1951 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon - $59,900
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This 1951 Buick Roadmaster Model 79 Estate Wagon is an incredibly well-preserved UNTOUCHED car that's been in stasis since the early 1960s.

The terms "barn find" and "survivor" get tossed around so often that their actual meaning is almost lost today. So instead, let's just focus on the term "untouched." This 1951 Buick Roadmaster Model 79 Estate Wagon is an incredibly well-preserved UNTOUCHED car that's been in stasis since the early 1960s. Serviced, yes. Restored, no. It's one of only 679 built and it was Buick's biggest, heaviest, and most expensive car at $3780. I should probably mention at this point that those of you who like shiny, perfect cars can stop reading right here, because this Buick isn't shiny and it isn't perfect.

On the other hand, if you are part of the growing segment of the hobby that appreciates cars that haven't been disassembled and rebuilt from the ground up, cars that don't have wounds from dozens of different mechanics, and machines that simply work like they should, then you might want to stick around. Untouched cars often drive better, which is why many of us are willing to put up with the cosmetic blemishes that come with age—the drive is what matters and regardless of how good you or your shop might be, you're still not as good as the factory. That's precisely why untouched original cars are better.

From what we know of its history, this woody seems to have spent the first ten or twelve years of its life doing what cars do best: driving. We don't know where it spent a majority of its time, but the decals on the windshield suggest travels to the far corners of the country: southern Florida and Washington state at the Grand Cooley Dam. It was acquired from its original owner in 2009 by a noted Buick expert, and at that time the car was rumored to have been in storage since the early 1960s. It remained in storage for another 10 years or so, although it would occasionally be started and moved around just to keep it limber. But with too many projects on the horizon and realizing that this car is way too nice to restore, it was time to find it a new home.

From the looks of the car today, this wagon didn't have to suffer through harsh winters or wet summers, and as a result the wooden bodywork is in exceptional condition. There's not a soft spot, crack, or discolored piece anywhere on it and the wonderful honey-colored framework around the mahogany panels has a look that only age can create. The doors close with a solid THUNK and it still takes some effort to get them to seal properly—the wood isn't shrunken and dry. You'll note that the car is wearing 100% original code 8 Sharon Green paint and there's nary a ding, rust spot, or ripple anywhere on the body, more proof that it has lived a good life. Yes, there are some thin spots, some micro-blisters, and some signs of age, but as someone who loves original cars, it's my professional opinion that repainting this car (or restoring it) would be a mistake. The years are tangible on its surface, but not as if it was neglected or abused, but rather a consistent patina that presents quite well. We cleaned the paint and gave it a light coat of wax, and you could probably take it up a notch with a deeper cut and buff, but we decided to let the next owner decide which path he wants to take.

The stainless trim is likewise in excellent condition, while the chrome ranges from very good to mediocre, with pitting on the "mustache" above the grille and hood ornament, and bumpers that are a little scuffed. On the plus side, most of those parts interchange with lesser Buicks so you should be able to find nicer pieces that don't require restoration and preserve the untouched look. Or just leave it alone—there's nothing critical that's in need of replacement. You can do more (or not), that's the true beauty of cars like this. It asks for very little.

The handsome green leather interior is wonderfully well preserved, with smooth leather seating surfaces that show no wrinkles, cracking, or dryness that comes with age—storage must have been nearly ideal. The original floor coverings, headliner, and matching green door panels are likewise excellent and can be put into service without any additional effort. There is one split seam on the passenger's side of the front seat, but it is only the thread that has given up so it can surely be stitched and repaired rather than replaced—we may contact our upholsterer and have him look into it. From the driver's seat, the controls are excellent—bright chrome on the dash, fully operational gauges, and a beautifully preserved black plastic steering wheel without any cracks or fading. Nice! Everything works except the radio and the 59,815 miles showing on the odometer are unquestionably authentic. It still starts using the accelerator pedal system that was standard on Buicks for decades and both the heater and defroster fans work as they should, so don't be afraid to use this Buick this fall. The original Ionia Body Company tag is still affixed to the front seat (the Ionia Body Company/Mitchell Body Works in Detroit converted Roadmaster sedans into Roadmaster estate wagons almost by hand) and all the various handles and knobs are in great shape. Even the low-nap carpets in the cargo bay are excellent and we believe that's the original spare tire still tucked into the well under the floor. And just check out that gorgeous wood tailgate!

Although it has been in storage for many years, this Buick runs superbly. It has been fairly comprehensively serviced, including fluids, cooling system flush, and new belts and hoses throughout (including nearly 30 feet of new heater hose!). There's also a new battery and the brakes were recently rebuilt with a fresh master cylinder, new wheel cylinders, flex hoses, and shoes. That job also included servicing the bearings and seals before it was all buttoned back up. The engine bay has been cleaned but nothing has been restored or repainted, and you can still see original finishes and decals throughout, from the traditional Buick Turquoise engine enamel to the bright orange lid on the AC oil filter. It starts quickly and easily, idling like a sewing machine with plenty of oil pressure and no hiccups or stumbles. Thanks to hydraulic lifters, which were standard in Buicks by 1951, the idle is silky smooth and the big 320 cubic inch straight-8 remains one of the most reliable and potent engines of the period. It stays nice and cool, although we'll admit that we have not stressed it in traffic given the ancient tires. Don't worry, we do have the spark plug cover, which is included with the car but the current spark plug wires do not fit under the cover and we thought new ones would stand out too much.

Buick's Dynaflow automatic transmission wasn't known for performance, but it is a great partner for the silky straight-8. No shifts, just a smooth wave of big torque that pulls the big wagon up to speed and holds it there all day without any apparent effort. With 3.90 gears out back, this should be an easy 65 MPH cruiser. The suspension remains as supple as ever with that incomparable Buick ride quality that just floats along the road. The suspension has been serviced and greased, there's a newer muffler that's extremely quiet, and the aforementioned brakes are effective in getting this much Buick stopped. Yes, there's some surface rust on the bottom of the car, but the only notable perforation is under the driver's left foot, an area about the size of your palm and which someone has already repaired with a sheet of galvanized metal. Our advice? Just leave it alone and drive—it's not structural, it's 100% invisible unless the car is on a lift, and it'll never get any worse. Don't get hung up on it, because that kind of casual usability is why untouched cars are so great. The gas tank has been cleaned but not restored and the fuel pump was rebuilt, so the fuel system is healthy. Original steel wheels with standard hubcaps are the right look (please don't put chrome wire wheels on this one), and it's wearing what we would guess are only the second or third set of tires it has ever had: 8.00-15 Firestone wide whites that date to the early '60s. They look good, but we'd recommend replacing them—perhaps with a side of wide whitewall radials—before the next road trip.

If perfection is your goal, this isn't your car. You could easily restore this car to a near-perfect state and it wouldn't be excruciatingly expensive, but why? The way it sits now, it looks lovely and has a character that makes people want to come up and touch it. There's history oozing from every wood fiber and quite honestly, if you've never owned a car like this you don't know what you're missing. Yes, originality should be preserved, but you don't have to baby it. Civilian parking lots, dark clouds, and crowds won't frighten you back into to your garage. Bugs on the nose will no longer be a demerit but rather a badge of honor. Owning and driving a car like this is incredibly liberating. And once you feel the silky smoothness of a car that has never been apart, well, you might have to reconsider your obsession with perfection. Call today!

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

Vehicle: 1951 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon
Price: $59,900
Stock Number: 117051
Mileage: 59,815
VIN: 16190277
Engine: 320 cubic inch straight-8
Transmission: Dynaflow Automatic
Gear Ratio: 3.9
Wheelbase: 126.5 inches
Wheels: 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps
Tires: 8.00-15 Firestone whitewalls
Exterior Color: Sharon Green
Interior Color: Green leather
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