CC Capsule: 1993 Buick Roadmaster Estate – The Real Ken Kesey-mobile

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Ken Kesey, author of ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’, the original Merry Prankster, and driving force behind the LSD ‘Acid Tests’ and the epic cross-country bus trip to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York in the original hippie bus “Further” (or “Furthur”) is an icon of the counter-culture movement that swept the nation starting with that 1964 bus trip. What’s often not known about Ken is that he grew up in Springfield, Oregon (across the river from Eugene), was a champion high school wrestler, was married until his death to the same woman, and could never quite shake his all-American roots and love for all things Americana. That obviously applied to his choice of car.

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I used to see Ken occasionally tooling around town in this Buick Roadmaster Estate wearing his trademark tie-die shirts; the first time, I had a momentary mental hiccup, followed by an Aha! moment. Of course; it makes perfect sense. And I suddenly couldn’t see him in anything else.

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I regretted not getting a shot of him in it before he died in 2001, but here is his former car. Or at least I have every reason to assume it is; it’s the same as I remember it, and its license plate ‘KEZ-Y 1’ strongly supports that, as well as the guy who lives in the house behind it, who looks very much like an aged Merry Prankster. Of course, it could just be a prank, but then that would be appropriate too.

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I did an article on Further II (sometimes spelled ‘Furthur’) here a while back. This 1947 International is something of a reproduction of the original, and makes local appearances.

Furthur Ken

Here’s Ken with the original Further, where it sat for decades in the woods on the Kesey farm outside Eugene. it’s been pulled out of the swamp, but is still awaiting funds ($300k) for a complete restoration.

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I had assumed this old Roadmaster wagon was long gone, but someone has obviously decided it was worth hanging on to. Well, it’s not too hard to keep one of these going for a while; ask CC COALer jerseyfred, who wrote up his (positive) experiences with his ’93 here.

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I don’t know if this was added later or not. And I was kind of hoping this car was originally bought at Springfield Buick, one of the oldest and last stand-alone Buick dealers in the country. Maybe Ken liked to buy used.

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The Buick’s Vista roof over the second seat bulges up, and creates a neat little fairing for the luggage rack.

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Of course I couldn’t help notice the Mercedes 300TD W124 wagon in the driveway. In fact, I can’t ever not notice these, as I’m still utterly in love with them. If i had bought a wagon instead of a sedan back in 1985, I’d probably still be driving it. Or its replacement. This one has had a nasty encounter.

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It’s been sitting here for quite a while now. I wonder if it’s too damaged to fix, but the owner can’t stop thinking about trying. I still can’t believe how good these look for a car that was designed in the early 80s.

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Given that this generation Mercedes came out six years before these Buicks, the contrast of its sleek and understated styling to the gaudy and fussy Buick is stark. But there was no way Ken Kesey was going to be seen driving a Mercedes.


He was a loyal American, if a bit irreverent.


Related reading at CC:

CC 1947 International School Bus “Further”: Ken Kesey’s Merry Prankster-Mobile   PN

COAL: 1993 Buick Roadmaster – The Not-So-Daily Driver  by JerseyFred