Collector’s Edition: 1996 Buick Roadmaster

It’s rare that any collector or survivor vehicles pop up on my local craigslist due to being in the snowbelt, but here we have a nicely preserved 1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon that is listed on the Providence, Rhode Island craigslist page. The Roadmaster is optioned quite well, including the venerable LT1 V8 engine, along with reasonable mileage of just over 121,000. Collector’s Editions were just another way of saying final year model and there’s noting outwardly different about it from other years. It’s listed here on craigslist with a reduced price of $4,500, and thanks goes to to Barn Finds reader Pat L. for the find.

The Roadmaster looks super straight up and down the sides, with the chrome trim strip running along the lower panels still shining nicely. These cars had acres of glass and all of it looks clean and clear on this example; a generous sunroof provides passengers with even more natural daylighting. The seller notes that this Roadmaster is nicely optioned, including a reference to a “sports suspension” package. While there was no factory kit specifically called by that name, I believe he is referring to either the “Gran Touring Suspension” or “Dynaride Suspension.”

Either setup would be very nice to have, as it means the Roadmaster likely has some combination of stiffer springs and beefy sway bars. This isn’t unlike how the cop-spec Caprices were equipped, but perhaps dialed back down a few notches. The interior looks to be in fair condition – not perfect, with the seat upholstery looking baggy and the carpets showing some discoloration – but fair for its age. The seller notes the Roadmaster is equipped with the rear-facing third row seat and full power interior, which should make it a respectable hauler and handler thanks to the firmer suspension.

The engine bay is unfortunately pretty filthy, and a detailing under the hood would change the first impression of this Roadmaster for the better. This is also sadly indicative of New England cars, as the engine bays look terrible after just a few years on the road, thanks to the salt and road grime that piles up starting every January. Surfaces that can rust, will, as you can see with some of the pulleys and fastening hardware. It’s not the end of the world, but those of you in non-snow states likely cringe at a sight like this. Don’t worry; it just adds character. This Roadmaster seems like a fair deal at the current asking price if it runs as well as the seller claims it does.

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  1. JeffD

    I had one of these…. awesome cars. I only don’t have it now as somebody pulled out in front of me and I saved their life by not hitting them but the car was junk….shaved a pole. These are good for 300k miles, so at $4k it’s a good buy. Probably need to replace the optispark ignition it’s their only weak point, and the water pump with it, which is over the Opti. 120k it’s due, and this is not a small bill. These really are nice driver’s though. Rare in the black cherry color too.

  2. Del

    Nice wagon.

    Probably get it for two grand after auction.

    These were great on the Eastern Front. Way faster than T34s.

    • FordGuy1972

      T34s were better looking but harder to park.

  3. Waltguy

    I had two. A 94 RMW that was a one owner 90k mile car and I drove it for 12 years and put another 150k on it. Did the Opti/water pump right before a friend found a beautiful custom painted 100k mile one in Ohio. I sold my 1st one for only $1k less than i paid for it (big mistake) and bought the other car that although it got lots of attention was a rust bucket underneath. I was fortunate enough to dump it at about $1k loss and downsized and never looked back. I prefer leather to the cloth in this one, but the wood-delete is nice. GLWTS

  4. John COREY

    I love these 95-96 Roadmaster wagons (the like-bodied 92-94 had wimpier engines). I am on my fourth and final one (at last found one with low mileage and no rust). The “Gran Touring Suspension” means nothing, despite the note above. ALL came with this, which includes self-leveling rear (compressor and air bags inside the coils). If you want the cop sway bars, you have to add them yourself. They all came with the 3rd seat, too. This one is the uncommon vinyl-wood-delete version: almost all had the plasti-grain trim (the last factory build by anyone to come with that). IFF these are optioned with the tow package (trans cooler, hitch wiring, bigger axle ratio) and the G80 limited-slip; they are superb pullers, rated for 7,000 pounds. I know, I pull all my other toys with mine, and the looks from youth who can’t imagine a station wagon, much less one pulling another car on a trailer, are worth the price of entry alone. Yes, the optispark is a weak point, but mostly if overheated or not kept clean. The ride is good, loaded or unloaded. The set-by-temperature HVAC is as good as any in a 2020 new car, too. And they regularly deliver 25 mpg on the highway (not with full trailer tho!), and 20+ in town. Easy to buy, eay to use, easy to fix. What’s not to love?

    • ACZ

      FYI……the 1994 was also the LT1 engine.

    • JeffD

      The Optispark distributors biggest problem was it’s location directly under the water pump.When the pump started to leak, and they eventually all do, the weep hole they drain the antifreeze out of is directly over the Opti. Ruins it before you even realize it’s leaking. Also low placement was a problem running thru water, it would shut off if the distributor was old and o-ring seal between the cap and body was poor. I had one that would not start in damp weather as the cap would get wet and crossfire. Open the hood and let the sun hit it for a few hours and it would start right up. It was a minor complaint though and many of them would last for 100k or more….but when it went south, look out.

  5. 4501 Safari Member

    Missing rubber trim on the side chrome and a “fly-away” panel on the passenger side. Rear vent window hinges tended to separate and the windows not seal. The little emblem below Roadmaster on the rear flank indicate it is a “Limited” trim model, as does the upholstery . Should have heated seats and power lumbar but the seat control panels on the side idon’t show in the interior photos. A wood delete WB4 car is desirable, but rust would drive me away along with cloth seats in the condition shown. I am the third owner of my ’95 Limited woody since 2004 and enjoy it daily. Well over 200K miles. Has every available option for 1995 including the block heater, in the GM box, in the rear storage compartment…in case it should ever go out of Florida! Basically a Cadillac Fleetwood in Wagon drag, just better leather upholstery! And I own a ’94 Fleetwood Brougham also. Nice to see the fully optioned, low mileage and CLEAN ones go for more than 50% of original list. The trailer towing package got special additions as well.

  6. Curt lohman

    What a beast these were. I had the Chevy model for a K9 car while working. Had to plan real well in advance for any traffic stops involving speed. Went well over 200thou. Dog didnt like the big rear windows and took out 2 of them. They were expensive.

  7. John Member

    Once rode in a 30’s era Buick 4 dr., long legged engine, rode great, quiet, of course, had 3 spd on the floor. Now have a 2019 Envision, nice SUV, but made it China, no “Buick” on them, only their sign. Is of course, lighter but low road noise, fast for a 4 cyl. none turbo but as sed gets about 20mpg around town.
    I wold get something like this but wife didn’t like the Ford Edge for turning and it’s
    size(same size), would be living out of it. Buicks were/are great cars. Dont like fabric interiors.

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