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Restoration help 1966 Riviera


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Hello All, This is my 1st post, I have been considering buying a 1966 Riviera from a friend of mine and restoring it from the ground up. It has some surface rust, and I will probably have to replace the bottom half of some of the quarter panels. The interior is in very good shape and the 425 nailhead engine w/96k miles runs strong as does the Super Turbine Transmission. I will do what ever it takes to restore her but I have some questions…..this will be my first restore project. What should I look for and more importantly look out for in considering this as a project car? My friend wants $2600.00 for the 1966 Riviera, Is this a good price? Do you think this is a doable restoration? how much rust is too much rust? Please check out the pic's from the links below, any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thank You Michael













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I personally think that's a bit high. That car's going to need a lot of bodywork, and that's the stuff most people like doing the least. However, if it is structurally sound, it can be done. I have seen Rivs in that age range in much better shape for $5000-$7500. On the other hand, I've paid too much for cars and put more money into them than they were worth (my Corvair)...so if you're dead set on getting this one, get the best deal possible! I'd say no more than 1500, but that's just me.

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Nice car, and love the style.

I agree with Aaron on the price. It would sit for a long time on the market at that price.

I have done a few cars myself and I have found that when you see rust like that you can expect that what you see is maybe 10% of the full rust issues you will have to deal with.

Once you start pulling off trim and get behind the car outer shell, you may get dismayed at the amount of rust out you have to deal with.

The interior will need a bit of work too.

I'd suggest is you really want the car, get a much closer look at the rust, pull up the carpet, poke at the trunk floor, behind the wheel wells, behind some trim.

You might also want a safty / structural assessment of the frame by a frame shop.

The starting price can be insignificant in the face of the repairs you may need to do.

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Agree with the previous posts, and would like to add this thought; what is your budget for restoring the car?

At $2600, you are a little high if the car turns out to be much, much worse than you expected. At $1,000, you could at least harvest the engine, transmission and other various parts and recoup your investment on ebay or craigslist if the car turned out to be too far gone.

Are you planning on doing a lot of the work yourself? If not, take some photos and go to various shops you might use. You might be shocked at how much a body shop would want to remove the surface rust, prime and seal the body and repaint it.

Ditto with the upholstery. Granted, any shop is going to estimate high what they would charge for the work by just looking at photos, but costs in restoration tend to escalate quickly anyway.

Remember Murphy's law of car restoration: Add up all the costs to restore a car, double it and then add 10% and you still may be too low.

I don't want to discourage you, just hope you go in with your eyes wide open if this is your first restoration.


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With all due respect, that is a parts car. The only way it would be worth restoring is if you had a big bank account and the car had serious sentimental value. Attempts to restore that car would be certain to fail. Costs would skyrocket well beyond any expected end value when its completed.

For your first project, I recommend you buy a car with a rust free body and you will never be sorry. If you don't live in an area that has rust free cars, pay to have one shipped from an arid climate like Texas, AZ or CA. In comparison, a shipping cost of $500-$1000 is a fraction of rust repair cost.

Someone else mentioned very nice examples of these cars can be had for $5000-$8000 or somewhere in that range and that is true. OK, I know that probably sounds like more than you want to pay but trust me, you'll have way more than that invested trying to restore a rusty car. I've even seen rust free straight cars in the $2500-$4000 range that would make a good project.

Your friends best bet would be to part it out. You are very smart to have posted the question here before buying this car. Even if you got it for $500 it is not worth restoring in my personal opinion. I have been a 66-67 fanatic for 30 years and from what I see in the pics you posted, this car has very serious rust/rot issues.

If you are serious about getting a Riv to restore consider joining the Riviera Owners Association. You will find a huge amount of information as well as great people to assist you.

Good Luck

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I think Jason's ideas are god. Just for a perspective, I think you can still buy a running Riv, unrestored, well maintained and running for less then $15,000, unless the more pricy GS Models. This is a big car and a big engine, so cost for proper full resto will be probably 4 or 5 times that if it is done right, unless you are doing your own body work, engine rebuild, etc. Check out the Riv section and the ROA for others cars that might be avaiable.

There is not much mention of the drive train condition, but the engine looks tired from the photos. However, I guess there is a battery in it and it may run, as there seems to be the inside light on when the door was opend for the photos. Also it is hard to tell if those massive bumpers need replating ($). I also note a trailer hitch - that might not be good for the drive train.

That's my opinion. You could spend far less buying a running Riv that will keep you happy. I know mine does.


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As with others, the price is a little high. But consider this everyone: 1. It runs and 2. The interior is near pristine and can be used as is (unless I missed a seam split somewhere) Interior restoration costs a lot, almost as high as some body work. That body is straight but most Riviera bodies I've seen 66-70 are straight anyway.

Engine runs well? Leave it alone. Riviera engine bays are complicated as it is. Tons of wires, connectors, vacuum hoses galore.

So, I say offer $1500. It's a $1500 Riviera. I have seen nice originals go for $3500 to $4000, but if you don't have $3500 to $4000 it doesn't mean anything.

66 Rivieras just can't seem to gain market grunt for some reason. In their day they won a ton of awards, and posthumously, they are highly regarded as one of the all time best designs.

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The driver's seat and passenger door panels have rips Bryan. Plus the quarters are shot, that left front fender's bubbling, some chrome's bad...the door gaps look all funny on the driver's door...I'd run away from this one...

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Guest imported_Thriller

I'm going to be a bit more optimistic than some of the other folks. Ultimately, any car can be restored...it really comes down to a matter of cost. This is my '66 Wildcat.


It isn't a great photo, but below the trim on the side was in pretty tough shape - the front fender, quarters and rocker panel all had rust through, as did the trunk. I recall a couple of folks saying it was too rusty to restore.


It's amazing what a good body guy can do. However, it did cost - the bill at the body shop (including new windshield, straightening front bumper, replating both bumpers, and vinyl roof) was about $15k a few years ago. Based on the price guides, the car isn't worth much more than that and that was just the body work, not the engine rebuild, mechanical, interior, and so on. I now have about $30k into this car. But, for me, it isn't about the money. Even at that, I look at the car and know there's a fair bit more that could be done to improve it.

So, one thing to consider...if you don't do the work yourself, and it costs you $15-20k to restore the car, does it make a huge difference whether you paid $1500 for it, and perhaps made your friend bitter, or a thousand more? Of course, a good friend would probably be willing to cut you some slack as well if he is getting you into your first restoration.

Just my 2 cents Canadian, worth just over 1.6 cents....

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I hope you have gotten what you needed out of your first post. Whatever you decide, let us know.

I think it's admirable that Thriller let's people know the real world (albeit Canadian wink.gif ) costs associated with the restoration of his Wildcat. So many folks, myself included, give vague costs. "My paint job on my 55 cost more than a new Hyundai". That's what I usually tell people. The car hobby can be very enjoyable, but the cost of entry/ "competing" can be very high.

I tend to think that you should buy the absolute best car you can afford, or more. Try eBay and search for other 66 Rivs, you may be surprised at what you CAN afford. I have to agree with most of the posts above. I think ultimately you will become disillusioned at the cost, work involved, and pile of rusty metal on your first restoration.

I bought my Wildcat for $3500 with a goal of making it a good, fun convertible to tool around in. Shortly after buying it, I saw many examples of 63 convertibles that were MUCH nicer than what I ended up with for around $10-12k. I stopped my "restoration" at around $15k and I did alot of the work myself. I bargained with paint guys, upholstery guys and ended up with a pretty nice car. Do I regret spending that much? No. I saved a car that was decent i.e. it wasn't headed for the crusher. And I had fun driving and showing it.

If you want a 66 Riv, do your homework. Check prices on really nice examples. Don't worry, you will have time. Your buddy's Riv will still be there if you decide to buy it (it IS priced too high).

Good luck, stick around. There's lots of good info here on the forum.

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I think part of the issue is that the 66 Riviera is what his buddy has to offer. I do not think Michael is specifically looking for a 66 Riviera. That's part of the problem. Michael is being offered a specific car that his buddy has, he's not necessarily going to go looking for other 66 Rivieras that might be btter.

I do now see the interior issue. But that interior is still pretty good to start with.

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Hey Guys, I really appreciate and respect your honest opinion on the '66 Riv, I really like the lines and body style of the '66 Riviera's and BJM is right, it is one of a few my friend has for sale. My friend has another '66 Riv as a donor car that I could get the 1/4 panels from along with the hood and trunk lid and extra headlight & taillight lens covers and even both bumpers if need be, He said he has an immaculate black interior he would give me (that came out of the donor car) along with a new headliner and 5 factory mag wheels. I would do all the body work myself in my garage, cutting and replacing the sheet metal and painting the car myself, eventually I would like to rebuild the engine and tranny, replace the hoses and brake lines, upgrade the brake system, and do as much as I can with what few skills I have and hopefully get as much help and insight from everyone here on this forum....I could post pics of my progress. I would like to take my time so I could do this right. I agree that $2600. is high.....maybe I could get him to come down on his price some. My friend has a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme (no title) that has a trashed interior and more rust than the Riviera he wants $1200. for and he has a friend that has a 1963 Impala SS that is a total rust bucket he wants $2200. for, if you would like to see pics of these let me know.


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Mike only you can make the call as to what will work for ya and what won't. As others have said, price seems a little high, but if you are getting donor parts as part of the deal, maybe not. How much rust is too much, when it goes through the frame or has weakened the frame of the car, thats too much. I almost got nailed on this. I'd check or have someone check the frame on this car if you are set on getting it. Yet another 2 cents!! Good luck.

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I gotta agree with BRH. If donor parts are included, or at least, available for A decent price, it may be worth it.

I didn't mean to imply that you were only looking for a 66 Riv, only saying make sure you are armed with all the info you can get. I wasn't looking for a raggedy-a$$ Buick when I bought my first one. I was looking for a Mu$tang grin.gif . Now look at me...

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If the donor car is included, offer $2200 ( didn't anyone notice the $750-$1000 steering wheel? ) It seems from your writing, you want to try your hand at a restoration. I would look over the donor car, as it may be the better car to restore ( swapping a engine and transmission is a hell of a lot easier then cutting off and welding on quarter panels )

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