'96 Buick Roadmaster

Discussion in 'General Station Wagon Discussions' started by Professor, Aug 3, 2011.

  1. Professor

    Professor Well-Known Member

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    Greetings folks.

    I am considering the purchase of a '96 Roadmaster wagon. It has fairly low mileage at 75k. It comes pretty much with all the bells and whistles and is a 1 owner car. I've looked around and the prices are up and down like a roller coaster.

    I was possibly thinking of using it to tow a camper.

    Anyone have any advice on the good and bad points about these wagons?

    Also, anyone have any insight on a reasonable price?

    Thanks in advance.
     
  2. HillbillyHipster

    HillbillyHipster Well-Known Member

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    If you want to tow a camper,make sure it has the factory tow package on it. It will make it easier on the wagon. Some trim pieces may be difficult to find,but nothing too bad. I just got me one a couple of months ago myself that had 75K on it. Mine wasn't garage kept though and it shows....My dashpad is discolored,some paint damage etc. I paid around $3,000.00 for it basically because of the miles. If this is in really nice shape go on ahead and pay a little more for it. I've now been tracking down bits and pieces which I wouldn't have had to worry about if I had snagged a garage kept creampuff...
     
  3. 72KingswoodEstate

    72KingswoodEstate Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, prices for these cars are all over the place... just like its sister, the Cadillac Fleetwood (93-96), whose prices have skyrocketed over the past year or so... despite soaring fuel prices.... more and more I see prices soaring.
     
  4. 81X11

    81X11 Well-Known Member

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    Ok here's a LONG reply for you:

    These are wonderful cars and you'll love it. They can do anything, really. They tow, you can haul tons of stuff and people, they ride like a Cadillac....a FAST Cadillac, and they actually get good gas mileage on the highway. About the only thing I don't like on my Roady compared to my wife's much newer Suburban is the lack of rear a/c in the wagon. If it had rear air, I'd sell the Suburban!

    In the final years (94-96), there are two models, the Base and the Limited. Limited models have different seats with power recliners, heat and lumbar air bladders, the base Roadys don't. Some people like the look of the base seats better, (Limited's look flat) but the Limited's give better back support. In 95 the stereo systems were updated and are much better, and 96 models basically just had small trim changes. Oh 96 is the only model with OBD-II diagnostics, a plus or minus depending on who you ask.

    I can nit-pick the cars to death and scare you but the bottom line is these were based on Caprice's designed for Police/Taxi/Service use, and they will easily go 300K miles with proper care. They are really overbuilt and tough vehicles.

    Also, with the 94-96 models, it's basically a FANCY Impala SS with a lot more room! Stiffen up the suspension a bit and change the rear gears and it IS an Impala SS in a wagon body.

    If you want the "watch for" list, I can give you a quick one:

    Drivetrain:
    Engine is an LT1, basically a Vette engine but with iron heads and a slightly different cam for a smoother idle and to let it run on regular unleaded, not Premium like the Vette's require. Change the oil, don't beat on it, and they'll run forever. All LT1's also came from the factory with true dual exhaust. Nice.

    -The LT1's use OptiSpark distributors, which mount under the water pump. They are a bear to change when they fail, you have to take everything off the front of the engine, and the plug wires are also hard to get at, it's all down low. DO NOT spray water on the front of the engine when detailing it, and if you ever notice the water pump leaking change it fast or it will destroy the OptiSpark in no time.

    -Transmission is the 4L60E. They are good but if you tow use 3rd gear and like any transmission with 100K miles if you beat on it, it's going to go. I'd see if he's had it serviced and if not change the fluid and filter. On the upside they are still common and replacements are cheap. I've towed cars on a tow dolley, I have motorcycles I town on a trailer, and also a 17-foot ski boat. The Roady tows them all just fine.

    - These have rear load-leveling air shocks, and they usually leak over time. Most people replace them with regular shocks and intall variable-rate coil springs or air bags in the stock springs. One of the first mods most people do is the shocks, these cars ride SOFT and good shocks make a huge improvement.

    Interior:
    -DO NOT SLAM THE DOORS on 94-96 models. The lower door panels on the 94-96 are made of hard plastic and are prone to cracks, especially around the handles and arm rests. Used replacement parts are getting hard to find now.

    -The 94-96 steering wheel is half leather and half plastic, and the color on the plastic part tends to wear and show the black under it. They can be re-dyed with SEM paint. The 91-93 models were all leather, but the horn buttons tend to pop off. Ha!

    -Base model Roadys have manual seat recliners, but Limiteds are power, and the power mechanisms jam. You can take the seat out and lubricate it, and in most cases bring them back to life, but never lift you body up with the recliner motor...you'll burn it up fast. Also it's common to see a small tear where the recline and heat controls mount on the side if the seat on Limiteds.

    Body:
    - These cars have issues with the power window rollers. It's actually a plastic slider, and they all fail sooner or later. If you look on this or the GM Longroof forum it tells you how to fix them. The parts are cheap, it just takes a little labor and you have to be careful removing the door panels so you don't crack them.

    - RUST....these cars DO rust, especially in the back. You are way ahead of the game buying a southern car, but it would be a good idea to undercoat the car once it comes north, especially if you plan to use it in the winter. Generally they rust behind the rear wheels in the lower 1/4 area, in the areas below the doors, and the wheel-wells. The rear pop-out quarter windows by the 3rd seat can leak, and also the screws holding the roof-rack on, letting water into the lower cargo area under the spare tire and storage box on the other side. When looking at a used wagon, pull the trim and see if the spare tire well has water in it. It's also common to see rust on the pillars, especially the rears. Keep the car waxed. My '96 Roady wagon has been in Texas since new, and has no rust at all, but some of the pics from folks up north are scary.

    Like any older car, you're going to have some issues, but overall these are outstanding cars, and the folks on this forum and the GM Longroof forum are glad to help with advice or parts. All you have to do is ask.

    Keep in mind there were tons of mods and upgrades made for the 94-96 Impala SS and almost all will work on these, it's the same car mechanically. Up to your desire and your wallet. Just look around on the forum.

    The 91-93 TBI cars are still nice and can be had for less money, and they are VERY reliable and solid cars, and cheap and easy to work on. Also, the 91-93 cars have full gauges, including a tach, and the LT1 cars only got temp, fuel, and speedo...thanks GM...

    The 91 models were all just 5.0 305's, but the 92-93 models got the 5.7 350, which is a good strong engine, but you're missing out on about 100hp and A LOT of things that got upgraded in 1994 when the LT1 was installed and the interiors were updated.

    I paid $3700 for my 96 LT1 car with 71K miles on it. I put Impala wheels on it, and did a lot of detail work, but that's half the fun. I just went over 100K miles and the car has been a joy to own.

    If you want a TBI car, 91-93, plan to pay no more than $3K. For a good LT1 car look at around $3k-5K. The excellent low-mile 95-96 cars can go up to $10K, but above 75K the $3-5 range is average.

    If you're paying over $3K, you WANT an LT1 car. I've driven both and the Corvette engine makes the car SO MUCH more fun.

    I totally love my wagon, drive it daily, and put it in local car shows on the weekends. It gets more looks than my T-top Cutlass. Ha! That's my 2-cents!

    If you have other questions just let me know. Take care and good luck!

    -Mike

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  5. 81X11

    81X11 Well-Known Member

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    Here is a before and after for you:

    Before - As Found:
    [​IMG]
    Today:
    [​IMG]
    Before:
    [​IMG]
    After:
    [​IMG]

    Just find the cleanest and lowest-mile wagon you can, and go from there. My car was not all that pretty when I bought it, but it had zero rust and 71K miles, so it was a good place to start.

    Good Luck with your search!

    -Mike
     
  6. mp775

    mp775 Active Member

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    81x11 - Thanks for directing me here from the other thread. Funny, I was just thinking about putting GS badges on my mythical Roadmaster this morning, since everyone else does the Impala SS thing; guess I'm not as original as I thought :)

    Now that I know the differences between the base and Limited on the Buicks, what about the Olds and Chevrolet variants?
     
  7. 81X11

    81X11 Well-Known Member

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    The Olds is the most rare of these cars. It was only built in 1991-92. Of those, the 92 is generally more sought after, since the 350 engine came out to replace the 305.

    The Olds, as far as content, is fancier than the Caprice but not as fancy as the Roadmaster. It did get the glass "Vista" roof over the 2nd row of seats just like the Buicks had. Leather seats were optional, the Olds had full gauges with a tach, and a slightly different style Roadmaster dash with less wood and a storage pocket on the passenger side above the glove box. I personally love the grill design on the Olds models. Other than the engines the main difference between the 91-92 models is some exterior trim. Oh and the 91-92 Olds was not offered with woodgrain exterior trim.

    As for the Caprice models, they ran from 91-96, and you can find everything from super-stripped rubber-floor and vinyl seat service/work wagons to full-boat cloth-seat/full carpeted, exterior woodgrain-covered Caprice Classic Estate wagons.

    The Caprice didn't change all that much over the years. They used the same style door panels the entire run, with just trim changes. The Caprice wagons did not have the "Vista" glass roof over the 2nd row of seats.

    Like the Roady, in 1994 the Caprice wagons got the LT1 350, and they also got an upgraded dashboard with a digital speedo and passenger air bag in 94. Stereos improved in 1995, but not as much as in the Roady.

    From what I've been told, leather seats were never an option on the Caprice wagons, but the "Classic" level cloth seats were nice and the "Classic" trim also added door pull straps to the door panels.

    One of the more sought-after Caprice's are the police-patrol models. These are HARD to find now, but everything is heavy-duty on them and they make a great starting point for a project car.

    I'm sure there is tons more info out there, and personally I know a lot more about the Roady than the Chevy or Olds, but I do like them all.

    I will say if GM had kept the Olds model around and put the LT1 in it, that's the car I'd have now. I love Oldsmobiles, have an 88 Cutlass T-top and had an 89 Custom Cruiser (boxy) wagon, and I really like the Olds style and mix of fancier Chevy but not full-lux Buick.

    Good luck on the search!

    -Mike
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011
  8. Professor

    Professor Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the information and photos 81 x 11. Your wagon looks great. This is the one I'm looking at.
     

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  9. Professor

    Professor Well-Known Member

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    Here's one of the engine.
     

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  10. TX Wagon

    TX Wagon New Member

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    Nice Roadmaster GS! I really dig the GS emblems and Impala wheels with those center caps. Did you just put in the Corvette valve covers or is that actually an LT1 out of a C4?
     
  11. Ancient 1

    Ancient 1 New Member

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    That is a nice looking wagon, but is not a tow pack car id that is what you are looking for.
     
  12. silverfox

    silverfox New Member

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    Took the words right out of my mouth, Ancient.:D You are right...it's not a tow packaged car.
     
  13. Professor

    Professor Well-Known Member

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    How can you tell the difference? I'm only going by what the guy told me. He said his father ordered the tow package, but didn't put a hitch on it.
     
  14. silverfox

    silverfox New Member

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    Well....if he has a tow package then he converted it to two electric fans rather than one mechanical and one electric. See how it's flat across the top just behind the radiator? Tow packs with the mechanical fans have a big hump of a fan shroud there for the mechanical fan. I will show you pix but I have to leave now. Be back later.
     
  15. 81X11

    81X11 Well-Known Member

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    The tow package included an offset mechanical belt-driven fan and tall black plastic fan shroud in place of one of the electric fans. Mine has the tow pack, see pic below:

    [​IMG]


    It also added good-sized oil and transmission coolers, and the best change, moved the rear axle from open to a posi-traction (Limited Slip) and moved the axle ratio from around a 2.5 to a 3.93, which also makes the car quicker off the line. The load-leveling rear air shocks optional on the base car came standard with the tow pack as well.

    That being said, and as mentioned, some people remove the mechanical fan and replace it with an electric, which is less pull on the engine, quieter, and makes working on the front of the motor a LOT easier. But in your engine pic I'm not seeing the extra coolers in front of the condensor, so I agree, that's not a tow pack car.

    It's not to say you CAN'T tow with it. It still is a big strong V8-Rear Drive car. Just remember tow in 3rd gear. It's also not hard to add an aftermarket external tranmission cooler, which is a good idea.

    Many of the tow pack options were offered outright, so you may have the lower-geared rear axle and the air shocks on that car. A dead give-away is to see if you have a Limited Slip tag on one of the axle cover bolts.

    That's a VERY pretty car by the way. I think your going to love it. Oh and if you have the really high rear-axle you'll be amazed at your highway mileage with the cruise control set.

    -Mike
     

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