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Classic Tuesdays – 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera

In 1949, Buick unveiled the fifth-generation Roadmaster Riviera to the world. As one of the first hardtop coupes ever produced, the 1949 Roadmaster Riviera has become one of the most iconic coupes to grace the American automobile history.


1949 Roadmaster Riviera Post-War Styling

1949 Buick Roadmaster RivieraWith its sleek torpedo-inspired exterior, the 1949 Roadmaster Riviera was eye-catching to say the least, sporting a number of unmistakable cues from post-war American design. It was based on the General Motors C-body platform, which was shared by numerous other iconic cars from the 1940s and ’50s, such as the Pontiac Torpedo, Oldsmobile 98, and Cadillac Series 62.

The Roadmaster Riviera’s distinctive front fascia boasted a thick chrome bumper and an aggressive chrome-toothed grill. The hood featured an exaggerated hump in the center that gave it the appearance of a submarine rising out of water. Four chrome-rimmed, porthole-inspired heat vents were cut into each of the Roadmaster’s bulging front fenders, further adding to its maritime design. Buick named these prominent vents “VentiPorts,” and they have since become one of Buick’s trademark styling cues.

Other prominent styling features include a split two-piece front windshield, a sleek rear profile with a three-piece rear window, and bulging rear quarter panels. Also, of course, ample chrome was used all around.


Engine and Power Train

Powering the 1949 Roadmaster Riviera was a 320-cubic-inch straight-8 motor. Dubbed the Fireball, this I-8 engine was capable of pushing Roadmaster up to a top speed of 110 mph. However, despite its size, the 5.2-liter I-8 was quite anemic by today’s standards. The engine only churned out 150 horsepower, and it was mounted to a two-speed Dynaflow automatic transmission. With only 150 horses and 2 gears, it’s no surprise that the portly 4,200-pound Roadmaster required a grueling 16.5 seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph.


Legacy of the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera

Obviously, the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera doesn’t offer the power and performance of the hot rods and muscle cars that General Motors produced in proceeding decades. However, performance isn’t everything, and what the 1949 Roadmaster lacks in power it more than makes up for with its undeniable road presence. Not only is it one of the first modern hardtop coupes ever produced, it’s also a quintessential example of post-war American automobile design.


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