Sunday, May 8, 2016


As you know, I'm a big fan of full-size cars and wagons... and full-size wagons.  There has been one model of wagon that has intrigued me for quite a while now, but I've never owned it.  That wagon is the '93-'95 Buick Roadmaster wagon.  I was shopping around for one, but between the price, milage, and look, I opted for my first Crown Vic.  (Brand loyalty may have also had a role in that decision, but those wagons hold their value like Subarus!)  Something about those wagons pulls me in every time.

You may not remember when this happened...
...or this, but I do.  I was 17
Now for some wagons that further my point.
They CAN be cool!
You're probably wondering why I named this post Armadillo.  Back when I was in high school, my uncle was talking about how one of the people he worked with thought those wagons look like great big armadillos driving around.  We agreed, and the name kind of stuck.  It's also pretty funny to see the reactions when you call them that.  Come to think of it, it'd be pretty funny to paint one gunmetal grey and get personalized plates for it.  "ARMDLO"

Well, you get the idea...
You're probably also asking yourself "why a Roadmaster, and not an Impala SS?"  While the Impala makes more power and is desirable as a collector car, the Roadmaster is something that can be customized without ridicule for changing a limited production model.  I also don't really like the Caprice sedan body, and I'm not a fan of paying collector car prices.  If I found an SS for $1500, yeah, I'd probably buy it and fix it up, but I'd probably sell it for Roadmaster money.  After all, the Roadmaster is a wagon!

Yes, they made a sedan, but that's beside the point.  Why?
Because wagon!
Or I could always Caddy clone it
I've looked for Roadmasters to buy in the past, and I'd had thoughts on how to build them.  I always told myself I wanted one with a 350 because why would you buy one with its achilles already severed?  Then there was the thought of doing a big block swap.  I could build a Roadmaster 454 SS, although it's a Buick, so I supposed it'd have to be a GS.  If you did a 454 swap though, you'd have a lot of weight (yes, you'll have this regardless), no room to work in the engine bay, and big blocks always seem to cost more to build (granted, I come from a Ford background and haven't really looked into costs of building a 454).  It seems to me like keeping a lighter engine in the front will offer a more balance weight distribution.  I know it's not a Miata, but I also know what I like to do with my cars.  I want seven things out of my cars, in this order; handling, good ride, torque, loud pipes, reliability, haul my drum set, and moderate fuel economy.  I've only had one car that didn't haul the drums (Fiero, but it wasn't my only car, and it was super fun), but most of my other cars have either checked all those boxed or steps were taken to make the boxes get checked.  Why should a full-size wagon be any different?  Heck, if I can make a Crown Vic Autocross, why can't I do the same with a Roadmaster?!

And to think, you thought I wouldn't find a picture of a Roadmaster on a race track.  Ha!
The other great reason to buy a Roadmaster is because road trips are still a thing.  As often as I can, I love to hop in my car and just blast down some two-lane roads with the tunes playing.  My Vic was great on Power Tour in 2015, but I kept seeing older wagons and about 15 Roadmasters on tour.  Every time I thought "that's the way to do it."  The beauty of driving a wagon is it fits all your friends, all your gear, and all your beer with ease and comfort.  There's so much room in those big, old wagons, you could almost pick up hitchhikers on your way too!  They've got space, style, and are still rockin' a V8 and rwd.  They're pretty much the ultimate road trip vehicle.

Tell me how that doesn't scream open road
Especially when you throw on a camper
Wagons are perfectly practical vehicles.
Now to the meat and potatoes, here's my idea.  Everybody's talking LS swap, LS swap, LS swap, and you know what?  They're not wrong.  You can get LS motors for cheap, and you can get parts to make them work in anything for not that much more than the motor costs.  Some people do the 4.8, and most people do the 5.3, but in a big bodied wagon like this, I say go big with the 6.0. The newer gen IV motors claim 345 hp and 380 ft-lb stock!  Just think what you could get with some mods!  It seems like with some porting, a can, and some better air flow both in and out of the motor, I bet 500 hp wouldn't be that much more of a stretch, and just think what could happen with a turbo or a supercharger.  It would be a disservice to keep an automatic behind that potent of a motor, and in the spirit of road trips, I'd opt for a 6-speed.  I'd also get rid of the air ride rear suspension and get some nice moderately stiff springs all around that would also lower it an inch or so.  All that's left is rims, tires, pipes, and paint, and you'd be hittin' the road!  I always imagined mine as being that eggplant purple they came in with some woodgrain flames, but that's just my strange idea.  Then again, isn't that what this page is all about?!

Drawing courtesy of Julie Stitt

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Up in Smoke

Here's a bonus post to take you from Big Block week into next week's post.  Enjoy the tire smoke, but if you don't have time for the whole thing, jump to the 9:00 minute mark.