Home » Plush People-Movers: 1996 Buick Roadmaster vs 1995 Chrysler Town & Country

Plush People-Movers: 1996 Buick Roadmaster vs 1995 Chrysler Town & Country

Sbsd 4 2 2024
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Good morning! We now return you to your regularly scheduled (and reasonably-priced) shitboxes. Today, it’s all about comfort as we check out a wagon and a minivan both stuffed full of nice soft seats and smooth suspensions.

Yesterday’s project cars were obviously not meant to be taken seriously, unless, of course, you are able to play in that league, in which case I want to be your friend. The Aston Martin took the lion’s share of the votes, probably because it was one-quarter the price of the Ferrari. Buncha cheapskates in here, I guess.

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But for me, it has to be the Ferrari. I mean, if I were able to do it, I’d want to do it, you know? And nothing does it like a classic Ferrari. Yeah, maybe you’re paying for the name to some degree, but those magical machines from Maranello just have something special about them. They can make almost anyone look cool.

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All right, moving on: Today we’re looking at both sides of the family-car shift that began in the mid-1980s and was pretty well decided a decade later when these two were built. Wagons went out of fashion, minivans came in, and then they both got trounced by SUVs. Many such vehicles were utilitarian in nature, meant as sturdy family transport, but these two models took the formula a step further and upped the comfort level. Let’s check them out.

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1996 Buick Roadmaster Estate – $3,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 5.7-liter overhead valve V8, four-speed automatic, RWD

Location: Conway, AR

Odometer reading: 204,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

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Before there was the minivan, there was the Family Truckster. Full-size station wagons were the kings of the road for many years, though not many made it out of the ’80s. GM’s full-size wagons got a long-overdue redesign in 1991 along with the B-body sedans, losing the classic square styling but keeping the strong body-on-frame architecture and low-stress V8 power.

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In 1994, the V8 in question got quite an upgrade, from what was basically a truck engine to the 260 horsepower LT1, sometimes referred to as the “Corvette engine,” though that isn’t quite accurate. Obviously, only one transmission choice was available in this car, GM’s ubiquitous 4L60-E overdrive automatic. This one also features a 3.23:1 Positraction rear axle. It all runs beautifully, according to the seller, and the car is currently daily driven.

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We don’t get any decent interior photos; the seller says the front bench seat is “dirty,” but refuses to show it. The door panels and the rear seat all look acceptable. The seller says the window regulators are wearing out, and the headliner is starting to droop around the edges. This car does not appear to be equipped with a “way-back” third-row seat, for what it’s worth.

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Outside, it’s faded, but the seller says there is no rust. The fake vinyl woodgrain could stand to be redone. Personally, I’m not a fan of it, but I know some people love it, and it is traditional for family wagons, I guess.

1995 Chrysler Town & Country – $2,800

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.8 liter overhead valve V6, four-speed automatic, FWD

Location: Converse, TX

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Odometer reading: 120,000 miles

Operational status: Runs and drives great

 

Chrysler’s minivans pretty well took over the country over the course of the late 1980s. Every other automaker followed suit, but Chrysler’s head start and constant improvements on the theme kept them at the top of the sales heap for a long time. Though you could get some awfully nice interior appointments in Dodge and Plymouth vans, in mid-1989 Chrysler upped the ante and applied the famous Town & Country nameplate to their minivan, where it stayed until 2016.

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Town & Country vans got the full Chrysler treatment, including cushy leather seats, woodgrain trim, power everything, and a flashy digital dash. This one has the larger of two Chrysler overhead-valve V6 engines, displacing 3.8 liters and sending 162 horsepower to the front wheels through an “Ultradrive” four-speed automatic. It runs well and shifts smoothly, according to the seller.

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This van was fitted with a wheelchair ramp at one point, though it has been removed. Unfortunately, that means it is also missing its middle row of seats, leaving only the captain’s chairs in front and the two-seat rearmost bench. At least this way you get plenty of legroom back there. It shouldn’t be too hard to find a middle seat that fits, though finding one that matches could be more difficult.

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Outside, it’s a little faded and banged-up, but presentable. This van was built long before power sliding doors were a thing, but if I’m not mistaken, this one has one added, as part of the wheelchair package. There’s also a switch labeled “kneel” next to the open/close switch, which I assume means that it can lean to the side for easier entry. Not much more than a party trick, without the ramp – one of those things you play with once or twice to show your friends and then never touch again.

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If you’re going to drive a cheap car, it had better be something fun, or something comfortable. Either one of these would be a super-comfortable way to get to work on the cheap, and if they’re as good-running as the sellers claim, they could still be family vacation machines as well. Which one is more your style?

(Image credits: Craigslist sellers)

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Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
13 days ago

Make mine the Roadmonster

SirRaoulDuke
SirRaoulDuke
14 days ago

LT1 and a G80 for three grand? Sign me up.

Freelivin1327
Freelivin1327
14 days ago

I’ll take the Town & Country…looks way better and was a family car growing up

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
14 days ago

I had the Dodge version of the Chrysler, so not that nice, but a very good people hauler. Biggest problem was with the alternator and the radiator which I had to replace repeatedly. But that Roadmaster just touches something in me. When I went to trade in the minivan, the dealer I was at had a Roadmaster with the LT1. I had never even looked at these (pretty nice actually), but I was drawn to the shear size and potential. If I had the money at the time I would of bought and re-tuned it to be a serious sleeper, just for the fun.

Chris Moore
Chris Moore
14 days ago

Roadmaster….strip it. Check the frame and replace/upgrade what’s necessary, plus suspension and brakes. Have interior redone, all original. Drop a rebuilt LS of any capacity in it. Enjoy something comfortable, dead reliable….and actually fun to drive with those mods. Quick cheap paint job…boom

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
14 days ago

Minivan for me. That Buick looks to be in much worse condition.

Wagonsarethebestanswer
Wagonsarethebestanswer
14 days ago

100% Roadmaster. I co-drove my buddy’s 2k+ miles, from PA to Durango, CO in 1988. Of all the long-haul drives I’ve done, that was the most comfortable by far. Was like a big ass hovercraft.

Cerberus
Cerberus
14 days ago

Another easy one. The Buick can tow, is far more durable, rides better, has a lot more potential for upgrades, I think it looks better, I prefer wagons in the first place, and these cars are already appreciating in value, so a little restoration work will be worth it as an investment. We had one of those minivans when I was a kid (though it was an ’85, it’s the same underpinnings with a bigger engine that’s likely to eat the transmission) and this one is even worse for having been converted to a wheelchair van, which required unibody modification and, as they’re so expensive (it’s too bad the VPG MV-1 didn’t do better), they’re generally driven until EoL.

Luxobarge
Luxobarge
14 days ago

Roadmaster all the way. I have an uncle who owned three of these in succession, all after they went out of production. He loved the stability and utility (the fuel economy, not so much).

Aaron
Aaron
14 days ago

I just assume Schrodinger’s interior is always roached out. Even with that, the Roadmaster is less disposable than the Town & Country and it hasn’t had aftermarket modifications of unknown pedigree. Clean Roadmasters are pushing the $20k mark, these days. One in drivable condition that isn’t more oxide than iron for $3000 is pretty solid.

SAABstory
SAABstory
14 days ago

Picking the Roadmaster because it’s the ROADMASTER. It belongs on the Roads where it is a Master.

Also, can’t wait to see tomorrow’s breakdown where Mark goes “you all overwhelmingly picked one option but I’d totally go the other way because reasons, oh well.”

El Jefe de Barbacoa
El Jefe de Barbacoa
14 days ago

The Town and Country looks like it’s might have been used as a “casting couch”. Might want to do some blacklight inspection before putting an offer in.

Drive By Commenter
Drive By Commenter
14 days ago

Buick. Then rip out the old LT1 for a 5.7 LS and some sort of 6 speed. Then it would still be a 5.7 but the good one and enough gears to get okay fuel economy.

Sir-Barks-A-lot
Sir-Barks-A-lot
14 days ago

I really want both of these.

Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
14 days ago

I love them both. Voted Buick because V-8, and the T&C needs its full complement of seats.

Mike F.
Mike F.
14 days ago

Well I’ll be damned. A couple of months ago, I saw a Roadmaster in a motel parking lot that appeared to be in perfect shape. Back in the day, it was just a particularly large version of the station wagon that every mom hauled the kids around in, but in our current time, I thought it looked magnificent. The car immediately struck me as an excellent candidate for a Shitbox Showdown, if a suitably crappy one could be located for sale. I went so far as to search through some Craigslist pages to see if I could come up with one to send over to Mark, but that was as far as I went. Great to see one now! (And that makes it pretty obvious as to my vote.) Spiff that baby up and be ready to cruise. (Just stay out of any Trader Joe’s parking lot.)

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