• The Buick Roadmaster is a throwback to a time when big wagons ruled the roads.
• Thanks to an LS3 V-8 crate engine, this wagon went from old-man spec to Grandpa, Destroyer of Tires.
• This auction ends on Sunday, February 19.
The Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon was born old. When it was introduced in 1991, it was already an anachronism. The sun was setting on these wood-paneled ocean liners on wheels, and this Buick was a body-on-frame relic of family transportation from the days before the advent of the minivan, the popularization of the SUV, and the rise of the modern crossover . And yet these Roadmasters are enjoying a newfound popularity today, especially when set up like this example, up for auction on Bring a Trailer—which, as Car and Driver, is part of Hearst Autos. This gigantic wagon looks stock, right down to its whitewall tires. It is not. Boy, isn’t it.
What photographer and Car and Driver contributor James Lipman created here is an M80 in a Werther’s Original case. Under the aircraft carrier-sized hood of this white whale is a 6.2-liter LS3 E-Rod Chevrolet crate engine. Mated to an upgraded four-speed automatic transmission, the V-8 is factory-rated at 430 horsepower and 424 pound-feet of torque. If you listen closely, you can hear the standard 225-series 15-inch rear tires squealing in anticipatory dread.
Turning Roadmaster wagons into hot rods is an entire subculture, one that Car and Driver previously investigated, including this very example. There are certainly wilder builds out there, but Lipman says his dream was to create a Roadmaster that looked factory spec but packed the power of a crate V-8. The engine upgrade nearly doubles the 180 horsepower of the Roadmaster’s standard L05 V-8. Upgrading both the motor and a more modern four-speed automatic to handle the extra output was relatively straightforward, as GM cars of this era are fairly modular.
The rest of the wagon is standard edition, with recliner-soft beige leather interior, a sunroof and a rear seat in the third row. A slightly lowered front suspension is the only clue to this Buick’s hidden talents—that and the burly exhaust note. There are blemishes here and there throughout, but overall it’s a very well-preserved piece of one-finger steering American station wagon history. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting, if old Norman came up with a piece called Sick Wagon Burnouts.
After achieving his goal and enjoying driving this Roadmaster around, Lipman says it’s now time to move on to the next project. As of this writing, the bid stands at $22,500. As it sits, this sturdy Roadmaster needs little other than a new home. But you might want to budget for extra tires.