Join Newsday's car culture discussion.
In the Garage: 1940 Buick Roadmaster
THE CAR AND ITS OWNER
1940 Buick Roadmaster convertible sedan owned by Walt Gosden
WHAT MAKES IT INTERESTING
If well-off Americans wanted a 1940 car with understated grace and elegance, they could bypass the flashy Cadillacs or Packards and turn to the mighty Buick Roadmaster. Gosden’s convertible sedan, with its 320-cubic-inch “Fireball” engine and 4,200-lb. heft, marked the second-to-last year for General Motors’ four-door convertibles. While most ‘40 Buicks were available in September 1939, these models only hit showrooms the following March and production lasted just about four months. With their new “torpedo” styling, Gosden says, “the delay was in the tooling-up of body stampings, as these cars were much lower and wider than the other Buick series.”
As a result, only 235 were built. “The car, when new, did not get promoted much by Buick since it was a mid-year offering,” he adds. “The current desirability is due to the body style, larger engine and lack of survivors. I have been able to track down approximately 16 of the 1940 Roadmaster convertible sedans and perhaps six of these are roadworthy. I didn’t know it was such a low-production body style until after I owned it for a while and tried to find someone else who owned one.” Among the previous owners, he discovered, was the San Francisco chapter of the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
HOW LONG HE’S OWNED IT
WHERE HE FOUND IT
A California friend alerted him to the find. “It was for sale by word of mouth,” Gosden says. “A friend, who happened to be in California, looked at the car for me. He reported: ‘great solid car, good cosmetics, runs well, dreadful tires, and wiring – a fire waiting to happen.’” Gosden bought it sight unseen and had it shipped to an Ohio restorer.
“The car listed 47,500 miles on the odometer when I bought it,” he says. “The restorer said he felt it was the the original mileage. The car is very tight and quiet for a convertible with four doors. It’s like riding in a sedan. All the wiring was replaced, all gauges rebuilt, radial tires were fitted and brakes were rebuilt.” New paint, interior and chrome plating had been done in 1972.
TIPS FOR OWNERS
“Pre-war cars can be driven,” Gosden advises, “and people considering them should not be afraid to own one. Buy a car in the best condition you can afford. If it is your first time, do not buy a non-running ‘project’ that is apart.”
He estimates the value between $50,000 and $60,000.
THE BOTTOM LINE
“My wife and son like the car a lot,” Gosden says. “It is very easy to drive, has a great heater, radio and turn signals, and lots of power. The low profile of the roofline and styling, along with the metallic blue color, red wheels and whitewalls, make for a pretty sleek-looking machine. It is the first time I have ever owned a Buick and I am impressed with the quality of the build.”