Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man Buick Brings Road Drama to Bonhams


"The car had a very strong visual presence in the film and was featured throughout. It became a character. Dustin, Tom Cruise, and the '49 Buick. In essence, the car had 'third billing'." Barry Levinson, Director, Rain Man.

The 'third character' from the 1988 multi-award-winning road drama motion picture Rain Man, a distinctive 1949 Buick Rain Man Roadmaster Convertible, will be in the spotlight at the Bonhams Scottsdale Auction on January 27, offered direct from the ownership of Dustin Hoffman, who acquired the car after filming wrapped. It has an estimate of $150,000 – 250,000.

The Rain Man Buick shared the silver screen with Hoffman and co-star Tom Cruise, in the story of the cross-country life-changing road trip embarked on by their characters, Charlie Babbitt (Cruise), who had inherited the car from his father, and his autistic savant brother Raymond, a role which earned Hoffman an Academy Award for Best Actor.

One of only two Roadmasters used in the movie, the Buick was described in the film by Raymond: "it's a 1949 Buick Roadmaster straight eight, fireball eight. Only 8095 production models."

Rain Man production crew filming Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise in the Buick Roadmaster

Restyled for 1949, the Roadmaster had been Buick's flagship model since the 1930s, synonymous with power, style and elegance. Its power was upped to 150bhp with the new model, capable of a top speed of 110mph, and new visual cues included the 'observation deck' curved windshield, sweepspear side moldings and four 'Ventiports' on the front fenders.

When filming wrapped, the car offered was acquired by Hoffman. Its pair was bought by Levinson – surely testament to the stature of the car in the movie. Restored by Larry Payne of California and shown at a 1989 Buick Car Club event, Hoffman's Rain Man Buick has remained in the actor's ownership. For the past 34 years the car has rarely been seen publicly. "The Buick's been in storage too long," says Hoffman, "It should be driven, enjoyed, and cherished."

Jakob Greisen, Bonhams Vice President - Head of US Motoring, said: "This Roadmaster presents an extraordinary, truly once in a lifetime opportunity to own the third character from the classic Rain Man movie. We are honoured to have been entrusted with this special motorcar and are sure that it will be a hit with Buick enthusiasts and fans of Mr. Hoffman and Rain Man alike."

Other American classics in supporting roles at Scottsdale include:

1968 Shelby GT500 KR Fastback, estimate $160,000 – 210,000

Flying the 'Stars and Stripes' is a 1968 Shelby GT500 KR Fastback, estimate $160,000 – 210,000. A highly optioned example of the 'King of the Road' Shelby GT500, one of the most collectible Shelby Mustangs, this is powered by the Big Block 428 cubic-inch Cobra Jet V8 engine.

One of only 110 finished with Special Order Yellow Paint option, this Shelby has had a stunning, nut-and-bolt factory correct restoration performed and is a well-documented example with Marti Report and Ford factory records on file.

1970 Chevrolet Nova LT/1 Yenko Deuce Coupe, estimate $135,000 – 165,000

This powerful and rare 1970 Chevrolet Nova LT/1 Yenko Deuce Coupe is offered from a prominent Reno, Nevada-based collection of sports and special interest automobiles, ready for high-speed cruising. One of just 175 examples, this muscle car is fitted with desirable COPO 9737 sports conversion and COPO 9010 LT/1 engine packages, comprising a highly tuned 360hp 350 cubic-inch solid-lifter Turbo-Fire V8 unit. Its estimate is $135,000 – 165,000.

The eleventh edition of The Scottsdale Auction presents 90 collectors' automobiles, spanning all eras, from a 1902 Darracq Single-cylinder Tonneau from the famed Harrah Collection to a 2012 McLaren MP4-12C. Leading the sale are a rarely-available 1961 Jaguar E-Type Series 1 'Outside Bonnet Latch' Roadster, estimate $380,000 – 480,000, and a barn find 1953 Mercedes Benz 300S, one of only 141 roadster variants of the post-war flagship model produced, estimate $375,000 – 475,000.

The Sale takes place on the lawns of Scottsdale's Westin Kierland Resort, on Thursday January 27 at 10am MST, as a traditional live sale, also available on the Bonhams App, which provides registered bidders the opportunity to bid in real time online via Bonhams.com while watching the auctioneer and images of cars on offer. Absentee and telephone bids are also encouraged.

Pre-sale viewing will take place at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa on Tuesday January 25 and Wednesday January 26, 9am to 6pm, and Thursday January 27, from 9am to 11am.

The Scottsdale Auction catalogue is online: www.bonhams.com/scottsdale. Contact [email protected] to register to bid or to book a viewing.

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