Model Review: Danbury Mint 1956 Buick Roadmaster 4-Door Riviera

Reviewed and Photographed by Peter Brown

When rumors of this model first began to circulate, a lot of collectors rejoiced, while others remained cautiously optimistic. Hardly anyone, it seemed, didn't care whether or not the rumors were true. Well, as we all now know they were indeed true, and here is the proof right before your eyes.

Four door models in this scale are hard to engineer because of the rear door hinge assemblies. FM avoided this problem with their '61 Continental convertible and '57 Eldorado Brougham because they had suicide-type rear doors, which were hinged with doglegs from the rear fender. Later offerings like FM's '61 Country Squire, and DM's '41 Cadillac Fleetwood, used high-tech hidden hinges to solve the problem, but these cars were not hardtops, so they had a full-height "B" pillar to provide structural support. Other than CMC with their 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300d Cabriolet, I can't think of another time when a manufacturer has managed to pull off this neat trick in 1:24 scale, and certainly never before with an American car.

This opens up a whole realm of possibilities that collectors never dreamed they would ever see come to pass, and I'm not a bit surprised that the innovative Danbury Mint was the one to do it. Bravo! Let's face it; nobody ever thought they'd see this car in 1:24, and just look at it! I'm kvelling already!! Not only is this a rarity in scale because it's a 4-door hardtop, to top it off they also made it a tri-tone paint scheme. Color has been somewhat of a contentious issue for this offering, as early rumors had the model finished in black, coral, and white, top to bottom. When pictures first began appearing on the Internet, they gave the appearance of a black, rust, and tan combination—probably just a darkened image of the actual production piece. While I'm sure that any of these combinations would have pleased collectors, it wasn't until Diecast Ramblings broke the first independent photos of the model that we learned what the true colors looked like. For the record, they are Carlsbad Black, Seminole Red, and Cameo Beige; a very appealing combination which should satisfy the majority of tastes.

So, on to the nuts and bolts, the guided tour you've been waiting for: Take a look at that long, sleek profile; doesn't it just give you goose bumps? There's nothing like a hardtop, particularly a four door, to accentuate the length of a car; and those long, sinuous, flowing curves and lines which this Buick carries off so well. Paint quality, fit, and finish are up to DM's usual high standards.

In the picture above, take a close look at the reflection and you'll see the delicate chrome lateral ribs on the underside of the roof, but that's not where the headliner detail stops; between the ribs there's a simulated red fabric, complete with the familiar pattern of white pin-dots. Want more? There's also a courtesy light on each side, and toward the back you'll find simulated clothing hooks as well. The visors are there too, but stationary on this model. If it were a convertible I might complain, but on a sedan it's really of no consequence. There are plenty of other gee-wiz items on this model to impress your friends.

From any angle, she's stunning, and as realistic as one could possibly hope for in this scale. The gas filler door is non-functional, but it's a little more deeply etched, or perhaps it's the darker paint color that makes it look better than the one on the '65 Thunderbird. Whatever the reason, in person it doesn't detract from the model's appearance, and I don't think anyone minds losing the working feature. For light colored cars, though, deeper etching, factory blackwash, or a separately molded non-working door would be preferable. Non-working suspensions have become the order of the day, but when they result in perfect stance, and the ability to put money into more visible details (both of which are evident with this model), I'm whole-heartedly in favor of the practice.

In the close-ups below, we get our first good look at that fabulous interior with its plush black carpeting. The steering wheel hub is complete with the Buick crest, and lettering so small I can't read it, but I believe it says "power steering." I'd sure hate to pilot this boat without it! You'll also find readable gauges, finely reproduced switches and buttons, and as for the seats—well, between the simulated black and white patterned fabric, complete with pleats, the black piping, and the red "leather" bolsters, it's almost enough to make you forget this is a model. Oh, and did you notice the power seat switches?

Below, we've flung open all four doors to show you even more of this model's strong points. Note the black and chrome hard bolster at the trailing edge of the front bench seat back, the rear seat passenger pull-straps, and the chrome ashtray in the center. Each door has a sprung latch to keep it tightly shut and perfectly aligned, and it's here in the doorjambs where the absence of chrome reveals how precisely the join between paint colors has been accomplished. How do they do that? You also get a good look at the stainless steel door sills, those trademark "ventiports" on the front fender which are deeply molded for amazing realism, and the full wheel covers complete with red centers, emblazoned with the word BUICK in capital letters, and totally legible.

Here, we've turned the car around to give you a different view of those magnificent seats. This angle shows off the visible seams and the rear seat armrest, which incidentally does fold down. There's a tool included with the model to help you manipulate it, but I was afraid I might damage something so I didn't want to attempt it until after I had taken all of my photos. Here, you can also see the "Roadmaster" script on the leading edge of the front doors, the dual side view mirrors, the finely crafted wipers, the fine mesh intake vent below the windscreen, and the simulated black rubber gaskets surrounding it as well as the vent windows. Lastly, stop to admire the way in which the light dances across those beautifully formed curves on the doors.

In this close-up rear ¾ view, we get a better look at the finely crafted chrome straps on the trunk lid, as well as the acres of other chrome the factory ladled onto this top of the line car. Clear and red transparent lenses give added realism to the taillight assemblies, as do the tiny reflector spots in between. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention the separate photo-etched letters spelling out the car's name, and the tiny inset chrome trunk lock—so perfectly to scale. You should also take note of how tightly the rear door meets the fender, and how perfectly aligned the chrome trim is from panel to panel.

Opening the trunk, we see an accurately patterned liner, a removable spare tire, and jacking tools. Even the latching mechanism and release are depicted with great attention to detail. Top it off with realistically scaled trunk hinges (complete with rivet heads picked out in silver paint) and a simulated rubber gasket around the trunk opening, and you could hardly ask for more. Another detail seen in this view is the operating antenna shown here in the up position, the tiny manufacturer's sticker inside the front doorjamb, and the beautifully detailed inside door panels done in black, red and chrome, with separately molded door handles and power window switches, and finished off with correctly embossed stainless steel kick plates at the bottom.

Another view showing off the interior door panels—note the simulated black rubber door gaskets. You also get a good look at the spare tire, and how perfectly the dual exhaust pipes exit through notches in the bottom of the rear bumper.

You really have to get down low (unless you're a 1:24 scale person) to read the jacking instructions under the trunk lid. In this view you get a slightly better view of the jack, the exhaust pipes, and the fabric trunk liner pattern reveals a bit more detail as well.

Moving forward we take a closer look at the front-end detail, and that wondeful jet plane hood ornament. The hood just below and in front of the ornament is scooped out, lined with chrome, with a faux vent replicated in photo-etch. Masterful! Just below that is the BUICK name spelled out in separate, photo-etch letters, and accurately patterned headlight lenses set into chrome buckets, mounted on body-colored fender extensions that look for all the world like separately molded parts—wow! Gun sights atop each fender, clear marker light lenses on delicate chrome bases, and chrome so perfect you get that wonderful kaleidoscope effect from the reflection of the photo-etched grill in the front bumper bullets. It doesn't get much better than this, folks. The piece de résistance, of course, is the center winged emblem which clearly reads "1956" in the upper half, and "ROADMASTER" in the lower. I think Buick was the only car to actually put the model year on the exterior of car, and even then just for two years—a bit of trivia for you.

Up here at the business end of this ride, we peer under the hood to see Buick's big V8 engine reproduced in glorious detail. From this vantage point you can really appreciate the extreme lengths DM went to. Every hose, wire, bracket, label, etc. is done as a separate part or picked out in carefully applied paint. I never cease to be amazed at how they replicate those working scissor-type hinges, and even go so far as to include the retention springs! The silver paint on every bolt on the radiator mount and the firewall add a lot to the realism of this compartment.

Whichever side you look at, coming or going, this Buick's a real show stopper. It will make a great addition to any collection, in-fact I would go so far as to say that no collection will be complete without one. Even if you only collect Corvettes, you may be sorely tempted by this one, so don't say I didn't warn you.

Well, there she goes, motoring off into the distance. Hopefully she'll return soon to make an appearance in your display. This is one of those models I wish I could give 5 ½ or 6 stars to; it's that great. Hat's off to Manny, Moe, and the whole gang at DM whose daring, foresight, and attention to detail made this possible. I can only imagine what else they've got up their sleeves.