Junkyard Outtake: Roadmaster Revival


What would Friday be without a Junkyard Outtake? Less fun for you, I suspect – and less work for me! But no matter the weather, and whatever the job, the Junkyard Outtake still keeps plowin’ along.

This week it’s a double whammy – we’re junking a Chevy pickup, hunting down parts for this Buick wagon… and using both as an excuse to gawk at any interesting cars we find along the way. (Don’t worry, it’ll all start making sense after the jump.)


The saga began when my brother limped his Chevy pickup into the garage one evening, complaining of gearbox troubles. Apparently he was having a hard time getting the truck moving, and keeping it in gear. Worse, I immediately noticed that his clutch pedal was dropping to the floor when I pressed it – not a good sign. (He claimed it was “sometimes there, sometimes not” on the trip over, but believed that wasn’t the only issue.)

As you can see, there was already one truck in the garage – it being in the middle of a transmission swap. The last thing I needed was another job to take on. But I wasn’t about to turn my brother away, so the brown truck was placed on hold.

We decided to start with the obvious. After finding the hydraulic clutch reservoir low, I suggested we begin by bleeding the clutch system and looking for leaks. But no amount of pumping was generating any pressure. After a few more checks, it was clear that the master cylinder was bad.

I took a look at my inventory, and determined that there were two used ’88-’98 clutch masters in the attic. Neither were listed as being a direct match, but with all the auto parts stores closed for the night, we decided to go up and check anyways. Turned out that both were indeed wrong.

With no other options left, I gave him a ride home, and promised to return the next morning.

Come day two, we had managed to find a new clutch master. He and Dad got it most of the way installed while I was out tending to customers. After that, we finished it up and I took the truck out for a quick road test.


Two major problems immediately came to light: one, third gear was very “sloppy” (this was the gear which it had been claimed to be “popping out” of more and more often);  and two, the clutch was slipping under anything more than gentle acceleration. So it would need a clutch, and the gearbox was also iffy.

How did he manage to have so many problems simultaneously, and still manage to drive it in? Even now I’m not sure. The third gear issue had supposedly been there since he’d owned it; the clutch damage likely happened a few days prior, when he’d gotten the truck stuck and did a whole lot of spinning to get out. And the hydraulic issue popping up at the same time? That must just have been bad luck.

Upon returning to the garage and delivering the verdict, the obvious question came: “what next?”

I explained that, given the truck’s rust issues (lack of cab corners, rear wheel arches, and a frame that had been patched in no less than three places), it was probably time to call it quits. He’d only paid $500 for it, and had gotten four months’ worth of use out of it, so junking the truck would actually put him ahead.

But this left him with a bit of a dilemma. He wasn’t about to drive his beloved Firebird in the snow and salt, and this was his only winter beater. How would he get to work?

Seeing no better options for him, I offered to buy the truck for its parts value, and to help him find a new beater.


After a day and a half of searching craigslist, we finally found a candidate: this 1993 Roadmaster wagon. It had a 350, decent tires, ran and drove – and was priced well below the truck’s scrap value. So we grabbed it.

Trouble was, it had no brakes. No biggie, I figured… let’s get it home and replace the rusted rear brake line. After that, it’ll be smooth sailing. Right?

Wrong. The rear brake line was indeed crumble-in-your-hand rusty, but that wasn’t the only thing leaking. Once we began to build pressure, I noticed another leak coming from the master cylinder itself.

A quick search of the computerized yards turned up nothing, and the local auto parts stores all told me it was a special order part. But we weren’t about to give up that easily.


Remembering a same-year Roadmaster I’d seen at the U-Pull days earlier, we decided to make the 30 mile trek.


But we’d been beaten to the punch. What now?

Though I’ve been dealing with the owner of the “back forty” yard for decades, I’ve never wanted to disturb him during the winter – that’s his personal time. But my brother had just spent some time with him socially, so he had no problem giving him a buzz to see if he’d open the gate for us.

As we arrived at the yard, the owner walked up to greet us. “You’re f***ing crazy,” he exclaimed with a big smile. “Nothing back there is plowed.”


And indeed, nothing was. I got to trudge back through the knee-deep snow, all the way to the nearest correct B-body. I got to shovel around it, using the emergency shovel I carry in the Suburban. I got to remove the snow from the hood. And I got to trip over some object under the snow, and land face-first in all that powder… all while the sun went down. Good times!


But all that work was not in vain. I knew this car would have the part we needed – and after a few minutes, I was back in the truck with master cylinder in hand.

Upon returning to the garage, we immediately installed the new part, and began to bleed the brakes again. Everything went great… until the front right line burst. Another trip to the auto parts store, another hour on the garage floor, and we were finally ready for a test drive.


Fortunately for us, no other issues presented themselves. The car drove like a dream. I was finally free of this “quick” project, and my brother was finally free to drive himself home.


Being someone who was less than excited to own a two-ton station wagon with faux wood paneling, my brother decided to dress his new ride up a bit. Most of the changes were fairly subtle – but some were more noticeable than others.

After a few weeks, my brother has gone from being embarrassed of his new wheels, to embracing the car’s uniqueness. And why not? This wagon brings the party wherever it goes.


And now for something completely different! Remember that G-body Grand Prix next to our parts donor? Here it is, during less snowy weather.

While we’re at it, let’s take a look at some other vehicles in that area of the yard.


This red Firebird is typical of most F-bodies in this yard: picked over, spent, and rusty.


The single Cragar SS on back is kept in my mental inventory, in case I ever happen upon another single to pair it up with.


This ’71 or ’72 El Camino is a sad sight. I’ve always wished it had been straighter – but if it were, chances are I wouldn’t have been the first in line to buy it.


Nothing but small parts left on this one.


Ooh, a Nova Custom! I’ll take mine without the front-end “customization”.


You don’t see this early G-body Regal nose too often. The single headlights were only found on 1978s and ’79s.


One more, you say? Alright… how about this late ’70s Caprice coupe?


The unique beveled glass tells us it must be a 1977, ’78, or ’79.


And the red velour interior tells us that those windows have been down for way too long.


What’s coming up in next week’s Junkyard Outtake? More junkyard cars, of course. But there’ll be an even bigger surprise on Wednesday, as the first official CC Project Car makes its debut! Stay tuned…