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JanZverina

What did a ’63 Riviera ride (not steer) like when new?

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This week I picked up my ’63 Riviera from a trusted alignment specialist in the San Diego area after having several front end items replaced after a thorough inspection in which I participated: my original center link was rebuilt by Rare Parts -- sorry Kongaman, no old parts were returned despite my mechanic saying he did ask.) Also replaced were the front strut bushings and idler arm (new or NOS Moog parts); and new Monroe shocks (nothing fancy) were installed. Other than repacking the wheel bearings/replacing the WB seals, and snugging up the steering box, all other front suspension/steering components were declared in good health, as were the body bushings. The front end was of course aligned. I also replaced the four track bar bushings in the rear, which were not in that bad shape to begin with. Every mechanic who sees this car is amazed at its rust-free condition underneath and throughout.

    Does the car ride and steer better? Yes, there’s a noticeable improvement but hitting a pothole (yes, we have one or two out here) or an uneven manhole cover is still more of a jarring experience than I would think. I’m sure a few of you have owned your ‘63s since new, and I know that like most cars of that era, steering and overall handling was always pretty vague at best for a car of this size.

    Which leads me to my question in the caption. What I’m not asking is for ways to firm up the ride handling or steering response -- I’m aware of the numerous discussions on better shocks, springs, and steering boxes but I want my car to ride like it did back in the day, even though I do have radials on it. My question simply has to do with isolation from harsher road surfaces. I also realize that body insulation/road isolation have come a long way in 55 years. But was the Riv known for a “magic carpet ride” when it first came out?

      Thanks in advance!

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Benefits of AACA Membership.

                      I learned to drive in my Dad's 65 Riviera in 1967. I also drove a 65 Chevy Pickup and in driver's Ed we drove

brand new 68 AMC Javelins. I also on occasion drove a new 67 Chevrolet Impala. The 65 Riviera drove completely differently

than the other cars, and at 70 miles per hour, the sensation was that you were  flying an airplane at low altitude as you couldn't

tell the wheels were touching the ground it was that smooth and quiet. With the bias plies, it did not stay in one lane very well

and  you had to make a lot of slight steering wheel corrections at high speed. The low mileage 65 I have now still has it's original suspension

parts other than new monroe shocks, and it feels like flying an airplane, just like my Dad's car did. No other car I have ever driven feels

like the Riviera does at 70 miles per hour, the ride is amazing . Because my 65 Riviera has radials on it, it holds the track much better with

no need for small corrections at speed.

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This reminds me of when I mentioned to an inlaw shortly after buying my 64 that it has a "few rattles and squeaks, rides OK." He says - "hey, that's how they were in the 60s too."

 

We get spoiled with how modern cars roll along so smooth and quiet, haha.

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If I read this correctly, you've still got the original springs and control arm bushings front and rear, sway bar bushings,  and reaction rod bushings.  There's no way to really check the springs and control arm bushings short of disassembling to the point at which you might as well replace them,  but one might think that after 50 years none of those parts behave as new.

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If you are after like-new feel, the upper and lower control arm bushings should be replaced at a minimum as KongaMan mentioned. It could be a variation in perception/definition with your mechanic of what "OK" is. He is probably looking for any sign of visual degradation or wear that would cause a safety or significant handling concern. I'm generally not one who says automatically replace original parts but in the case of rubber suspension bushings, particularly on the front end, anytime I replaced all it made a significant difference. That old rubber will be like a brick ESPECIALLY in a southwest climate.

I would be hesitant to replace coil springs based on what you are looking to accomplish.

The ball joints should be inspected with close scrutiny as they are a critical part of achieving that "like new" feel as well. For example, In PA we have an annual safety inspection requirement. Just because a ball joint(s) may pass safety inspection, it does not mean they still provide as-new performance. Only means it is not in a condition that poses a safety hazard. Clear as mud huh

Edited by JZRIV (see edit history)

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Thanks KongaMan and JZ Riv,

I didn't mean to imply that all the other front end parts were original. The odo shows about 90,000 miles and maybe it's 190K for all I know. When I bought the car in 2013, it was from the daughter of the original owner, and the service history file she provided was not that complete except for one thing: annual receipts from Midas Muffler that showed various muffler system components being replaced every spring, most likely at the insistence of her father having them honor their lifetime  warranty. My mechanic really inspected the ball joints carefully leveraging them for any signs of play (I assisted him with the full inspection) but you both have a good point with the control arm bushings. That may be for another day.   

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My 65 has a great, smooth ride. All I have done is replace the shocks with gas charged Gabriels. Over bumps and so forth, it is smooth, but not AT ALL like a true "big car" ride. My folks had a '78 Chrysler New Yorker that you couldn't feel NOTHING in. I attribute the Riv's ride to the fact that they were DEFINITELY not LeSabres or Electras, they truly were a different kind of car, with a sportier feel. I'm sure the gas shocks and newer Firestone radials help enhance that as well.

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1 hour ago, JanZverina said:

Thanks KongaMan and JZ Riv,

I didn't mean to imply that all the other front end parts were original. The odo shows about 90,000 miles and maybe it's 190K for all I know. When I bought the car in 2013, it was from the daughter of the original owner, and the service history file she provided was not that complete except for one thing: annual receipts from Midas Muffler that showed various muffler system components being replaced every spring, most likely at the insistence of her father having them honor their lifetime  warranty. My mechanic really inspected the ball joints carefully leveraging them for any signs of play (I assisted him with the full inspection) but you both have a good point with the control arm bushings. That may be for another day.   

I'd be very surprised if the control arm bushings (front or rear) have been replaced.  As Jason noted, even if they look good (no obvious cracks or splits) the rubber has almost certainly hardened and is less flexible.  These are a PITA to change on either end of the car, but if you happen to be tearing into it for another reason (e.g. change a ball joint or springs), that's a wonderful opportunity.  Once everything else is out of the way, changing the bushing itself is cheap and easy.

 

You might also note that if work has been done before and the front wheels or rear axle were dropped without first loosening the bushings, they may be torn.

 

As mentioned elsewhere, one might also remember that the recommended tire pressure on these cars was on the order of 24 psi when new.  That will give you a much softer ride compared to contemporary standards of 28-32 psi.

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1 hour ago, JanZverina said:

Thanks KongaMan and JZ Riv,

I didn't mean to imply that all the other front end parts were original. The odo shows about 90,000 miles and maybe it's 190K for all I know. When I bought the car in 2013, it was from the daughter of the original owner, and the service history file she provided was not that complete except for one thing: annual receipts from Midas Muffler that showed various muffler system components being replaced every spring, most likely at the insistence of her father having them honor their lifetime  warranty. My mechanic really inspected the ball joints carefully leveraging them for any signs of play (I assisted him with the full inspection) but you both have a good point with the control arm bushings. That may be for another day.   

If you have a stock exhaust system on the car it is not as far fetched as you might think. Every year is a bit excessive but the transverse muffler is prone to trapping moisture which leads to rust through every 2 to 3 years with minimal use.  They lasted longer as daily drivers but not by a wide margin.  The resonators seem to last a bit longer.

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Rivieras rode well enough, in the 1960's, to get about $5,000 from professional people over the competition. They are 50 years old. The technology of the car today is on a par with foreign cars when it was new. Your chances of taking it to a shop and having it successfully serviced are right in there with getting an order right at McDonald's. NEVER ask for two things to be done at the same time!

 

"Snugging up" the steering preload should probably be undone. Power assist is regulated by the thrust action in the steering box. Too much preload will bring on more assist that specified and steering will feel very light and vague. It will already feel light compared to the variable ratio systems today so even correct it will feel different, capable, but different. Don't forget to check that hard, old, dried out or oil soaked steering rag joint, either.

 

The jarring on potholes, tars strips, and almost any road imperfection may be due to the new springs. My new springs are the spec of the originals. Lots of shops and some owners tend to order heavy duty or station wagon springs. It might be a testosterone thing. Sometimes they raise the car and create a negative camber situation that is very hard to adjust out. Shops are famous for saying they did the best they could. And that story about them rattling and not driving well, yeah, 5 years before we landed on the moon they couldn't make a car ride smooth. You may not have the correct springs or they may not have had the correct adjustment shims for alignment. Make sure you have, at least, neutral camber and the banging on bumps will go away. Try for a little positive.

 

There is a procedure to position the rear springs in the shop manual. If they did the rears, double check it. A shop will run a car up on a lift, disconnect the shocks, and let the weight of the unsprung parts hang at their limit. If they change a spring they will use a big bar and force it farther. Fifty years ago the suspension bolts were tightened and the serrated sleeves locked things in place. If you don't loosen the bolts and spread the compressed arms stuff will bind or tear. They will tighten the bolts while the suspension is hanging and screw all that up as well.

 

My car drives smooth, quiet, and straight, with the expected lightness in the steering it should have. That is with gas shocks and biased 7.10X15's. Sometimes, if I have a passenger, I will pretend to work hard steering and act like I am sweating to keep control. It makes them smile.

 

The car is different from a 50 year newer car, but not disconcerting. If it is it wasn't fixed or wasn't fixed right. There was a point where I was having some work done for me. A couple mechanics would do exactly what I told them and were happy with how generous I can be when I am happy. I am back to doing more myself. Better to spend money on tools and manuals.

Actually, as I age, I am having more interaction with the medical profession. The counter intuitiveness of that cluster has taken up the patience I used to have with the mechanics. One had to go, too much aggravation. The mechanics took the hit.

 

You can make your car operate fine. It ain't brain surgery. But that's a whole other story.

Bernie

Edited by 60FlatTop (see edit history)

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"The jarring on potholes, tars strips, and almost any road imperfection may be due to the new springs."

 

Thanks for your response, Bernie - lots of good info (and wisdom)  to be sure. But I did not have new springs installed. The steering assist feels just like it did before so no dramatic change there. My first step will be to lower the PSI in the tires. I normally keep them about 34-35 so I'll dial them back and see how things feel from there.

 

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                   All you have to do on the transverse muffler to keep it from rusting out   so often is drill a small

hole in the bottom at the lowest point so the water can drain out.

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2 hours ago, JanZverina said:

"The jarring on potholes, tars strips, and almost any road imperfection may be due to the new springs."

 

Thanks for your response, Bernie - lots of good info (and wisdom)  to be sure. But I did not have new springs installed. The steering assist feels just like it did before so no dramatic change there. My first step will be to lower the PSI in the tires. I normally keep them about 34-35 so I'll dial them back and see how things feel from there.

 

30 pounds is more like it...even a couple pounds lower wont hurt as I doubt you`re worried about getting the most miles from the tires. You`ll feel a significant difference in ride quality.

Tom

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Winston: Drill the hole at the lowest point near an end flange, right? Are we talking a tiny hole?

Tom: Re lower PSI - a Post-it is already on my console before a test drive this weekend. Should I take down the rear tires to the same level as well? I have air shocks in the rear just to get a 3/8 to 1/2 inch of lift. Of course I have to add air every two weeks or so but that's no problem given the checklist we go through for any vintage car.  

Many thanks to all of you!  

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6 hours ago, JanZverina said:

"The jarring on potholes, tars strips, and almost any road imperfection may be due to the new springs."

 

Thanks for your response, Bernie - lots of good info (and wisdom)  to be sure. But I did not have new springs installed. The steering assist feels just like it did before so no dramatic change there. My first step will be to lower the PSI in the tires. I normally keep them about 34-35 so I'll dial them back and see how things feel from there.

 

Jan-

Read the owners manual and the service bulletins about this.  Buick calls for about 24 psi in the tires, as I recall.  This is mentioned in a service bulletin as a source of rough ride complaints by new Riviera owners.

 

BTW, the maximum pressure rating on this type tire is usually about 32 psi, so you are kind of pushing it.

 

 

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               Yes, a small hole will do it, try a 1/8 drill bit. Usually one side of the muffler will be a little lower than the other, so drill the hole

at the bottom of   the low end right next to the bead that wraps around the end of the muffler. The other thing that helps is that if you crank up the car

to move it, don't shut it off till it's run 15 minutes and gotten hot enough to burn off the condensation in the exhaust system.

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15 hours ago, Seafoam65 said:

                   All you have to do on the transverse muffler to keep it from rusting out   so often is drill a small

hole in the bottom at the lowest point so the water can drain out.

......and drive it! :)

 

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If you're running 35 PSI and you're measuring it when you air up the tires after they've been sitting a while, they're considered cold.  Driving heats them up and one of the laws of thermodynamics is as matter gets hotter it expands. Remember the brass ball and ring from your general science class? The air in the tire expands as it gets hot. As it expands, it exerts more pressure.  35 PSI cold could be 40 PSI hot.  Kind of like riding on solid rubber tires.

 

The jacking instruction label in your trunk specifies 24 PSI 'cold.'  As you drive, the pressure will increase slightly to probably around 27-28 PSI.  You should find that comfortable.  (As long as you're not running an LT - light truck - tire which has a much stiffer side wall.)

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All good advice - thanks! Will report back after the weekend. Winston, thorough warm-ups are routine for me with both the Riv and my E-type. That's been the key to the exhaust systems lasting a long time on both cars - and protecting my wallet from a severe fiscal shock!

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Jan, just a thought.  

 

I too was chasing that elusive Riviera ride in my ‘63, and after replacing all shocks, sway bar  bushes, rear panhard bushes, was still getting a harsh ride. Jarring over every large bump. Almost so harsh I didn’t want to drive it much.

 

I had my drivers seat resprung with new cushion springs and new foam and padding as it was sagging on the left side. Wow, did that make a difference! 

 

Just my two bobs bobs worth from down under ??????

Rodney

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On 4/20/2018 at 9:53 AM, jframe said:

......and drive it! :)

 

If you are replacing the exhaust system and the tires still have a lot of tread you need to change your habits.

 

Back to that camber setting. You will find that many alignment shops will not have a selection of shims for the car. My Riviera has not been lined up since I reassembled it. At that time I took it to a shop with an old machine, non-optic, and the mechanic had grown up working with the machine in his Dad's shop. He always drove the car before and after the job. When I was servicing cars I think I took 3 or 4 cars to him that were claimed to be unable to correct. A lot is knowing why you are doing the check and adjustment.

My '60 Electra is showing odd wear on the right front tire (biased). The tires are 6 years old and the old alignment shop is out of business. In the next couple of weeks I think I will replace the front tires and pick up whatever bits and tools I need to align it myself. Another shop has never been able to keep my '94 Impala from pulling to the right so that is two to do and makes it quite worthwhile.

 

Also, don't forget your hood insulation and rubber cushions. The hood can amplify the sound of the bumps. I had a Caddy once that banged like a big tin drum and the camber stopped that, those you adjust with a pipe wrench.

 

Remember, a shop has to fix your car in an optimal time, make a profit, and get on to the next job. When you service your own car you have the luxury to read and follow instructions, be painfully meticulous, and get your profit in the long term ownership. You have a great advantage and an excuse to buy tools.

Bernie

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When I had my shop I TOOK THE TIME TO DO IT RIGHT NO MATTER THE TIME INVOLVED!!!!  Most times it was a LOSS!!!. BUT, I had the confidence/knowledge knowing it was done the best way I knew how. ALL CARS got a 4 wheel alignment even though there was NO adjustment for the rear.  You would be surprised on how much movement there is on a car with leaf springs & the alignment pins between the springs & rear diff. housing. By loosing up the rear u-bolts & using a bar against the wheel one way or the other & tightening down the u-bolts, if nothing else can get the rear MUCH better than it was. It's amazing how much BETTER a car can ride/handle when the rear is closer to being aligned. Kinda takes some of the roughness out.

Another thing concerns ride height. I know there are ALL KINDS of ways to bring the vehicle back up to specs. by replacing springs, adding rubber spacers between the coil springs & control arms/upper mounts. I have used with much success is the plastic spacers used/made by TRW. You need a spring spreader to install but they have been in the front of my '64 Riv. since 1968 & haven't fallen out or caused any advise affects. Since they are plastic you will get NO noises if they do rub, which mine DON'T!!! You wouldn't believe what an improvement in the ride & handling departments.

Just my dimes worth.

 

 

Tom T.

 

 

 

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Thanks everyone for your input - all very interesting and full of useful tips. This weekend I lowered the TPs to 24 PSI front/ 26 rear. It made a pretty substantial difference in both ride smoothness and  whatever steering feel large cars had half a century ago. I guess I always thought radial tires should be run at higher PSIs. Rodney, I can believe that new seat cushions definitely factor into the rise/comfort equation. That's on my list. The next big project is door skins off to chase some window rattles and make sure everything is good before I install a full rubber kit for the front and rear side glass including vent window seals, fuzzies, and everything else. Got them from Rubber the Right Way which is only a couple miles for me, but as mentioned elsewhere on this forum they also source from Steele and SoffSeal. Will take some pix when that project gets underway.

Thanks again - the participation on this forum is outstanding!     

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I, too, thought radials should run higher pressures. I usually do 32 lb or so in my Firestone radials. Should I drop it to closer to what the sticker says?

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