In 1957, America was gearing up for the Sixties. Little Richard screamed his way to the top with “Lucille” and Elvis had nine hits in a row. Jack Kerouac penned his immortal novel On the Road, inspiring carloads of Americans to seek the adman’s “Promised Land” along Ike’s new interstates. Fins and chrome were applied with a shovel and General Motors spent several hundred million dollars refashioning their Buick model line.
The Roadmaster of 1957 was low and mighty, a massive 17 ft 11 in (5.46 m) long and 6 ft (1.83 m) wide. Power was up to 300 bhp, along with trendy dorsal fins, sweepspear body moldings, and a trio of chrome chevrons on the rear quarters. Four Ventiports, a Buick trademark harking back to the original 1949 Roadmaster, still graced the sweeping front fenders. But America did not take to Buick’s new look, particularly some of the Roadmaster’s fashionable jet-age design motifs.
Aircraft design exerted a big influence on automotive styling in the Fifties, and the ’57 Roadmaster was no exception. With wraparound windshield, cockpitlike roof area, and turbine-style wheel covers, a nation of Walter Mittys could imagine themselves vapor-trailing through the stratosphere.
CABIN OR COCKPIT?
Rakish swooping roof line borrowed heavily from bubble cockpits of jet fighters.
The ’57 Roadmaster was lower and sleeker than previous models.
The dramatic sweepspear kicks up violently over the wheelarch.
The ’57 model had revised front suspension with ball-joint mounting.
The Roadmaster was one of Buick’s most luxurious models and wore its hood ornament with pride.
Giant chrome protuberances suggested jet-turbine power.
1957 saw the return of the classic vertical bars, which had been dropped in 1955.
Wraparound windshields first emerged in 1954 and by 1957 were on virtually every car.
The hot Buick’s 5.9-liter V8 pushed out 300 bhp; it was capable of 112 mph (180 km/h) and 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 10 seconds. Dynaflow transmission had variable pitch blades which changed their angle like those of an airplane propeller.
Vast chrome rear bumper made for a prodigious overhang, with massive Dagmarlike overriders, razor sharp taillights, and fluted underpanel—a stylistic nightmare. One interesting new feature was the fuel cap, now positioned in a slot above the rear license plate.
The cavernous trunk could accommodate almost anything you could buy at the mall in the consumer driven Fifties.
Small tinted rear windshield didn’t offer much assistance to the driver in reversing situations.
The Roadmaster showed that, by 1957, tail-fin fashion was rising to ridiculous heights. Unfortunately, by ’57 the Roadmaster looked very much like every other American car. Gone was that chaste individuality, and Buick began to lose its reputation as a maker of high-quality cars—production fell by 24 percent this year.
Roadmaster standard special equipment included a Red Liner speedometer, glove compartment lamp, trip mileage indicator, and a color-coordinated dash panel. From 1955 Roadmasters could be ordered with a choice of 10 types of interior trim.
Badge at the center of the steering wheel indicates that Buicks were built at GM’s factory in Flint, Michigan.
Power-assisted steering and Dynaflow automatic transmission became standard on all Roadmasters from 1953.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL Buick Roadmaster (1957)
PRODUCTION 36,638 (1957)
BODY STYLE Two-door, five-seater hardtop coupe.
CONSTRUCTION X-braced chassis with steel body.
ENGINE V8, 364cid.
POWER OUTPUT 250 bhp at 4400 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Dynaflow two-speed automatic.
SUSPENSION Independent coil springs.
BRAKES Hydraulic servo drums all around.
MAXIMUM SPEED 112 mph (180 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 10.5 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 21.2 sec
A.F.C. 12 mpg (4.2 km/l)