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Unlikely Manual Swap: 1994 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon

Earlier this week, I wrote about two different wagons using the General Motors B-Body platform, which were a rare Chevrolet Caprice Police Wagon and a super low-mileage Buick Roadmaster. Of those two, I preferred the Caprice, but while I was browsing the web this morning, I found a new favorite B-Body wagon: this manual-swapped 1994 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon, which is available here on Craigslist.

This Buick resides near State College, Pennsylvania. The seller provides an advertisement with a wealth of details on both the vehicle’s condition and the manual transmission swap they performed. Additionally, the seller seems to have carefully selected this wagon, choosing an example that features the LT1 V8 engine and a towing package consisting of a heavy-duty cooling package with mechanical fan, a limited slip rear differential, and heavy-duty suspension.

Being a vehicle of its size, someone backed into the hood, which caused a small wrinkle, while the rear hatch was also backed into and replaced with one from a different color wagon. Despite being an apparent target for inattentive drivers in parking lots, the seller is very open about the wagon’s flaws, such as a small rust hole in the floorboard and another in the spare tire well, while also noting that the frame and most of the body are clean. Unfortunately, the seller does not provide any photos of the aforementioned rust.

The blue interior is fairly clean, but there are some stains in the carpet from the previous owner’s grandchildren. Of course, this wagon features a rear-facing 3rd-row seat, a panoramic vista sunroof, and a feature that the seller humorously describes as “perhaps GM’s greatest engineering feat,” which is a tailgate that both folds down and swings outward.

This example shifts, runs, and drives smoothly, with the seller going into great depth about details on the 6-speed conversion. The conversion comes from a company called F2B, which specializes in adapting the B-Body platform to use a T56 manual transmission. Just 1,000 miles before the listing, the seller replaced the clutch and throwout bearing, while the rear suspension benefits from Koni shocks and Air Lift 1000 helper springs. Currently, the rear differential ratio is 2.93, though the seller will include 3.73 gearing and a kit to install it.

Unfortunately, there are a few things this Roadmaster needs to pass inspection and become roadworthy again. The oil sensor and coolant temperature sensor wires both need repair, while the third brake light is dim and the license plate lights come on when pressing the brake pedal. Additionally, the last shop who performed an inspection wired in a switch for the reverse lights, which the seller suggests changing to utilize the T56’s factory reverse switch.

The seller is asking $3,000 for this unique wagon, which seems well worth it in my opinion. While it isn’t cosmetically perfect and does need a few small repairs, this thing is probably a joy to drive, and it’s a bonus that it sports the towing package. Do you think you would take this manual-converted Roadmaster on plenty of road trips, or would you rather have an example that shifts its own gears?


  1. NotSure

    My opinion is that to get the most out of this anchor the manual tranny is a great choice! I too preferred the NYSP Chevy wagon over the low mileage Buick offering. If the electrical gremlins can be banished this would be a nice choice although the price might be a little optimistic. You can always offer, right? Now drop that six-speed into the NYSP wagon and look out!!

    Like 2
  2. 68custom

    Pretty sure the lt-1 wasn’t available until 96, but I agree for three grand you might have a fun car. Defenders a bit of work though.

    Like 2
    • Andre

      LT-1 came in B-Bodies beginning in 1994.

      Like 2
      • Jaak

        For Roadmaster LT1came in 1996

        Like 1
    • JEFF S.

      Buick Roadmaster wagons were offered from 1991 to 1996 model years. The sedan was added in the 1992 model year. I owned a 1994 Roadmaster sedan from 2001 to 2008 and it indeed had the LT-1 engine with 260 HP. I hated doing spark plugs and plug wire replacement, I had to do it twice during the 109,000 miles I drove it,
      Purchased it for $4,000 with 99,000 miles, so I got my monies worth, for sure. It would be much harder to do today with the high prices people are asking. Not worth it to me.

      Like 1
      • Jeff S.

        From Wikipedia

        The standard engine for the 1991 wagon was a 170 hp (127 kW) 5.0-L Chevrolet small-block V8. It was replaced a year later with a 180 hp (134 kW) 5.7-L Chevrolet small-block V8 shared by both wagon and sedan. In 1994 both received a modified version of the advanced 5.7-L sequential point fuel-injection LT1 V8, increasing output to 260 hp (194 kW) and substantially improved performance.

        Derived from the 300 hp LT1 debuted in the 1992 Chevrolet Corvette, the Roadmaster version was shared both with other B-and D platform luxury and performance cars such as the Chevrolet Caprice Police Package and Cadillac Fleetwood and GM’s specialty F-bodied Chevrolet Camaro Z28 and Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. It differed in the use of iron heads for durability, camshafts tuned for increased low-end torque, and intake silencers to decrease drive-by noise (only in engines used in luxury-brand cars).

        Like 3
    • Robert

      Nope. Roadmonster got the LT-1 in 94.

  3. Little_Cars

    Pig in a poke. It’s one of those listings that gets your blood pumping and as you read further it just accumulates too many “needs this” and “I would have done this differently.” I really want to like this car, and price seems okay. But if you’re going to put a floor shifter in a big, proud, luxury wagon why on earth would you have a straight black stick coming up out of the floor with no boot, console, not really even a nacelle around the thing? Hope this finds a willing owner who can find a use for it. I would never have thought there would be rust THROUGH in the floors and spare tire well of a 1994 car if it was well cared for. Then again, this is Pennsylvania.

    Like 8
    • TheMightyQuinn

      If you read the ad the rust is from the inside out from a spilled drink that was never cleaned up, and the hole in the spare tire well is from trying to jack a 4000lb wagon on 20 gauge sheet metal.

      Like 1
      • Robert

        Unlikely. These cars rust away in the rust belt. The spare tire well is one of the first places to go.

        Like 2
      • TheMightyQuinn

        I mean, as unlikely as it may seem, it’s my car and while I was 6000 miles away in Japan when it happened, I tend to trust my mom’s version of events (and her general ineptness when it comes to her “helping” which invariably involves making more work and headache for me). Happy to provide a picture.

        Car is originally from Maryland where rust isn’t as much of a problem, so pretty clean — even in the typical spots. The floorboard is puzzling, but like I said I’m pretty sure it came from the inside out.

        Like 2
      • JEFF S.

        I owned a 1994 Roadmaster sedan from 2001 to 2007. I would not say they are easy to work on, as you stated to Robert. Replacing the plug wires to the front of the motor, feeding them down the right side is a pain. The drivers side spark plugs are a piece of cake, but the passenger side are very hard to do because of the A/C lines and other stuff on that side. . Also, those metal heat covers that go over the spark plugs / wires are a pain. The camshaft water pump drive gear and spline coupler can be a problem, you have to take the timing chain cover off and might as well change to total gear drive. I would not say the any car is easy or cheap to work on. The starter is over $200 and I went through 3 of them in 100,000 miles.

    • Robert

      I have a 92 Roadmaster Estate Wagon which is pre LT-1, however, I bought in Cali so absolutely rust free…though the original and only prior owner seemed to have some trouble with depth perception. Several panels need straightening. Still a nice, solid example.

      • TheMightyQuinn

        Nice! Rust is the only real issue on these cars (and apparently other drivers) as you seem to know. Otherwise, they’re almost literally built like trucks, easy and cheap to work on. Enjoy it!

  4. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking car. While I’m all for a manual shifting transmission install, it’s too bad the gear shifting lever couldn’t have been installed on the steering column, where the automatic lever once was. I would’ve thought it would’ve made for a modern old-school car.

    Like 1
  5. Brock
  6. GCS Member

    Now that one is really nice. Definitely would be worth the effort but also went for $13k.

    Like 3
  7. Joe Haska

    13K or 3K! $10,000 can fix allot of stuff.

    Like 2
  8. scottymac

    “…the seller humorously describes as ‘perhaps GM’s greatest engineering feat,’ which is a tailgate that both folds down and swings outward.” Yes, that is really humorous, but not the “engineering”. Ford debuted the Magic Tailgate in 1966.

  9. Audifan

    Why on earth would someone install a handshaker in grandpa’s old wagon?
    It this had a 2.3 liter 4 cylinder engine it might make sense, but in a big torquee V8. No thank you.

    • Mountainwoodie

      Really! The appeal of these Roadmasters/ Caprices escapes me.

  10. Dan D

    Dang, I wish he had put in a 4-on-the-tree….

    • JEFF S.

      I had a 4 on the tree in a 1951 Jowett Jupiter, you push a button on the end of the shifter level and drop into the 1st gear position to pick up reverse. Sold the car in 1977 for $1,200, today they sell for $75,000 hindsight 20/20 -sucks.

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