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1936-1992 Buick Roadmaster


1992 Buick Roadmaster
The 1992 Roadmaster sedan listed at $20,890.
The 1992 Roadmaster sedan listed at $20,890.
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Nor did the 1992 Buick Roadmaster come up short with respect to size -- not when measured by modern standards, at least. The reincarnated big Buick rested on a wheelbase of 115.9 inches, more than five inches longer than the Park Avenue, but nearly a foot shorter than the 1958 Roadmaster. Its overall 215.8-inch length (wagon 217.5) compared with 219.1 for the 1958, not to mention a 10.5-inch advantage over the 1991 Park Avenue.

Of the two body styles offered, the four-door sedan was listed as a 1992, while the Estate bowed a bit earlier as a 1991. The latter used the smaller 5.0-liter engine in order to meet federally mandated fuel economy (CAFE) standards but, like the sedan, it was lavishly equipped and beautifully finished.

When asked about the styling cues on the new Roadmaster, Mertz opined that the grille did have a flavor of the Roadmaster dental work of the 1942-1954 era. And when pursued about the "hint" of the front fender "VentiPorts" of old being carried over on the sail panels of the sedan, Mertz responded: "The portholes, right. We don't think they'd look particularly good on the front fenders like they did before -- that's a little too old-fashioned -- but there is that little vestige of them, just a little touch of it."

The 1992 Buick Roadmaster rested on a 115.9-inch wheelbase.
The 1992 Buick Roadmaster rested on a 115.9-inch wheelbase.
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Exterior styling, incidentally, was under the direction of Wayne Kady, chief of Buick Design Studio Two. All in all, the impression is that he took pains to see to it that the 1992 Roadmaster was designed with a respectful look at the past. The result, as Clark put it, was that "...the heritage of the name fit, recalling those premium cars of the postwar period."

There was much speculation about the pricing of the Roadmaster. One published source held that the it would be positioned between the LeSabre and Park Avenue, but other rumors persisted -- and, some would argue, that logic suggested -- that as Buick's largest car and its only V-8, the Roadmaster would represent the top of the line.

The 1992 Roadmaster interior was plush and spacious.
The 1992 Roadmaster interior was plush and spacious.
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The mystery was cleared up when the cars were priced as follows: Roadmaster sedan, $20,890; Roadmaster Limited sedan, $23,245; Road-master Estate Wagon, $21,445.

This placed the Roadmaster sedan $3,495 below the Park Avenue and $3,810 above the LeSabre Custom. The Roadmaster Limited came in at $4,175 less than the Park Avenue Ultra and $4,815 more than the LeSabre Limited, placing it about halfway between the LeSabre and Park Avenue. Clearly, the Park Avenue was intended to serve as Buick's high-tech flagship, while the LeSabre was priced to be Buick's high-volume bigger car.

What then of the Roadmaster? Its role was to appeal to buyers who favored traditional full-size cars. Rear-wheel drive, V-8 power, imposing dimensions, and 5,000-pound towing ability were its strongest selling points. In short, this new Buick represented a return to the time when the Roadmaster was one of the largest and most powerful automobiles on the American road.

The 1992 Roadmaster carried over hints of the styling from the 1950s Roadmasters.
The 1992 Roadmaster carried over hints of the styling from the 1950s Roadmasters.
PIL

And one of the most popular of its ilk, as well. Buick turned out 866,807 Roadmasters between 1936 and 1958. When asked in 1992 whether number 1,000,000 would be very far off, Mertz smiled and said, "We hope not, although we don't have a specific goal for this car. We like each Buick line to meet its own level as we go forward, but the wagon alone has a lot of potential -- we expect to maybe increase that by about 50 percent or so. There's an average of about 600,000 sales a year in rear-drive large cars, so the Roadmaster should get a chunk of that."

Though it didn't quite reach the 1,000,000 mark before the end of the model run in 1996, the Roadmaster did quite well for Buick, selling about 85,500 in 1992.

Just like it did in the good old days.

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