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Rita – 64 Riviera build

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Back story….

I was on my way to pick up a 62 impala a friend had sitting out in his field. Someone had started a build on this and needed a temporary place to store it during a move

Needless to say the moved happened but they never came back for the car. My friend wanted to dump it for 2k. However, all the body panels were rusted along with the floors.

Figured it would be a long project but I was in no hurry.

Wife said that her car needed new tires before I brought home any more projects as I was already working on a 48 Willy’s and two 91 suburban’s.

So being the dutiful husband I am I was off to the local Big O Tire store. While waiting for the new tires a trailer pulled in with a 64 Riviera sitting on it.

The owner was bringing it in to get new tires before he put it up on Craig’s list. As we were waiting for the our cars to be completed we chatted about cars and soon came to an agreed upon price. I figured this project was a better financial fit as the car was running an driving. Only thing I saw of concern was the passenger side floor was rusted through.

So for 3k I got the car with new tires and the PO to drop it off at the house. Called the wife to tell her what a great deal this was….. could tell from the tone that she was a little upset.. but she did have new tires on the car.

Saving grace came when she was able to finial see the car. Both her and my two daughters were pleased with my choice and she was soon named Rita.

To date my 10 year old daughter has been by my side for a majority of the tear down. Interior is just about completely removed. New Floor pan was ordered from OPG and came in Friday, and full PST front end has been ordered including new front and rear springs.

The current goal of this build are:

Have fun rebuilding this with my daughter.

take care of the rust, which we found more under the rear seats and a little spot in the trunk.

freshen up the engine and transmission as the head gaskets are leaking.

Suspension rebuild as all the rubber is shot and springs are extremely soft.

New breaks. Not sure if I am going to convert to disc. Need to find an affordable kit.

New interior as the critters had taken up residence.

New paint as the PO had started to strip it down and it has developed a nice patina

New window felt and seals everywhere.

Will pull the numbers off the vin shortly and post them up.

Progress to date:









Sorry, had a pic from a trailer project I am working on that I tried to delete...


Edited by coOverwatch (see edit history)
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Front and rear windows have been removed. Front cracked when removing. was going to replace it anyway as it had 3 big chips in it.

Called a glass guy to remove the rear as it was in good shape. he had it out in one piece in 10 minutes.

Rear has some places where the window channel has rusted through. Front also has some rust but not in the channel.

think I have found all majority of the rust. Now time to cut and weld new patch panels.

I should have the PST front end and new springs here tomorrow. If so I will move to rebuilding the front end and take my time fixing the rust.




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YES. Rust will get repaired, not covered up. At least the best I can. Already got a new front floor panel from OPG in. been trying to figure out if I am going to order the two rear pans or fab them up myself. doing it myself would be justification to get a break, and shrinker/spreader. :-) At least in my opinion. wife might have other thoughts.

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Something must be wrong with me….. plan yesterday was to start removing the front suspension to clean and replace.

Figured I would remove the front bumper, grill, and running lights to see what was usable. The PO had ran into a parking block and messed up the lower bumper and bent up the running light covers.. and broke the Driver side running light assembly.


So after getting that all removed I saw the front hockey pucks were in bad shape and the lower fenders seem to have the same rust stains so what the heck.. lets pull those two..

And to remove the front mount bushings the inter fender wells needed to come out so why not… I am there.


Glad I pulled the fenders as I found another rust spot just behind the firewall that will have to be cut out and replaced. I didn’t think that I would find as much rust as I have.


I find it odd that the passenger side is so clean and the driver side is caked with grime. Anyway this opened up a better view to the engine where I could see some coolant leaks.

I believe this is just leaky head gaskets so the engine and tranny will come out too.






The body mounts along the firewall are also cracked and compressed so I might as well replace them too.. right.

Edited by coOverwatch (see edit history)
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Motor, tranny, sway bar, and Brake reaction rods are out along with the front break assembly.

Having a little trouble getting the stabilizer link out of the lower control arm. By the looks of the diagram in the chassis book they were installed upside down.

Nut was on the top not the bottom. not sure if that really makes a lot of difference. But the link doesn’t want to come out. Soaked it with BP Blaster overnight so we will see.

Upper Ball joints have been tack welded to the control arms too. Will have to cut/grind the welds down taking care not to damage the upper arms.

Once that is done the fun part of cleaning everything begins while I wait for parts to come in. Will also be pulling the top end of the motor to so I can replace the head gasket.

Passenger side looks like it is leaking. Driver side is also a little wet. Will have to decide if I have the valves done or leave them as is. All depends on what I find.

Will also have to pull the heater/Air core and see what is in there. I have pulled about 5lbs of crap out of every nook and cranny. Some critter took up residence and had little nut shells all over the place. Scared to see with is inside that.




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Ball joints are all pressed out. spent most of Sunday trying to get a ball joint press to work. had to make collars to fit as the ones with the kit were not going to work.

finial went down to HF today during my lunch hour and bought a press. took 10 minutes to get it put together tonight and another 5 minutes and all ball joints were out.

now to find a center link and I am back in business.

need to find a gasket kit for the engine. need to pull the heads off as they are leaking coolant. At least that was where it appears to be coming from.

not planning on do an engine rebuild.. just gasket change. might send the heads off to be done. will know more once they are off.

daughter is well underway cleaning parts. she will get to use the media blaster this week to finish things off then paint while I wire wheel the frame.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Well the fun keeps coming. took a break from cleaning up the suspension parts and started to break down the motor.

spayed down the block and stated scrapping the crap off and low and behold the head gasket leak turned into what appears to be two giant cracks in the block. one on both sides. so Much for matching numbers...


what do you all think... cracks????







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One side looks like it could. the other looks pretty bad Looks like it is raised 1/32 to a 1/16 inch. Crack starts at the freeze plug and moves forward.


guess the only way to tell is to strip it down and get it to a machine shop.


Guess the good thing is that I decided to pull everything and found it before I did all the body work and was driving it around.

(how is that for positive thinking?) :)

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Been out of town for the last few weeks so not much progress. Lower Arms are in as well the uppers. One of the upper bushing is still showing some thread. It is torque to 70 but not fully seated to the A arm like the others. Going to pull it apart and reinstall them on that one A arm. Unless having some threads showing is not a big deal?


Spring pads finial came in along with the cross link. Goal is to have the front suspension in this weekend and then do the body bushings.


Still trying to figure out which route to go with the engine. Trying to find a shop that can repair the cracks. If not the search is on for another 425 block. Guess it really depends on what else I find once I tear it down if I go for a block or the whole engine. Trying to keep it a matching numbers car. Not sure if that helps with the value even if the block has to be repaired.


Will get more pics up tomorrow.

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thanks CTX, I found that link as well and thought about giving it a try.

Larry, the block is cracked for sure. I cleaned the exterior and you can see the coolant seeping through.


the question is do I spend the money to try and fix the block? if it doesn't work then I am out that money plus the cost of a new block.


how much value does a matching numbers Riv. realy add to the resale price?

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That's bad luck. I'm wondering if that could be welded?

. I'm wondering if those cracks could just be brazed. There's no combustion pressure there, only coolant pressure. I once had a neighbor who had a crack develop in his cast iron boiler. As a mid winter emergency repair, he brazed the crack and it lasted many years until the unit was finally replaced due to age. Any discussion? Edited by Larry W (see edit history)
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Front springs are in.. finally. had to get some weight back on the front end to help compress the springs. 

If anyone see's anything out of place please let me know. when I took everything apart they were half way in. everything was loose so I don't know if something is out of place.

don't think so.. but now is the time to fix it. have to blast the break parts to finish getting things installed. will do that in the morning.


Thanks Alini for the pics this morning.


all driver side pics









Edited by coOverwatch (see edit history)
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Now that I have the springs in and the front end just about back together I will be tearing apart the engine to see what I have to work with. I now for sure that one of the cracks is into the water jacket as it leaked after cleaning all the crud off it. Once I am down to just the block will find a good machine shop to see what can be done. So far everyone I talked to said to save the money on trying to repair it and find a new block. easier said then done. have not found anything in Colorado. found on in KS and a few in CA. guess 425's are a little hard to come by these days.

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I got all the front end components all back together, minus the breaks. Want to get all new hardware as everything else is new. PO replaced the wheel cylinders and break shoes. Will have to go see how much is left on the drums. If they can be turned will do that as well.


Threw the tires back on to see if I could get the upper arm to come up a little. Up in the air the upper Arm’s are bottoming out. Putting it on the ground it didn’t move. Standing on the end and jumping moved it a little but it still is bottoming out. Figure it is due to not having the weight of the engine and transmission in the car.











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That's what I thought. However with all the challenges I have run into thought I would double check. got half the hood sanded to bare metal today. Very little body work on it. 3 small dents in the very front that I will need to use the stick welder to pull out. Might need some fiberglass filler for these. will see how much I can pull them out.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Well, I got around to pulling the engine apart this week. It appears that it had been rebuilt/overhauled not to long ago. still has cross hatches in the cylinders. however, found another crack across one of the attachment points for the passenger side head. don't think that this block is going to be salvaged. Did find a bunch of garbage in the pan and heads. looks like some valve parts came apart.


What kind of Engine swaps have people done? I have a 2 5.7 Chevy motors laying around but think that is going to take a whole lot of fab that I don't what to do.

still have to follow up on the leads that larry sent my way. Been a nightmare at work. 12 hour days for the last two weeks. Anyway, here are some pics.








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Ouch...I would definitely try to keep my eyes open for a replacement engine/block.  You will be money ahead by sticking with what will bolt in...especially when it comes to resale value.  And you are thinking "I'm never going to sell this car."  I said that 10 cars ago :)

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Stainless, this car was an impulse buy. was going to be a "quick flip". new suspension, interior, and paint. just like they do on TV. LOL

I did not do my homework and didn't realize that there is not much in aftermarket parts for these cars. Oh well. My daughter and I are having fun cleaning things up and tearing things down. I break things loose and she finishes taking them apart and bagging them.


Looks like we will get to work on her math skills once we find a new motor to rebuild. She will learn to read a micrometer and about tolerances.  We work on reading skills by going over the manuals and trouble shooting and planning skills when things don't quite work out.


I do have a lead on a motor that came out of a 67 skylark or wildcat. the guy was not sure and needed to  consult his notes. he has a yard specializing in pre 70 cars. he thought it might be a 425 but could be a 455?? he also has a 300 


I am assuming that a 67 Buick will swap into the 64 Riviera no problem? is that correct?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Search for  the engine is still on. found one in PA that I think I will get. block and crank for 400, shipping is about 300. Waiting on the refi on the ranch before I spend the money. never know when they will want something else before the closing.


been sanding the rust off the last few days. need to pull the Quarter belt reveal molding (sail panel trim) and the lower quarter panel molding. not quite sure how to pull them off without damaging them. with the bath tub clips do they just pry off?

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...
  • 5 months later...

quick update to let everyone know that I am still around and have not abandoned the project.

New engine has been procured and is waiting to drop in. Figure that if I have a new engine I probably should go through the transmission.

Weather has not been in my favor lately. Snow storms and cold weather has impeded progress on the body work. Work has also been a pain. Might have to make a change in that department.

Still have not decided on the paint color. It is a toss-up between a deep burgundy (not period correct) or a white pearl. Interior will be black and silver.

New shop, WITH HEAT!!!!, is scheduled to be built in the next two months. No more excuses that it is too cold to do any work. Just have to figure out the layout. Right now it is 40 x60. Need enough room for a few cars/trucks to be worked on at the same time and a lift. No more swapping transmissions on my back!

Will have more pics coming once the snow stops

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