1992 Buick Roadmaster hearse

Hi all, i was hoping to pick your collective brains on the possibility of purchasing a 1992 buick roadmaster hearse. I got really burnt on my first hearse purchase, in fact i have been told i could not have made a worse pick than my beloved 1999 cadillac hearse. Parts are impossible to get, so i was wondering what kind of issues i can expect to face with the Buick roadmaster? How are parts? Easy to get? Is there something i should know specifically? Something i should check out before i buy? Any and all info would be incredibly appreciated!
Thank you all, in advance.
 
I can second what Eric said. I personally love early to mid 90s coaches. I've owned at least a half dozen. They get great gas mileage, parts are readily available, comfortable and they just perform awesome. A place I know in Minneapolis used them for removals for many years. They would push 200k-300k on them with very little issues. I think they are one of the most reliable.

I'd avoid getting another coach with a Northstar engine. 97-99 being the worst. Those things are ticking time bombs.
 

Paul Steinberg

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"When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them," My first antique car was a 1926 Buick Master Country Club Coupe with a rumble seat and golf club compartment.

An ad slogan that first appeared in 1911, "When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them," would be revived several times in the decades ahead. The roaring '20s saw great success against Ford Motor Co.; Buick sold more than 230,000 cars in 1926 with little fanfare or marketing.
 

Paul Steinberg

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That was 60 years ago. I had some pictures, but after a couple of moves, they got lost. Here is a picture of a Model 54C from the New York Public Library. Mine was apple green and black. When I moved in 1973 I had no place to put it, so I sold that along with my 1928 Buick Standard 4-door sedan.

54C.jpg
 
Did you ever calculate the gas mileage in your 99? I'm just curious if they actually do get better mileage. All my mid 90s coaches have pulled 20 to 25mpg on the highway. About 16 to 18mpg in town. I think the mileage is great considering the size of the car.
 

Eric Gemzer

PCS Member
Did you ever calculate the gas mileage in your 99? I'm just curious if they actually do get better mileage. All my mid 90s coaches have pulled 20 to 25mpg on the highway. About 16 to 18mpg in town. I think the mileage is great considering the size of the car.
I have a 2000 and I can say highway after the bulletproof kit was put in with the ac on full blast I pulled 28-30 mpg
 
Avoid all 97 to 99 hearses. I, much like Jeremy have owned many and still own 5 mid 90s coaches. Some of the best Ive owned if daily driving. I drove a 97 while in livery and have never been let down by a car more than that, especially when on the job. Very embarrassing. Worst cads ever. That said, avoid 2000 to 2004 like the plague as well. The 1992 you are looking at will be far less problematic.
 
From my experiences as a GM dealership partsman. The Optispark ignition system is not one of my favorites.
Being located between the engine block and the water pump makes it labor intensive for even a “simple” distributor cap and rotor replacement, off comes the water pump. The only serviceable parts inside are the cap and rotor, anything else is a distributor replacement. I haven’t kept up on prices since I retired five years ago but the OEM Optispark complete distributor in the mid to late 2000’s was in the area of eight hundred dollars if memory is correct but by now there has to be aftermarket new and rebuilt units out there.
Also, the engine block, while it is a 350 it is not the “usual” block. The distributor is driven off the front of the camshaft via a coupler, It’s been a long time but I think there were two designs, an early and late drive, both included a ball bearing and by now both have probably been discontinued by GM. A few years before I left I had to find one for a job in the shop, it took a bit of work to track one down. Also, if for some reason that engine block gets damaged beyond repair (freeze up, throw a rod through it) be prepared to do some hunting as while GM does offer some “crate motors” for service replacements in the regular Powertrain line and in the General Motors Performance Parts they do not offer one of those and you cannot modify or retrofit the engine with the distributor in the back ( normal location from the original SBC’s) to work with the front mounted distributor.

Personally I could never figure out why GM did not use the distributor less ignition from the 3800 T-Type and Grand National and modify it for the small block, they had that setup back in 1984 and it predated the Optispark by a number of years.

I don’t want to sound off as being negative but just wanted to bring these things up. Those Optispark engines could and would take a lot of thrashing, one of my customers ran one in SCCA racing for quite awhile and blew it up a couple of times' he finally replaced it with an LS series engine but remember that is an off road car only.
 
From my experiences as a GM dealership partsman. The Optispark ignition system is not one of my favorites.
Being located between the engine block and the water pump makes it labor intensive for even a “simple” distributor cap and rotor replacement, off comes the water pump. The only serviceable parts inside are the cap and rotor, anything else is a distributor replacement. I haven’t kept up on prices since I retired five years ago but the OEM Optispark complete distributor in the mid to late 2000’s was in the area of eight hundred dollars if memory is correct but by now there has to be aftermarket new and rebuilt units out there.
Also, the engine block, while it is a 350 it is not the “usual” block. The distributor is driven off the front of the camshaft via a coupler, It’s been a long time but I think there were two designs, an early and late drive, both included a ball bearing and by now both have probably been discontinued by GM. A few years before I left I had to find one for a job in the shop, it took a bit of work to track one down. Also, if for some reason that engine block gets damaged beyond repair (freeze up, throw a rod through it) be prepared to do some hunting as while GM does offer some “crate motors” for service replacements in the regular Powertrain line and in the General Motors Performance Parts they do not offer one of those and you cannot modify or retrofit the engine with the distributor in the back ( normal location from the original SBC’s) to work with the front mounted distributor.

Personally I could never figure out why GM did not use the distributor less ignition from the 3800 T-Type and Grand National and modify it for the small block, they had that setup back in 1984 and it predated the Optispark by a number of years.

I don’t want to sound off as being negative but just wanted to bring these things up. Those Optispark engines could and would take a lot of thrashing, one of my customers ran one in SCCA racing for quite awhile and blew it up a couple of times' he finally replaced it with an LS series engine but remember that is an off road car only.
I have between 200 and 300 k on all my opti spark engines...while a weak point, i agree....show me ANY other hearse that will pull over 20 mpg and have that longevity. Not a single one out there. Not one. I currently own coaches spanning 1963 to 1995...love most of em, but the mid 90s rigs have been by far the most dependable. By a long shot.
 
I have between 200 and 300 k on all my opti spark engines...while a weak point, i agree....show me ANY other hearse that will pull over 20 mpg and have that longevity. Not a single one out there. Not one. I currently own coaches spanning 1963 to 1995...love most of em, but the mid 90s rigs have been by far the most dependable. By a long shot.
Not knocking those a bit, just calling out the problems I personally experienced with them, 47 years as a dealership parts counterman exclusively GM products.
Hey, at least the cap and rotor was offered later in the Optispark era, initially they were a non serviced item.

GM did a lot of strange things in the early 80’s, For example they had the distributor less ignition system that I mentioned in 1984 for the Buick 3.8L engine but in 1985 when GM introduced the FWD Oldsmobile 98 and Buick Electra with the 3.8 engine they used a conventional distributor in it.
 
That 92 doesn't have an LT1 with an optispark. Just a simple 350 with a throttle body. Those didn't come out in those cars til 94. Personally I would much rather have an LT1. Both cars are plenty good though.
It's funny that the earlier roadmasters had a tachometer with the simple 350. Then they did away with it when they added the Corvette engine.
One more thing to add to owning a roadmaster hearse is that most had a nice simple heating system instead of climate control. Probably one of my favorite things about them. Never been a fan of climate control.
 

Eric Gemzer

PCS Member
Avoid all 97 to 99 hearses. I, much like Jeremy have owned many and still own 5 mid 90s coaches. Some of the best Ive owned if daily driving. I drove a 97 while in livery and have never been let down by a car more than that, especially when on the job. Very embarrassing. Worst cads ever. That said, avoid 2000 to 2004 like the plague as well. The 1992 you are looking at will be far less problematic.
Going to argue that, 2000-2005 are phenomenal once bulletproofed
 
I'm going to have to agree with Matt. Not a fan of the Northstar engine. I've heard that they have made improvements but I still wouldn't touch one with a ten foot pole. I still remember an 2000 -2005 coming into my friends shop years ago. Antifreeze was leaking something terrible. Found that the block was cracked. We felt bad for the guy because he had just gotten the transmission rebuilt. Another thing that is also a pain in the butt on those engines is starter replacement. Located under the intake. There are other horrendous repairs that I have seen too. I know every engine has their flaws and dreadful jobs but the Northstar has a bad reputation for a reason.
 

Eric Gemzer

PCS Member
I'm going to have to agree with Matt. Not a fan of the Northstar engine. I've heard that they have made improvements but I still wouldn't touch one with a ten foot pole. I still remember an 2000 -2005 coming into my friends shop years ago. Antifreeze was leaking something terrible. Found that the block was cracked. We felt bad for the guy because he had just gotten the transmission rebuilt. Another thing that is also a pain in the butt on those engines is starter replacement. Located under the intake. There are other horrendous repairs that I have seen too. I know every engine has their flaws and dreadful jobs but the Northstar has a bad reputation for a reason.
The starter under the intake while being unusual is actually better, not exposed to the elements they rarely ever go bad. The 97-99 wasn’t a good thing for Cadillac, but I’m not going to lie out of the 15 or 16 pro cars I’ve driven daily the 2000 is better than any of the 93-96s when it comes to road trips and what not.
 
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