I fell in love with this car when GM announced early on it would be introducing it in '91. I vowed to get a new one when I could. Well, marriage, and children saw to it that my dream would take a little more time to be realized. It wasn't until the spring of '04 I got my hands on my first BRMSW.
I saw the car in an on-line add in Texas. Flew down, and drove it back to the East Coast. What a pleasure to drive on the interstate! What a car! It is a 1996 Buick Roadmaster, Collectors Edition, Limited, Station Wagon. Fully loaded, though no LS rear end; odd for a Tow Package equipped wagon.
It had 117,000 miles on it when I picked it up. It now has 166,000 miles on it and the motor is still an excellent performer.
At 165,000 miles, in an effort to keep this car in outstanding running order, I replaced the following this winter; Opti-Spark, Water Pump, Spark Plugs, Plug Wires, TPS, MAP sensor, PCV valve, Engine Temp sensor, EGR Valve, and EGR Vacuum Solenoid, all Vacuum lines, Radiator, all Radiator Hoses, Radiator Surge Tank, accessories Pulley Tensioner, and fan belt Pulley Tensioner. The intake manifold was pulled, professionally cleaned, and bead blasted. New intake manifold gaskets, and valve cover gaskets. The Throttle Body was pulled, both the air plenum cover on top, and the coolant cover on the bottom were removed. The areas cleaned, new gaskets installed on the Throttle body.
A leaking radiator prompted the initial work, and then I just couldn't stop!
To say the engine now runs smooth as silk would be an understatement. This car is an absolute dream to drive. Very powerful for its size. I am laughed at for driving what many consider to be a "blue haired, old man or old ladies grocery getter". I don't care. They don't get it. That's fine, it will leave many more of these fine motor cars available for me to own someday.
Just a few points to consider if you plan to pick one up. While the 4L60E is a great transmission for this car, one that is well maintained, will last for quite some time. It will however, shorten the transmission's life some if you like to routinely mash the throttle to the floor. Though, it is understandable if you find yourself doing so!
Additionally, if you plan to tow with the wagon, (provided it's equipped with the factory tow package) consider this. While rated to tow 5,000lbs, I would not recommend this full time. I attempted to pull a 3770lb pop up with my family and gear aboard. Even after I doubled the size of the trans, air to oil cooler, and moved the cooler up directly into the grille area. I still killed the transmission after 1yr of towing with the car. Tow only in 3rd gear, and read the glove box manual should you decide to tow. It now has a rebuilt, GM SRTA trans, featuring a 3yr, 100,000 mile, transferable GM warranty. No, she isn't for sale.
While there may be acres of cheap, poorly fitted plastic inside. There is very little else to distract one from the true roadworthiness of this longtime, American Icon. The front seat may not be the most supportive, and some may complain about the middle seat lacking legroom. Though, to be sure, many speak highly of pulling a set of front bucket seats from a Bonneville, and transplanting them into a Roadie wagon for ultra comfort.
The fact is though, there wasn't a car on the road in 1996 for $31,000 that offered up what this GM stablemate did. You got it all when you took delivery of this car. Power windows, power locks, 8 way power, heated, leather front seats. Leather, middle row seat. And climate controlled heating and air conditioning. Drivers and front passenger air bags, along with four wheel ABS. Auto dimming rear view mirror, and power, heated outside mirrors. Front, cornering side lamps. If you forget to turn off your turn signals, an audible alarm will gently remind you to do so. If you run low on antifreeze, or windshield washer fluid. A light indicating which one is low will show up on the dash. Oh, can't forget cruise control and intermittent wipers. It was all there.
If you opted for the Gran Touring suspension over the Dyna Ride suspension, you got a very large car that handles supremely in the turns. Not sports car handling, but impressive non the less. If a pillow soft ride was your thing, then by all means the Dyna Ride suspension was your ticket to comfort.
GM got it right when it came to wind noise around the windshield, and A pillar. Almost nonexistent, even with the front windows partially opened or open all the way, it's a pleasure to drive down the interstate or back country roads on a cool summers day.
For what ever reason, in 1996, Buick dropped the full instrumentation. You only got the fuel, engine temp, and speedometer. Personally, the full instrumentation package is a beautiful compliment to this cars interior. Unfortunately, adding one to a '96 is a costly exercise.
Well, there it is, my thoughts on a truly great American road car. One we'll probably never see again. The mini van, and SUV, along with GMs desire to capitalize on sales of the Hummer, killed this outstanding, road touring car. Now with the price of gas climbing almost weekly, it will surely guarantee we'll never see the likes of this car again.
Cherish the ones you have, take care of them. Parts are getting harder and harder to find every day. Most, if not all of the trim pieces, and many other components are no longer available through GM. Were it not for the fact the LT1 was used in many of GMs muscle cars in the mid '90s. Or the fact that the transmission was used in those same cars and trucks. Parts for them may well be hard to find as well. But they're not, you can source most, if not all drive train parts through your local GM dealer.
Well, that's it for me.
At 100 KPH with cruise control this beast is sucking 8.4 liters per 100 kilometers (33 MPG CDN Gallon or 25 MPG US gallon) not too bad for a very big car.. Better than my friend's mazda Tribute or Toyota FJ cruiser and not even as comfortable, as fast or as strong.
I had a new 1992 Roadmaster that I liked and replace it with a new 1996 Roadmaster, Red, Collectors Edition, fully loaded with a towing package. I don't tow with it. I love this car and short of totaling it, I will not replace. It has over 230,000 miles and I have replaced a number of parts over the years as they wear out. The tranny is original and a transmission shop told be the tranny cooler is what saves it from anything more than changing the oil and filter. It is a great highway car, very comfortable, and I have gotten 22mpg if I occasionally kept it under 70mph. My mechanic and my shop manual says the 1996 Roadmaster has the OBD1 code. Earlier Roadies had the OBD2.
Incidentally I call my Roadmaster Roadhog.