I’m well into my forties and I still, occasionally, like to join friends for a night out dancing. No one will ever accuse me of being the best dancer these days, but when I flop around on the dance floor, I have been known to do so with great gusto. I will probably be (if I’m not already) that embarrassing uncle who wants to “hang” with my young nieces and nephews in about ten years from now. I’m an old soul who also has a youthful spirit, if that makes sense at all. In my 20s starting in the mid-’90s, I had listened to a lot of house and electronica, and back then and for a brief, shining moment, I felt like I was one of the better movers on the floor. (In my recollection, anyway.)
How does any of this relate to the reborn, final-generation of Buick Roadmaster, the sedan configuration of which had been reintroduced for model year ’92? I’ll get to that. The downsized B-Bodies from GM seem to be perennial favorites and topics of discussion here at Curbside Classic, and for good reason. The General’s first attempt at downsizing popular and well-liked models was a hands-down success, with those cars being thoroughly modern and achieving most (if not all) of their intended goals to increase efficiency and maneuverability without sacrificing space, utility, quality or class.
In the late ’70s, the “B” platform was, from nearly all accounts I’ve read (I was in diapers at the time), a coup in all positive connotations of that word – the cars that sent Ford and Chrysler scrambling to respond. The new B’s (and C’s) were the new, full-size benchmarks, the new paradigm, the trendsetters, the cool adults in the joint.
Fast-forward about fourteen years, and a new, rounded Roadmaster based on this same platform appeared in Buick showrooms. “‘Roadmaster’…wasn’t that a car from, like, the ’50s?” was what seemed to echo among my teenage peers who cared even a little bit about cars. My friend, Aree’s mom had bought a new one, and Aree was definitely not a fan, referring to it as “that big car” with genuine, disaffected disdain. “Big” it was, exceeding all significant external dimensions of Buick’s concurrent flagship sedan, the Park Avenue Ultra, in every direction.
The B-platform, once the cool, modern “grownup”, now seemed like a total anachronism. Trends and fashions seem to be revisited these days in even shorter cycles than I remember (it no longer seems like a whole twenty years has to pass before things come back into vogue), but for context and in my eyes, the return of the Roadmaster, looking like it did in mid-year ’91, was like your once-fashionable aunt continuing to rock her pocket-stitched Chic jeans and feathered Farrah-hair far into the ’80s like those things were still the epitome of female finery.
The Roadmaster Estate wagon returned first, for ’91, joined midyear by the sedan for model year ’92. I’m unsure about the model year of this example, but it lacks the updated bodyside moldings and revised side view mirrors of the 1995 and ’96 models. In ’92, only about $1,000 separated the starting prices of the base-model Park Avenue and the upmarket Roadmaster Limited ($25,300 versus $24,200). Sales of each, respective model weren’t that far apart: about 57,500 of the former against 43,500 of the latter. I can imagine that many in the older buying demographic of these cars were swayed by the “more car for the money” proposition the Roadmaster offered.
Let’s face it… some cultural icons will never age like the rest of us, but we can’t all be Bono or Madonna. And while I will never deliberately embarrass my nephews and nieces (or myself) by dusting off my old raver-wear navy blue jumpsuit, ball-chain choker and bleached-blond hair (I won’t post a picture, so don’t ask), there’s no guarantee that I won’t attempt, ten years into the future, to try to make as potentially embarrassing a throwback fashion statement as the Roadmaster seemed to when I was on the cusp of young adulthood. I hope that if the spirit moves me and I decide to bust out some baggy, JNCO jeans with the hems cut off and frayed, the younger Dennises will simply smile with acceptance and nostalgia as this Roadmaster caused me to do last fall.
Garfield Park, Chicago, Illinois.
Thursday, November 8, 2018.