Monday, February 13, 2012

I Purchased One Of My Bucket List Cars

Ah yes, bucket list cars.  The cars on your mind that you have always wanted to own or experience before you die.  Some people gravitate toward the exotic or out of reach variety, while others yearn for vehicles within their grasp financially, but maybe not that readily available, or easy to find.  Other times one does not act due to a lack of funds or storage.  I am a life long car guy, but my tastes are not that exotic.  I like the experience of owning the cool, driveable car that has a unique reason for coolness.  My latest acquisition fits this bill entirely.  If you understand why I got it, I need explain no more.  This post is for the ones looking at me and saying "why in the HELL did you buy THAT?"

I have always been a station wagon lover.  This may have been seeded by the 3 station wagons we owned when I was a child (white 68 Chevy, green 70 Chevy Kingswood and green 72 Kingswood).  It may be seeded by growing up in the 70s, with those great V-8 powered Vista Cruisers, Country Squires and other iconic wagons of the day.  They were all great cars that served a great and practical purpose of hauling people and cargo.  Some did it way more stylishly than others.  I loved the Fords, but always loved the GM wagons styling a little more...especially the prestige Olds and Buicks.  I have owned my share of sedans from this era, but never found a station wagon.  The only proper wagon I have owned for any length of time was an 88 Ford Taurus.  It was leased to the company I worked for and I bought out their lease for less than wholesale.  I had that car and a z-28 Camaro at the same time.  I put them both up for sale and the wagon sold instantly.  I have wanted another wagon since that day.

The stopped making proper station wagons because of the rise in popularity of the minivan, and SUV.  There were a few hold outs, and some new contenders, but nothing compared to the glory of the full size 1970s luxury wagon.  Nothing, that is, except for one lone standout in the crowd, Buick's Roadmaster. (Check out this link:

Roadmaster wagons have caught my eye as long as they have been around, BUT what you need to know about them most importantly is this...they stopped making them in 1996, and the BEST ones ever made were made in 1994, 1995 and 1996.  What makes them so great is the engineering is very modern, but the styling and basic design are decidedly retro 70s.  ALL the benefits of modern technology on an old school car.  To help the matter, they chose to power it with the 5.7 LT-1 V-8 engines that were being used in the Corvettes, with the addition of steel heads instead of aluminum heads.  They produce 260+ hp, 330 lbft of torque!!  The great part is, with the engineering, they still get 17mpg in the city and 20 or more on the highway!!  You can open the rear tailgate down like a truck, or swing it open like a regular car door.  The car seats 8 adults with the rear seat up, fold all the seats down and you have almost 93 cubic feet of storage, over 4 feet wide, meaning you can lay sheets of plywood or sheetrock down flat on the weekend trips to Lowes, without damaging the car.  It has a performance suspension system, which can be accentuated with the Gran Touring option that self levels the car.  All seats are leather, and as comfortable as a Lazy Boy!

Back at my old job, one of our customers, and good friend Ruth had one of these Roadmasters that I considered the epitome...the perfect example of what a Roadmaster wagon should be.  I always loved her car and told her I wanted to buy it if she ever sold it.  Eventually I left the company, and she eventually traded the car in on something else.  We still stay in touch and she always mentions that she was so sorry I did not get her car.  That being said, whenever I thought of wagons, hers was first on my mind.

Lately I have been desiring a bigger car for my off time.  Lori has a Sentra, I have a Toyota truck and you get a couple of people in those small cars and it gets claustrophobic.  I have my van for work and a beater van for chores.  The beater van is about the only option to take Foster for a ride.  All of my cars only seat 2 people.  Loris Sentra seats 4 tightly, but no dogs or packages.  I have been looking at big sedans like Gran Marquis or Crown Vics or Caprices.  I know if I had bought one, I would keep saying "its not a Roadmaster".

I found a Roadmaster for sale, but it was a coupe, not a wagon.  It was a PRE Corvette motor sedan and had a ton of miles on it.  The old man wanted a lot of money for it too...he said he was selling it because he went to a funeral up north and found a Roadmaster wagon for sale.  Grrr.  LOL.

I have been thinking a European wagon would suit me...ideally a VW Passat or a Volvo, since they were bigger, but was thinking of settling for a BMW 3 series or a Jetta.  Just keeping an open mind.  I found a BMW that came close and was really thinking about making an offer on it.  I went to my mechanic for an oil change in the van, and ran my thoughts by him to see if there were any maintenance nightmares involved with BMWs.  I mentioned to him that if I had my druthers, I'd "druther" have a Roadmaster from 94-96.  He said his neighbor had one and would call me with the info.

My friend called me that night and gave me the name of a fellow who indeed, had a 94 wagon for sale.  I was excited to see it in white, in his driveway.  The downside was, the wheels were not pleasing, the interior was a little rougher than I wanted and the engine had been molested a little but seemed all good except the water pump.  It needed window regulators, an ac compressor and other stuff....not ready to drive, but more like a project.  He had only 112k miles on it and wanted $2800 which was a fair enough price.  I stewed on it a little and looked to see what else was on the internet.

My buddy turned me on to an Ebay auction where a mint 94 with 89k was at 2300 dollars.  I watched the bidding and committed to $4500, but with car being in South Carolina, was not gambling more than that sight unseen.  The guy had Roadmaster history and a 100% positive rating, so odds were good it would be ok.

Meanwhile, I went to Craigslist to list some give away items, and found an ad that had ONLY been there a couple of hours that said simply "95 Roadmaster, new tires needs nothing $2900".  I contacted the guy 4 times or so, then waited to be contacted.  He was off line all weekend and called me 830 Monday morning.  He told me where he worked and said to come see the car anytime.  I boogied right over.

I found myself at a high end luxury car dealership.  The fellow I met was the mechanic there.  I had a vibe at first that he may have been getting cars cheap and flipping them on Craigslist...a popular way to sell junky cars on their last legs.  Imagine my surprise at seeing a car sitting in the parking lot that looked EXACTLY the same as Ruth's car that I coveted!  Goldish Beige paint, Tan leather interior, great condition.  I immediately got suspicious and started my investigation...looking at the car on its own merits.  Everything seemed to check damage, original car, no signs of accidents, repair or water damage, original glass, all options correct, original we go on a test drive.  All works correctly, except the horn.  I offered him $2500 if he fixed the horn, he took 26.  Left the car with him to fix and went to lunch, came back and used his tag to stash the car in Holly Hill.  With the title, checked out the history and indeed, this was an original owner car.  The original owner bought it at age 72 and is now 87 and no longer driving.  The mechanic I dealt with had been doing the service on the car for years and also printed out all the service records for me!!!  I could not BELIEVE what I had stumbled upon.  I titled the car the next day and drove it home and went through it stem to stern.  Other than a little dirt here and there, all was as it should be.   I spent Saturday scrubbing, polishing, carpet cleaning and dressing the interior panels while looking for problems.  Car checks out fine.  It has plenty of power as well!!  Runs like a brand new car.

The ebay auction I was involved with closed.  That 94 sold for $6200.   There is another one in Palm Bay for 6k.  These cars, clean are going up in value as they have become one of the cars from the 90s that are collectible.  People seek these wagons out daily.  There are forums online for owners to share info and stories about them.  The clean ones with low mileage are becoming rare.  People rave that they are getting 200-400 thousand miles out of them with no real issues.  The ones that are not wrecked are being driven, or worse, chopped up and customized.  The internet is full of stories of people paying top dollar for high mileage wagons to customize.  I just watched a video of a guy who was PLEASED to have paid 4300 dollars for a wagon with 193k miles.  His quote was "Jesus, thank you for finally putting a good car in front of me".   I challenge any reader here to find a bad review or a disgruntled owner of a 94/95 or 96 Roadmaster Estate.

My friends will look at this and either say "WHY??" or look at it and beam and ask where in the heck I found it.  LOL!!  Either way, I see the value in this car, both emotionally and financially.  It takes me back to being a kid again...I still picture it as an old Vista Cruiser or Skylark wagon from the 70s, with modern conveniences added.  It has been a long time since I have been emotionally attached to a car, and this one did it!   I am just so pleased about finding this, let alone the fact that it was at a very reasonable price and the car has extremely low mileage!  This is a car that I will be owning for many years.



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