In last Tuesday’s essay, I had referenced having played the piano as an activity that, while I wasn’t necessarily intuitive at it, I had the skill of mastery that allowed me to excel and perform with a decent amount of skill. I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of wondering what human traits, thoughts, and behavior are innate to us as individuals, and which are learned. The whole “nature vs. nurture” thing. It’s not my intent to tackle those overall ideas in depth here, but since the model name of this big Buick includes “master” in it, I felt this deserved further exploration within the context of this car.
“Roadmaster”… master of the road. “Master” is a pretty lofty title or description to bestow upon someone or something. Among many other definitions, Merriam-Webster includes the following: “one that conquers”, and “one having control”. In my own mind, I think of anything called a master as being superior in some way. Within this context, I decided to ponder the ways in which this final, rear-drive, B-Body Buick is a master or demonstrates mastery of one thing or another.
It is a master of bigness. Almost 216 inches (215.8″) stretch from front to rear in the largest of Buick sedans offered for sale that year, ten and a half inches longer than the flossier Park Avenue Ultra. Add that to a width of 78.1″ (without mirrors) and a curb weight just shy of 4,100 pounds, and we’re looking at a machine capable of body-slamming anything in its path in an unfortunate incident. Who said big equals unattractive? Certainly not me. I’m not sure how I feel about the term “body positive”, as I think beauty should simply be called beauty, in whatever size it’s packaged.
The ’92 Roadmaster is a master of thirst. With EPA estimates of 15 mpg city / 23 mpg highway, and 18 mpg combined, it’s not subtle at the gas pump, either. Motivation comes from a 5.7 liter V8 with 180 horsepower, with the Roadmaster having been its only recipient in Buick’s lineup that year. I suppose these figures weren’t terrible, considering the 15 /24 (18 combined) EPA ratings of the supercharged, 205-horsepower, 3.8 liter V6-powered flagship Park Avenue Ultra. I won’t even compare the Roadmaster’s fuel efficiency ratings with other cars in its class because that would be like comparing which movie theater popcorn butter is better for your arteries. There would be no point in such an exercise. A car like this needs torque, and this one has 300 lb-ft of it, and is capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds.
It’s a master of looking formal, and also like a Buick. A strong family resemblance is obvious with just one glance at it from any angle. In fact, I’ll posit that this ’92 Roadmaster looked to be more of an accurate, early-’90s interpretation of a mid-’70s LeSabre than was the ’92 LeSabre. I know this car was based on the same B-body architecture introduced with the downsized ’77 LeSabre, but I’m talking more about the stylistic details on this Roadie, including the full-width taillamps. I’ve never been a fan of the fender skirt look, but it somehow works on this black example, in conjunction with its wire wheel covers and slabs of chrome trim. Maybe I’m partial because I grew up in Flint (former home of Buick world headquarters, for almost a century), but the overall look of this car works well to my eyes.
“ROADMASTER TOWING CAPACITY: 5,000 POUNDS.” In all-caps.
The Roadmaster wasn’t a master of massive popularity, mustering up a decent-but-unremarkable 85,300 sales in ’92, the first year for the reborn sedan (the wagon had arrived for ’91), of which 30,400 were base models like this one. It did outsell the Park Avenue, which moved 69,800 units that year. It should be noted that the ’92 Roadmaster undercut the price of the smaller Park Avenue by about $3,400 / 13.5% ($21,900 vs. $25,300). Between 1991 and ’96, Roadmaster sales totaled almost 201,000 units, which was only a fraction of the related Chevy Impala’s number, which sold 202,000 sedans in ’91, alone. (Almost 689,300 full-sized Chevys would be sold between ’91 and ’96 over the same period.) Over the same six model years, 408,300 Park Avenues were sold (over twice as many as the Roadmaster), which indicates a clear preferences Buick Buyers had for the more modern, front-drive luxury sedan.
If the reborn Roadmaster had been allowed another generation, would it have honed its skills at which it was deficient and shown some mastery of them? Would a ’97 Roadmaster have become more European in flavor (like the Oldsmobile Aurora), or gone in a more Japanese, Lexus-like direction? Buick had flirted with a more “international” style of car in the ’80s with their various T-Type models, but the last T-Type Electra had been a ’90, with just under 500 examples finding buyers. No, this Roadmaster had mastered the art of big-time, Buick traditionalism in its brief, shining return to the market for ’91 after a thirty-three year absence. For that, we must give it credit.
Downtown, The Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Thursday, June 22, 2023.
The 1992 Buick Roadmaster brochure pages were courtesy of www.oldcarbrochures.org.