Last of the Big Boys: 1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon

Times were changing. First, in the eighties, the minivan started taking a chunk out of the station wagon’s sales, and then in the nineties, it was the SUV biting at sales of the wagons. The combination of the two made people question whether station wagons were as practical as they were in the sixties and seventies. By 1996, Chevrolet and Buick were the only ones in the full-size station wagon business, and it was their last year. For the 1997 model year, GM brought out a more practical minivan without the dustbuster look, and pressed the full speed button on SUVs (and pick up trucks) and determined it was better to lose a few full-size cars and wagons sales for greater volume with more profitable vehicles elsewhere. Thus, sadly this 1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon was one of the last full-size station wagons. This Buick is for sale here on eBay in Long Beach, California.

From the shape of the rear of this wagon, you would think General Motors had brought back the clamshell tailgate from the seventies. Actually, this was a normal operating two-way tailgate (swing down and swing to the left) with a window that lifted up rather than retracting into the tailgate. Seems like a step back to me. This Estate Wagon looks a bit different from most I’ve seen around in the last 20 to 25 years. It lacks the woodgrain side paneling and was a wood delete option on this particular car.

The interior features ruby red leather seats that show some wear, but have no tears and are still in pretty good shape. All power accessories such as seats, far rear power windows, and passenger area power windows work, with the driver’s window slightly out of track. The air and heat work fine, but the blower motor is making a noise. There are window shades for the vista roof to keep the sun out.

This is a two owner, non-smoking vehicle. The original owner was “an old lady from Pasadena”. Nothing to indicate she was little though. She bought it new in February 1996 and after 37,831 miles in 2009, she stopped driving it. At that time she left the car to Angels Watch Home Senior Care who used the car for senior travels until 2017. It now has 86,125 mostly freeway miles. The car has a large cargo area with a third rear-facing seat to carry extra passengers.

Under the big hood is a 5.7 liter LT-1 V-8 engine. The 4160E automatic transmission shifts smoothly. The body is not perfect, with a few stone chips and dings here and there, but there is no rust. In its last year, Buick produced only 8,962 Roadmaster Estate Wagons.

This would make a good family vehicle that would stand out from the crowd. Bidding is going up so let’s see where it ends. Are you ready to bid?

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  1. Redwagon

    Auction ended and reserve not met at $7,300.

    It’s a really nice example, esp black on red, but I’m not certain it’s worth much more than that.

  2. boxdin

    Last of the real cruisers I like these.

  3. Dritymax

    Had its twin in autoshop class in 97. Hail damage total from a local dealership. Learned a ton about wrecking on that car

  4. Daved

    Best color combo – the black over red alone is worth a premium, and it’s a welcome sight from the bland tones that were in abundance.

    No woodgrain panels and no rust. I’m not sure which excites me the most.

    Wait… it’s the no rust part.

  5. Classic Steel

    Seriously This is a Nice color!

    Wagons ho!

    I heard per wagon masters quarterly this did the quarter mile in 95 seconds flat full of groceries with four kids under ten years of age and bowser the Great Dane in back 😜

  6. Jeff

    Love these GM wagons, and it’s nice to see a Buick without the woodgrain.

  7. ccrvtt

    This was the last car my mother owned. In fact, it was the last two cars she owned having had a ’92 and a ’96. She lived to the age of 93 and stopped driving just a year before she died. They are truly awesome cars.

    While woodgrain trim is repugnant to some, for many years it represented the top trim in any lineup of wagons. It seemed that Ford wagons were the most popular in the ’50’s & ’60’s. Since Ford used leaf springs (as opposed to GM’s coils) they were able to have the 3rd row (“way back” to those of a certain age) seat facing forward. This was considered a plus though there was no scientific evidence that facing backward actually forced kids to make funny faces at the cars following behind.

    The current glut of cookie-cutter SUVs makes me wistful for yesterday’s elegant and friendlier station wagons. Someday we may feel the same about minivans.


    • George

      No, but sitting backwards did make me more nauseous as a kid, or was that the exhaust fumes? No AC in the back in the 60s and 70s, so window usually part way open. Personally, I didn’t like the clamshell rear gates. Not comfortable to sit on.

  8. Dovi65

    Beautiful car, last of the big dinosaurs. $7300 is decent money for an anemic 90s GM gas guzzler. Hopefully it finds a good, forever home

    • Steve

      Not “anemic” when compared to comparable vehicles of the time, and not really a “gas guzzler”… (At least I don’t consider mid 20’s on the highway from something that could tow a trailer and haul full sheets of plywood to be “gas guzzler” material…

      • Daved

        Sounds like someone needs to pilot a LT1 B-body, eh?

  9. Wolfram

    if we wouldn’t have these crazy gas prices in Germany (right now around 7 to 8 $ US per gallon) i would by it immediately and ship it overseas for my family

    I like theses cars 10000 times more than all this stupid SUV’s where you not have this room
    Sad that noone is building and buying these SW anymore

    Is it true that Ford will stop producing all “normal” cars except the Mustang and only will sell SUV’s and Pick Up’s ?

    • Daved

      Sad but true- passenger car sales for the most part are in a steady state of decline. It’s not making much business sense to continue or develop sedans when the factories can be freed up for the money makers- SUVs and crossovers. It’s a basically a reflection of the American populations’ general health. Everyone is getting obese and lazier -requiring vehicles to either accommodate their larger sizes and/or enable easier ingress/egress with taller vehicles.

    • Paul

      Adding on to what Daved said about Ford ceasing passenger car production, I think it is a very shortsighted decision on their part. Either our economy is going to crash (stock market is taking lots of plunges lately…) and/or another energy crisis that will make those gas guzzling SUVs unaffordable to drive. Americans don’t learn their lessons easily. I drive a Honda Fit to work and keep my gas guzzling classic ’69 Olds 98 for pleasure cruises. I also agree with his fat and lazy assessment.

  10. David Rhodes

    great boats but the floor pan under the cargo area tended to rust

  11. reholmes

    Wow! But where do I put it?

  12. Fla finn

    My favorite of the 80s-90s wagons. With LT1 reasonably quick also.

    I always liked the old STWs, the bigger the better. Too bad plenty of these were crushed when there was the cash for clunkers deal going on…

  13. Bryan

    I have one of these in the Dark Cherry variety and get 25mpg highway.
    The Griswold family truckster.


    • Fla finn

      You Sir just got thumbed!

  14. Ralph

    It kinda needs the woodgrain in black, it looks to much like a hearse without it!

    • Daved

      … And therein lies the beauty of this beast!

  15. Mark

    I own last 15 years 1987 Oldsmobile station wagon custom cruiser wagon.
    Never any problems. Runs perfectly.
    This Buick is a better wagon than Oldsmobile 1987?
    Any comments please?

  16. Tim

    It’d be a great summer cruiser!

  17. Robert Gressard

    I have two. A 94 and a 96 long story. You won’t believe it when you put your foot in it at a stop light change. With a full load it tops three tons. Look on line at one beating a Corvette in a drag race. The bad part is the frame rust in northern areas that use salt.

  18. ben Root

    ben here in fl got one on consignment white blu gut sweet can put a glass of wine on the air cleaner owner is going back to Holland some one is going to get a great deal started at 10 gs then 7 now down to 6 u can call me if any one wants to know more about it 352/586/5104

    • Fla finn

      Not an LT1 though…

  19. Del

    Nice car. Did not sell. Five more years and it will be worth double that of ladt unsuccessfull bid.

    • Fla finn

      I don’t care about it being more valuable soon, I just like the car.. Wish I had some money to get one of these.


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