1936-1992 Buick Roadmaster

1953, 1954, 1955, 1956 Buick Roadmaster
Buick celebrated its Golden Anniversary with a luxury Skylark convertible. This modified Roadmaster cost $5,000; only 670 were built.
Buick celebrated its Golden Anniversary with a luxury Skylark convertible. This modified Roadmaster cost $5,000; only 670 were built.

More changes were in store for the 1953, 1954, 1955, and 1956 Buick Roadmaster. The compact dimensions of the V-8 engine enabled Buick to fit the 1953 Roadmaster to the shorter wheelbase of the Super, though styling differences were relatively minor.

The big change came the following year when all Buick series, including the re-introduced Century, were completely redesigned. Both the Super and Roadmaster models shared with Cadillac the new General Motors C-body. These were big, roomy cars, as much as five and a half inches longer in wheelbase and more than nine inches longer overall than their 1953 counterparts.

A limited-production Roadmaster convertible -- the Skylark -- appeared for 1953. Specially modified, it sported bold, open wheelwells and a drastically lowered belt line, along with a four-inch-chop from the standard Roadmaster's windshield and a sweepspear that predicted 1954 styling.

The 1954 Buick Roadmaster ragtop found 4,739 buyers.

Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels, a metal boot cover, and every option in the book were also featured -- all at a lofty $5,000 price tag. Only 1,690 examples of this "dream car" were built.

Few mechanical changes were made for 1954, though the front suspension was refined and the Roadmaster's horsepower was upped to 200. Power steering, revised for better handling, and power brakes were standard on the Series 70, as they had been since 1953. Power windows were also supplied as standard on the hardtop and convertible models, and available at extra cost for the sedan.

The $3,349 1955 Buick Roadmaster four-door sedan boasted updated styling.

From 1947 through 1953, Buick had tenaciously clung to fourth place in the sales race, right behind Chevrolet, Ford, and Plymouth; the "Low-Priced Three." That was a commendable record for a medium- and upper-medium priced car, and for 1954 Buick elbowed Plymouth aside in calendar year production to take over third place. The bulk of the division's output was made up of Special and Century models, but the big Roadmaster accounted for 11.6 percent of that year's sales.

Pressured by Harlow Curtice, who had become president of General Motors in 1953, General Manager Ivan Wiles increased Buick's 1955 output until it was literally beyond the capacity of Buick's facilities. Serious quality control lapses resulted, creating problems that would soon damage Buick's reputation.

Performance, however, was outstanding. Horsepower jumped to 236, and a new variable-pitch Dynaflow, in which the stator blades changed pitch under hard acceleration, provided quicker off-the-line getaway.

The 1956 lineup boasted its first Roadmaster Riviera hardtop sedan: $3,692, 24,779 built.

A further improvement -- the adoption of two stator wheels -- was made to Dynaflow for 1956. The Roadmaster's top speed improved to a trifle better than 110 miles an hour, and it could charge from 0-60 mph in 11,7 seconds -- fantastic performance for a 4,300-pound car.

A new four-door Riviera hardtop proved to be the most popular Roadmaster, outselling the pillared sedan by better than two-to-one. But Buick's share of the market was beginning to shrink, though it managed to hold on to third place in the sales race.

To follow the Roadmaster story to 1957 and 1958, continue to the next page.

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