One of two iconic 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible car used in the acclaimed 1988 United Artists film “Rain Man,” starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman, and directed by Barry Levinson, brought $170,500 when it came across the block at Heritage Auctions on Dec. 14 as part of an Entertainment & Music Memorabilia auction.
“This car, a crucial character in the film, brought a price that shows not only a great love of the film, but also a deep commitment to the preservation of such an important automobile,” said Margaret Barrett, Director of Entertainment & Music Memorabilia at Heritage. “The plot of the movie essentially revolves around this beautiful vehicle, making it more than just a piece of screen-used memorabilia. It’s the catalyst for the entire movie — a movie for which Hoffman also won an Academy Award.”
The buyer of the car is identified only as an anonymous collector.
Rain Man famously tells the story of Charlie Babbitt, a selfish yuppie of questionable ethics played expertly by Cruise, who learns that his estranged father has died, bequeathing his entire fortune to his other son, Raymond, an autistic savant brilliantly portrayed by Hoffman. All that Cruise’s character gets from his father are his prized rosebushes and the car.
“Cruise’s Charlie Babbitt is a high-end car salesman and the 1949 Buick figures large in his life as the one car he never got to drive as he was forbidden from it by his father,” said Barrett. “Once he and Hoffman connect, they set off on a cross-country adventure in the car, which is in virtually every scene, and the rest is Hollywood history.”
The car is a two-door convertible with beige exterior, red leather interior, Straight-8 Fireball 8 cylinders, 320 c.u. inches engine size, 2-speed Dynaflow automatic transmission with a modified rear suspension to hold the extra weight of the camera equipment plus the cameraman when he had to shoot while sitting in the trunk.
“This is a plum prize for the buyer,” said Barrett. “It’s one of the great screen-featured automobiles from the 1980s, from one of the best films of the decade, besides being a prime example of one of America’s greatest classic cars.”