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

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25 Nov 2015 23:35 #1830 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
Around that time, a very clean ‘68 popped up for sale in Arizona with around 50k miles showing on the clock. It was in a craigslist ad, so I took a minute and called the guy. He explained to me that the car was in really nice shape, it had tons of original documentation, and he wanted $5500.00 for it. Hmm. Over a few more calls, I think I had him talked down to $5000.00. When it came time to push the “go” button, I didn’t want to part with the cash, so I let it go. Just recently, I discovered that Colin Comer, a restorer / collector / author / Shelby expert friend to mine ended up with the car and flipped it for about $30 large. Another one got away…



You can see that car here:

colinsclassicauto.com/inventory/1968-bui...gression-description

Kevin Oeste
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26 Nov 2015 15:54 #1833 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
I will admit I would casually search nationwide Craigslist sites like Searchtempest.com just to see what was out there. In July 2015, I came across a red 1970 Riviera for sale in South Dakota that caught my eye. This time, it was a darker red ‘70, but it had no vinyl top, no side spear, and short wheel skirts like my old car. It was rolling on black wall tires on the original hubcaps, and had a black interior car with a bench seat.





Out of curiosity, I called the seller. He did not use computers very often, and the ad was actually posted by his neighbor who was doing him a favor of taking a picture and put in the car on Craigslist. I asked the owner about the condition of the car, and he told me a typical story. He said it had no rust, it drove nice, and had never been wrecked, and it only had about 25,000 miles on it. Of course, we’ve all heard that story many times before, so I was suspect. Considering that he was only asking $4500 for the car told me that something was amiss.



However, it became more interesting to me the more I talked to the seller. I asked him how long he had owned the car and he told me his family had bought it new in 1970. His mom was the last person to really drive the car and that is why it only had 25,600 miles on it. He said it was bought new from Mertens Chevrolet in Kennebec South Dakota. He proceeded to tell me that the original dealership building is still there although it is no longer the car dealer, and that Kennebec only has has 240 people in the town. The car still has the Mertens badge on the deck lid.



He went on to tell me that he has six collector cars of his own and understands the value of old cars, but did not have any interest in this particular car. He suggested that there was some interest from his brother-in-law in keeping the car, but he did not want to get into a family ordeal, so he was listing the car for sale and would sell it at a good price to somebody who knew what it was and who would look after it. He was planning to take it to a car auction soon if nobody bought it on the street, and that his mother had turned down $10k for it some years ago.

The following day he called to tell me that he changed the fluids and determined that the car had the original spark plug wires, original cap and rotor, possibly even the original spark plugs still installed! As you can imagine, I was very intrigued at this point, as I have never owned a low mile survivor car of any vintage. He informed me that his mother used to live in a rural area and she drove the car on a rock road, so the bottom so was chipped up but not rusty. He also told me that his brother-in-law left the car outside one night during a big hailstorm, so the car had hail damage on the top and a cracked windshield, but that it never been wrecked or disassembled. It was just in all original 1970 Buick in good condition. He said they thought they had some paperwork with the car about its history, but that was filed away with his mother's estate, so he did not have access to those documents immediately.



Well, suffice it to say, that this car put me in a slight tailspin. I discussed it with my wife Kelle, and tried to explain to her that either it was nostalgia, or just the fact that there had been an unfinished project floating in my head for the past 25 years that which was making me really consider buying this car. I rationalized that if the car was not what he claimed, I could probably flip the car and make a few bucks if it wasn't something I wanted. The market for these cars is not real strong, but any old car in good condition is worth money. She was very supportive and said “if it's something you'd like to have and you can afford it, go ahead and get it.” I'm different, I need nine different justifications to spend $.50 at a hardware store, but I realized that this was very very similar to the car I used to have, and in the past 20 years, I had not found a single one that was this nice and cheap enough to enjoy. A couple good friends said I should go ahead and do it as well. After all, I did have an exit strategy.

I called the seller back and bought the car.

Kevin Oeste
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26 Nov 2015 15:55 #1834 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!


The car arrived from South Dakota in an enclosed trailer near the end of July 2015. For the first time ever, I was astounded that the seller under represented the condition of the car. As you can see in these pictures, it shows very nice. The paint is original from what I can tell, and it does have hail damage on the top surfaces, a few dings on the sides, it's chipped one the bottom edges, and looking closely you can see some lacquer checking in the paint, but overall, it is a very nice car. One short drive around the neighborhood revealed that the odometer was probably accurate at 25,900 miles. It felt like a new car. I couldn’t believe it was mine!





I drove it into my garage and introduced it to our ‘62 Ford, it’s new stable-mate.



Next, I started the investigation, beginning with the trim tag:



ST70 - 1970
49487 - Riviera
EUC - Euclid Fisher Body Plant, body sequence number next

PNT 74 74 - Titian Red (Riviera only color), top / bottom
TR 688 - Black notchback vinyl seat
10B - ? Possibly tilt wheel, the only option on this car…

I checked the VIN, and it has not appeared online anywhere, suggesting that it was not listed for sale or in an insurance database since the invention of the internet. Points to one-owner validity.



Like most old cars, the carburetor needed a rebuild as the accelerator pump was shot, but it started and drove OK. The exhaust was missing several sections but it is not screaming loud. My guess is that the exhaust – what is left of it – is original. The tires are Goodyear Eagle STs date coded in 1988. A closer inspection revealed date coded spark plug wires that say 4 Q 1969, so those are original.



The distributor cap has red overspray from when the engine was painted at the factory, so the cap and rotor are the originals.







The spark plugs also have red overspray and are the originals. It is unbelievable how the only thing that appears to have been changed on this car is the water pump and maybe the belts and hoses. Besides the carb tune, it runs very well.



The black bench seat is nicely worn and quite comfy, and the dash pad, headliner, and other interior items are nearly perfect. The carpet is a little faded, but not terrible. The simulated wood-grain on the dash is cracked, a common occurrence on these old Buicks, but all the dash bulbs still shine brightly. The clock is stuck in time, and the Sonomatic AM radio is silent.




Kevin Oeste
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26 Nov 2015 15:56 #1835 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
There was an old registration card from SD in a holder stuck to the driver sun visor, and a sticker from 1978 on the windshield.





One interesting note is how nice the ignition key and steering column operate. The key tumbler has a solid feel, with individual “clicks” as you guide the original GM key into the tumbler. Likewise, the tilt column has super-positive engagement in each of the locking positions in the tilt mechanism, a sign of low-milage, and that people didn’t release the tilt lever and simply let the wheel spring up and smack the internals. It’s all very new-feeling. The key buzzer still works.



The doors open and close like new, and although the alignment is not perfect, it is as it was from the Buick factory. The manual windows all roll up and down smoothly, and all the interior lights work. The hood alignment is off a tad on the passenger side, as is the bumper alignment, suggesting someone bumped the nose at some point. Likewise there is a dent in the rear bumper, and the driver side tail light lens is cracked. The trim over the bumper on the driver quarter is also broken, all of which the seller told me his brother-in-law did.



The engine compartment was dirty, but not real greasy. In fact, much of the car is covered in a thin crust of South Dakota reddish-brown mud, caked in the engine compartment, in the trim, etc. I rinsed the car with water, washing out about 3 pounds of SD rock and clay from the trim, seams, rockers, and other areas where it collects. The paint is surprisingly shiny for being this old. The owner included the SD license plates, which were still good, so I stuck ‘em on for my initial test drive.





This car has the original 455-cube Buick V8, rated at 370 HP and 510 Ft. Lbs. of torque. It is backed by a 3-speed automatic Turbo Hydramatic 400 transmission, and the rear is a 2.93:1 “open” (non-limited slip) differential. It has aluminum-drum / iron rear power drum brakes, dual exhaust, and power steering. This car does have a working Speed Alert, a buzzer that goes off at a speed you select, which was optional. You can see the Speed Alert just below 70 MPH in this pic.



I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Riviera of this vintage with basically no options. This car has crank windows, manual seat, no A/C… nothing. My old red ‘70 was loaded by comparison, with power windows, power bucket seats, A/C, door locks, trunk release, and more.

I realized after another rinse-off that I was using the same Fireman’s Friend chamois that I’ve had for 20 years on this car… the same skin dried my first ‘70 as well. These things hold up!


Kevin Oeste
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26 Nov 2015 15:57 #1836 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
I had an interesting experience at the DMV buying license plates. The woman behind the counter asked about how I found such an old car, and I told her the story about how the car basically found me, and that I had one very similar to it many years ago. She asked when I got rid of the one I had, and I said around 1997. It was at that moment that she reached behind her and handed me a set of license plates. I did not order or request special plates, I just was getting whatever number they had. The plates read “Y97 1970”. It's pretty wild that the plates reflect the year I got rid of my last 1970 Riv, and also say 1970 on them.



Check out the original grease-pencil marks on the bumper behind the front plate:



I started the car and checked battery voltage… the old alternator cranks out great voltage at idle.


Kevin Oeste
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26 Nov 2015 15:58 #1837 by oestek
oestek replied the topic: 1970 Buick Riviera Thread... And Now For Something Completely Different!
I drove the car a little to “feel it out”. The 4-wheel drum brakes grab hard, and it drives straight. I took it to our shop to perform a tune-up.



I removed the carburetor to do a quick rebuild and repair the accelerator pump.



I found an interesting gasket underneath that said “do not use on Buick carburetors earlier than 1969”. I've never seen a message stamped on a carburetor base gasket as such.



Smoked accelerator pump plunger.



Original Quadrajet wasn’t too dirty inside.



I replaced the gaskets and the accelerator pump, but was immediately angered up on reinserting the accelerator pump arm retaining pin, as the housing cracked on the carburetor air horn. I tried to safety-wire the pin in place to get home, but ended up fashioning a quick bracket to hold it in place. I have to obtain a new air horn to fix it, but this quick-fix is still holding.





I also installed some new spark plugs, wires, distributor cap and rotor and set the timing. I can honestly say I felt a little guilty installing Chinese plug wires and ignition parts on the car, as they are probably the first non-US made stuff on this beast. Temporary items, to be sure.

Kevin Oeste
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