the view through the windshield
1949 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon - A Great Big Luxo-Woodie

the view through the windshield

This behemoth wagon weighed 4,490 pounds; Buick ads hyped "honest heft that levels the miles with majestic smoothness." You could tell that it was a Roadmaster by the four portholes (officially name: VentiPorts) along the side. Lesser Buick models only got 3 holes.

The '49s were the first all-new postwar design from Buick and were the first models to feature VentiPorts. 1949 Buick styling was very attractive compared with its contemporaries and still looks good today. Buicks had a valve-in-head straight eight engine of 320 cubic inches. Horsepower was rated at 150. Not much power got to the rear wheels; the engine was coupled to the notorious Dynaflow automatic transmission.

The wood bodies were built for Buick by the Ionia Company who built bodies for many manufacturers. This wagon was huge with an overall length identical to that of the 1990s-era Lincoln Town Car. Wheelbase was 126 inches - an inch longer than the 1956-57 Continental Mark II.

You'd need a huge wallet to buy one; at $3,734, it was the priciest model in the Buick line. Maybe that's why only 653 were produced. Overall, 324,276 Buicks were sold during the 1949 model year, putting the brand in fourth place behind Ford, Chevrolet and Plymouth. (originally posted 7/1/08)

Remember When: 1949
car blogIn 1949, the first nonstop flight around the world was made by a U.S. Air Force B-50. The National Bureau of Standards announced the development of the world's first atomic clock.

Fads and inventions included canasta (a card game) and shingle haircuts. 'Hopalong Cassidy', 'The Lone Ranger' and 'Roller Derby' debuted on TV.

New words included afterburner, bikini, simulcast and community college. The GM Motorama appeared for the first time at the Waldorf Astoria in NYC. The first two Volkswagen Beetles were sold in the U.S. Key ignition replaced starter buttons on some Chrysler products.

New products included Sara Lee cheesecake, Silly Putty and the infamous Denver Boot. The minimum wage was raised from 40¢ to 75¢ per hour.

Joe Sherlock auto sketch

George Orwell wrote the novel '1984'. New recording artists included Burl Ives, B. B. King, Dean Martin and Fats Domino. Top songs for 1949 included Vaughn Monroe's 'Ghost Riders In The Sky', 'Some Enchanted Evening' by Perry Como, Frankie Laine's 'Lucky Old Sun' and 'Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer', recorded by Gene Autry.

The N.Y. Yankees won the World Series, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers.

illustration copyright 1989, 2008 Joseph M. Sherlock

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