Barry & Penny’s 1949 Buick Roadmaster
|Engine:||1970 Stage 1 455 V8|
|Carburetion:||800 CFM Quadrajet|
|Intake Manifold:||B4B Edelbrock|
|Transmission:||Super Turbine TH400 Switch Pitch|
|Front End:||1970 Trans Am heavy duty front clip|
|Rear End:||1996 Caprice Police Special|
|Brakes:||4 wheel power disk brakes|
|Location:||British Columbia – Canada|
|What is that that draws us car nuts to the smell of old oil, rancid grease, and mildewed upholstery to make us actually take our overtaxed, hard-earned money, and, against the advice of family and friends, dump it into some old wreck and think we can restore it? It must be that those odours contain some type of pheromone that draws us blindly to our new loves and makes us willing to throw caution to the wind to satisfy our lust! My lust for cars started at an early age of 13 when a friend of my Dad’s decided he needed someone to lay off a “retired” 1939 Chevy sedan on, and kindly delivered it to my parents back yard where it annoyed every neighbor and my family, both from its’ presence as a wreck, and from the noise I created roaring up and down the back lanes of Winnipeg with no exhaust, no license on the car or myself. How we survived those outrageous rips around the neighborhood in the middle of the night, hanging onto the running boards, is a story all on its own.
After a series of trades, and years of monkey wrenching with various cars, I lucked into a 1948 Buick Super which I squandered a whole $90 on to have it become my first real car. After a few minor repairs and a good paint job that old beast gave me 4 good years and over 200,000 miles of pure satisfaction and reliability even to the point of taking four of us from Winnipeg in Central Canada close to 5000 miles to Quebec and to the 1967 Montreal World’s fair, and then another 3500 mile return trip out to the West Coast and Vancouver. It was that trip that made me fall in love with British Columbia and planted the desire for me to live there one day. After basically tearing my heart out to part with her I was forced to have a “better” car for my emerging career and sold her for $500 with almost a few tears as we parted. From that time on I have always wanted to get another ‘48/49 and promised myself that one day….
Now we fast forward to 2000 and after half heartedly searching for the “right” old Buick for almost 9 years, I took a long look at the prospect of retiring and knew that if I didn’t get back into the hobby soon, I’d be too old to drive, much less work on and restore an old car. Fortunately my memory served me well and all those early years of crawling under cars in 40 below temperatures taught me that I didn’t really want to start from scratch again. Whether time had made me smart or lazy we’ll leave to conjecture.
And along came the Internet, and the search became too easy, and now I had located the car I really wanted – a partially finished 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible with much of the upgrading to modern specs almost completed. And then she was gone, some dirty grease dog had bought her right out from under me and my dream car had vanished. I can’t remember if I was relieved or broken hearted but I was still without a toy so the search continued.
It was about six months later that I discovered the same car up for resale with some of the work completed and basically only final simple preparation work needed to make it a “show” car – yeah right – so I had the car appraised and bought it out of Florida sight unseen, cleared all the red tape to export it to Canada, paid about 20% in duties to import it, and discovered it needed major “finishing”. Buyer beware, but I had the basics to what I wanted and now “all” I had to do was finish it off. The Roadmonster had arrived and our “real” cars were banished out to the driveway.
What I have now learned, like all car guys new to the hobby, is that these things never really finish. All I truly wanted to do was wash and wax it, but, after replacing the brakes, rear suspension, new electric cooling, etc. I soon discovered there was a plethora of other “musts” before I could feel comfortable driving it. To top it off, all those bad nightmares of crawling around under a car were all real again, I was covered in dirt and grime, but this time I had a big enough grin that probably everyone thought I had some secret lover. And, in a way, I did! Those pheromones had me hooked again.
I can’t decide if it was the rattles, or the squeaky suspension, that drove me the craziest, and I have now gradually gotten the worst of my peeves out of the car and once I finish installing an HEI ignition system I might actually be able to drive it more than a few miles from my house. In the almost two years of having the car I have only put about 200 miles on it, most of which was back and forth to my mechanic. So much for dreams of effortlessly cruising down the highway, wind in my hair, and carefree thrills under foot!
So what have I been ranting on about anyways? This is a 1949 Buick Roadmaster Convertible, model 76C, which has a totally restored body to ’49 specs. The ’49 Buick Roadmaster is considered by many to be the ultimate example of the “Art Deco” era with its overabundance of chrome and those magnificent four portholes on each front fender to emulate the power and speed of a WWII fighter plane along with its sparkling chrome “sweepspear” slicing down the sides, and a “bombsight” mounted on the hood. This is a big 2 ton car, and riding in it was like “a mattress on wheels”, as quoted by a past era reviewer. Unfortunately these big old boats were scrapped by the thousands in the late fifties and sixties due to their sluggish performance and huge thirst for gas and left us with a relatively scarce automobile today, especially since collectors bought up any they could find after Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman’s “Rainman” movie glorified the ’49 convertible. Roadmasters and Cadillac Fleetwoods from ’49 & ’50 are especially rare in Canada due to some sort of an embargo on them during a trade dispute with the US at the time and thus makes it very hard to find the cars, and even more difficult to find specialized parts. It amazes me how the Internet has taken over our former habits of scouring through old scrap yards to find those key parts and it really does work.
Our Buick is a retro rod and the 19 foot body is mounted on a 1970 Trans Am heavy duty front clip with lowered springs, power steering, and 4 wheel power discs. The rear end is a 1996 Caprice Police Special with heavy duty springs, sway bar, and adjustable gas overload shocks. The frame is totally reinforced and has additional cross frames to handle the torque. All this is powered by a 1970 Buick 455 hooked up to a turbo 400 switch pitch transmission and dual exhaust. The engine has a Qjet 800 cfm on a B4B Edelbrock manifold and puts out about 370 HP with a huge 510 ft lbs of torque.
The interior has power seats, power windows, power top, Grant steering wheel, Autometer speedo and tach, 12 volt conversion, and air conditioning. The radio works but I will be installing a new stereo CD system shortly. I also had to install a heater which turned out to be quite a serious job but it keeps my Aussie wife warm when it is “only” 65 degrees outside.
One of the first treats I had with the “Monster” was a broken window frame which I managed to accomplish within 8 hours of having the car as I tried to manhandle it into position. It has taken almost 8 months to remove and repair the old pot metal frame as I couldn’t find a replacement frame anywhere after months of searching, and managed to go through true hell as different “expert” welders almost totally ruined the part and the chrome shop had to replate it 3 different times due to poor results and delays due to labor strikes. I constantly seem to create new jobs for myself with stupid mistakes.
I have been very fortunate during my life to have experienced many different types of cars and trucks and especially love the specialty Bimmers and Benz, but I have to admit I have never owned, or known, many cars that get such amazing attention and admiration as our gleaming Roadmonster. Any time I stop or park it immediately attracts a crowd, and I’m faced with the usual questions of “Wow, what year is that?” or “My Dad/Grandfather had one just like that”?, or, “Is it restored?”, and I’m so tempted to say, “No, I just pulled it out of the wrecking yard and had her washed!
Now that I’ve written this little ditty I suddenly realized that I’m glad that I got this grand old dame, even with her flaws, because soon we will be able to do our cruising and tours and just the fact that she’s not perfect is what gives us the chance to really drive and enjoy her. In the meanwhile enough of all those old car smells will linger to make me realize that car love is also blind and I’m hooked on “L”Eau de Mobil 1” and whatever uses it!
Barry, your car is just beautiful. When people think about Buicks I’m sure that this car is the image that comes to many of their minds. Big, brassy, sleek and luxurious. Style is what this car is all about. We are extremely thankful that you have chosen the 49 Roadmaster to express your automotive individuality and I’m glad that you took the time to submit the fascinating story of it’s revival. You must be proud.