The Academy Award-winning film Rain Man is celebrated for its two vibrant leading characters: yuppie car dealer Charlie Babbitt, played by Tom Cruise, and his recently discovered autistic older brother, Raymond, with Dustin Hoffman winning an Oscar for his portrayal.
But really, there were three major roles: the Babbitt brothers and the yellow 1949 Buick Roadmaster convertible that took them on a life-changing cross-country tour.
One of the two memorable Buicks used in the filming will make its concours debut at the 21st annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in March, after its restoration by Connecticut car guy Wayne Carini of Velocity’s Chasing Classic Cars, who performed the work for the car’s owner, Rain Man director Barry Levinson.
The classic convertible with the hallmark “ventiports” in its front fenders will be part of the Post War American Production class at the Florida concours, and certain to be the center of attention as it recalls the popular movie.
Produced in 1988, Rain Man focuses on Charlie Babbitt, a self-absorbed businessman in financial turmoil, who learns after his estranged father’s death that he has an older brother in an institution. The autistic brother, he finds, has a mental condition in which he exists in a simple and isolated world, but with savant-like skills. He also is the “Rain Man” of Charlie’s childhood memory.
They embark on a road trip to Los Angeles after Raymond panics at the airport, on back roads because Raymond sees a crash and fears riding on the Interstate. This allows many loving action shots of the top-down Buick on the highway, raising the car to pop-culture status. There is even an assortment of die-cast models available for fans of the film or the car.
“The ’49 is a Buick styling landmark,” said Bill Warner, founder and chairman of the Amelia Island Concours. “The VentiPort’ – the ‘holes’ in the fenders – debuted with the 1949s and with the ‘Sweep Spear,’ is still part of Buick’s design DNA. But what people will always remember best about the ’49 is the ‘Rain Man.’ We’re very pleased to have one of Wayne’s (Carini) restorations on the field again.”
The restored convertible is in factory trim aside from a modified rear suspension equipped to carry the extra weight of camera equipment plus the cameraman who filmed Hoffman and Cruise from the trunk.
The Amelia Island Concours, which has become one of the nation’s most prestigious class car events, takes place March 11-13, 2016, on the 10th and 18th fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at The Ritz-Carlton.