Under The Hood

‘Rain Man’ 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible cruises to the auction block

‘Rain Man’ 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible movie car offered by Heritage Auctions

One of two used in the 1988 Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman film; at auction in Dallas, Dec. 14

DALLAS – One of two iconic 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible coupes used in the acclaimed 1988 United Artists film “Rain Man,” starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, and directed by Barry Levinson, is expected by Heritage Auctions to bring more than $80,000 when it crosses the block on Dec. 14 as part of an Entertainment & Music Memorabilia auction. However, the OCW staff expects it to bring well into six figures.

Partly due to the film, and partly due to their silky-smooth beauty, quality and durability, 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertibles have been hot since the yellow Roadmasters co-starred in “Rain Man.” As an original example,  we believe the Roadmaster to cross the block is surely able to set a new record, even though it’s presumably in No. 3 condition, not wearing a fresh No. 1 restoration.

“This car is a crucial character in the film,” said Margaret Barrett, Director of Entertainment & Music Memorabilia at Heritage. “The plot essentially revolves around this beautiful vehicle, making it more than just a piece of screen-used memorabilia. It’s the catalyst for the entire movie – a movie for which Hoffman also won and Academy Award®.”

Rain Man famously tells the story of Charlie Babbitt, a selfish yuppie of questionable ethics played expertly by Cruise, who learns that his estranged father has died, bequeathing his entire fortune to his other son, Raymond, an autistic savant brilliantly portrayed by Hoffman. All that Cruise’s character gets from his father are his prized rosebushes and the car.

“Cruise’s Charlie Babbitt is a high-end car salesman and the 1949 Buick figures large in his life as the one car he never got to drive as he was forbidden from it by his father,” said Barrett. “Once he and Hoffman connect, they set off on a cross-country adventure in the car, which is in virtually every scene, and the rest is Hollywood history.”

The Roadmaster is a yellow two-door convertible with a beige exterior and a red leather interior and is powered by the combination of the Fireball Straight 8 of 320 cubic inches and the two-speed Dynaflow automatic transmission. This particular movie car is apparently modified with a rear suspension made to hold the extra weight of the camera equipment plus the cameraman when he had to shoot while sitting in the trunk.

“For a true Hollywood collector or film buff,” said Barrett, “this is a plum prize – one of the great screen-featured automobiles from the 1980s from one of the best films of the decade.”

Related Resources

Get complete Buick prices and values in “Collector Car Price Guide

Vintage Buick pictures appear in “Buick 1946-1960 Photo Archive


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