The 1942 and postwar Buick Roadmaster was longer, lower, wider, and roomier than before, thanks in part to a three-inch-longer wheelbase. They sported a complete restyling, highly unusual at a time when most of Buick's competitors offered only modest face-lifts of their 1941 designs.
Features included a new vertical-bar grille that would be carried over in modified form through 1954 and, on some two-door models, including both Roadmasters, and "Airfoil" fenders that swept back all the way to the rear fenders.
On the mechanical side, most of the difficulties associated with the 1941 Buicks had been overcome. Even the Compound Carburetion had been substantially revised, although it didn't reappear when production resumed after the war.
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, automobile production began to taper off. Effective January 1,1942, new automobiles were available only to those engaged in occupations deemed essential to the war effort. By mid-January, the "blackout" models began to appear -- cars with no exterior chrome trim apart from the bumpers.
And early in February passenger car production was shut down altogether as the industry turned to the production of military hardware. Numbered among Buick's wartime products was the Hellcat tank destroyer, whose torque converter ultimately became the basis for Buick's famed Dynaflow automatic transmission.
When automobile production resumed in October 1945, Buick -- like its major competitors -- served up warmed-over 1942s billed as 1946 models. Chrome was more sparingly applied, the swept-back fenders were fitted to sedans as well as coupes, and a war-inspired "bombsight" radiator ornament came on stream. Otherwise, it was more of the same as far as looks were concerned -- hardly a bad thing in Buick's case.
Prices, however, were substantially higher as the result of wartime inflation. The popular Roadmaster Sedanet, for example, sold for $2,014, up from $1,365 in 1942. By 1948, the nearly identical car would be priced at $2,297.
The Century and Limited series were missing from Buick's postwar lineup, and the "mix" was changed considerably. The Special series, which had accounted for 64 percent of 1941 production, comprised less than three percent of the 1946 model year total. The Super was by far the best seller, accounting for nearly 77 percent of Buick's output, but the Roadmaster increased its share from four percent in 1941 to 20 percent during 1946.
This isn't to suggest, by the way, that the Buick Special had suddenly fallen from favor. Cars were in desperately short supply during the early postwar years, and the nation's automakers could sell every one they could build, regardless of series or body style.
Supplies of raw materials, especially sheet steel, were in short supply, so Buick shrewdly concentrated most of its production on its larger, more profitable car lines (as Packard should have done, but didn't). But by 1950, the Special would once again resume its role as Buick's most popular series.
With the elimination of Compound Carburetion and a reduction in the compression ratio to 6.60:1, the 1946 Roadmaster's horsepower rating fell from 165 to 144. Torque -- always a strong point with this engine -- was less affected, standing at 276 pounds/feet compared to 278 prewar. These figures, while lower than in 1941, were still very competitive. Chrysler's 1946 New Yorker, for example, extracted just 135 horsepower and 270 lbs/ft torque from its flathead straight eight.
See the next page to learn more about the 1958 and 1949 Buick Roadmaster.