Buick Roadmaster – 1936

This is a respected name in US automotive history, for when Buick revamped its model range in 1936 as America started to emerge from the Great Depression, ‘Roadmaster’ was the title chosen for newcomers designed to replace the company’s former Series 80 model.

The name lasted until 1958 and badged a number of evolution models that were quintessentially American, before being revived briefly in the 1990s.

From 1936 to 1948 General Motors’ Roadmaster range consisted of a sedan, coupe, convertible phaeton and station wagon. These imposing long-wheelbase vehicles shared a basic structure with top-of-the-range Oldsmobile stablemates and remain a pleasure to drive today, giving a wonderful sense of stately progress on soft suspension. Innovative features included GM’s all-steel ‘turret top’ body, bullet-shaped headlights and a raked windscreen. The Roadmaster also incorporated technical advances like independent front suspension and hydraulic brakes.

The very name conjured up an image of supremacy – exactly as GM intended – and these highway cruisers were an instant success, with a competitive price tag ensuring that 17,000 Roadmasters were snapped up in the first year of production. The sportiest option was the four-door soft-top phaeton, though the car-buying public much preferred the sturdy sedan.

As sales slowly declined, cosmetic modifications took place, including a slight reduction in size and fitting (in 1941) of the powerful Fireball Eight engine with twin carburetors. Changes were small, but visually enhanced these handsome vehicles. New styling was finally introduced for 1942, but production was suspended as a result of wartime stringency and the new models would serve as the basis of the first Buicks produced after World War II. From 1946 until they were superseded after 1958, the Roadmaster became Buick’s top-of-the-range offering and variants included the last wood-bodied station wagon to be produced in the USA, the 1953 Model 79-R.




1936 (until 1958)


5.2I (320 cid) OHV Straight Eight


Top speed of 90 mph (145 km/h)


In the GM ‘family’, carefully structured to appeal to all levels of buyer, Buick occupied the Number Three slot behind Cadillac and La Salle, but ahead of Oldsmobile, Pontiac and Chevrolet.


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