Here are a bunch of things I've learned. I hope I can
help you save time and money during your Riviera restoration. Many of these tips can
also be used when working on any model car as well.
Toward Restoration Mistakes You Can
Avoid Creative Parts Making Disk Brakes
Oil Pressure Switch Parts Cross Reference Posi Rear Rebuilding HEI Distributor Swap
Oil Pump Problems Windshield
and Rear Window Rust
Holley Rebuild by Jet Performance
3 Spoke Sport
Steering Wheel Driveshaft Rebuilding
Changing to a Hi-Flow Fuel
Pump Valve Sizes How to Install a distributor
Riviera Engine Mounts Prime Your Engine Before Initial Start-Up
The first thing any Riviera owner
should do is join the Riviera Owners Association! It is a remarkable
club. And look at it this way, there is no national club that I have found for other
such popular models like the Dodge Charger. WE are very passionate about
our Rivieras! But regardless of the make and model of the car you are restoring,
search out and join a club. The resources and knowledge these groups have to share
can be enormous. Also, The ROA is truly a top-notch organization. The
magazine and functions are very well thought out.
Membership in the ROA delivers 6 issues of this super
magazine to your door each year:
In it you will find tech articles, motivational stories and
pictures and lots of Rivieras and parts for sale. And it is almost a sure bet that a
few phone calls will lead you in the right direction to fix your motor gremlins or locate
that rare part.
Secondly, BUY A GM SHOP MANUAL for your car!!!!!! It
tells you exactly how to replace parts and make old things work like new things.
Hemmings has a list of suppliers, and even a CD-ROM is available (but I prefer the book as
it can lay on the fender to guide you as you work).
Then, buy this book:
It is available from Poston Enterprises. The HiPo
buildup might seem like overkill to those of you who just want to rebuild your stock
motor, but there are some tips EVERY big block Buick should have done during a rebuild:
- Do the timing cover and rear galley oil
modifications!! They are cheap, and any machine shop can do them. They will
provide you with lots of peace of mind every time you start your engine.
- When you rebuild your engine, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE spend the
extra $$$ and have it balanced!!! Of all the things I've done to my Riv, and of all
the countless dollars I've spent, the ONE thing I would do differently would be have the
engine balanced. I scrimped on both rebuilds, and for whatever reason, mine is out of
balance. A different harmonic balancer helped a bit, but I will now have to crawl
under it and play with inserting many different weights in the holes in the balancer, in
many different combinations, to get it to smooth out. The vibration at speed is
WAAAAYYYY beyond annoying. And it also doesn't do any good for your bearings and the
rest of the assembly either. Another tip from someone who did it wrong and can help
- High performance cam bearings are a must,
as the front cam bearing in a Buick melts easily which in turn starves the drivers side
valve train of oil. Again $50 for these vs. $20 for stock replacements.
Isn't $30 worth your engine's life and your peace of mind? TA Performance sells a
burnished bearing with a double groove in the backside of it to aid oiling.
- A roller timing chain won't stretch nearly
as quickly as the stock replacement, and it is $70 vs. $50. However, it requires an
easy fuel pump arm modification if you use a stock or Stage1 mechanical
fuel pump (69 and 70 Rivs have a factory electric unit submerged in the gas tank! So we
can just bolt the chain on.). Simply elongate the mounting holes in the fuel pump
case and slide the pump forward a hair to avoid hitting the chain (click, click, click,,,)
Again, easy to do and worth every penny.
- For performance, big block Buicks like lots of ignition
timing. Using the timing method in the Steven Dove book, or using a dialback timing
light, you should be able to run anywhere from 30* to 34* TOTAL timing. It should
all be in by 2000 to 2500 RPM as well. Here is where a good recurve kit comes in
handy. I have found that even when I paid $100 for a recurve at a shop with a
machine, it was still way off. Not only did I have
more mechanical timing than the shop claimed, but it was coming on at idle. It made
the timing mark difficult to read, as it was jumpy. I finally had Jim Weise at Tri-Shield
Performance do mine right, and the difference is astounding.
- One of the problems I've encountered is that there are parts
suppliers who do not actually build Buick engines. These suppliers mean well, but
sometimes give advice that looks good on paper, but often doesn't hold up in application.
One of the modifications these suppliers push is switching to a High
Volume/Hi Pressure Oil Pump. In reality, it is the WORST
modification you can make. The extra effort it takes to spin the High Volume/High
Pressure pump puts an enormous strain on the front of the cam. This strain actually
drives the front of the cam down, right into the front cam bearing. Oil is no longer
able to circulate around the underside of the cam journal, causing instant wear, and
cutting oiling off to the top end. I wiped my front cam bearing in less than 4,000
miles, and other GS Club members have told me their bearing went with less miles than
that. Also, lots of distributor shaft pins get sheared off due to the force required
to spin the taller pump gears. Believe me, this is no exaggeration! These
stories are real and plentiful! Instead, TA Performance recommends a
stock pump rebuild with an Oil Pump Booster Plate Kit and their adjustable regulator.
It increases your oil pressure and puts no undue strain on the front cam bearing.
Swapping front cam bearings due to sudden bearing failure can be done with a little
work, but doing it in your garage while the engine is still in the car is a real pain, so
I recommend following TA's advice on this.
- Clean, degrease and paint every part of your Riviera when
you remove it the 1st time. Mineral spirits is close to odorless, and it does a
great job. And it's dirt cheap! All brackets, fittings and accessories look
MUCH better after you do a quick squirt on it with gloss black paint. And it doesn't
take long to dry either.
- Parts location for any old ride can be a daunting
task. Here is a link to an interactive parts locator. I know it works because
I found a used HEI distributor for my Riv using it. http://www.mypartshop.com
A website for all Buick people is www.v8buick.org and our bulletin board at www.v8buick.com. Among the best, brightest and
friendliest car enthusiasts I've ever met. The organization is free as is our
website, but we encourage all users and Buick lovers to make a donation to the
organization. Jim Weise (owner of the restoration and performance shop
TriShieldPerformance in Minneapolis) started this site as an alternative to other sites
that require you to belong to their club or to pay dues to post messages. Besides,
you get this really bitchin' window sticker:
Also, I consider it mandatory to join the Buick Performance Group car
club. Our club is nationwide and boasts members from coast to coast. It is a
new club, started by some wonderful people who believe a car club should exist solely for
its members and to exchange good times and good fun. This club's directors are
elected every year by the members, and most of all, we LISTEN to what the members want
their club to be. The BPG is associated with the v8Buick.com Bulletin Board was
started in April, 2002 and in 1 month we already had 80 members. Join or get info at
Another club for Buick performance enthusiasts, is the Buick
GS Club of America. They cater to GS and GN cars, but encourage any
Buick performance enthusiast to join.
Here is their web site: http://www.buickgsca.com The posts on their Bulletin Board are among the
most insightful with respect to building engines and transmissions. They are all
avid racers and just a wonderful group of Buick enthusiasts.
some things I've learned by trial and error. Again, these are my experiences and
opinions, so take them at face value...
- Buy a good torque wrench. One that "clicks".
- Locate an Auto Body Supply house near you. Using
Rustoleum and other "Hardware Store" brands of paint just won't cut it.
- Buy a "dial back" timing light if you plan on
making any internal changes to your engine. Setting the timing with one of these is
a lot easier once you know exactly where 32 degrees of total mechanical advance really
is... Also, the Buick timing cover is only marked up to 10*, and if you want to run
34* of total timing, you'll usually be starting with initial timing somewhere around 17*.
With a dialback light you'll know exactly where your initial timing is set.
- Read and understand ALL the directions when installing a
- When installing a cam, you MUST degree it! I installed
a Lunati cam just as the directions say - straight up. In other words at 0* with the
dots lining up. I figured with a name like Lunati/Holley why should I double check
their specs, right? When I fired up the car I was unable to get over 26* total
ignition timing without pinging. It also ran sluggish. As I've stated earlier, big
block Buicks like timing anywhere from 30* to 34*+. So I knew something wasn't
right. Also, I was able to run 34* timing with the Poston cam I had just pulled
out. So, at the insistence of Scotty from Pee Gee Performance and Mike from TA
Performance I tore it apart (again) and degreed in the cam. Imagine my surprise when
the centerline degreed at 98* instead of the Lunati-quoted 108*! Being
installed as Lunati claimed resulted in it being advanced a full 10*! So I
used the TA Performance crank gear to retard the timing and it ran fantastic.
- I restored the drivetrain and most of the interior first, as
I was still driving it as I worked on it. Looking back on it, I think that is a good
order to do things in and I'll tell you why: I had to pull the engine and
transmission twice in March (lets just say it was a $1000 mistake). All the time
spent leaning over the fenders and rubbing up and down the sides of the car would have
made even more of my hair fall out if my Riv had been painted real nice. At least I
wasn't stressed over that.
- POR15 is some really incredible
stuff. It will put an end to rust! Use it everywhere you can. There is a
link to them on the Suppliers page.
- When replacing nuts and bolts during your restoration, use
automotive grade hardware (Grade 8 is standard - Grade 5 is acceptable for many, but not
all situations). Off-the-shelf hardware at Home Depot WON'T cut it.
- Rule out ALL the options when tracking down the cause of a
problem. I fought with a rough idle/miss for 10 months. I had recently
rebuilt the engine and heads, and replaced the entire ignition system and fuel
system. But the roughness was always there. So, in a fit of rage I checked
each spark plug wire with a timing light. While watching
the strobe effect from the light, I noticed that 2 wires were flashing in Morse code,
instead of a steady rhythm. While the plug wires were not that old, 2 of them had gone
bad. Problem solved.
- Stage1 valve size vs standard 430/455 valve sizes:
430/455: Intake = 2.00" Exhaust = 1.687"
Intake = 2.125" Exhaust = 1.750"
Click Here to view comparison
- In my basement I have small windows. To aid in
restoring parts year-round (and to provide a better finished result) I built a small paint
booth. I used firring strips and framed walls and a door against one of the cinder
block walls where one of my windows is. I simply nailed them into the rafters and let
them come down to meet the floor. Then I tied them in at the bottom with more firring
strips just resting on the floor. I then used spray adhesive and covered the
ceiling, walls and firring strips with heavy gauge plastic. I hung a piece of
plastic over the doorway to act as a door (which I can prop open a little to provide
airflow), weighted at the bottom with a 2X4. I then installed a small window fan in
the window and sealed all around it. It makes a very nice exhaust fan and does a
fine job of preventing fumes from getting into the rest of the house (This serious problem
was caused just by a little squirt in the basement - it would stink up the whole
house!). To provide me with fresh air while spraying in the booth, I got a length of
plastic tubing from the hardware store and ran it through the back wall of the booth into
the clean air of my workshop. I then fashioned to the end of it a vaporizer mask I
bought at the Home Medical Supply store. I can breath fresh air through the mask as
it is being drawn from outside the paint booth. This has made available the
painting of small pieces year-round. Here is a picture of it. You are looking
at the door:
- MarHyde makes the Bondo brand of body putty. They also
make an absolutely fabulous spray can of paint. Their primer and top coat is perfect
for those of you who don't have access to a spray gun and compressor. Now, while I
don't recommend using their paint to provide the finish coat on the body of your Riviera,
it will work just fine as the primer for your basecoat/clearcoat paintjob. Also, it
does a swell job on inner fenders and accessories! Look at my engine bay. It
is MarHyde gloss black over the radiator shell, fan shroud, air cleaner, and fender wells.
- Locate a metal finishing shop near you. Powdercoating
is a wonderful coating. If you have access to an old electric oven, use it and buy
Eastwood's home powdercoating kit. If I had it I would have powdercoated my entire
front suspension. But money being the way it is, I found a powdercoater and had the
AC and alternator brackets, as well as the hood hinges powdercoated for under $100.
- Just before starting your newly
rebuilt engine, first prime the oil pump by spinning it with a
drill. However, it is imperative that you pack the oil pump gears with
petroleum jelly (Vaseline) before even attempting to prime the engine! This
aids the pump in pulling the first oil through. If you don't get oil pumping with
this prime, you will most certainly need to pack the gears again. It is easy to do
because we have an external oil pump that is easy to get to. DON'T USE WHEEL BEARING
GREASE!!! Vaseline disolves and becomes part of your oil where wheel bearing grease fights
the oil and makes a mess of things. The priming tool is available at many auto stores and
from TA Performance. I made my own. Here is how I did it: I bought a
1/2" wood boring bit from a hardware store. It is a 10" long flat bladed
paddle-bit which cost only a couple of dollars. I snapped off the point so I was
left with a flat screwdriver type tip. Then I took a 1/2" deepwell socket and
dropped it over the bit from the back, so it hung down from the back and covered the
entire tip. This kept the bit from walking off the oil pump shaft as it spun.
Then put the bit in your drill and spin the oil pump clockwise. You'll feel when it
starts pushing oil - it will bog the drill down... and I mean REALLY bog it down.
You'll know when it starts pumping oil. Keep spinning it after that point for a
full minute. Then drop in your distributor and light it up. Here's a pic of the
primer. Click on it for full view:
- Installing a
distributor can be difficult for a novice. Here are some tips:
When removing the distributor with the intent to reinstall it a very short time later, and
you won't be pulling the timing cover off, or turning the engine while it is out, mark the
current location of both the vacuum nozzle (to get the timing pretty close so it fires up
easily) and the rotor (so you install the distributor back in the right location). I
like to use 2" or 3" masking tape. I'll drape it across the fan area,
somehow sticking it on something like the radiator hose and fan shroud. Then using a
Sharpie marker I'll make a large mark right where I want the vacuum nozzle to point.
After I remove the distributor cap I'll again drape the tape somewhere where I can
make a mark in line with where the rotor is pointing. That way I'm sure I won't get
the distributor in one-tooth-off.
If the distributor won't drop right in for you, there are 2
things you can do. 1) You can press down on the distributor while someone
"bumps" the key. This usually works, however I have seen the distributor
"jump" a tooth and then you are left with a little more work. More on that
just below. 2) Use a screwdriver and turn the oil pump priming rod down inside the front
cover. By getting it in the right spot for the pin in the bottom of the distributor
to catch the groove in the top of the rod, the two will eventually line up and the
distributor will drop right in.
If you must install the distributor when you don't know where to aim the rotor, you will
need to locate Top Dead Center of the #1 piston on the compression stroke. This will
put the timing mark at 0*. Here's a few tips. Pull the #1 sparkplug and put
your hand over the hole while someone cranks the engine over. When the air coming
through the hole blows your hand off immediately stop cranking the engine. If you
stopped quickly enough you will see the timing mark on your harmonic balancer pointing
somewhere near the marks on the front of the timing cover. At this point you can try
to get lucky and bump the starter until it gets to 0*, or you can use a socket on the bolt
on the front of the crank and turn the engine by hand. Once you get 0* on the
compression stroke, you can drop your distributor in any way you like. But you must
make sure that once the distributor is in, you put the #1 plug wire in the port on the cap
that is right in line with where the rotor is pointing. It is usually best to aim
the rotor in the vacinity of the passenger side of the radiator. That is where it is
done from the factory.
- When installing a new intake manifold gasket, whether you
are using the metal "bathtub style" gasket or TA's composite gasket, coat the
heads and intake manifold with Permatex Brush Tack. It provides a great seal.
Also use a bead of silicone around the water jackets on the head and intake sides.
Eliminate the rubber end pieces that come with the intake manifold. They are too
tall and don't allow the gasket to crush properly. Instead use a THICK bead of RTV
Silicone sealer. I found that torquing the intake over a span of a couple hours
allowed plenty of time for the gasket to properly crush. I also found that
retorquing it the whole time it was warming up the first time prevented any leaks.
Use Loctite on the intake bolts as well. If using TA Performance's composite
gaskets, you MUST use a belly pan under the intake manifold to avoid sucking oil into the
PCV valve. See the info HERE.
- Even though the gaskets claim "no retorque
needed", retorque head bolts after the first warmup on a new engine build.
You'd be surprised how many of them loosen up.
- When taking apart any piece of the car, I bag each screw,
nut, bolt or groups of screws, nuts and bolts into ziplock baggies. I then label
each one with a Sharpie marker as to where and how it goes. It has been a MAJOR time
saver. Also, do yourself a favor and clean each bolt and component you remove.
Mineral Spirits is only a couple of bucks a gallon, and now I can replace any
component without even getting greasy! A wire wheel on a drill will clean up threads
in a second.
- Save all your old parts. I tossed my broken driver's
side motor mount away as I was replacing it with a new one from Pep Boys (it was the 1st
repair I made, so I was GREEN). I found out some time later that the replacement is
not an exact copy and the driver's side of the motor sat about 1" higher than the
left. The only real alternative was to get mine revulcanized (I didn't know they
could DO that!). But I didn't have mine, so I had to track one down and then get it
vulcanized. It was very time consuming and very expensive.
- A can of paint prep degreaser from the auto body supply
house makes degreasing before painting a real breeze. Comes in quarts.
- A quart can of lacquer thinner from the supply house also is
- My buddy repairs copiers and has given me all the lint free
sterile rags I need. If you can find them they are SUPER!
- For those who don't have access to a compressor and paint
gun, Home Depot, hobby shops and auto body supply houses sell a device called
PreVal. It is a small glass jar with replaceable screw-on aerosol can tops.
They spray vinyl dye and lacquer with an OEM look!. I painted my kick panels, seats,
seat backs, dashboard, console, bumper brackets, package shelf and other items with
it. Be sure to test spray first, and thin your paint even more if necessary. I
found that thinning lacquer 2 to 1 with thinner results in a nice spray and a factory
- Word of warning... Don't use RED OXIDE primer on your body
in preparation for a basecoat/clearcoat paint job. It bleeds through the thin
basecoat terribly! Stick with light gray. What was supposed to be a 2-3 coat
basecoat on my Riv took 7 coats to cover. ALSO, don't mix the primer color either.
Patches of one color over another are only asking for trouble. Oy!
- I rebuilt my Posi Rear.
Sorry to say, but after speaking with Richmond Gear and Precision Gear, as well as
several suppliers, I have been told many times over that there never was, nor is there
now, aftermarket RING and PINION gear sets available for the full-size
Buick rear. Our Rivieras use this full size Buick rear. It uses a 9.375"
ring gear (9 3/8"). And while the rear cover is held on with only 10 bolts, the
ring gear is held on with 12 (which makes it a 12 bolt rear - as that designation refers
to the number of bolts holding the ring gear on, not really the number of bolts holding
the cover on. But they are USUALLY the same, except in our case.) The
largest GM ring gear you can find aftermarket ring and pinions for is 8.875".
The 3.07 ratio has 43 teeth on the ring gear and 14 teeth on the pinion. The 3.42
ratio has 41 teeth on the ring gear and 12 teeth on the pinion. For
repairs/rebuilds, a crush collar (preload spacer/crush sleeve) may be needed, and is very
hard to find. OEM part # 1367830. Mine was located by Dan's Obsolete Auto
Parts, but he has no more.
UPDATE!!! A supplier of rear-end rebuilding parts has been
located!!!!!!! Ratech Mfg. has all the bearings AND the correct
crush collar! Their webpage is http://www.ratechmfg.com
and their address and phone number is 11110 Adwood Drive Cincinatti, OH
45240 513-742-2111 And the mind-blowing part is that the gent actually
knew all about these rears!
- Early on I upgraded the
distributor/ignition to a late model HEI system. An HEI distributor
from a 75/76 455 will drop right in. It was very easy to do. I found the
distributor on the web using this parts locator http://www.mypartshop.com.
It was used, but only $30. I replaced the magnetic pickup in it, as well as the cap
and coil. The points ignition systems have a "resistor wire" built into
them, that cuts the voltage going to the points down from 12 volts to 9 volts.
Running 12 volts to the points for any length of time will burn them out. So I
pulled the bulkhead connector from the firewall, worked the resistor wire out of it (it is
the only one covered in cloth in the connector). I removed the spade connector from
the wire (NAPA sells these new!), soldered it onto a new 14 ga wire, replaced it into the
bulkhead connector, and rewrapped the new wire in my wiring harness. It now is a
factory wiring job. This new wire goes right to the distributor, but I also wired it into
the starter wire (just like the resistor wire was) so I'll have spark while the engine is
cranking. The performance increase was noticeable. Don't forget to regap your
plugs to .050", and replace the tops of your plug wires with HEI pieces (found at any
speed shop). Summit Racing has clips that plug into the HEI cap for the tach and
power connection. PN# SUM-G5210 $5.50 each. It really helps the
connection go smoothly.
NEW! NEW! NEW! HEI UPDATE POINTS CONVERSION NEW! NEW! NEW!
- What I have learned from my HEI experience is that the stock
GM units are RPM limited. They really can't supply all the necessary spark above
4000 RPM. This is a known fact around the auto community. In fact, I was told
that before I swappen in my HEI, but chose to ignore the nay-sayers. Well, it seems
it is the nature of the epoxy coils in the cap; they just can't do what a hot oil-filled
coil can. And don't be fooled by the BIG NAME aftermarket GM-type coils. They
are no better. My worn HEI distributor went south on me twice. If you MUST use
a GM HEI distributor, I suggest you buy a remanufactured one. I believe the weights
and the advance mechanism in the junkyard piece I got were just too worn and should have
been retired before I even bought it. BUT! A reman'd
distributor and all the electronics/coil will cost you around $125 or more. So, is
there an alternative? YES! Send your original points distributor to Dave's Small Body HEI's and for around $175
he will convert it to a State-Of-The-Art HEI distributor. Dave uses all NAPA
available parts, and also an external oil-filled coil. He can even convert your
distributor to a trigger for an MSD box. These electronic systems use an external coil,
and Dave prefers oil-filled ones. He believes they cool better and therefore provide
faster recovery for each spark. He recommends one of 4 coils. If you want a
black coil, use NAPA part# IC12 (NOT #IC12SB) or Crane PS20. If a chrome coil suits
your taste use either MSD8200 or Crane PS40. Here are pics of my original
burnished mine to look like billet. Quite nice, don't you think?
- The 2-wire plug that connects to the alternator on my Riv
was so crusty that it literally crumbled apart. NAPA has a new pigtail that is a
factory replacement. My guy had to look it up, but in his book it was labeled as an
alternator connector pigtail for 1967 - 1970 GM. $2.50 and worth it.
- Be careful! If you develop a rough idle or start to
hear valve/rocker arm noise, pull the valve covers and yank the rocker arm shafts.
On the rocker arms, check the metal inserts that push on the valve stem. These have
been known to break and cause problems. I had 3 broken tips which caused poor performance
and a rough idle/low RPM miss.
- The 1963 to 1970 Rivieras have OK
brakes, due mostly to the enormous finned aluminum drums GM engineers
used. They dissipate heat very well. Front disk brakes were
an option on several years, although I'm not sure when the option first appeared.
Finding existing disk brake setups is one of the hardest tasks with these cars.
Plus, if you can find a system, it will need to be rebuilt in most cases. Caliper
rebuilds are a couple hundred dollars each. Rotors, if found, also run several
hundred dollars each. Brake pads are getting harder to locate all the time.
What is the solution? Master
Power Brakes (888-251-2353) has a system available. The kit is not a simple bolt
on replacement for the stock items, however. It uses a modified 1970 Pontiac rotor and a
stock GM caliper. (I WAS INFORMED THAT THE WHEEL LUG PATTERN ON THIS SETUP IS NOT 5 on 5,
SO IT CAN'T BE USED WITH FACTORY BUICK WHEELS. I HAVE NOT CONFIRMED THIS, SO YOU SHOULD
CALL MPB AND INQUIRE.) You need to send them your spindle and steering knuckle (basically
pop the upper and lower ball joints free from the back of your backing plate and send the
whole piece to them - both driver and passenger sides). They modify it and build a custom
front disk brake setup for your application. You need to also send your brake
booster/master cylinder. They provide a new booster/master cylinder, proportioning valve,
brake lines, brake hoses, complete spindle assemblies (including rotors, calipers, backing
plates and hardware) and carbon fiber brake pads. They have just reduced the price from
$1800 to $1495 for the system. Still kind of expensive, but for
the serious driver it is well worth it. Some of the pieces are powdercoated in
some places, as well.
- The other Disk Brake option
IS a direct bolt-on system. It is from RRS (Revelation
Racing Suppliers) out of Australia. The cost is $1300 American. Long
time Riv enthusiast Tony Gentilcore has already installed this conversion and the pics you
will see are of his Riv. This is the only known conversion setup that retains the Buick 5
on 5 lug pattern. So it all fits nicely under your stock Riv mag wheels! Here
is a link to the RRS site: http://www.rrs-online.com/html/buick_discs.htm
are some things I found that weren't available for my Riviera, but I managed to get to
- Inner fender splash aprons: They are not available for any
Riv except the 63, 64 and 65, so I bought a length of masticated rubber from Steele Rubber Products. One of my aprons was still generally
intact, so I used it as a template. If you don't have any of yours left, just get
creative! I then set about locating the staples to secure it to the inner fender
like GM originally did. HAH! In my dreams! Nobody has them, so I used a
length of MIG welding wire. It is very shiny and won't corrode or rust. I bent
each piece using a needle nose pliers. Then poked each one through the rubber into
the existing holes. A little trial and error here. Then bent each staple over
on the underside, and ta-da! Looks factory original and stays on at 100 MPH.
- Home Depot has indoor/outdoor carpet. It has a nice
rubber backing, and is very soft, thin and flexible. And CHEAP! It also looks
very OEM. I used it to line my trunk. It gives it a little custom look and
took me all of 2 hours to do.
- Plastic wire looms look great under the hood. Not
original, but infinitely better looking than the electrical taped wiring harness GM used
in the 60's. CARS in New Jersey (see supplier page) has
original plastic wire hoops to plug into your fender wells and hold the new looms, which
are available at auto stores, home centers and speed shops.
- Old metal screws and clips are easily replaced with modern
plastic push-in clips available at Pep Boys.
- Vinyl dye, available in custom mixed colors at the auto body
supply house, works like a charm! It won't wear off and makes restoring door panels,
dashboards and seats a breeze.
- Urethane sway bar end links are available over the counter
at auto stores. They come in many standard lengths and are a bolt on. There
are currently no poly/polygraphite bushings for the front suspension of our old Rivs, but
Energy Suspension has them for the rear!
- Here is a great stainless polish. I was only able to
locate this in a motorcycle store, but it puts a mirror finish on your stainless trim:
are things that I have found that are but a handful of parts GM used in the Riviera
that were also used in other makes/models.
- Bucket seat carcasses for 1969 to 1971 GM cars are all the
same (except for maybe Cadillac - if they even offered bucket seats). I believe the 67 and
68's also shared carcasses for those two years. Riviera,Grand Prix, Monte Carlo,
GTO/Lemans/Tempest, Chevelle, Skylark and Cutlass all have the same seats. THEREFORE
all the plastic seat backs, foam cushions, ascusions, trim and headrests from the Chevelle
supply houses are also for your 69 - 71 Riviera! Brand new seat parts! Just
paint them with custom mixed lacquer from a PreVal paint sprayer. OEM!
- Up until now, seat
covers for 66 and up Rivs weren't reproduced. So, if you needed a set, the
covers from a GTO, GS or Chevelle will fit on your buckets and are reasonably
priced. However, I have located an upholstery shop that will provide correct,
stitched upholstery kits for your 66+ Riviera! Ron Fryer at Fryer's Auto Upholstery in Washington
state will need your original seat covers, so simply remove them and send them to
him. He uses them as a pattern to create exact copies to fit your Riviera. He
doesn't have square buttons available (he claims they are not available anywhere), so
he'll use yours if you have them. The quote I got for 2 bucket seats and a rear seat
is only $440.00! You can put the kits on yourself or have an upholstery shop do
it. Replace the foam cushions too, as they wear out - they are available at Year One
for Chevelles, GTOs and GSs.
- A license plate light lens cover from a 1969 Chevelle is
nearly identical to my 69 Riv. So close, in fact, that it is a bolt on. Nice
bright white lens instead of that crusty yellow number that was on there.
- 3 Spoke Sport
steering wheels from any GM car are the same, but finding the correct center horn
button alone for a Buick is near impossible. The mounting collars and accessories
are available from Year One and are grouped as 68 and prior, and 69 and later (in 69 all
GM ignitions went to the column mount). However, I could only locate the mounting
ring beneath the horn button at Original Parts Group. See my suppliers
Here is what I
know about the windshield and rear windows on GM cars:
Every 60's GM car has terrible rust around the windshield
and rear window. It is a design flaw where the window channel catches and holds
water with no way for it to drain. This leads to rust, rot and water leaks which in
turn rots the floor, trunk and lower rear quarterpanels.
Removal of the windshield and rear window is simple, but a
2 person job: 1st, get either piano wire or one of the "thin" guitar strings
from a music store. Remove the interior trim. Using a razor knife, carefully
work a hole in the sealer between the window and the body (I've found this is easiest when
done from the inside). Poke the wire through the hole, then have a helper on the
outside assist you to "saw" your way around the window. You may want to
wrap the wire around a stick of some sort to help you hold it. You'll be surprised how
many spots won't even be sealed, as the wire hops right through them due to rust.
When laying the glass down, don't leave it in the sun. I chose to lay mine with the
edges pointing down supported with many, many towels and balled up newspapers under it to
provide support all along the underside. It was fine both times, each time lasting a
month or more.
This is a job you only want to do once, so do it right the
first time. It took me 2 times to figure this out. The first repair only lasted a
year before rust came right back.
POR15 is some really incredible stuff. Use it
everywhere you can. ESPECIALLY in the windshield/rear window channels! There
is a link to them on my Suppliers page.
I have recently rebuilt the
driveshaft in my Riv and here are some tips:
While this is a DIY project, it can be involved. A
press is really handy, and so is a torch. Also, as you'll see, one step must be performed
at a shop, if needed. The Riviera driveshaft is a 2 piece model, with CV joints in the
center and rear. The back half of the driveshaft is actually made from 2 separate
tubes, a smaller one tucked inside a larger one, and held in place by a ring of vulcanized
rubber. I believe this was done for vibration dampening. However, after many runs at the track my rear
section broke. The smaller tube actually twisted 45* inside the larger tube.
This resulted in the vibration I was feeling.
With each section, the yokes for the U-joints should line-up. That is, the yoke on
one end of a tube should be in line with the yoke on the other end of the tube. My
rear yoke was at a 45* angle to the front one. I replaced my driveshaft with a
junkyard piece I rebuilt while I had the original one modified to eliminate the 2-piece
rear half. After replacing the CV Joints, have it balanced.
If the 2 halves of the driveshaft do not tighten up enough
to remove all play in the carrier bearing support, then something is wrong and it should
be inspected by a quality driveshaft shop. I used Mercer Spring in Trenton, NJ. John Gilleo is
First, don't buy the 5 U-joints you will need from any of
the "Buick" suppliers known in our hobby. They charge from $20 to $25 per
U-joint. NAPA has them for $12.35 and they are correct.
Second, replace the 2 ball seats in the shaft. To do
this you must buy "Constant Velocity Repair Kits" from a Buick supplier for
around $50 each. I know, there is a little running around to do for this one.
The middle and rear sets of U-joints form a Constant Velocity Joint. They have a
spring loaded ball and seat in them which prevents them from being real floppy, and
instead are kind of stiff. However, the 2 "CV Repair Kits" I bought from
CARS didn't seem to fit correctly. The springs were too long and way too skinny,
compared to the OEM stuff. So I simply reused my springs with the new seats.
The seats are 3 piece castings which the ball rides in. When repaired, be sure the
joint swivels smoothly with no sticking or "snagging". It should feel
fluid. Mercer Spring was able to get them, no sweat. They are the same that
are used in many trucks today.
Now to the ball. If your ball is scored or is worn to
an out of round state they must be replaced. In order to do this the driveshaft must
be put in a lathe and have the ball turned down to form a dowel onto which the new ball
will be press fit. So look it over good. A good machine shop/driveshaft shop
should be able to handle this for you.
Third, If the U-joints are the original ones, they are held
in place with a ring of injected plastic around each end cap instead of the snap rings
used on the replacements. To get these apart, the easiest way if you don't have a
serious press is to heat each cap with a torch until all the plastic melts and oozes out
the injection holes like a snake. But here is the catch: heating the caps will cause
the grease in the cap to burn rapidly. Due to the tight fit of the cap, the gas
created by the burning grease will escape with very loud explosions. Much like a
Cherry Bomb! Some caps will actually be blown right off. I had 2 that shot so
far they hit the ceiling of the garage! Be careful and aim each cap away from you as
you heat it. Getting hit with one could actually kill you.
Fourth, Replace the carrier bearing AND the bearing support
at the same time. They account for almost all vibration we see in these cars.
$140 for both.
Finally, have the driveshaft balanced when you are
finished. All speed shops will be able to send it out to get done. But be
careful! My speed shop quoted me a price of $240!!!!!!!!!! I asked around at a
few scattered speed shops in my area and found a shop who charged $65 for the
balance. Also be sure the 2 halves are put back in the correct position, also called
phasing order. Then be sure the shop balances both halves
together. Some shops I spoke with balance the halves separately. I believe that
balancing the halves together is the best way. Buick originally balanced the
driveshaft with the rear pinion yoke attached. Which is why you should mark the yoke
on the end of the driveshaft and the yoke on the pinion. The 2 parts should go back
facing the way they were originally. I just hit the edge of the yokes with a shot of
silver paint. That way I know which way to bolt them back together.
Cost for this repair is very expensive. Parts alone
are around $300. Balancing is $65+. If you need to have the balls turned down, it will
probably set you back around $100. If you want a shop to replace your parts it will
cost you around $150. Conceivably, just rebuilding the driveshaft could cost you
over $600! Mine cost $400 for all new joints and to have the rear section replaced.
Below is the repaired driveshaft with the replaced rear
section. A new yoke was found and a solid tube was used in place of the twisted
2-piece unit. The new yoke, tube and all new CV Joints, front U-joint and balancing
cost $500. Click on the image to view full size.
I replaced my factory intake manifold and Quadrajet with an
Edelbrock B4B and a Holley 855cfm carb with vacuum secondaries. The carb is model
3418-1 (based on the 4150 series) and the spec sheet lists it as an OEM replacement carb
for a 1967 Corvette with a 427 engine. The intake manifold was ported many years ago
by a well known Buick racer named Gary Paine. For the carburetor, I had a Stage2 buildup
done on it by Jet Performance in California. I
can't say enough about how great of a job they did. It is worth every penny ($260)
as it is vastly superior to an out-of-the-box Holley in every way. Every orifice of
the carb is blueprinted. The carb body (the flat face that the metering blocks bolt
to) is machined flat (they tell me nearly every Holley has a warped or otherwise non-flat
body. Then they jet it and replace the boosters with some SERIOUS boosters.
The choke horn is milled off for better airflow, and the carb is coated. If you are
wondering about the choke... well, I don't use one. I drive this car very often, and
cold starts have never been a problem. A few pumps on the pedal and it fires right
up. After a minute of holding the RPMs at 2000, it will idle. Jet Performance
will rebuild your carb or they will sell you one they have already done. Here are
pics of my stock 750 Holley and the Jet Performance 855 Holley. Note the difference
in the milled choke horn (for better air flow) and the 4 boosters in the venturis...
Many Buick enthusiasts prefer the Quadrajet, and suggest
getting one from 1971 and later because they are 800 cfm compared to the 750 which came on
430 and 455 engines from 1967 to 1971. And Big Block Buicks LIKE big carbs!!! The
Edelbrock intake manifold was purchased as a used piece, as Edelbrock has switched to the
Performer manifold. The carb location on the Performer will enable it to be used
with the Ram Air (Skylark) GS hood, where the B4B won't. But the ports on the
Performer are smaller than the B4B, and therefore a loss of flow has resulted in the loss
of some HP and torque. However, the Performer can be made to flow as good as a stock
B4B with some porting. A ported B4B flows really well.
The Kenne Bell Wildcat and the TA Performance aluminum
intakes are both very good performance intakes too. The tests show the TA to produce
the most HP.
Many people run great with a Quadrajet, but I prefer the
Holley. I had Jet Performance in Huntington Beach, CA perform a Stage2 rebuild on
it. It cost $260 and was worth every penny. It was jetted 77/80 with a 4.5
primary power valve and no secondary power valve, which was fine for my 430. In the
455 it's jetted 78/80 with a 6.5 power valve.
Standard Holley 750 replacement carbs (Model 80508) come
from the factory with 72 jets in the primaries. The secondaries are not changeable,
and are the equivalent of 75 jets. A replacement secondary metering block is
available to allow secondary jet changes. It isn't too expensive and worth it.
I also bought the complete jet kit, as in the long run it is overall cheaper than buying 4
or 5 different individual sets of jets. Your tuning options are many. Not to
mention how suddenly you become popular with the other Holley carb owners among your
Hi Flow Fuel Pump
I have had the luxury of meeting many Riviera racers. Two of
them are brothers from the Chicago area. And they happen to have very high powered
69 and 70 Rivieras. And as a result, they have discovered that the factory electric
in-tank fuel pump just can't supply the fuel requirements of high horsepower
engines. It just doesn't flow enough nor does it have the pressure. And as a result
(and I've experienced it too) once the engine starts revving in the higher RPM range the
fuel bowls on the carburetor empty and the car literally runs out of gas and falls flat on
its face - some refer to it as "nosing over".
They have learned that the fuel pump from an 85 - 88 Ford truck with
a 4 cyl or 6 cyl engine (I'm guessing it is for a Ford Ranger) is a direct bolt in
replacement. The AC Delco number is EP297. I just told the NAPA guy I wanted that
number and he just went and got it - and it was he that told me what it originally
fit. Pressure at idle went up from 5psi to 6 3/4 to 7 psi and from 1.5 psi at WOT to
around 4 psi at WOT, and the flow went from 30 gph to 40 gph. Needless to say there was
much improvement, and no bogging at high RPM.
Here you can see the 2 pumps side-by-side (click on the pic to
enlarge it). While they are a direct bolt in, there are a couple of
slight differences. You'll also notice in the picture on the right that I have used
hose clamps to hold the OEM replacement pump in place, and I have done so with the new
Ford pump as well. I don't like risking having things separate when there is an easy
The new pump is slightly shorter in body, inlet neck and exit neck
lengths. Even so, I was able to just fit it in where the old one was. I
believe it sits a little higher in the tank, so be sure to not let the fuel get too
low. I tried like heck to affix the old sock, but it just wouldn't clamp down tight
enough and I feared it would come off and lodge somewhere that I didn't want, so I used
the sock it came with. The guys in Chicago installed it with no sock (I think to
increase the flow a bit - and about 2 months later their pump failed!) but I chose to keep
the debris out of the pump and maybe lose a tad of flow. And I also wasn't happy
with how inflexible the new sock is, and didn't want to run the risk of it interferring
with my fuel gauge float, so I installed it with the short end pointing down. I also
had to do a little trimming to the rubber sleeve around the pump as it was bumping the
float arm. I have not installed a fuel pressure regulator as of yet, and I'll decide after
driving it a while if it needs one - but I don't think it will.
That's it! You don't need to plumb a return line, and it
sounds just like the OEM Buick pump. And now you have a much
better fuel pump.
1969 - 1970 Oil Pressure Sender Switch
Because the 69/70 Rivieras use an electric in-tank fuel pump, the
oil switch is wired into the fuel pump circuit. This oil pressure switch will only
allow the fuel pump to operate when either the starter is cranking or when there is at
LEAST 3lbs of oil pressure. Its purpose is to prevent fuel from continuously flowing
in the event of an accident, which is a lethal fire hazard. It is a good system
(unless yours is like mine and refuses to work, instantly blowing the little 3 amp in-line
fuse placed in a rubber holder right over the brake vacuum booster under the hood.
Maybe I'll get it figured out someday.)
In any event, the switch the Buick suppliers will sell you is not
the correct switch. Their switch has 1/8"-27 threads, where our engine block
has 1/4"-18 threads. So the Buick suppliers provide a brass adapter fitting. I
HATE that fitting. It is a potential leak area, and it makes the sender stick so far
away from the block that the factory electrical plug cannot reach (they provide a plug so
you can splice it into your wiring harness). And it just LOOKS STUPID!
So. What do we do? Simple. Go to your auto parts
store (I suggest NAPA) and request Borg Warner part# S364.
It is the correct switch. No, I don't know why the Buick suppliers aren't aware of
What's the story with Riviera engine mounts?
When I installed my 455 I also replaced the passenger-side engine
mount with an OEM (yes, it sat on a Buick dealer's parts counter for over 30 years)
replacement mount. Sometime after 1970 the Buick engineers decided that instead of
having a different engine mount for every year Riv from 1967 to 1970 (YES!!! They are all
different!), they would make one mount that would fit them all. Well, guess what? It
doesn't! I had to grind off a lower corner of the mount because it was contacting
the frame and prevented the engine from sitting level. Heck, I couldn't even get the
bolt back in! Just FYI!!!!!!