold air is akin to buying a secondhand leather jacket and finding $100 in the pocket.
That may sound like a lame excuse for making myself feel better about being saddled with the Buick Roadmaster for almost 10 months now, but when it’s 97 degrees outside and I’m cold tooling around town while turbo Timmay can’t see the 5-0 because of the sweat in his eyes, I have zero reservations about still owning this car. Well, maybe some reservations. Okay, definitely some. It has been a neat ride, but once this heat wave breaks I’ll be taking my selling efforts to the next level. I still want a sports car to wrap up the summer in style.
So what the heck have I been doing with the Beast during the short two-part FTC Subaru side trip? I’ve been driving it. A lot. In fact, the odometer is just a few ticks away from turning 150,000 miles—that’s about 8000 rounds since picking the car up last September and though it’s still not my longest cheap car ownership stretch (I had a 1988 Taurus wagon for just over a year) it’s by far the most traveled. I’ve taken the Roadmaster to Ohio, central Illinois, northern Indiana, all over Lower Michigan, crossed the straits into Upper Michigan, and traversed mid-Michigan roads near my homestead more times than I can count. It has taken the wife to a baby shower, hauled Christmas gifts to my parents, carried five full grown adults to remote rally stages, met state representatives in Michigan’s capital city of Lansing, competed in a Rallycross in southwest Michigan, and it conquered a major blizzard. In each situation, the Roadmaster’s ability to eat up miles of cratered roadway while preserving the backsides of those inside was a welcome attribute. With ice cold air in effect for summertime trips, multiply the comfort factor by about 1000. Sure, there are all kinds of great trip cars, but again, I only paid $1800 for this one. I suppose, then, the title of road master is well and truly justified.
And it hasn’t been a maintenance hog, either. Aside from $20 for R-134 refrigerant and an oil change, I’ve done nothing else on the mechanical end. And in fact, the persistent ABS light on the instrument cluster is now off most of the time, and a few emergency stops on loose surfaces confirmed it’s not just a bulb teetering on the brink. I did, however, reinvest some time in the looks department to try and make it a sweeter catch for prospective buyers. Gone is the monochromatic paint scheme (dictated after paint started flaking off the stainless steel side trim) and I must admit that the Roadmaster looks best with a little bit of bling. The wide chrome side moldings were given a brushed stainless steel look to dampen a bit of the shine, and they were bisected with a body color tape stripe. I also replaced the chrome trim on the front bumper, and in affecting these subtle changes I feel this is the best the Beast as looked since I bought it. I’d be interested in hearing what you folks out there think of the Buick’s current look—drop a comment or send your thoughts to editor@windingroad.com.
Now, since buying this car I’ve embarked on some rather non-traditional missions for a large body-on-frame, rear-wheel drive sedan. That brings me to the Beast’s latest unlikely adventure—one that I simply call moving truck. The Mrs. and I are leaving behind a small home and smaller garage for a bit more space in the country, so I yanked out the Roadmaster’s back seat and loaded it to the max, just to see how much it would take. All I can say is that I went from impressed, to surprised, to shocked, to really impressed, and finally to awestruck. The trunk may as well be a black hole; it’s deep enough to swallow two stacks of 20-inch tall boxes. It’s wide enough to accept a mountain bike. And with the back seat bottom removed I hauled two four-foot by three-foot living rooms chairs, a collapsible four-foot bookshelf, a night stand, and numerous small pillows and boxes stuffed in the empty space around the goods. The Roadmaster’s cargo capacity trumps that of many small sport utility vehicles, with its major limiting factor being what will fit through the back door openings. In fact, the Beast was so effective at moving my accumulation of stuff that only a few of my largest pieces of furniture remained for the actual moving truck. It swallowed big chairs, large bookcases, garden equipment; even a 20-inch push lawn mower. Freakin’ amazing.
But, this car really needs to move on and to be honest, I’m more than ready for it. A fresh push on the selling front is coming once the move to my new home is complete. That push will likely include a stint on eBay Motors; I’ve used eBay to some success in the past so for those who’ve wondered what’s involved in selling through eBay, here’s your chance for a close look. It’s actually quite easy, and it’s like any other selling environment—the better the presentation, the better the response.
In the meantime, if you should spy a white Buick around mid-Michigan filled to the roof with boxes while leaving 50 feet of smoldering rubber from stop signs, just try to stay out of my blind spots.
1994 Buick Roadmaster
Vehicle status: Cold
Miles driven: 7944
Observed fuel economy: 23.6 mpg
Tire tread depth: 6/32 left rear, 5/32 right rear, 8/32 front
Broken parts since the last article: None
Total parts investment to date: $20.11 (two cans of R-134 refrigerant, one can of oil charge), $16.75 (engine oil and filter) $25.57 (aftermarket chrome trim) $455.06 (parts total from part six) = $517.49.