Big Tow: 1950 Buick Roadmaster Custom Wrecker

041516 Barn Finds - 1950 Buick Roadmaster Harley Earl Custom Wrecker - 2

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The seller wonders whether Harley Earl designed this custom Buick. I doubt it, but I also doubt if you’ll find another vehicle like this 1950 Buick Roadmaster Custom Wrecker. This thing has about the most perfect patina (there, I’ve said it!) that I’ve ever seen on a car, if a person likes that look; which I do. This car is now in Lynchburg, Virginia and was in dry storage for years in northern California before the seller found it.

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I’m almost willing to give up part ownership in this if anyone wants to go in on it with me. This is one of the coolest vehicles that I’ve ever seen, look at that profile! It almost has a Chrysler Thunderbolt look to me. This Buick is spot-on-perfect in proportion, in my opinion. The owner says that it “has minimal rust on the rear fender and on one wheel arch dog leg.” The custom roof is gorgeous and very well done.

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It’s almost like a James Bond car with a hidden compartment back there, but that’s where the boom actually retracts into the floor of the bed! I don’t know what kind of rear suspension this thing has to be able to tow something, but it doesn’t look like it’s sitting any higher in back. This car is a work of art, whomever did this work was a master of the craft of custom car building. The seller thinks that it was built by a Buick dealer in or near Oakland, California in the mid-1950s.

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And, open! I know, the red color is throwing me off, too. Maybe this car was originally red, it does have a pink hue to it on some spots that are worn on the paint. Actually, I guess every spot is worn on the paint. This will take a lot of time and money to restore back to original condition, if that’s your intention. This certainly would be a star at any car show in the country either in this condition or restored back to like-new condition again. I can picture a 1939 Buick Sport Coupe on the back of this car at a car show with a huge crowd of people standing around it.

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The seller mentions that the “floors are excellent (no prior patches, etc.).” The interior will need some freshening up but it looks pretty nice in there. You can see some of the controls for operating the wrecker here behind the seat. The seller says that when he took it out to take the photos, he “rolled the passenger window up to see a prior owner had written with used car lot chalk $1,000,000 on it. I assume too many people wanted to buy it and so he decided to put a price on it.”

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Buick sold 75,034 Roadmasters in 1950, a decline from the previous year. Maybe the new “toothy grin” grille had something to do with that. Of course, now that grille is one of the reasons these cars are so popular. This is Buick’s 320, 5.3L Fireball inline-8 cylinder with about 168 hp. It looks pretty decent in there and the seller says that it runs, despite being in storage for so long.

This fantastic creation is found on Hemmings with an asking price of $45,000! I’m guessing that there may be some wiggle room on the price since the seller says that they’ll “consider offers or trade for good early auto related signs.” I absolutely love this car, I think that it would be the highlight of anyone’s collection and the star of any car show. Don’t let Jay Leno beat you to this one, get in touch with the seller today! Would you restore this car or would you drive it in its current, perfectly-aged condition?

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  1. motoring mo

    This big tow needs a healthy application of Jublia

    Like 0
  2. Newport Pagnell

    King of all Rat-Rods! Bow to the King!! Very cool.

    Like 1
  3. Van

    It needs a Harley Davidson injection.
    You might need a ramp that extends long enough for a bike.

    Like 0
  4. RayT

    In one of my rare I-don’t-care-about-history moments, have to say I’d love to own this! I’d restore it, all right — it really is one of the best “conversions” I’ve seen — but would also take out the boom and winch before making this into one of the coolest pickups EVER!

    Someone in that Buick dealership’s body shop appears to have done superb work making everything look right; it would be necessary to find a couple of period license-plate frames from that dealer.

    And yes, the dealership logo on the rear fender would have to stay and be restored, too!

    Like 1
    • Amy

      My grandfather and his boss built this Buick. It was 2 wrecked, a 1949 and 50 that were used to make the service car. Was originally red before painted blue

      Like 6
      • Rob MacWhirter

        I love that vehicle , wish I could find out where it is now . It was very well built , nicer detail work for something that was used commercially. Do you have any more information on what happened to it . I have seen a lot of photos on the internet.

        Like 1
      • Amy

        Our family would love to have it, but it was sold in the estate sale of the dealership family. We have some contacts on it but know it was sold again. I found pics of it at a Detroit auto show from a couple years ago and it’s been preserved the was it left. So that makes us happy it is still out there and being enjoyed but not destroyed. Yes it was very well done, my grandfather was an amazing mechanic!

        Like 5
      • Dave Burd

        THANK YOU for adding your known history to this amazing automotive folk art story! Been wondering about this car for years.

        Like 0
      • Dave Burd

        It’s easily the best conversion I’ve seen on a post-war sedan.
        Would love to know everything about it, right down to it’s scent!

        Anyone who would restore it is outta their goddam mind.

        Like 0
  5. Van

    How about a custom 5th wheel, with Buick wagon fenders.
    Or a custom camper.
    If you preserve the patina, you need a bike with patina.
    If you do a restoration, build a trailer to match.

    Like 0
    • RayT

      For me, it’d be an Isetta 300 carried in the Buick’s loadspace. Might even paint both rides in matching colors, just to increase the Nutball Factor!

      That combination would have freaked out the spectators at every Cars & Coffee I’ve ever been to….

      Like 1
    • Tricky

      Now your talkin’….

      Like 0
  6. Dairymen

    Very cool but not $45k cool. Spare tire has to go. Get it mechanically in order, fix the interior up and put a clear coat on and have fun.

    Like 2
    • Van

      No just change spare to kellsy hase wire with wide white wall.

      Like 1
  7. jimbosidecar

    I’ve been looking for an affordable Caddie Flower Car to turn into a bike hauler. But this would do very nicely…except for my budget

    Like 0
  8. angliagt

    I saw this car back about 1977,just North of Redding,CA.
    There was a used car dealership (Herbie’s) that sold all kinds of
    interesting old cars.
    I have a picture of it here …… somewhere.

    Like 1
  9. Brad

    I think Jimbosidecar is onto something… those little railings and beautifully-done roofline seems to make sense more as a floral vehicle than purpose-built wrecker, to me. The boom could’ve been a later addition – wonderfully integrated, either way! Blindspots be damned!

    Like 1
    • Charles

      Funeral home flower car?

      Like 1
    • Doug F.

      I tend to lean more to a custom made vehicle rather than a flower vehicle. You mention the roofline so take a good look at it. The top of the roof is much shorter. The door glass is prominently shorter at the back than the front where the flower car has a huge square glass. And the blind spot you mentioned, look again, there is none, the rear side window meets the back window. Plus it looks to me as though that rear side window may go down also. Now I do agree they may have “stolen” those bed rails from a flower car!

      Like 0
  10. Jose

    “Custom Wreck” would be more appropriate. Tell the seller he can keep it.

    Like 0
  11. sheffield cortina centre

    i’d keep it as a wrecker & swing more to keeping the patina.

    Like 2
  12. Van

    I want to see you tow an escalade with this.
    0-60 in 120 seconds down hill, steep hill.
    Stopping distance, required hitting a fixed object.
    1/4 mile required stopping for gas and oil.

    Like 0
    • Brad

      Sure, but who says you wouldn’t keep the exterior looking stock… and slip a Duramax diesel under the hood. Instant ‘oomph’ to match its good looks.

      Like 0
      • Van

        I think a straight 8 would be cool.
        Wouldn’t this have lots of torque.
        It’s to cool as is.
        Radial tires, gas shocks, sway bars, go.

        Like 1
  13. kman

    Thank’s to Brad for showing how beautiful the work on this car is. The black and chrome is drop dead gorgeous and not at all eccentric. Any more than a Ranchero. Just better. I would lose the tire off the quarter – hey! this is a Roadmaster, not a a stepside. The trick would be to find/create a tailgate to suit this beauty, Save your patina crap for cars that deserve no better. I would love this in red with totally refurbished chrome and interior. But the black is really elegant. The only thing better might be a retractable roof. Maybe a connie kit with matching paint clam and chrome outer ring? A lot of possibilities. All good. One thing I noticed on the earlier photo is the absence of the 2nd set of portholes which are overkill. Brad, did you notice if there was a wrecker rig in the back?

    Like 0
    • Eric

      No photo of the left side. Most likely it just has a ’51 front fender on the right side. I have a ’51 – those port holes aren’t just bolted on, the fender has holes punched that they bolt through, as well as circular flats in the contour of the fender itself that define where the port hole resides. You could just “bolt some on” to a ’50 fender, but they would not sit flush. I believe it’s a flower car with the tow rig added, probably by a later owner. By the length of the door, this conversion was from a 4-door Roadmaster. You can see the rear edge of the back door under the spare tire. Shape of the stainless side trim is also 4-door.

      Like 1
  14. kman

    Just noticed there is a roll down bed cover. That would solve a lot of issues. Hardware is there. Just needs refurbishment.

    Like 0
  15. Ed

    It’s great I have never seen one love it Great bike hauler would love to own it and restore like new

    Like 0
  16. MikeW

    The spare tire hides the rear door lines, won’t look good without it.

    Like 0
  17. JimmyinTEXAS

    I don’t think Brad’s picture of the black car is the same car as the one being sold. The rear roof line looks too different. Maybe my tired ol eyes are playin tricks, but hummmmmmmm.

    Like 0
    • Brad

      No, not the same car – I believe the one I posted is a ’49 Buick floral car. But I thought it’d provide an impression of how this might look if restored.

      Like 0
      • JimmyinTEXAS

        thanks for clarifying…

        Like 0
    • nglshmn

      No, definitely two different cars. Portholes on hood, roof line/windows line, rear fender extensions, 2 doors vs 4 doors, etc All are different.

      Like 1
  18. George

    I never have much to contribute but in this rare case I just have to say…I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like 0
  19. TdF83

    It does look like an old funeral flower car but it seems a little short. Very sweet custom details.

    Like 0
    • Van

      You don’t think this could be a wench for a coffin. Set up a scaffold slide the box out the back, lower in into the.
      I’m just imagining a procession in the big easy, horns blowing “the saints go marching in”.

      Like 0
  20. Charles


    Like 0
  21. Robert White

    Ultra cool, I love it, but way too costly IMHO. If I win the lottery I’ll give him $15k cash, and I will put it in his hand before he has a chance to say no.


    Like 0
  22. Robert White

    Just realized that this car is in the movie Alice’s Restaurant and Alice’s boyfriend Ray drives it. I think the car in the movie is a bit newer but the same thing.


    Like 0
  23. alder

    I have to say I keep coming back to look at this car, I really like it but do you guys feel it is over priced? What is more in the ballpark price wise?

    Like 0
  24. Brad

    In discussing pricing, here’s an interesting comparison to a similarly customized flower car. No, it doesn’t have the neat retractable boom… but it’s a 1950 Caddy with body damage on the passenger side, also in California, and also reportedly running, for a measly $2500.

    Like 0
  25. Salt Man

    A bone stock ’50 can look pretty cool, too.

    Like 1
  26. Mark S

    This is a very different looking car that with a well done restoration would be very cool. I would loose the wrecker equipment and move the spare tire into that space. As for the back door seams they would have to be welded up and filled. I’m not a fan of patina as far as I’m concerned its un checked rust on its way to being a hole. I just don’t get why people want that look, other than its a cheep out way of dealing with the problem. As for the inside of the bed I’d cover this with the bed out of a donor truck box. I’d keep the straight 8 and column shifter they just belong there. the one thing that I would not do though is pay the asking price, somebody been smoking those funny cigarettes again. 8k would be my limit. The fact of the matter is there are other cars around that would make great candidates for a custom build like this for WAY cheaper than this one, and anyone worth their salt as a fabricator could replicate this car and start with one in better shape.

    Like 0
    • Stu

      It appears to be an automatic.

      Like 0
  27. Kieron

    The wife ince again says NO !

    Like 0
  28. Sean Smith

    I have seen this car in person. It is a very cool piece. The owner is collector of many amazing machines and has a great eye for unique automobiles. I wouldn’t touch it. He has got it running. I would check it for safety and drive it as is.
    You wont find another like it!

    Like 1

    I love the patina on this car. I wouldn’t touch a thing other than to get it all working and safe

    Like 1
  30. Kieron

    The wife still says NO

    Like 0
  31. Van

    Rodger Rabbit, two wolves in zute suites.
    Green slim cannon in the back.

    Like 0
  32. Jesper

    AMC Steeve. Right. Its cool as it is.
    A piece of history.

    Like 1
    • Rocky

      This piece of history was running around Susanville Ca. when I was a kid in the 50’s. Was very cool then and still cool today.

      Like 0
  33. 60chevyjim

    this wrecker is so dam cool asis . it is a work of art .
    just make everything work and safe then drive it and show it asis .
    with some wood replacement in the bed and a little work to the bed doors and bed floor area , as long as the work is weathered so that it looks un touched .
    any car can be restored 100 times .
    it can only be original one time ever ..
    it may have 2 sets of heavy rear leaf springs to handle the extra towing weight
    just like how they built the moonshine runner’s cars back then ..
    I love weathered cars n trucks !!

    Like 0
  34. Rob MacWhirter

    Get it running and stopping and keep it just as is , too cool to change anything ! Anyone know if it’s still available for sale , who knows the price might be a little more realistic now ! I have a one owner 34 Buick ( unrestored original ) so she would go well alongside that !

    Like 0
  35. Kurt

    Just love the look of this car.
    One of our guys had a 48 Buick convertible that we cruised around in. One piston was blown and since none of us had any money, we pulled the bad piston and replaced it with a nice tight wood plug. Set the valves closed on that cyl. and ran it on 7.
    Memories, I’m 75 now and have had my share of rust and dust.
    Great fun wasn’t it though?

    Like 0
  36. gardener

    Back about 10 years ago there was a red one vary much like this at the Sloan auto show in Flint Mi. that was used as a hose truck for a small town fire was restored and looked wonderful.This one could look great also but that asking price is way outa line but it’s still cool.

    Like 0
  37. Rob MacWhirter

    I want it just as is, to use as is, Wouldn’t touch the patina , just preserve . I already have an unrestored one owner 1934 Buick !

    Like 0

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