Restoration Tips


My Restoration Woes   

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.

First Steps Toward Restoration   Mistakes You Can Avoid   Creative Parts Making  Disk Brakes
Oil Pressure Switch   Parts Cross Reference    Posi Rear Rebuilding    HEI Distributor Swap            
Upholstery Source        High Volume 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.

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Membership in the ROA delivers 6 issues of this super magazine to your door each year:

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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:

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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:

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:

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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 http://www.buickperformancegroup.com .

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.

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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.

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Here are some things I've learned by trial and error.  Again, these are my experiences and opinions, so take them at face value...

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           Dave burnished mine to look like billet.  Quite nice, don't you think?                                  

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Here are some things I found that weren't available for my Riviera, but I managed to get to work great...

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These 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.

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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.

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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 an artist.

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.

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Induction System

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...
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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 friends!


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".

But...

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 work around.
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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 this.


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!!!!!!

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