1953 Buick Roadmaster 79R Estate Wagon - $89,000
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  • Overview & History
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You will not go unnoticed in this gorgeous wagon, I can promise you that.

1953 was a very big year for Buick. First, it was the company’s 50th anniversary, which they celebrated with the introduction of the drop-dead gorgeous Skylark convertible. But that wasn’t all that was going on in Flint. 1953 was also the first year for the venerable “Nailhead” V8, an all-new design that replaced the 20-year-old OHV straight-8 and gave Buick a major shot of performance at the same time. And out on the edges there were all kinds of little things going on: the first year for 12-volt electrical systems, a significantly improved “Twin Turbine” Dynaflow transmission, and, perhaps most significantly for this lovely 1953 Roadmaster estate wagon, the final year for wood-bodied wagons in America. Yes, that’s right, Buick was the last company to actually offer a woody wagon that used actual structural timber in its construction and 1953 was the end of the line. In total, only 670 Model 79R Roadmaster wagons were built, the end of an era. But oh what a grand way to say goodbye!

Experts suggest that perhaps 20 or 25 1953 Roadmaster woodies remain, but there’s no way to know for sure. What we do know is that this handsome Imperial Blue Roadmaster wagon is not only one of the prettiest wagons we’ve ever featured, but also one of the best. Going over it carefully, we can find no evidence that anything serious has ever been replaced—the wood appears entirely original, there are no patches in the floor, no replacement body panels, nothing. So they started with an extremely good car when it was comprehensively restored about 15 years ago. Judging by the stickers on the driver’s vent window, it appears to have lived at least part of its life in Boston, as there are Boston Yacht Club parking passes dating to 1967 as well as a pass for the Mystic River bridge. But if it lived all its life there, it certainly wasn’t a daily driver in the winter, because it’s extremely straight and very well preserved throughout. It is worth noting that the color was changed from the original code 52 Verde Green to what appears to be code 53 Imperial Blue. The dramatic contrast between the dark blue paint and the light wood is simply beautiful, and it surely looks better today than it did when it was green. And since they used another factory color, there’s no deduction in judging—nice! Another bonus is that you know the restoration was thorough, because there’s zero evidence of any green paint on the car. If you’re not checking the trim tag, you’d never know this car hasn’t been blue all its life. Someone did this one correctly.

Of course, on any ‘50s car and in particular a Buick, chrome trim is critical. The ‘53s got an evolution of the ‘52’s toothy grille with slightly larger “teeth,” as well as a nicely integrated bumper and that sweeping side trim. Unique headlight doors with built-in parking lights, the “bombsight” hood ornament, and traditional Buick “Venti-Ports” in the front fenders all add to the wagon’s ornate look. This was, after all, Buick’s most expensive car and one that cost more than some Cadillacs. No worries, because someone invested a serious pile of cash restoring all that brightwork and today it presents beautifully with no demerits to mention beyond some light polishing marks that you could erase by hand if you’re really particular. Of note, this car has the optional back-up lights built into the rear bumper guards, and the emblem on the tailgate spells out ROADMASTER in big block letters so everyone knows this is a special car. You will not go unnoticed in this gorgeous wagon, I can promise you that.

As with the exterior, the interior was changed from green to blue, another factory-correct combination that works quite well with the dark Imperial Blue bodywork. Everything that you can see or touch was restored or replaced during the restoration, and the rear carpets were just replaced this year so they’re as-new. The two-tone dash is stylish and should look familiar to Buick fans, with the speedometer front and center and the auxiliary dials flanking the steering column. All the gauges are fully operational except the clock, which is typical, and we strongly believe the 75,358 miles showing on the odometer are a correct, authentic reading. The original signal-seeking Sonomatic AM radio is sadly not operational, but everything else works like it should: lights, signals, heater, defroster, and even the emergency brake warning light glows brightly and I will personally vouch for the heater’s efficacy as we took it for a test drive on a rather brisk December morning (you can see the ride and drive video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9V8sjRVL4y4). Upholstery is correct throughout and the steering wheel is unique to the ‘53s and includes a 50th anniversary emblem on the horn button, which matches the one on the front bumper. There’s plenty of wood highlighting the interior, including the gorgeous tailgate, which is just a work of art. Lift the floor panel and you’ll find a full-sized spare tire and jack assembly underneath.

Buick’s all-new 322 cubic inch “Nailhead” V8 transformed Buick’s performance image. On paper, the 188 horsepower and 300 pounds of torque don’t seem like significant improvements over the venerable 320 cubic inch straight-8, but on the road the difference is startling. There’s massive torque available at any speed and it’s impeccably smooth, so this wagon gathers speed with surprising ease. The Nailheads have proven themselves to be virtually bulletproof and parts are readily available so service will be a snap. The engine is correctly detailed with corporate turquoise engine enamel, a heavy-duty air cleaner, reproduction decals, and a fresh reproduction wiring harness. Roadmasters received a Carter 4-barrel carburetor to give it impressive performance despite its 4200-pound mass. Seriously, it feels downright quick around town! It fires easily using the accelerator-mounted starter switch, idles well hot or cold, makes plenty of oil pressure, and seems to run nice and cool (although I’ll admit I have not driven it in rush-hour traffic on a 96-degree day). Power steering and brakes are included, so it’s easy to handle for just about anyone and the 12-volt electrical system ensures bright lights, quick starts, and easy maintenance in the future.

Don’t be afraid of the Dynaflow transmission, either, because it feels rather remarkable when connected to the torquey Nailhead. The car simply accelerates—no shifts, no interruptions, just a smooth flow of torque that moves the car with ease. There are 3.60 gears in back, so this car will cruise all day at 65 MPH without any stress, and the aforementioned power brakes are quite powerful even with this much car and this much power. Please look carefully at the undercarriage photos and you’ll see ultra-clean original floors, unmarked rockers, and a frame bereft of pitting strongly suggesting zero winter drives in its past. The exhaust system and gas tank are recent and it makes nice 8-cylinder sounds but remains very hushed under almost all circumstances. New suspension bushings, fresh brake components, and rebuilt shocks all add to the smooth, controlled ride. Steel wheels with rather rare wire wheelcovers look great, and they’re fitted with L78-15 wide whitewall tires, but imagine just how spectacular this would look wearing a set of Skylark chrome wire wheels and some fresh wide whitewall radials!

This might just be the ultimate Buick wagon—it’s the fastest, most powerful, most exclusive, and arguably the most attractive of them all. With a beautiful older restoration that’s completely sorted and a joy to drive, this Model 79R justifies its position at the top of the Buick food chain. Just a spectacular car that shows very well and drives even better. Treat yourself to Buick’s best and call today!

Harwood Motors recommends and welcomes personal or professional inspections of any car in our inventory prior to purchase.

Vehicle: 1953 Buick Roadmaster 79R Estate Wagon
Price: $89,000
Stock Number: 116122
Mileage: 75,358
VIN: 16833703
Engine: 322 cubic inch V8
Transmission: Dynaflow Automatic
Gear Ratio: 3.6
Wheelbase: 121.5 inches
Wheels: 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps
Tires: L78-15 wide whitewall
Exterior Color: Imperial Blue
Interior Color: Blue and white cordoveen
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