Buick Roadmaster (1949)

The ’49 Roadmaster took the market’s breath away. With a low silhouette, straight hood, and fastback styling, it was a poem in steel. The first Buick with a truly new postwar look, the ’49 was designed by Ned Nickles using GM’s new C-body. It also boasted two bold new styling motifs: Ventiports and an aggressive 25-tooth “Dollar Grin” grille.

Harley Earl’s aesthetic of aeronautical entertainment did the trick, and Buick notched up nearly 400,000 sales that year. Never mind that the windshield was still two-piece, that there was no power steering, and the engine was a straight-eight—it looked gorgeous and came with the new Dynaflow automatic transmission. The Roadmaster, like the ’49 Cadillac, was a seminal car and the first flowering of the most flamboyant decade of car design ever seen.

SERIOUS CACHET

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For years GM’s copywriters crowed that “when better cars are built, Buick will build them,” and in a sense that hyperbole was true. In its day, the gloriously voluptuous Roadmaster was a serious set of wheels, only one step down from a Cadillac, and to own one meant you really had arrived.

VENTIPORT STATUS

Cheaper Buicks had only three Ventiports; the lavish Roadmaster had four.

SPOTLIGHT

Spotlight with mirror was a $25 option.

VENTIPORT STATUS

Cheaper Buicks had only three Ventiports; the lavish Roadmaster had four.

TIRES AND STEERING

Tires were 820×15 whitewalls; the steering was unassisted and required a hefty five turns lock-to-lock.

BABY FINS

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The Art Deco taillights looked upmarket and blended smoothly into the rear wings. Nobody could have guessed that they were emergent fins.

VENTS

Ventiports gave the impression of a firebreathing jet engine.

SUSPENSION

All-coil suspension became standard on all post-1945 Roadmasters.

HANDLE MOTIF

Dynaflow automatic transmission was introduced as an option on the ’48; it is written in five places on this ’49 model.

SIGN OF THE TIMES

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The Roadmaster may have shared its body with the Oldsmobile 98 and the Cadillac Series 62, but it gave Buick a distinction never seen before. Big, bold, and brash, the ’49 was perfect for its time, and it began the trend for lower, sleeker styling. Optimistic, opulent, and glitzy, it carried strident styling cues that told people a block away that this was no ordinary car, this was a Buick—even better, the very best Buick money could buy.

CLASSY REAR

Elegant flourish completed the swooping teardrop rear.

STYLING

The GM C-body had closed quarters and Sedanette styling.

ADVERTISING

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The ’49’s class set the trend for later Roadmasters, with the copywriters eager to stress that the model was the “Buick of Buicks.”

EARLY TRADEMARKS

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Gun-sight hood ornament, bucktooth grille, and Ventiports were flashy styling metaphors that would become famous Buick trademarks. Although divided by a center pillar, the windshield glass was actually curved.

ENGINE

The Roadie had a Fireball straight-eight cast-iron 320cid engine.

GRILLE

The classic vertical grille bars were replaced for the 1955 model year.

DASHBOARD

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The instrument panel was new for ’49 and described as “pilot centered” because the speedo was positioned straight ahead of the driver through the steering wheel.

S P E C I F I C A T I O N S


MODEL 1949 Buick Roadmaster Series 70 Sedanette

PRODUCTION 18,415 (1949)

BODY STYLE Two-door fastback coupe.

CONSTRUCTION Steel body and chassis.

ENGINE 320cid straight-eight.

POWER OUTPUT 150 bhp.

TRANSMISSION Two-speed Dynaflow automatic.

SUSPENSION Front and rear coil springs.

BRAKES Front and rear drums.

MAXIMUM SPEED 100 mph (161 km/h)

0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 17 sec

A.F.C. 20 mpg (7 km/l)

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