Welcome to the inside of my head
C'mon in...wipe your feet
This seemed to be a particularly long winter from a car guy’s point of view. I tried very hard not to bring the Roadmaster out before I was absolutely certain that there was no sign of snow. The Great White North was a precocious mistress this year and each time it looked like Spring was well and truly here we would get hit with another mess of snow.
Yesterday I finally got the wagon out and drove it to work. There’s no better feeling than cruising in a much beloved car. The entire drive seemed over in a heartbeat and yet absolutely nothing about it seemed rushed. My Roadmaster eats up road like nothing. There’s almost no sensation of speed or movement, it’s simply a paused moment in time. While I had to take it out of the garage twice for pickup trips this year, yesterday was really the first drive of spring and it was a good one! My buddy Silverfox puts the joy of getting into a station wagon best in his terrific dialogue on “What a wagon means to me” over at stationwagonforums.com Here’s a quote from his thoughts.
When I walk up to my wagon, look at its beauty, touch it, I swear, it’s like it’s alive and knows I’m there. It smiles with appreciation and I can feel its loyalty. When I turn the key and hear the soft rumble of power it’s like…….well………it’s like that dog you had that was your best friend that smiled and wagged its tail with love and affection, his only mission in life was to please you. It’s like that. I sit there inside and hear the blub of the dual exhaust and the purr of the engine just waiting to please. Drop it in gear and it responds with anticipation and I drive sealed in that space of time gone by.
I couldn’t agree more. It’s like driving with a good friend. I couldn’t resist popping outside to take a photo of the Roadmaster’s first day outside in months.
Snowy times are imminent here in The Great White North so my wagon has been packed away in the garage awaiting the warmth of summer. Part of the allure of driving a station wagon for me is being able to strap a Christmas Tree on the roof Chevy Chase-style. Last year I foolishly forgot my tie down straps and had to bring the tree back inside the wagon. The couple who were parked beside me at the tree lot were having considerable amounts of difficulty finding a way to get their tree into the trunk of their tiny little Honda. While there was a certain satisfaction in simply opening the back of the wagon, sliding the tree in, and driving off while they continued to struggle it wasn’t what I was looking for. This year I was well prepared. I had my straps ready so I dragged the wagon out of the garage and shined up the rims for one last mission. I was even able to ignore the strip of trim that had fallen off of the rear fender.
After driving around for a little while with the new Magnaflow’s installed, I wasn’t entirely certain that I liked the sound. It wasn’t quite as deep as I was hoping for. I wondered if it were possible that it might sound better outside of the car than it does inside. I decided to make some video clips of the car at a few different throttle levels to see what the sound was like. Ultimately I found that I’m quite happy with the exhaust note as it sounds from the outside of the car. I’m still not a huge fan of how it sounds from the inside of the car, but I think I can live with that. I’ve shared some video files with the gang at StationWagonForums.com as a number of them have FlowMaster muffler’s installed. From what we’ve discussed, the FlowMaster mufflers wouldn’t have sounded as good as these Magnaflow’s do.
Below are some links to the video files that I made of the car.
Click here to watch a video of the car starting up.
Click here to watch the car driving off at low throttle (At the end of this video the car can be heard rounding a nearby corner)
Click here to watch a drive-by at low throttle
Click here to watch a drive-by at higher throttle
Click here to watch a video of the car reversing into the driveway
I’ve been looking forward to replacing the exhaust on the wagon for a while. It hasn’t risen to the top of the list of importance so I’ve just been doing planning and researching.
As usual, my wagon decides what it wants and when it gets it. A hanger on the drivers side tailpipe broke some time ago and the previous owner must have caught that hang-down tailpipe on something and loosened the intake pipe on the drivers-side muffler. I’ve been tuning it out but it’s been getting steadily louder for some time. Last week it started to get raspy enough that it was pretty obvious that the volume level wasn’t by design and was actually a hole somewhere. I adjusted my priorities and went ahead with the exhaust replacement. I found a guy in town who does brakes and exhaust and was the only guy with a listing for custom exhaust. I told him what I wanted and he agreed to tackle the wagon the next morning. I had planned on 2-1/4″ pipe and a pair of Flowmaster 40′s. Pete recommended Magnaflow’s based on my description of how I wanted it to sound so I went with his judgement. I desperately wanted the long rectangular exhaust tips that he had on hand. Unfortunately they were best suited for rear exit as they just didn’t look right at the sides of the car. Fortunately I read the recent exhaust thread over at StationWagonForums.com and opted to keep the exhaust exiting at the side to stop CO from building up in my back window. I went with a set of oval chrome tips instead.
The set that they had on hand were double ported but I had it cut in half and used one port on each side. The twin pipes on each side wouldn’t have looked right in my opinion. I quite like the way it looks now. I managed to stroll in and get a few pictures of the installation while no one was actively working on the car.
For the last few weeks the brakes on my wagon have been giving forth an unholy howl. It became pretty obvious that some brake work was in order. This worked out well as I’ve been very frustrated since installing my aluminum rims. The openings in the new rims allow the brake drums to be seen, and those are really rusty. This picture is sort of poor, but it’s pretty obvious that these rusty drums don’t exactly improve the esthetic of the car at all.
I was unable to find drilled and slotted rotors in a reasonable time and I really wanted to see this cleaned up and doing a brake job was really the only way. I picked up some OEM equivalent rotors, pads, calipers, drums, and shoes. Having everything on hand ahead of time allowed me to put a coat of black caliper paint on the drums and calipers so that a more reasonable colour might show through my rim spokes when I was done.
It was sunny and hot outside today and those conditions aren’t particularly suitable for us computer geeks. Given that, I opted to tackle the rear brakes today and leave the front brakes for another day. The swap was pretty uneventful apart from my car’s brakes deviating slightly from the ones depicted in the service manual. I had to play a little trial and error to determine how to get everything reassembled correctly once I had done the teardown. I completely forgot about having purchased a drum brake spring kit until I had reassembled one wheel. I wound up tackling that wheel again to get all of the springs replaced with new hardware. Apart from keeping me out in the sunlight a little longer this wasn’t a major issue.
By the end of it all, I was hot, sweaty and immensely pleased with myself. So much so that I cleaned up and totally forgot to finish torquing down the lug nuts. That made for some tense moments once I got the car a few blocks from home but no real harm was done. I got the nuts torqued down properly and all was well. I’m really quite pleased both with the look of the car with it’s new black drums as well as having finished up my very first brake job.
I haven’t done a great deal of work on the wagon recently. Work and household projects always seem to get in the way. After working around the house for a week during my holidays I decided to take a day off and entered my Buick in it’s first car show. The downtown core of my hometown has hosted an annual car show for a number of years. For some reason, the show hasn’t been held for a little while and the Lions club is trying to resurrect it and give it a little momentum. The rain and limited advertising kept many of the cars away, but the weather cleared and the crowds were there. There were around 80-90 cars there in total and loads of people enjoying the Elvis and Johnny Cash impersonators. I was really impressed by the number of people who were really excited to see my station wagon. There were a lot of car guys who wanted to talk engine and powertrain as well as lots of folks marveling at it’s size and faux-woodgrain while showing their kids the super-cool rear facing seats. I didn’t get a lot of time to prowl the rest of the car show due to the traffic around the wagon, but I managed to get pictures of almost all of the cars. Enjoy!
A friend of mine once told me that it’s always the little details that make a car stand out. I try not to think of any aspect of cleaning and repairing a car as being too small to pay attention to. The interior construction on GM’s B-Body cars from the 90′s really is poor. The plastic pieces wear and crack something terrible. I’m not entirely sure just how it happens but even the dash emblems wear off after a while. The logo on the passenger side of my dash was looking pretty bare and it’s one of the many little things that I know I’ll feel better about after getting it fixed.
After some digging around online for the best method of repairing silver plastic trim in cars I came up empty. Once I stopped looking for it, I discovered some guys chatting about the very same thing over at stationwagonforums.com. Lo and behold, it seems that several folks had run into the same issue that I had and solved it cheaply and easily. The answer was…a silver Sharpie marker. The silver coloured markers work very well for re-doing the silver plastic parts on the interior of cars. The marker isn’t a replacement for chrome but for something as simple as the Roadmaster badge on my dash it worked perfectly. It seemed pretty silly but I was really quite surprised at how well it worked. Sharpie’s are permanent markers so it should last a while, and if it doesn’t it takes nothing to simply repeat the process. You can see below that the difference is quite dramatic.
At long last we’re getting weather good enough for me to spend time outside on the wagon. I wheeled the wagon out a couple of weeks ago to get started on reinstalling all of the interior parts. Pretty much all of the interior parts were sitting in a pile in the cargo area with the exception of the seats and the carpet. a couple of hours later all was right in my world again as the interior was put back the way it should be. I still need to reinstall the old blue door panel on the drivers side but it’s a small portion overall and the rest of the wagon looks like a functional vehicle again.
When putting the wagon back into the garage again I noticed several streaks on the driveway and the garage. It seems that the rust on the top of the front frame forks decided to eat it’s way through one of my brake lines and every push on the pedal caused a stream of brake fluid to squirt across the driveway. A quick trip to my mechanic gave me firm brakes and a fresh layer of undercoating on the front frame forks and my wagon is back in business. Not the best way to start the wagon season but progress is progress.
I’ve been trying to decide since I bought the wagon just what I wanted to put on there for rims. I really love the factory aluminum alloy wheels that the Roadmaster came with. They suit the car, and really look great with a set of whitewalls. I have no disappointment at all with the factory look. As you can see with a good cleaning the factory rims and whitewalls are a nice look.
However…That 280hp LT1 V8 puts the mid-90′s B-Body wagons right smack in the musclecar range. Buick torque is legendary and with that engine driving it these cars are downright mean on the highway. It’s often said that Buick Roadmaster wagons are for people who want to be able to do a 12 second quarter-mile and haul sheets of plywood while doing it. These are likely to be the last station wagons of their kind. They’re huge and I just can’t imagine their like ever gracing our roads again. The last true North American sleeper wagon.
All that rambling aside, the musclecar association with these wagons makes me want to give it a little tougher look. I pondered going with the factory rims from the ’94-’96 Chev Impala SS sedans. These are a great looking rim for the Impala and they really lend themselves well. A member over at StationWagonForums.com we know as “81×11″ has put the Impala SS rims on his Buick and, as can be seen below, there’s no denying that it’s a great look.
For me, a big part of the joy of such a large car is the smooth, floaty ride. While I like the look of the 17″ rims of the Impala, the Roadmaster was originally equipped with 15″ wheels. The means a lot more rubber between the rim and the road. I was concerned that moving up to a 17″ rim might take away from the smoothness of my ride so I decided to stay with a 15″ rim and opted for shiny instead.
I managed to locate a set of very lightly used Eagle Alloy Series 111 rims in a polished aluminum finish. An uncoated aluminum rim can make for a pretty dramatic increase in maintenance but the beauty of these is that they can be pretty easily brought back to a factory shine with just a bit of elbow grease. No need to send them out for recoating or polishing. Just buff them up at home. I set to work on these the other day, but I think I’ll still have a fair ways to go to get them as clean as I think the Roadmaster deserves. The rims were regularly washed by the previous owner but not polished or buffed and there are a fair number of the ever-present asphalt flecks on the surface. I’ll have to get all of the asphalt off before I can really get started with polishing but with even an hour or two of work, these are already starting to look good. The wheel on the left has been washed and I began polishing it with a metal creme. The wheel on the right hasn’t been touched yet, it’s exactly as it was when I purchased it.
I plan on getting these as shiny as they day they were made. Stay tuned for more details and as many pics as I remember to take.
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