VickyBlue

1969 Buick Riviera

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Back in January, a 69 Riviera popped up here on the forum and after a very short lived affair with my 68, I pulled the trigger. This is what the ad said:

 

Just listed this 1969 All Original 1969 Riviera Silver Grey with Black Interior and Black Vinyl top ...... this is an original car not a restored car with the exception of a

original color two stage paint job. No dents, no dings, no scratches, the interior (original) look new.  In storage from 1984 to 2017 has protecto  plate.  

It is on ebay https://www.ebay.com/itm/232623338558

If you are interested you can contact me through this post, email me

 

I took a later flight on Tuesday the 23rd from Boise to SFO and then to Fresno. I showed up at Paul's home by 9 PM. He gave me the tour and by 1030 PM I was on my way to say Hi to my old next door neighbor, I hadn't seen in 6 years. He let me have his sub-zero sleeping bag and by 12 am I was on my way. 

65 miles N of Fresno, just outside of Atwater, as I was listening to the AM radio, lost engine power. I pulled to the side, in 1/8 mi visibility and turns out the battery was dead... Dead dead. Clicked the starter and nada, just the awful sound of ticking, but no turning... I was as sitting duck, a foot off the freeway, in heavy fog. I called AAA, apparently my membership had expired and they would renew it, but had to wait 48 hrs before I could use my long haul tows... A flat bead truck was dispatched from Merced and after $535 I was back at Paul's driveway, at 6 am.

 

I pulled the alternator, put the battery back on the charger at Paul's garage and the AutoZone guy confirmed the alternator was toasted. I got a new one with a new belt and Paul drove me back to his place. I put the alternator back on and she started right up. I gave him a hug, thanked him and off I went. It was 1030 AM.

 

25 miles N of Fresno again, as I was approaching the freeway, I see white smoke coming out of the vents, I smell the smell of antifreeze, and I pull quick to the side. Heater core was busted. I lift the hood, a car guy feels sorry for me, he pulls to the side and with his blade, cut the heater hose and routed it back into the T-stat. Compressor was making funny noises, the bearing is probably bad, so I cut the AC belt as a precaution. I filled up the radiator, shook this guy's hand, tried to pay him, but he would not accept money... It was noon by now. 

 

I forgot to mention, the fuel gauge was stuck just south of half. Right after I left Paul's house the first time, I stopped for some gas and she took 15 gallons. When the gauge didn't move, I knew this was going be a pen and paper gas log trip. I also didn't have any idiot lights, GEN or OIL. I made it all the way to 45 miles N of Auburn, CA by 2 PM. Even though it had only been 89 miles since my last fuel stop, I pulled to the side to use the restroom and gas up again. I filled up again, tried to start, nothing... dead battery. Again. I used some cables, jump started it, run for 5 minutes then died again. I was at 4,000ft, dead battery, fast approaching snow storm, with no heat... There were a couple of auto stores but they were in Auburn and I had no way of getting there. And then God sends Avery... PG&E guy, just finished work and saw the car with the hood up, asked me what was going on, I told him and he said, "jump in, I will take you to Auburn, get a new alternator, battery and voltage regulator. It took us an hour and a half to get to Auburn in heavy rain, which means it was probably snowing where the car was...Got the parts and headed back North. I put in the alternator, then pulled  out the voltage regulator. Turns out, someone had "spruced-up" the engine bay and had spray painted black lots of stuff, one of them was the voltage regulator. They removed the plug, painted it and then the plug was not put back in all the way. It appeared it was plugged in, but is was not. The black spray paint on the spades, with just 1/8" silver, gave it away. Checked voltage and with part throttle it jumped to 13.6V at all three places, battery, alternator and regulator.

By that time it was 530 PM. There was so much snow coming down, the road to Truckee was chains only. Avery told me to head south, back down to Auburn and try to find a place to spend the night, until the storm was over. I looked him in the eyes and in tears I gave him a hug, I offered him money, he wouldn't accept it, he just told me "a few years back, someone helped me with my car when I needed help out in the desert, now I am paying it back. Just pay it forward"

 

There was a good foot of snow all the way down to Auburn, but she made it... it was 7PM. Checked a couple of places to stay, but no vacancies. I pulled into a parking lot and got into the sleeping bag. I had ben up since Tuesday the 23rd at 6 AM. This was Wednesday the 24th at 7 PM. I closed my eyes and next thing it is 12 AM. I used the restroom and after looking at the weather and with all the road closures and chain requirements towards Truckee, I decided to got to Placerville, then to South Lake Tahoe, then to Reno and I80 East. It was rain all the way to Placerville and then light snow till Pollock Pines. Cal Trans pulled me at one of their chain inspection stops and told me I had to get them, or go back. I pulled at the gas station, they had a set and had a guy install them for $30. I left Pollock Pines at 2 AM and made it to South Late Tahoe by 4 Am. In L1 gear, 20 mph. one hand steering, the other hand scraping ice from the inside of the windshield. I was warm, I had wool pants, 3 thermal shirts, two jackets, gloves and a beanie, but my feet were frozen. South Lake Tahoe, it was were the freeway ended. Nothing had been plowed, the city was just buried in snow. I found a hotel paring lot, and parked. Changed socks and went back to sleep. Got up at 730 AM in sunshine. Left South Lake Tahoe at 8 Am with my chains still on and made it to Reno at 11 AM. Stopped at a gas station, took the chains off and got some hot coffee and some food and water... I was in Boise at 4 PM...

 

I called Paul, let him know I made it, I called my buddy in Fresno and thanked him for the sleeping bag. I hugged and kissed my girls and my wife and took them to dinner. I kept looking at them in the eyes and thinking, I am a stupid lucky SoB... 

 

I was able to return the new battery and alternator I got from O'Reilly. The alternator I got in Fresno tested OK and the battery Paul had put on was new, in December. The old voltage regulator is probably OK too, but will check on that. Now the water pump leaks...

 

Once the charging problem was fixed, and once I got out of the heavy snow, other than a slight miss at idle, it didn't burn a single drop of oil, or transmission fluid. Radiator held up, all hoses appear to be original to the car and other than that, the car was exactly as advertised. I learned a lot, about different things, about myself, about people, about life and fears. Did I want to get caught in a snow storm at 7500ft with no heat? No. But this trip made me realize that when I couldn't escape my fears, I had to learn how to face them and walk with them... I knew it was going to be temporary. Yes, shipping it would have been the best option, especially with a car that sat for 34 years. But who am I to take the easy way out...? 

 

Fast forward to last week... Turns out the reason the idiot lights were not working was not because of the light bulbs, not because of the oil pressure switch, but because of the circuit board... there is a chunk missing. It did not melt, as there is no trace of the melted plastic on the cluster, it was chewed up.

To get to the cluster, I had to remove the dash pad, radio, glove box, ashtray and drop the steering column. It was something I do not wish upon my worse enemy. I traced every single wire, color by color, every single vacuum line and found one line had been chewed up twice, but it was inside the engine bay, the vacuum hose that went to the water heater valve. I bought 25ft of new line and replaced all of them. I was checking valves for vacuum along the way and all door were working properly with me just sucking air. 

 

The fan switch had only one speed working on the electric portion of the switch, the vacuum fiction was fine. I took the switch apart, cleaned up the contact points inside and now it shows resistance on all 4 speeds. The cable that actuates the heater core box door was broken at the plastic tab under the dash, something I was able to fix making a new metal tab. The vacuum distribution block on the fire wall was disintegrated, I traced a new replacement unit and it's on its way. radio was cleaned up and lubed, clock was taken apart, oiled and it works as new. 

I pulled the heater core from the engine bay compartment, (it was easier than I thought) and after looking at prices between $85 and $180, I found the exact same unit on Amazon for $21 plus $5 shipping. I am still waiting for the circuit board, OPGI had it in stock, and it's in the mail. I am hoping to have the dash back in sometime next week. 

 

The A/C compressor had R12, last time it run was in 1984. The cool thing about this car, is that I have every single registration since 1969, all under one owner's name. It has the protect-o-plate, original CA copy of it's first title with it's original CA black plates. Every single record, gas stops, with location, time and amount spent on gas and other  items. I thought I was anal, but this gentleman was anything beyond I have ever seen. 

Top of the intake has been rattle can sprayed, same with the valve covers. Valve cover gaskets appear to have been there for a VERY long time. I am really close to biting the bullet and pull the motor, put it on the stand, clean and pressure test the radiator, replace the exhaust manifold gaskets, put in a new water pump and replace the nylon cam gears with steel ones. Then scrub and paint everything. 

 

As far as originality, it is as original as it can get... All the wiring is factory, it didn't see a single spliced wire, everything works, other than what appears to be an aftermarket fuel pump with a long 14ga wire all the way to the back of the car. One the dash is back in then will look into it. It took me 7 months to touch the car after I got it home, but looking back at went I went through, it's all water under the bridge now. 

Niki in Greek stands for "Victory". This is her name. :) More to come.

 

 

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Edited by VickyBlue (see edit history)
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Good day to celebrate today :) When something is broken since 1984 and it it works again, it is a good day in my  book to to celebrate. I am lIt and this this is for you Niki... :)

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Gas tank is out. Found out why the sender was not working: Sender wire was cut twice, one prior to the plug under the tank and once after the plug, all prior to the sender. Sender resistance is spot on, which tells me it should work. Fuel pump looks to be an Airtex. Had one before and will never use it again. After looking around, found that Delphi FE0065 with the FS100 fuel strainer is the closest match. It blows my mind that I got 16mpg with the carburetor "adjusted" and not rebuild after 33 years of  sit... Can't  imagine what it's inside, but will find out soon. I just want to make sure first that the pump works as it is supposed to and then go from there. Body is super clean underneath, tank looked new outside, it now has a new coat of black paint and didn't notice any stuff floating inside. Now that the oil light works, I am hoping the new fuel pump will work the way it is supposed to. 

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Fuel pump came in today, but not the strainer... I mocked  everything up and the sender works! Replaced all fuel hoses with good ol' USA made Gates, pump is secured and as soon as the strainer gets here,  I will check for flow with the ignition switch. Then everything goes back to where it belongs.

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Long story short, fuel pump and sender work as it should...

 

Pump came with two studs, no markings... Maybe Chinese folks are smarter than me and already know which side is the positive and which side is the negative... I had a 50% chance of getting it right the first time. I connected the wires as you see in the picture, I could hear the pump spin when I applied power from the battery direct and put it in the tank and raised the tank under the floor. Hooked everything up, cranked once, twice, three times, no fuel through the fuel filter. Gave it some rest, tried again, nada. I knew the fuel line was not clogged up because I could taste the fuel in my mouth, so I put the fuel pressure gauge at the other end cranked again, 0 pressure... I opened up the access panel again, lifted the cover, pulled the pump out and reversed the wires. Booyah! 5.5PSI on the gauge.  I put the fuel line back on, cranked and she started right up. So if anyone is interested in doing this, look at the orientation of the pump and the position of the wires and REVERSE them. 

 

Blows my mind how clean the spare tire well is... all I did was clean the  pound and half of mouse shit I found under the old flat spare tire...  Some "behind the dash" memorabilia I found too...

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The water pump Gods were one my side today... I started praying at 11am and by 4 pm they were out. The long bolts came out in one piece... Took lots of back and forth and heat to get hem out. Looks like it was replaced sometime in 1978. I had one small bolt cut in half, but it let enough threads for me to weld a bolt and pull it out. Thank you...

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Edited by VickyBlue (see edit history)
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17 hours ago, VickyBlue said:

The water pump Gods were one my side today... I started praying at 11am and by 4 pm they were out. The long bolts came out in one piece... Took lots of back and forth and heat to get hem out. Looks like it was replaced sometime in 1978. I had one small bolt cut in half, but it let enough threads for me to weld a bolt and pull it out. Thank you...

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I hate that job!  Looks so simple and almost always turns into a big PIA

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I know... I ordered the timing kit, gaskets, everything... Now I have second thoughts about doing it... There are still 2 or 3 long bolts remaining on the timing cover that will be a pain to get to... I was so afraid yesterday a bolt might snap in half and it did... It was not one of the long ones, but still. I can't imagine how the exhaust manifold ones will be, IF I get to them. I found out that the smoke from the left side was oil dripping down the petrified value cover gasket. I pulled the valve cover and have never seen a valve cover so clean inside. I didn't even wipe it clean. Valve train is spotless, not a spec of sludge...

Part of me wants to just put everything together and leave the timing gear alone for now. I wanted to ask how important is to replaced the nylon gears with steel ones and out of all you guys that  have the 430/455 motors, how many are still running the stock timing gear... 

Took the radiator to the shop and was told it needed to be re-cored. I kind of was expecting it, that's why I took it in. At least now I know the cooling system is done.  New water pump, T-stat, hoses, fan clutch and heater core. 

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I've done a lot of these timing chain jobs.  The only problem bolts are usually the small ones on the water pump.  Did not ever have a broken bolt for the thicker ones.

 

As for the need to change the timing set, did you rock the engine back and forth and observe the distributor.  I rock the engine with a socket on the balancer bolt, just enough to gauge how much slack there is in the chain.  My 69GS with 58K on it had over a half inch of play in the chain.   My 72 Electra had over 120K on it.  I changed them both.  One former 69 Electra I had just turned over 100K when it started at work, and ran till I got to the theater to buy some show tickets, and then had to be towed 20 miles home.  Several other Buicks I had all started when cold and died when warm, and a timing chain set cured them all. All those cars were over 100 k and usually under 120K.

 

But one local guy, formerly a mechanic,  with a 70 LeSabre with the high compression 350, claims his timing chain set is original and the car has 150K on it and he believes it will never fail.  So basically this is just a judgment call for you based on your individual car's characteristics.

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Thanks... I have been busy with work and haven't done much. I work the next two days and then off for a couple. Once the engine is out of the car, I know things will fall into place. It's just that it's a heavy beast and I am all by myself... Car shows 89xxx documented miles, so it might be best for both of us...

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Got up this morning and took things one at a time... I uncooked collectors, flex plate, mounts, starter, power steering and A/C compressor. Turned out the front bumper was in the way and the hoist arm couldn't reach over the engine. After the bumper and the center headlight trim was removed, I was able to reach over and slowly started lifting the beast. The leveler helped, but not to the point I wanted it to work. The pan needed 6" to clear the top radiator support, before the hoist hit the top of the hood.  I put things on hold, called my next door neighbor and he came over help me remove the hood. I drilled 2 tiny pilot holes on the hood hinges and wrote down the number of shims each side had. Once the hood was off,  everything fell into place... Flex plate is missing one tooth... 166 teeth plate, btw. 

Engine is out and secured on the stand. Happy Labor Day weekend :)

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Cam chain is in. Oil pan is out, no sludge was found, my timing cover looks good and I think I am going to use it with a new seal. I spent about an hr with the brush wheel on the block and the difference is noticeable. I still have a lot of work to do, but it cleans up nice. My engine mounts look good, but I am sure someone will chime in, if they need to be sent out and get re-vulcanized... 3 weeks out as of right now, at $175/set

No missing teeth, but a whole lot of cracks and lots of slack...

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Run a flat file over the exhaust manifold flanges and true-up the surfaces before you bolt them back on.  Much easier to do now with the engine out!  ;)

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I run a straight edge and there were no gaps. I ordered a set of remflex gaskets for them. My question is, should I replace the rear main seal, or not? It's not leaking now, it never was, but  will never be that close to it ever again.Oil pan seal was original... amazing!

 

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my opinon.....

 

i've done 5 of these motors.  Although your rear main didn’t leak before.....it will at some point.   Be fearless!  Replace every soft part with new state-of the art seals and gaskets.

This includes the timing cover seal conversion to a lipped, neoprene pressed seal.

Stick it back in and enjoy your Riviera!

 

 

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Not only the rear main seal but also the core plugs, including flushing the water jacket while it's upside down. 

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With age comes wisdom (translation:  too old, fat and lazy to fix anything)

If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

If you fix it you will probably break it.

(you will probably sell it before any issues come up :D)

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7 hours ago, old-tank said:

 

(you will probably sell it before any issues come up :D)

I kind of like this one Willie, don't know what it is, but from day one she played hard to get and look at her now... Freeze plugs look solid, nothing but light green antifreeze came out of the block when I flushed it with the hose. This will be my first rear main, I have read every post known to man on the 455 block on how to do it, I watched a series of videos on how to do it, but  still wish one of you was here to guide me and offer advice ... First time is always first time... I do have the good Viton seal, I guess I have a couple of days to make up my mind, as I work tomorrow. 

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For your consideration:  If you had done the timing chain with the engine in place, in the vehicle, I would not recommend either the core plugs or the rear main seal.  However, you have the engine on the stand already.  You have a unique opportunity to do the rear main seal standing up and looking down, rather than looking up from the bottom, either on your feet or worse, laying down, and getting debris in your face.  Likewise you have full access to the core plugs rather than interference from confines of the engine compartment and the additional opportunity to remove any sediment from the bottom of the water jacket, which is unlikely to have been removed from a flushing operation, resulting in a cooler running engine.

It is your car, and you should do what you feel comfortable with.

 It's just that with the engine already out, these two tasks can be completed in relative comfort.  And although this particular engine may never need these original items replaced, if it were me, it would be a big plus to know I had addressed these items when they were accessible. 

 

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When I had the plugs removed on my cylinder heads, they looked brand new from the outside. However, once removed, they were nearly all paper thin. Better to be safe than sorry. 

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