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1963 Riviera - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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OK, so the movie didn't come out until 66, but it pretty much describes this car.

This is the second of the cars I purchased as group from my Father-in-law's estate.  The 54 Roadmaster has been mentioned elsewhere. 


I've always loved 1st gen Rivieras, but lots of things show that this might not be 'the one'.  The car does have AC, but not much else in the way of upgrades.


The good - Its shiny and red!  (the original color was a maroon).  The seats look like they might be originals in good condition.  The motor is the original 401.  Obviously it has been worked on because the top end is now painted Buick Green. The short time I had it running it seems to run ok.

The Bad - Lots of loose wires hanging down under the dash.  Interior bits disassembled for unknown reasons.


The Ugly - An appraisal done in 2000 states that the car is 'too rusty to restore'.  This is because the floor pan and cross braces are rusted out and have been replaced with random bits of sheet metal and fiberglass.  The rear body mounts are gone too. Looks like the outer sills have been replaced, but not the inners as you can see straight through them to the inside of the outers.  Interestingly, the trunk floor only has two medium size holes in it and the rear quarters seem to be ok.  Surprising, given the obvious leak around the rear window.


The car wouldn't run beyond the gas I put in the carb bowls, so I pulled the fuel line and wasn't getting anything out of the pump.  I purchased a new pump (then found one in all the misc. parts), however, with the car up on the lift I could see the feed line from the tank had decayed and collapsed, so the pump wasn't getting any fuel either.  I've pulled the tank, drained the bad gas and had it cleaned out.  It was very rusty, as was the pickup and sending unit.  If it ever warms up and stops snowing here, I'll get this back together and will be able to see how it runs.


The long list of needs the car has could spell its doom.  The car sits crooked because the left side springs have collapsed.  There is corrosion around the water pump and the heater core and the radiator seems to be seeping.  All of the rubber is dried up and rotted.  It will be easy to get seriously upside down on this car in a hurry.  So my plan is to take it slow, get it running and driving and try to make decisions about work on the car as money, time and other priorities allow.



63Riv LF.jpg

63Riv RR.jpg

63Riv Dr Int.jpg

63Riv Pass Int.jpg

63Riv Eng L.jpg

63Riv Trunk.jpg

63Riv Floor.jpg

63Riv Fuel Line.jpg

63Riv Dr Susp.jpg

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I think the car looks salvageable as a driver. Unless you are finding significant deterioration of the main X frame, I'd run with it.  I like it without a vinyl roof, and that red is pretty close to the original maroon.  A few rubber parts at a time to keep it on the road and just enjoy the ride. 99% of the people who will look will not bend down to see what's underneath.  And if they ask you can always tell em it's full of holes without any further description.  They won't believe it from looking at the topside anyway.


PS:  I also like the fact that it has the passenger side rear view mirror.  I bet that's kinda rare. I know it makes the car look more balanced.

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One other thing, unless there is no transmission fluid, that x frame looks very clean and dry.  that's pretty rare too.

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There are repo floor pans available for this car.  Loose wiring under the dash might not be significant.  Rivieras were produced with a wiring harness set up to accept what ever options the seller ordered, so the loose wires could be unused but they're supposed to be there.  Replacing a heater core is a time consuming, knuckle busting job.  If you don't plan on driving the car in the winter, just by pass it.  All of the rubber parts are available.  Chances are you'd want to replace 50+ year old rubber anyway.  The wood grain on the console is something that someone added after having seen a '64; stock would be a black pebble grained vinyl for the entire console.  As long as you're replacing the rubber, you can get replacement springs from Coil Spring. Window cranks are reproduced.  Gene Gaurnere should have the missing parts to the remote mirrors (the one on the passenger's side is a DIY by a previous owner; the Riv was not available with a remote passenger's side mirror. The trunk floor looks really good compared to some I've seen.  Look for signs that the rear window leaks - you'll see rust bubbles in the lower corners and the package tray will be stained.  Those two corners are the most common places for rust.


Do yourself a favor.  Bring this thread over the the RIviera Owners Assn. forum and let the experts over there give you a "been there, done that" evaluation.  The ROA forum is down toward the bottom of the Buick forums.  There's one thread that shows how new floor braces were made - can't tell them from the originals.  Guys over there have lines on parts and who has them.  You'll find threads posted by individuals who have started with a lot less than you have now and they've created works of art.


Take a picture of the data plate and post it as well and you'll get an idea as to how the back half of the car was optioned.


If you live close to the east coast, come to Williamsburg, VA the last week of June and look at the Rivieras that will have been driven there. I think we're expecting over 100 cars to be there, and a lot of them will be from the 1st generation, 63 - 65.


If you're interested, I can also tell you where to look on the engine for stampings that will tell you if the engine is original to the car. So, as Drew Carey says on The Price is Right. "Come on down" (to the Riviera Owners Forum.)  I don't think you'll be upside down in this car if you just want to make it a presentable driver.  Let someone else to the tedious stuff if it ever gets to that point.





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I'll be the pessimist. That is a parts car and a really good one at that :( Too many decent examples of 63/64s around for what would be a fraction of what you'd put into that car to get it reliable and safe to drive.

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