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Reminiscing – Oh, that Roadmaster!

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Brochure images courtesy Old Car Brochures.

[Editor’s note: This “Reminiscing” story, edited by Richard Lentinello, comes to us from Hemmings Classic Car reader Dale Wells of Kalamazoo, Michigan.]

During the Depression years of the 1930s, and into 1940, my father kept driving his 1929 Hudson Super Six. It was getting quite shabby and worn when Dad had a chance to buy a one-year-old 1939 Buick Special. The local Hudson dealer had not survived the Depression years, so we became a Buick family and Dad stayed with Buick the rest of his life. Enter his three teenage boys, all licensed to drive, and of course we tended to drive every opportunity possible.

After World War II, cars were hard to get until supply of new cars began to catch up with demand, but Dad was able to buy the first new 1947 Buick Roadmaster to arrive at the local dealer. He gave them a check for about $2,000 and drove it home. What a thrill it was when he drove into our driveway. Dad was generous to a fault, and let us use the new car whenever he did not need it. And whenever we would get ready to go on a date or some shopping mission, he would always give us a few extra dollars for gas. Well, between his business trips and our teenage social life, the Roadmaster racked up 100,000 miles in three years!

1947 Buick Roadmaster

I’m not privy to all my brothers’ antics and driving adventures, but must confess Dad would probably have grounded me for a few of my episodes. For instance, the Roadmaster had a 120 MPH speedometer and curiosity got the best of me one night when a couple of my buddies taunted me to find out the top speed. There was a big hill a few miles out of our town, so for good measure, we drove a few miles beyond the hill, turned and approached the crest wide open coming down the hill. With some disappointment, we read the speedometer at only 100 MPH. Of course we had to repeat the run a few times later to prove to some of  our other friends that the Roadmaster would really go 100 MPH.

One of my best buddies wanted to drive the Roadmaster so badly that I turned the wheel over to him on several occasions, trusting him to behave himself and drive carefully. One night we were visiting friends in the nearby town which served as the county seat; home of the county sheriff.  We saw some girls by the drug store and stopped to say hello. After a few minutes we invited them to take a ride with us out to the drive-in for a soda. They were friendly, but being cautious and well brought up, they declined like a good girl should with casual friends. One of my buddies was more persistent and began to coax them to the point of annoyance. To shut him up, one girl told us to leave them alone or they would call the sheriff.


Dale Wells poses with the family’s 1947 Buick Roadmaster. Photo courtesy Dale Wells.

As luck would have it, just then the sheriff drove up to his office across the street. One girl ran toward his car, and my buddy driving the Roadmaster impulsively shifted into gear and floored it. Either because of something the girl said to the sheriff, or because of the way the Roadmaster roared out of town, the sheriff turned his Hudson patrol car around and followed a few blocks behind us. Because of my buddy’s supreme confidence in the 100 MPH Roadmaster, he was sure we could out run the Hudson. It was about 15 miles back to our town, and as we got out into the open highway we could see the Hudson’s headlights slowly falling behind us. We got home without any more sight of the Hudson that night. As much as we wanted to brag about the Roadmaster to other friends, I asked my buddies to keep it a secret so my father would never hear the story. I became very cautious about letting others drive after that.

So in three years, with over 100,000 miles driven, that “Master of the Road” Buick was getting a bit tired and unreliable. Dad began to agree that “…they really don’t build them like they used to.” In 1951 he bought a new Roadmaster, his first with the smooth Dynaflow transmission. He was very happy with the car and said it was the best Buick yet. Of course it was – by then my brothers and I had gone on in our lives, and I joined the Air Force. Dad drove that ’51 Buick almost ten years with very few problems.

Since then I have had many Buicks; a ’46, ’50, ’54, ’64, ’84 and my current 1997 LeSabre. I’ve owned a few “orphans” in between some of those dates, but just can’t seem to break the Buick habit anymore.