file 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!

22 Aug 2015 20:27 #1333 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
These photos were taken in the very same lot where the ‘71 GS 350 was parked about 8 years earlier. Note the 1 short wheel skirt and one long… you couldn’t see both sides of the car at once, so I got away with it. These things didn’t grow on trees, you know.

It was a good looking car.

It was loaded, too. Tilt wheel, power bucket seats, A/C, AM / FM radio with under dash 8-track player, remote trunk release, power windows, power door locks, tinted glass… all kinds of good stuff. The 455 sounded great through a set of glass packs, too. Note the same plates on the Riv as the ‘72 Skylark. I think I still have those in a box in the garage.

Kevin Oeste
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23 Aug 2015 21:26 - 16 Jan 2016 17:29 #1339 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
The car came with a couple interesting items, namely the original glove box manual and Protect-O-Plate, the GM warranty / service info card.

Reversed image of the Protect-O-Plate showing original dealer info and delivery date

According to the plate, the car was came with code 695 Pearl White bucket seats, and code 7575, which was Fire Red on top and bottom, (code 75 twice), indicating it did not ever have a vinyl top and that it was wearing the original color when I got it. Not the original paint, mind you, but the correct color. Which is cool, because according to the brochure, Fire Red was not available on Rivieras, making this red and white sled a special order combo. Cool!

This car had been built in May of 1970 and it sat in the dealer showroom until Halloween of 1970, when a Mr. Milo Hasell picked it up as his new ride. Hassel was a WWII vet who bought the car from Wild Rice Motor Company, on Main Street in Mahnomen, MN. I think he lived in Bejou, MN.

Milo B Hassel
Birth: Mar. 16, 1920
Norman County
Minnesota, USA
Death: Oct. 23, 1983, Fargo, ND

I don’t know much about him, but there was an American Legion water-transfer decal in the manual as well. I do know that he must have been standing tall when he picked up his ‘70, as it was a hot machine, but it needed a little love by the time I got it, about the week of its 22nd birthday!

First I rebuilt the Quadrajet carb as best I could. Then I got an HEI distributor from Jim and added the obligatory Accel Super Coil and a new set of plugs and wires to make it run better. Then came the search for new brake shoes, as this car had 4-wheel drums, aluminum in front. I had to have some tunes, so I yanked the dual ashtray drawer (the “smoking center” as we used to call it) and made a bracket for a cheap Sony CD player with a removable faceplate to go in its place. Then I added and amp along with some 6X9s in the rear package tray. The package tray is not flat on these cars, so I built a wooden plate with contoured sides to hold the speaker, then “upholstered” them with material cut from an old white T-Shirt. You can kinda see ‘em in the photos.

See the white speaker grilles? Yep, used tee shirts.

I made some more wood boxes for a pair of door-mounted 6” round Infinity 3-ways… the ones with the Kappa tweeters… man, they were smooth. We’d jam Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “In Step” CD all summer long. Yep, track 10 was “Riviera Paradise”, and I was livin’ it. My buddies and I had some great times as we rolled to local parks playing pickup basketball games in that car.

And “Wall Of Denial” was another cranked up to 11 often…

Soon, my Dad was going to put new tires on my Mom’s Lincoln, so I claimed the take-off Firestones for the Riv. But before that, we had some fun burning the old tires to the ground…

That's actual 1992 VHS footage there, kids!

Right, do not attempt, closed course, you know the drill. That’s my buddy Steve who was obviously very excited about the whole thing.

Kevin Oeste
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Last Edit: 16 Jan 2016 17:29 by oestek. Reason: Just learned more about the Protect-O-Plate and the special order color!

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29 Aug 2015 18:15 - 22 Sep 2015 21:56 #1370 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
As the summer came to a close, I had transferred to Illinois State University to be in their Mass Communication program. I had plans to take the Riv, but it was just starting to develop a knock down low. I really didn’t do a lot of burnouts or abuse the car, but it was becoming louder. Good thing I had the spare 455 I had bought for the Skylark laying around.. I figured I’d rebuild the spare, then just switch ‘em out one night and be off to school. Easy-peasy, no?

Again, I blew all my summer job cash on car parts. Sent $450.00 to Wayne’s Mail Order Engine Parts (who remembers their ads in Car Craft?) for a rebuild kit. Spent a couple hundred more with my local machine shop on block work. More for the crank polishing and installing the pistons on the connecting rods. Spent a couple hundred more on rebuilding the heads. Had a cracked head and had to find a replacement and have it rebuilt. I had never rebuilt an engine before, although I’d been “around” many rebuilds. This time, however, it was for my daily driver, so it had to be right. Thankfully, my buddy Jim assembled the short block as I handed him tools, and it went together smoothly. I installed the heads, intake, manifolds, and all the other stuff, and got it painted up and ready for install.

Time was not on my side, as the install process began on a Friday, I’m guessing around August 14. My buddies were moving into the apartment at school on Thursday the 13th. This was going to be an epic weekend of partying, but I had an engine to install. Class started Monday the 17th.

All I know is that I worked my ass off that weekend installing the new 455 into the Riv, and I was having some troubles. By Saturday afternoon, it was ready to run, but I missed one key detail with 1970 Buick fuel systems. These cars had and electric fuel pump from the factory, the first of it’s kind. They also had a sneaky little switch on the side of the block… it was an oil pressure switch, but it also controlled the fuel pump. If the car had low oil pressure, the switch would kill the fuel pump and try to save the engine from catastrophic failure. However, I had used that oil pressure switch port as a place to connect my mechanical oil pressure gauge, so the fuel pump never had a signal wire to turn on. The ironic part is that even if the switch did its job and killed the fuel pump, carburetors have enough fuel to run for a while, allowing the damage to occur anyway. I spent hours trying to figure that one out… I could trace the fuel pump wiring and all looked good, but I somehow missed the switch circuit. Then, once I figured it out, I needed to cobble together some brass adapters to allow me to run both the switch and the gauge, as I was not going to start a new engine with no oil pressure gauge in the car.

After much toiling, battery charging, Ether spraying, and other tomfoolery, I finally got the car to light off about 2:00 AM Sunday morning.

Did I mention that in just a few hours, I was moving out of my parent’s house for the first time? My mom was pretty uneasy, as I had done NOTHING to prepare for the big move. When my older sister moved away, there were weeks of planning, shopping, packing, more planning… you get the idea. This time, I don’t even think I did laundry. I put the tools away, took a shower, and crawled into bed. A couple hours later, I remember throwing my clothes (dirty as they may be) into plastic garbage bags and stuffing them into the car. My Dad had a ‘92 Buick Roadmaster wagon as a company car at that point, and we disassembled my bed and threw it in there along with the my stereo and some kitchen stuff. I had an Amiga 500 computer at the time (always been a computer geek, another story) and I crammed that into the Riv, along with several hundred CDs I bought at my buddy’s pawn shop. Add a suitcase full of toiletries, a couple bags of groceries, some towels and sheets in the Roadmonster, and we were off. I think we left the house around 2:00 in the afternoon or so.

Illinois State University was about 150 miles from my home, and my folks drove in the Roadmaster and I in the Riv. The engine was fresh, the tune was OK, but it ate up the miles. We arrived after dark and unloaded my junk into an apartment I shared with 4 of my buddies, including Paul. They were mostly ½ in the bag and were finishing off a barrel from the party the night before when I got there. The move was smooth, and I had plenty of time (hours) before class the next day.

Remember that pesky little oil pressure switch? It made an appearance the next day. It was my first day of classes, so I drove to campus and parked the Riv at a local bank trying to avoid a $2.00 parking ticket on city streets. I went to the bookstore to get my books, hit the first class, did a little BSing with others, and headed back to the Riv to discover an oil slick below the car reminiscent of the Exxon Valdez. That crappy little switch housing had decided to let go and spew all 5 quarts of 300-mile-old break-in Valvoline 10w40 all over the bank parking lot. What a mess. The near-miracle, however, is that the switch housing didn’t break 24 hours earlier on I-55 going 70 MPH and wipe out my new 455.

I mopped up the spill as best I could, bummed a ride from a buddy to get a new switch, installed it in the bank parking lot, and counted my blessings. That was a close one, man.

The Riv did pretty well that year, but the winter months and salty roads revealed tons of rust bubbles. I landed a job at an Oldies radio station in town, and the station manager always complemented me on the car. There were many stories from that year of school, and the Riv played a big part in a bunch of them.

The Riv was not an economy size car in the early 1990s, and parking was at a premium on the campus of Illinois State University. The town of Normal, IL, also had unusual time intervals for parking meters which always seemed to be a few minutes shorter than it took me to park the car, go to class, and come back.

For example, it seemed like $.25 for ½ hour was not enough, but $.50 was far too much for an hour when you had a 40 minute class. When you don’t have any money, you want to put as little coin in the machine and hope you don't get nailed before the time expired. I was not very good at this, and I soon amassed quite a collection parking tickets.

Note the $2.00 fine… but this increased rapidly when you didn’t pay it… as you can imagine.

My dad, being a recently retired police officer with extra time on his hands, found it entertaining to communicate with the law-enforcement officials in Normal, Illinois, where I was going to school. These communications resulted in special gifts like this fine Christmas card I received from the Normal Police Department.

There was one other little example of a run in with the law while driving the Riv. I was heading back to school with a friend, and admittedly and driving far in excess of the posted speed limit on interstate 55. This came on the return trip from a weekend visit to my Folks. The plan was to sleep as late as possible after a big Saturday night out in Chicago, and leave my Folks’ house near Chicago and get downstate to school on Sunday afternoon with about five minutes to spare before I was supposed to be delivering a newscast on WZND Radio. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately, I did not account for additional time that might be required should I have a social call from a member of the Illinois State police department on the way.

The trooper claimed he clocked me at 93 mph in a 55 zone, but we all know I was probably going faster than that. As you can imagine, this delayed my trip and I was late for my air shift on WZND, the ISU student (non-paid) radio station. I was also faced with raising the necessary funds to finance a $180 speeding ticket.

This forced me to take any work I could find, which included very short stint working in a Taco Bell. I'll never forget the kindness and support I received from my roommates when they visited me at Taco Bell. Between the laughter, they provided numerous colorful comments about my uniform and my place of employment. I knew at that point that food service was not for me, and the humiliation powered me into pursuing a paying job at WIHN radio. Motivation comes in strange forms.

Kevin Oeste
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Last Edit: 22 Sep 2015 21:56 by oestek.

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30 Aug 2015 16:00 - 30 Aug 2015 16:01 #1379 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
Back at home some point that semester, my Dad and I came to an agreement that the ‘72 Skylark had to go. The body was still rusting in the garden, but the frame and some of the parts were salvageable. I sold what I could and the body got hauled off to the scrap yard.

That sucked, but I was happy with the Riviera, as it was fun to drive and got lots of attention. I’d go to car shows and cruise nights and nobody would guess what it was, year, make or model, which I thought was cool. Everyone knew Camaros and Mustangs, but this car was different!

In my parents' garage. Just cleaned with some new bulbs installed, ready for a night out.

A minor tragedy occurred one night as I left Normal, IL and the ISU Campus for a weekend at home. I was still working on the radio station, and I got off at Midnight, and took off for the 150 mile drive back up I-55 when a deer jumped in front of me while I was going about 75 MPH. I hit that one hard, and it peeled back the passenger fender and pointed the headlights to the sky. I didn’t get hurt, as the non-retractable 3-piece shoulder belt held me firm, but all the junk in the car landed on the dash. I didn’t hurt any mechanical parts of the car, so I just drove it home with a bashed up fender. That wasn’t cool.

Jim and I rebuilt the Riv’s front and rear suspension systems over my Christmas break, and the car drove 100% better after that. He did most of the work and I handed him tools and took notes.

The rust was getting worse, and the car looked pretty haggard with the bashed fender, but my plan was to tear the car down over the summer and do a “quick rust fix and repaint” before heading back to school in the fall. After all, I’d never been afraid of deadlines!

I moved back home for the summer, and promptly grenaded the rear axle while driving through town. I wasn’t doing anything aggressive with the car, just cruising along, and *BANG!* It took some searching, but I found a guy selling a 1968 Riv for parts, so I bought the car for $400.00 and swapped the rear axle assemblies and respective drive shafts.

Note the clever use of tree stumps for jack stands… heck, a tree weighs more than a Riv, so what the heck, right? Don’t do this at home, kids.

FYI, ‘70 and ‘68 drive shafts are 2-piece deals, and they don’t interchange, so I had to do both. They also have a carrier bearing and support in the middle of the x-frame, so it’s a little more of a job than just a drive shaft.

Kevin Oeste
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Last Edit: 30 Aug 2015 16:01 by oestek.

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30 Aug 2015 17:16 - 20 Oct 2015 11:21 #1380 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
I made an “Owner Information Guide” sometime in ‘93. Interestingly, it never contained the info listed on the cover. It held receipts and stuff, but I never got around to finishing all the details.

2 brand-spankin’ new BFG Radial TA’s for $77.99 a piece in December, 1992!

At this point, Jim and I had flown to LA to pick up the ‘62 Galaxie 500 XL convertible for my dad… yes, THAT one, that we still have today. But that’s a different thread entirely. However, that was my first trip to California as an adult - a 20 year-old, anyhow, and I was hooked. Rust free old car parts in junkyards? I’m all in. I bought some stuff for the ‘70 in preparation for my quickie paint job, like a new fender and grille parts to repair the deer hit damage.

Back home, I got the gumption to blow it apart for paint. I’d work all day at my summer job at the insurance company, then spend nights tearing it down, sanding panels, and doing bodywork. Of course, the job escalated far beyond the quick rust repair and paint job, as the deeper I dug, the rustier it got. That’s when I ran out of time and money, and had to drive the primered Riv (with ½ the interior removed) back to school in the fall. The poor car was at an all-time low.

Remember the rear end I swapped from the ‘68 parts car? Yeah, it let go on the way down to school one weekend. The differential went “bang” and basically became a spool. I was able to drive it back home, but that one required a rear axle out of a scrap yard in Oklahoma to fix. At least I had the tree-trunk thing down.

Again, I was out of cash, and my parents handed me down their old ‘81 Lincoln to drive because the Riv was such a mess. I put the Riv in storage until I had the time and money to get back into it… which wouldn’t be for a while.

In the fall of ‘93, I discovered a form of Photoshop and made this rendering, suggesting the mods I wanted to do to the car, including lowering it, smoothing the handles, and some other traditional hot rod tricks. Looking back, I was pretty far ahead of my time by doing computer renderings of modified cars back in the 1993.

The image is in a mock newsletter I created for a class in the spring of ‘95. “Smooth and functional is definitely the outlook for the 1990s”... I really wanted to be a magazine guy, can you tell?

Thank heavens I wasn’t able to adapt the ‘92 Buick Roadmaster Wagon nose to the car as proposed in this sketch. My Dad had a Roadmaster (Roadmonster) wagon as a company car at that point, and I guess that’s where the inspiration came from. It was the early ‘90s, and this would have been pretty cutting-edge, but not very cool.

I also did some sketches of crazy tail-light and exhaust treatments, but my favorite was the pencil sketch of using the open-headlight ‘70 nose on a ‘69 body. The ‘69 had a more open rear wheel radius, more pronounced “shoulders” in the rear quarters, and was an overall tighter design. I sketched this one out in class one day in 1993. I’d still like to build this car:

Other tail-light fun…

I had no idea how to make those lights work in reality, but I thought it was a fun integration of modern ‘90s jelly-bean styling. Not a fan now, but I must have been really bored in class.

Kevin Oeste
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Last Edit: 20 Oct 2015 11:21 by oestek.

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31 Aug 2015 21:36 #1381 by Qball
Qball replied the topic: Re:1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
I am loving this thread!

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