Jim’s 1963 Buick Riviera

1963 Buick Riviera

1963 Buick Riviera


Year: 1963
Make: Buick
Model: Riviera
Engine: 401 ‘Nailhead’ V8
Carburettor: Single 4 bbl AFB
Transmission: Original Dynaflow
Jim writes…

Our ’63 Riviera was purchased new in San Diego, CA, by Mr. R. G. Montagano. It has a decent assortment of options (deluxe leather interior, A/C, elec. windows, tilt wheel) but certainly not every option available. There is no evidence of it ever being in a wreck and because it is was in California there were no major rust problems.

My dad bought it in 1984 from him through a third party with about 55,000 miles on it. (The glove box was stuffed full with every receipt for every bit of work that was ever done to the car.) My dad kept the car in Los Angeles to drive any time he was out there on business. That was not too often, so in 15 years he put about 25 k miles on it. It was transportation, not a show car. About 3 years ago he drove it from LA to Houston for me to clean up and fix up (lots of little things, like the wiper motor died, the heater temp controller lever broke…). At the time he brought the car to Houston I knew nothing about Rivieras. In fact, I had only driven in the car once or twice. I’ve learned a lot about the cars by reading and through the Riviera List. I also know a lot about cars, in general, which helps.

It is a great road car. I love to drive it. The raw power never fails to put a smile on my face when I step down on it. I like to play with other drivers (mostly kiddies) who think they have a hot car by toying with them and then leaving them in the dust, wondering “what kind of car was THAT?” Well, it’s sure not your grandma’s Buick!

Mechanically, it is pretty much 100% standard, stock ’63 Riviera. It has the original 401 V8 engine with the one 4 bbl AFB carb and we have not put any high performance parts on it. It runs great just as it is. (On a recent road trip to Austin, 400 miles round-trip, it averaged over 15 miles/gallon — about 15.5 L/100 km.)

I plan to convert the ignition to HEI but have not done that yet. I don’t plan to do anything else with it performance-wise. My dad and I have owned/restored numerous antique cars over the years and we prefer to keep them stock. (Just personal preference.) We do plan to put a dual master cylinder in it though, for safety. Since nothing needs to be modified to do it, we can always convert it back to the original MC if if became important.

It has the Dynaflow transmission (this was the last year for them) which I was already familiar with. (I drove a ’50 Buick with a straight-8 and the Dynaflow in high school.) This year Dynaflow has an unusual 5-part “twin turbine” torque converter. (Traditional torque converters have 3-parts; the extra parts give the ’63 Riv better initial acceleration. Most people have never heard it.) The ’63 Dynaflow also has the famous switch-pitch feature as one of the 5 parts, which is engaged only at wide-open throttle by a mechanical link (not by an electric switch). The best part about the Dynaflow (and unfortunately the worst part) is that it is 100% smooth, with no shifts.

The bottom photo is of me over in Austin, Texas, visiting my friend Geno and his beautiful blue ’63 Riviera. I am on the left (in front of Geno’s car) and he is on the right in front of ours. He and I swapped e-mails on the list for about 18 months before we were able to get together to see each other’s cars.



“A Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech”

There’s something abut these early Rivieras that makes you want to stare. “…a cross between a Rolls Royce and Ferrari…” Jim’s Riviera is a fine example and makes a great feature. Can’t wait for Geno to send in Photos of his ’63

Thanks Jim. – Bill

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