Car of the Week: 1955 Buick Roadmaster

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By Brian Earnest

When Gerry Cheshire finally parted with his 1936 Buick Victoria, there was a pretty sizeable void left in his life, and his garage. He and his wife Ruth knew right away that they needed another toy to play with, and not just any car would do.

And once the right car crossed Gerry’s path, he knew it immediately. If his stunning red-and-white 1955 Buick Roadmaster hardtop isn’t the quintessential 1950s cruiser, it’s at least in the conversation. It’s a car that seemingly is the best of all worlds — a beautiful, stylish great-driving car that is certainly big enough to be a comfortable highway machine, yet with only two doors and lots of shiny trim it is anything but a boring family hauler.

There are a lot of fans 1950s Buicks in the collector car universe, and for good reason. There is a lot to like.

“We went to the Buicks because we are partial to the Buicks,” Gerry said. But he wasn’t really interested in a fixer-upper or restoration candidate. “The new car had to be a ‘turn key’ car for us.”

Not long after they started looking around for a new ride, the Cheshires spotted the Buick for sale on eBay. “The bidding was out of sight, but it didn’t meet its reserve,” Gerry said. “So the owners took it off.”

As luck would have it, the car was located not far from the Cheshires’ home in St. Clair Shores, Mich. They made arrangements to go look at it, and “I knew the moment it came into view that it was mine,” Gerry said. “It is all red and white with a lot of big shiny chrome and stainless steel. I realized that it was a body-off restoration with all the chrome and stainless restored.

“I went back the next day with wife and checkbook in hand. The following day it was delivered to us in a covered trailer, because it was January and it had just snowed.”

That was about 10 years ago, and at the time the Buick had 63,000 miles on its odometer. Since then the Cheshires have added a couple of thousands rounds, many coming on a variety of cruises and tours. The car also had the distinction of being shown at the Meadowbrook Concours. “We belong to several car clubs and are very active in them,” Gerry said. “Most all of our friends are vintage car owners. We could go out every night with the cars.”

Not that it necessarily needed it, but the Roadmaster got some gussying up for the 1955 model year. The Roadmaster, also known as the Series 70, again occupied the top rung on Buick’s three-level menu, one step ahead of the Century and two levels up from the Special. It could be ordered as a hardtop coupe, convertible coupe or four-door sedan, with the big four-doors (31,717 made) barely edging out the hardtops (28,071) in sales for the model year.

On the outside, the ’55s were identified by their broad, bright lower fender trim and gold deck script and hood ornament. There were bars on the wheelcovers and a gold-accented grille. The four trademark ventiports were found on the front fenders (the Century also had four). The windshield pillars in front were vertical, and the headlamps were grouped together with the parking lamps and integrated into the fenders.

Among the standard features on the Roadmasters were Vairable-pitch Dynaflow, power steering, back-up lights, brake warning lights, electric clock, windshield washer, custom wheelcovers and plush foam seat cushions.

The interiors were plusher and could be ordered in a variety of colors and fabrics. Popular options included two-tone paint, air-conditioning, whitewall tires, Selectronic radio (with foot switch), outside rearview mirrors, Easy-Eye glass, deluxe floor mats, power antennas and 40-spoke wire wheels.

The only engine available was the carryover four-barrel 332-cid/236-hp “Fireball V-8.” Mated to the Dyanflow automatic, it had a big job lugging around the fancy Roadmasters, which tipped the scales at 4,270 lbs. for the hardtop and a beefy 4,415 lbs. for the ragtop.

The Cheshires’ Buick certainly didn’t need much work cosmetically, but Gerry found a few parts that needed updating and replacing to help its ride and make it more
“correct.” “I replaced all the bonded brake shoe linings with riveted linings, which followed the contour of the brake drum better,” he said. “The rear springs on the car were meant for a Century or a Special, so I replaced them with the right ones. I replaced the shocks with rebuilt shocks and that made a world of difference in the ride. I also replaced the carpet for that specific year.”

Buick’s calendar year sales were an all-time high 781,296 units for 1955, in no small part due to the popularity of the Roadmaster, one of GM’s bellwether models and an enduring favorite among enthusiasts.

“My wife likes the huge chrome ‘dagmars’, or chrome bullets, on the front bumper,” Cheshire said. “Myself, I just love the whole car and love to drive it on different runs or just sit back and look at it. On sunny day tours, I have so many complaints that the chrome glistens and blinds the drivers that are driving behind us. Pictures do not do it justice.

“Every day I think to myself, ‘What a great car and deal I got after all these years of waiting.’”

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