I live in Pico Rivera, California, and initially, I was interested in building a ’64 Chevy Impala, but it seemed everyone around me was after the same animal. My dad used to have a ’59 Buick Electra, as rare a car then as it is now, and I’ve always been a fan of the General Motors Buick line, so I decided to take a path less traveled. I contacted some buddies and they put out feelers in search of a Buick.
In the meantime, my friend Rob Fortier picked up a line on a ’65 Riviera. After checking out the Rivi, I fell in love with it, and the next thing I knew I was throwing down cash for the pink slip. With the car finally sitting in my driveway, I just couldn’t seem to get a handle on what I wanted to do to my new ride. After researching to mine a few ideas, it was apparent that I needed some help. I reached out to my friend, the extraordinarily talented automotive rendering artist Steve Stanford from Orange County, California. Steve sketched some incredible masterpieces, and advised a candy green and pearl finish, custom interior and cool wheels.
To solidify my vision, I decided to give the Rivi a name, a song by the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Riviera Paradise.”
During the lengthy journey of the Riviera’s build, it traveled to many shops, and in the process some parts seemed to have disappeared. Larry Daisy of Rancho Riviera in Riverside, California, and Mike Ramos of the Old Car Parts Store in Whittier, California, were a great help in piecing the car back together.
The Cool Cars Street Performer chromed double-pump hydro suspension was installed by Big Frank from Homie’s Hydraulics in Paramount, California. Number eight hoses connect the pumps to 8-inch strokes in front and 10-inch strokes in the rear. A pair of hidden Optima batteries keeps the juice going to an eight-switch cluster up front. The frame was reinforced by Richard Jaquez of Evergreen Hydraulics in East Los Angeles. Inland Empire Coatings in Ontario, California, was responsible for all of the frame’s purple powder coating.
The Riviera originally had the factory engine, a 425-cid, when it was purchased; but one evening while I was driving home from work, the engine smoked out on the freeway and was later diagnosed to have seven cracks in the block. I wanted to keep things 100-percent Buick, so I contacted Tony Martinez at Memory Lane in Sunland, California, who had a Buick 401-cid nailhead along with a few other mechanical parts. Tony Cadiz, owner of Tony’s Performance in La Puente, California, got the nod to rebuild the engine with Joseph and David Garcia of the Drag N Shop in Santa Fe Springs, California, who helped with assembly. Joe Bustamante of Boston Transmission in Pico Rivera, California, built a TH400 automatic transmission for the mighty nailhead.
The Rivi’s exterior was pretty rough when I took it over to Joseph at the Drag N Shop, where it spent several months being disassembled, patched and massaged. The body’s flanks were enhanced by peaking the lower bodylines; removing the wipers; shaving the door handles, locks and body moldings; and adding faux air scoops near the front cowl for subtle impact. The firewall was smoothed by Robert at California Horse Power in San Dimas, California. The team at South Gate Sunroof Performers, in South Gate, California, fused a moon roof into the top.
One of the most difficult decisions with any project is choosing a painter. I didn’t even hesitate, though, in choosing Ruben “Buggs” Ochoa of Buggs Kustom Kolors in Los Angeles to spray the colors. Buggs has been spraying award-winning custom paint masterpieces since the early ‘70s. The paint scheme was based on all of the things depicted in the tattoos of my close friend Rolando Rio’s arm. The tattoo design is found on the roof and flows down into the trunk lid. Using a custom blend of Sikkens paints and toners, Buggs and his son Ruben Junior and friend Jesse did the final prep work and painted the belly, rearend, door jambs, engine bay and various small parts. Countless hours of laying tape, paper masking and painting layer after layer was just part of translating Buggs’ vision onto the Buick’s skin. Artist David Anthony Garcia of D.A. Designs (located across the street from the Drag N Shop) added to the color explosion. David was commissioned to do all of the custom pinstriping and create a zombie tiki man on the smoothed firewall. The bright and shiny was done by The Best Chrome and Polishing in Pomona, California, and La Habra Plating Company in La Habra, California.
Before Jamie Fifield at Advantage Audio Autosports in Brea, California, began designing and assembling the audio components, Jamie and his co-worker Roger laid Dynamat on the interior’s bare floor, door panels, rear panels, trunk and roof. A Sony SAV-C1 head unit orchestrates the vibes into a pair of Sony XM-1252GTR Xplod amplifiers, which power four midrange Sony XS-V160HP drivers located in the front kick panels and rear deck panel. Powering the big booming base is a pair of Sony XM-D9001GTR amps. A quartet of XS-L104P5B subwoofers was merged into a custom sub enclosure. The Rivi’s occupants are visually entertained by six Sony XVM-B62 monitors located throughout the interior.
After the audio sound system was completed, the Rivi was delivered to Lil’ J’s Custom Auto Upholstery in Riverside, California. Lil’ J attacked the Rivi with a color combo of turquoise and purple tweed. The colors followed 90 percent of the factory upholstery patterns along the door panels and seats. The factory dash was replaced with a custom dash and Classic Instruments gauges, giving the interior a much more custom appearance.
After the final pieces were assembled, all I could do was stand back and admire the Riviera Paradise.