Dave Younger, of suburban Detroit, Michigan, is the proud owner of this slick, black Riviera. Before we give you more details on Dave’s version of this beautiful design, let’s examine the Riviera bloodline a little bit.
The 1963 to 1965 Buick Riviera represented a milestone in General Motors’ design and marketing efforts. American auto manufacturers created a new automotive market segment, and offered the customers in that segment, cars that they called “personal luxury” cars. The target buyer was up and coming, gaining affluence, and who wanted to project themselves as stylish, sporty, forward-thinking movers and shakers. The platforms had to exude sportiness and power, yet provide a degree of luxury accommodations not available in lesser cars. Ford offered the Thunderbird, while GM countered with not one, not two, but four platforms. They included: Pontiac’s Gran Prix; Oldsmobile’s Toronado; Cadillac’s El Dorado; and Buick’s Riviera. All models shared a degree of success, and they all had styling that would rival the best customs to come out of the shops in southern California. Arguably, the Buick Riviera was the best of the bunch. Sharp, crisp, aggressive lines were prevalent and used to good advantage. There’s not much that needs to be done to one of Bill Mitchell’s design team’s masterpieces to make it any better. As Dave points out below, a little bit of a shave and a haircut in the form of removing door handles and external badges, lowering a bit, and a slight top chop are pretty much all that’s needed to touch up details that the original designers had to compromise on to meet Marketing, Manufacturing, or Engineering dictates.
When asked to give a little bit of background on his car, Dave had this to say:
“In the past when I would tell people that I wanted to own a 1965 Riviera someday, they would say, ‘Why a Riviera? Why not have a ‘69 Camaro, or a Mustang?’ It's funny, now that I own that dream car people still ask me ‘Why a Riv?’ I simply tell them ‘I love the lines of the car’. To most people it is not as desirable as some of the hot muscle cars, but to me, it is.
When I was ready to take the leap into the historical automobile world, I started to research car builders and restoration companies. I had already had a mental picture of what I wanted, so I started looking on the internet at 1965 Riviera's. One caught my eye. it was almost exactly what I had in my mind for many years. I did some research and found out that Hot Rods and Custom Stuff built the car, and that they were among the best in the industry.
I purchased a 65 Riviera on eBay for cheap. It was bright red, with red and white interior. It was in good condition with little rust, but it had been in an accident in the past. The passenger rear quarter panel was "tweaked" and it would take some man hours to get it right again. Randy looked it over, I flew out to Southern California, we laid out a plan, and a few years and some dollars later I have my dream car.
I knew I wanted a ‘driver’. If I buy something, I want to use it. Life is too short not to enjoy what you have. I love the lines on the Rivieras, they are long and flowing, with the clam shell head lights, the car just looks cool. I also pictured what I wanted my dream Riv to look like. I wanted the roof chopped two inches - just enough that when you look at it, you know there is something different but not enough that it looked cheap or wrong. I wanted the door handles and radio antenna shaved for a smooth, sleek look. I wanted this car to get up and go, so we got rid of the original nailhead V8, and replaced it with a 510hp LS engine. With Michigan roads so bad, lowering the body would cause problems so an air bag system was the solution. We kept the original feel of the interior, but incorporated a few upgrades here and there. A new Vintage Air HVAC unit kicks out the cold air (and hot when commanded). The custom leather interior by Armando's makes this 40+ year old car look brand new.”
And that’s what we did at Hot Rods & Custom Stuff. We kept the original design intent and worked to tidy it up a bit. Under the skin though, was a different story. Let’s start with the engine. The original 401 cubic inch, 325 horsepower V8 was powerful in its’ day, but leaves room for improvement in today’s reality of increased power, emissions, and drivability. The GM line of LS-series engines is probably the pinnacle of current Detroit V8 powerplants. They offer modern technology including electronically-controlled fuel injection, and sensors that match up the engine and transmission’s performance parameters to the specific driving conditions being experienced at any given moment. Power steering, power brakes and an efficient heating and air conditioning system are givens in today’s custom car, and this Riviera is no exception. They’re all integrated into the engine compartment beautifully and look like they belong there.
The chassis and suspension weren’t neglected and were brought up to current day standards. There are air bags controlling ride height at all four corners that are controlled by a neat little digital control panel tucked away in the center console glovebox. The brakes are high performance disks on the front and big drums on the rear activated by a hydraulically-boosted power unit. The rear axle was replaced in favor of a beefy Ford 9-inch unit held in place by trailing arms and a panhard bar. This guy will really hook up when the power is applied.
The interior was kept relatively stock appearing but was updated with luxurious black leather and very nice looking woodgrain panels, as per stock, but a much higher level finish.
We feel that Dave Younger's Riviera is as good as any of them out on the road or in private collections anywhere. Watch for it on the road and in shows in the Midwest.