Stars Align, Buick Riviera Crosses the Pacific
Owner and photographer: Tony Gentilcore
Year, Make, and Model: 1965 Buick Riviera
Location: Sydney, NSW, Australia
I got interested in Buicks after my son bought a 1969 Riviera. I had never realised how nice it is to have such a presence on the road with a full size American car. I bought a ’66 Riviera a year later in 2001, a 1966 Wildcat convertible in 2004 and a ’71 Riviera Boattail in 2006.
After attending the inaugural Australian ROA (Riviera Owners Association) Meet in Coffs Harbour in 2010 I fell in love with the 1st Generation Riviera. It’s not like I had not admired them before but the stars were aligned, I’d sold my ’66 Riviera, the Aussie Dollar was very strong and the idea of a new project appealed to me very much. My idea was to get a bit of a roughy that needed restoration and do it as a mild custom.
After placing an ad in the ROA Riview magazine I received a phone call from a gentleman in Maine. He had bought this car 41 years ago in Texas and it had never been in the rain or snow and he claimed it was a (GS) Gran Sport. I wasn’t looking for a GS so if it was it would be a nice bonus. He didn’t have email so we arranged for photos to be sent to me by snail mail and within a week or so they duly arrived. The car had accumulated a lot of sixties accessories, stickers, ribbons and pin stripes but looked straight and heavily loaded with factory options.
The ROA Roster was invaluable and I found a member about 39 miles away who was happy to check the car for me. He gave me a good report and better pictures so I bought it the next day. It does have an LX engine code which means it came with the dual quad carburettors from the factory.
I arranged to have the car transported to the West Coast and then it went into a 40′ container with two other cars for it’s long sea journey to Sydney, arriving in August 2011. Upon arrival, it immediately needed its mufflers and carbs overhauled because they were leaking. I cleaned it inside and out and scraped kilos of grime off the underside, decluttered the car of its excessive after-market accessories and pin striping. The roof was not true vinyl but some sort of DIY paint and it was awful. I took it to a local shop for a quote, just to paint the roof, but ended up getting the whole car stripped down and resprayed including the engine bay. Happily, there was no rust or bondo found anywhere on the car.
We chose a punchier sixties GM metallic blue colour, debadged the body, shaved the trunk, and the front and rear bumpers were rechromed except the lower front bumper section. The interior was re-upholstered in leather and matching cut pile carpet was custom-fitted by a different local shop. We deliberately strayed from the original seat stitching design and deleted carpet on the door cards and kick panels. The new hood lining is perforated off-white vinyl with new sun visors. For additional safety we installed inertia lap/sash (shoulder) belts in the front and static lap belts in the rear.
The factory chrome wheels were replaced with American Racing 16″ x 7″ Torque Thrust mags which are correct for the period and 215x70x16 tires. Original radio and speakers replaced with RetroSound modern stereo gear.
It’s a beautiful car to drive and we’ve just enjoyed clocking up 2,900 miles on the Buick Nationals and post tour held in Tasmania and done a trip north to the Gold Coast for a Nostalgic Festival. Long trips are most enjoyable as you really get to know the car and how it performs in comfort. The toughest part of ownership is not being able to drive it all the time because it’s on special historic registration that limits it to club sanctioned runs.
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