The heyday of the big American station wagon with rear-wheel-drive and powerful V8 engine ran from about the late 1950s through the early 1970s, though the far-less-powerful Malaise Era Country Squires and Caprice Estates carried on well enough into the late 1970s (my own Malaise Era childhood featured a Chevy Beauville van). By the 1990s, though, the minivan and SUV had more or less slaughtered the big Detroit longroof… until Buick and Oldsmobile dealers began selling the Roadmaster Estate and Custom Cruiser in the 1991 model year. Here’s one of those time-traveling wagons, found in a San Francisco Bay Area boneyard in June.
With the 260-horsepower Chevy LT1 V8 out of the Z28 Camaro and the chassis of the “whale” Caprice, the Roadmaster Estate was big, flashy, and powerful in the way that we hadn’t seen in a Detroit wagon since the era of the Olds Vista Cruiser and Buick Sportwagon.
Speaking of the Buick Sportwagon, this “Vista roof” takes us right back to the second half of the 1960s, when GM wagons ruled the road. It doesn’t open in the Roadmaster Estate, but we can assume that it doesn’t leak as much as the Sportwagon’s Skyroof.
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