Perhaps it was not in the cards for television and classic car celebrity Wayne Carini to be driving the 1949 Buick Roadmaster that car geeks consider the star performer in Rain Man, the 1988 Oscar winning best picture. (Co-starring were Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise, cast as brothers Raymond and Charlie Babbitt, on an epic road trip from Cincinnati to Los Angeles.)
In his role as Raymond, an autistic savant, Hoffman insisted that on Saturdays their Dad let him “drive the car slow on the driveway. But not on Monday, definitely not on Monday.” Well, on this particular Monday, Carini was driving the Buick – recently restored by his F40 Motorsports – from a weekend showing at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida, when it seemingly ran out of gas. Could it be that the car has an aversion to being driven on Mondays?
Motorist Dale Oakes, who pulled his pickup over and offered assistance, told me on the phone that this wasn’t the first time he tended to the huge Buick. He owns Euro Classics Ltd. (www.euroclassix.com), an automotive restoration and service facility in Dayton, Ohio. Nearly three decades ago, he had a side job keeping the car in order during filming of Rain Man scenes in and around Cincinnati.
Carini suspected the car had run out of fuel, so Oakes drove to a nearby convenience store and retrieved a can of gas. After further poking around, it was determined that the fuel pump had failed, and Carini called for towing assistance. This roadside story ends here in deference to David Lillywhite, passenger in the Buick and editorial director of Octane Magazine, who is encouraged to give a first-hand account of the episode on his own pages.
Rain Man, released on VHS in 1989, included a 90-second ad by Buick. Note that the Roadmaster is black, rather than beige, on the video case.
Dustin Hoffman takes in a Cincinnati Reds game at Riverfront Stadium with team owner, Marge Schott, during a break in the filming of Rain Man. Schott fared much better in the public eye as longtime owner of a Buick dealership than she did as a baseball executive. In the movie, Hoffman was a Reds fanatic, even wearing a team t-shirt to bed at night.