Riviera Progress

I have added this page for a few reasons.  First, I wanted to clean up the home page.  It was really gangly.  Yeah, I know.  I should just torpedo the whole thing and start over with some direction and planning.  But because I have a working wife, 3 kids and a 1969 Riviera all clambering for my time, I'm lucky I even got this far!

Secondly, I wanted a space where I can keep visitors updated about what is being done to the Riv.  Seems like there is always something.  We are never satisfied, are we?  I'll add dates so we can follow along.

And finally, I wanted to have a place where I can keep track of everything I've done to this thing.  I'm sure I'll never remember half of all I've done, but each time I remember something I'll throw it here.

                        New 455 Build-up     Speaker Installation     New Rear Sway Bar   New Front Sway Bar
                            New Alternator   Ford Solenoid   Wheel Lip Mouldings  Dash Cover   New Interior
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                                                                                            Disc Brake Conversion

So, again let me begin by asking all visitors to this page to please consider joining the Buick Performance Group car club.  As opposed to some other car clubs, we are run BY the members, FOR the members.  This club began in early 2002 and has grown nicely.  One of the things the club is actively supporting is the reproduction of Buick parts which are currently unavailable.  But we still need your support to ensure that Buicks will have reproduction parts available in the future. And, as a club, we are interested in all ideas to better the club and our experience within it.

Also,  please visit our club's website  http://www.buickperformancegroup.com

And, while not the BPG's website, it is our unofficial hang out.  Please visit:

************** http://www.v8buick.com   **************

This page is a free, open forum Bulletin Board for sharing information and camaraderie amongst Buick enthusiasts.  You WILL learn something with every visit.

Now... where to begin?  I suppose I should do this chronologically, so...

I bought my Riviera in January 1998. And it was scuzzy!  The sensation of bacteria and mold inside the car was unbelievably disgusting!  So, I immediately gutted the interior. The carpet was trashed and all the vinyl was removed and scrubbed clean - including all door panels and seats. New carpet was installed and the interior was put back.  And I had to use the replacement front seat it came with.  The knucklehead I bought it off of had it just long enough to do damage.  He literally threw away the front buckets because they were shredded, and replaced them with a velour split bench seat from an early 80's Riv.

I found that it not only needed a tune up, but the Quadrajet carb had a broken baseplate, and the stock electric fuel pump in the tank had gone bad and someone replaced it with a smaller Purolator in-line electric piece. Also, the replacement front seat was garbage, and the grille/headlight assemblies needed repair or replacement to work correctly - someone had run this Riv into a car or object and not only dented the hood and fender, but the energy absorbing steering column was broken as designed.  So in 1998 I bought a carb and fuel gauge/sending unit/fuel pump.   I also used JB Weld to repair the shattered headlight sockets.

Had a valve job done at Pioneer Engines in Warrington, PA.  Crappy job.  I'll never use or recommend them
(I believe they've since gone out of business.  Big surprise.).
Fixed the rust around the windows for the 1st time

Rebuilt front suspension
new front and rear springs
detailed engine in-car
added S-Divider intake
bucket seats and console added
Steering column replaced
Replaced grille with another that I had to epoxy some ribs into. Came out rather nice.
Replaced both headlight assemblies
Fixed rust around the windows for the 2nd time.  This time I used POR-15!

paint and bodywork finished around Labor Day
wanted to install cam and rebuilt the engine twice (once was 40th birthday present)
had trans built by an idiot, then bought new trans
bought a Holley 750

added Edelbrock Performer
added B4B
bought 69 rolling chassis for 3.42 rear

added Stage1 heads
a ported B4B
added 855 Holley
Installed and had 3.42 rear rebuilt twice

swapped in built 455
mounted speakers
swapped out Sony head unit and CD changer for Blaupunkt head unit/CD player
added new aluminum Eagle Alloy wheels and 255/60/15 tires

rewired taillight harness
2 1/2" exhaust
cut coil off front springs
MSD ignition
Ford Solenoid for hot-start problem
12si alternator
second 200 watt amp
repaired AC system
added Carter external electric fuel pump to cure "nosing over" problem
added stainless wheel trim molding
new (good used) fan shroud

redid interior, including seat covers, doors, carpet and headliner
smaller diameter wire rear springs
POR15'd rust around battery tray, installed OEM battery tray
subwoofer installation with separate amp (that makes 3 amps)
new oil pan gasket
Pro Systems carb and Quick Fuel carb

rear air bags installed inside springs
front disc brake conversion
hood repaired and paint buffed

Installed new transmission

Installed a 3200 stall COAN torque converter

New front bumper.

Jan/Feb - New block. Swapped to a TA412 Cam and TA SP1.
April - Swapped to new COAN trans to fix nosing over problem.
May - New hood and scoop

Replaced head unit with one that supports iPod.
Backed in to a retaining wall and had driver's side quarter panel repaired.
Installed electric vacuum pump for brakes.

Finally got replacement rear bumper and re-chromed taillight bezels and gas door.

Here is what was done to the Riv in February 2002:

It seemed that the swap to these parts showed just how worn and mismatched the rest of the parts in the engine were.  Click on the New-Found Knowledge link above to find out what I learned during this parts swap.  Or click HERE.   It wasn't as straightforward as you might think.  It was obvious something was amiss because I only had 10 " of vacuum, no brakes (due to the low vacuum) and no power.  I checked for vacuum leaks and everything else and came up empty.  So, in May Jim Weise from Tri-Shield Performance drove from Norwalk, Ohio to my house just to setup my engine. Instead of just going home to Minneapolis after the Buick weekend at Norwalk, he took a 9 hour detour and drove clear across Pennsylvania.  And it was a good thing, too.   The Riv was in need of a new cam, cam bearings and some little tricks.  His visit was an unexpected opportunity for Buick racers in the Philadelphia area to meet him, so we turned it into a local Buick Performance Group outing!  There were about a dozen members at my house on a sunny and warm Tuesday in May 2002 (It was just before my birthday.  What a GREAT present!).  Jim just offered to do it out of the dedication he feels for this hobby and the loyal mob who decide to pursue the Buick as a performance vehicle.  It speaks volumes about him as a person.  And HE GOT IT RIGHT!  And his prices were very fair.  I posted a ton of pics from his visit HERE. Many people wanted to meet Jim and do some bench racing. 

It ran scary-fast.  And was even more outrageous in September when the Jet Performance-built Holley was added.  Then one Sunday morning in early October I fired it up and ALL the lifters had bled down and it made a terrible racket!  One just never stopped clacking.  AND I had lost all power.

New lifters didn't cure it, either.  I ran the same 1/4 mile times 2 weeks later that I had a year ago before the Stage1 heads, headers, ported intake and new cam and carb were installed.  Besides, I could just feel there was a lack of performance versus a month ago.  So...

I had squirreled away some money to redo the interior over the winter of '02/'03, but what good is an interior if the thing runs like crap?

So, the free 455 I was given in early 2002 was finally dusted off and hauled to the shop.  In March 2003 it got the full treatment.   Here is the buildup that I have since May 2003:

    completely balanced
    align honed mains
    TRW forged 10:1 pistons
    casting flash removed
    much needed valve guides
    16 valve seats
    ported timing cover by Jim Weise at Tri Shield Performance
    Teflon-coated double-grooved cam bearings
    points to HEI conversion by Dave's Small Body HEI's (view info and pics of Dave's work HERE)
    **I have since converted Dave's distributor to an MSD trigger**
    new rod bolts
    resized rods
    bored .030" over to 462ci
    center 5/8" sump
    new OEM balancer
    TA Performance 1125 dual valve springs (had to have heads machined for them)
    main studs installed
    kept same TA 288-94H cam
    cam specs are:
                Duration at .050" is 230/240*
                Lift at .050" is .515/.525 with 1.6 rockers
                Ground on a 116* Lobe Center
                Installed on a 108* CenterLine

    1969 430 rockers with 1.59 ratio (replaced with TA 1.6:1 roller rockers in 2006)
    Chevy lifters with TA adjustable hybrid pushrods (now using fixed-length pushrods with roller rockers)
    new Stage1 valves
    Kenne-Bell Stage3 heads (ported and polished Stage1 heads)
    Rollmaster double roller timing chain with TA crank gear
    Stock Edlebrock B4B
    Pro Systems 950HP carb
    COAN 3200 stall 10" torque converter
    Transmission Specialties Turbo 400
    3.42 posi rear

    fabricated oil pan baffles

Now, here are some glitches to watch out for when having your Buick engine built:

* Unless the builder is a known Buick builder (like Tri-Shield Performance, PAE Enterprises, AM&P or PeeGee
   Performance) you will need to walk them through every step. My first engine builder thought he knew it all.  It 
   turns out he didn't know anything!

* Behind the cam timing gear there are 2 plugs.  They block the end of the lifter galley.  Be sure they are
   pressed in NO MORE THAN FLUSH with the face of the block.  The main oil feed runs right up to the front
   cam bearing behind the passenger-side plug.  Every millimeter beyond flush that plug is pressed in will be
   limiting oiling to the entire motor.

* Be sure your engine is hot tanked and cleaned with brushes.

* Be sure the cam bearings are pressed in with the oil holes at the 3 O'clock and 7 O'clock positions.

* Be sure valve tip height is a maximum 2.100".

* Rod clearances for a stock rebuild should be between .0017 and .002. Main clearances should be between .002 and .0025.
   If you plan on building your 455 to 550+ HP and want to run it on the street, then
.002-.0023 on the mains, and .0025 to .0027
   on the rods is ideal. For a full race engine you want to be a hair looser on the tolerances.

* Balancing your assembly costs about $225 and it is worth every penny you spend! Be sure the shop
   knows that the big end of the rods are balanced the same, and the small ends are also balanced the
   same, and the pistons are balanced the same as well.  The rods aren't just balanced as one piece.
   Each end is balanced separately!

* Check the main bore for alignment.   If it is off have it align honed.

Just for fun, here is the result of my 455 engine build (I'm in the Dodge lane cutting the good light):
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I fought for years against the prodding from friends to mount my stereo speakers in the rear shelf.  The rear shelf in these cars is unique, to say the least, and they are not available aftermarket.  So cutting up a good one is hard to swallow for someone like myself who realizes the rarity of parts for these cars.

However... I hated the 6 X 9's laying on the floor in the back in boxes, and I hated the Pioneer boxed front speakers laying at the foot of each kick panel. So I broke down and finally cut my nice door panels and rear shelf.

And I think the results are nothing short of fabulous!  It sounds super with the 200 watt Jensen amp under the passenger seat driving the rear speakers and the head unit driving the door speakers. In hindsight however, although the Boston Acoustic speakers are awesome, a pair of 6" speakers up front with tweeters that swivel would make the sound from those speakers more noticeable.   I also mounted the front speakers high because I don't think I would have heard them if I put them low in the doors.

Click on each picture to view it full-size.

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Here you see how I had to cut the holes in the rear shelf.  I could only go so far out-board with each one due to the mounting tabs (or brackets) for the plastic shelf, so I took the side that would allow me the least off-center location and mounted it first.  That way I knew I wouldn't have to cut into the mounting tabs on either side of the shelf.  I think the tiny tack welds that hold those brackets on would break if I tried jig-sawing through the brackets.  Also, in order to get the speakers to sit fully flat on the bottom "tier" of the rear shelf, I had to put the holes as far forward in the deck as possible.  In my case, it was all the way up to the front edge of the metal shelf.  You can see the tabs and how far forward the holes are in the following pic. The arrows point to the mounting tabs and the front edge of the shelf.

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I used a jigsaw to cut the rear shelf and had to rent a Right Angle drill to drill the holes.  It was a lot of measuring to be certain the holes I cut in the plastic shelf would line up directly over the holes I cut in the metal shelf underneath it.  The doors were a different story.  Right where those speakers are contains 2 layers of metal overlapping and a part of the window track brace.  I cut the metal with a whiz wheel because I kept breaking jigsaw blades.  For the window brace, I cut horizontal slits part way through on the top and bottom of the speaker holes, then "rolled" that half of the brace onto itself.  I don't see any structural failures with this technique.

Here are two close ups of how I mounted the head unit.  This is a new piece and the Sony unit with trunk mounted CD Changer are gone.

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I added a rear sway bar from ADDCO.  It is available at Year One and is Part Number 933. It is 1" in diameter (the ADDCO front bar is 1 1/8"). The difference in handling is dramatic!   The rear of the car used to sway, but now it digs in and follows the nose nicely.

However, the only way to mount it on the stock control arms is on the bottom of the arms.  And in doing so it hangs down way too far and is really in danger of catching on something and tearing your rear right out.

You should relocate it to the top of the control arms.  But you'll need a thick metal plate to use on the bottom of the "open" control arms to allow the mounting bolts to secure to.

I chose to box my control arms in, basically doing the same thing as adding a plate on the bottom of the arms, but also providing a lot better handling.  It was indeed noticeable compared to the stock "open" control arms.  Here are some before and after pics.  Notice how low it hung before I relocated it to the top of the arms.

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Here is a close-up of the control arm mounting.  You can see how the bolts drop down through the arm and must go through a plate on the bottom, which is either their plate (which is the standard mounting procedure and it mounts the bar too low) or one of your own (or a boxed control arm). A piece of plate steel should be easy to find.

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Here is a pic of the new ADDCO front sway bar.  It measures 1 1/8" in diameter (the ADDCO rear bar is 1").  It is Part Number 530. The Riv corners incredibly flat.  There is no noticable dipping of the hood when I go around turns, and it handles remarkably well for such a big, old car.  This is the 3rd bar ADDCO made for me, and I sent them an original 1969 GS Riviera front sway bar to copy. I had to use different end links, but Pep Boys has them in a variety of sizes, and all in urethane.  Select the ones that will set your bar so there is no interference. Oh, and although the "U" caps that bolt the bar to the frame seem a little too wide, they still fit.  I stripped one of the holes in the frame so a nut with a plastic lock in it did the trick (they are the same ones ADDCO includes to secure the bottom of the end links).

Here you can see the difference in the diameter between the new and OEM sway bars (I have finally obtained a new fan shroud to replace the broken one you see in the picture!):

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Aftermarket electric fuel pump

As good as the Ford replacement fuel pump is for our OEM in-tank setup, it still just couldn't keep up with the demands of the thirsty new 455.  So I was forced to install an external fuel pump.

I agonized over this decision.  I looked at the rear area of my car for at least 2 months, trying to see where I could hang this pump so it was out of the way of the exhaust and suspension, het hidden anough so as not to be unsightly or intrusive.  I finally found a location on the frame just ahead of the rear axle assembly.  I had to bend the supplied hanger so as to let the pump hang vertically, and in doing so I stressed the metal, and had to have it welded to regain strength.   But all in all the results were very good.

I wired it into the same circuit as the OEM pump, and had to increase the fuse amperage to cope with the extra draw. And I made sure to use an in-line fuel filter before the pump, and braided steel hoses to adhere to NHRA rules and to provide myself with peace of mind.

The results were what I had hoped for.  No more nosing over and running out of fuel at the top of second gear!

Winter 2003 - 2004

Well, I rewired my taillight harness to rid myself of a nasty ground problem which was causing all sorts of electrical gremlins.  As I did with my engine harness, I replaced all the wires with new ones, wrapped it all up tight with OEM non-sticky friction tape and replaced the taillight sockets with new NAPA parts.

* The brake/turn signal sockets are NAPA part# LS6448.  They are a direct replacement and you'll need 4 of them.  I am not impressed with the quality, as after 3 months I had to tweak 2 sockets to keep electrical continuity.  When I locate decent replacements I'll let you know.

*  The backup sockets are NAPA part# LS6471.   Now, I did have to trim a little of the one part of the keyway off to allow it to lock into the taillight housing.  Will another NAPA part fit?  Are there other better-fitting parts out there?  I looked and came up empty.  It was no big deal, and a razor knife did the trick in a few seconds.  You can manage it too.

I also polished the lenses while I had the bumper off and the sockets out of the car (I also buffed the bumper nicely, too).  Use a fine polish like aluminum or stainless steel polish, and buff it vigorously.  The clarity and deep ruby red color of the lenses came up very nicely - there is no more grey film or discoloration to them.

Let's see... Santa brought me an MSD ignition system.   It is the MSD 6AL, which has the rev limiter chips in it.  I hope to snap pics of the install (wish I had thought of doing it at the time) and post some here.  I made sure the location was out of the way, and ran all new wires instead of doing any splicing.

I also installed a new TA Performance 2 1/2" exhaust system.  Let me tell you, the right parts DO make a difference.  My old exhaust was not mandrel bent, and as a result the bends narrowed from the 2" normal size down to 1 3/4" at best.  The Riv just simply couldn't exhale.  I thought it ran good before, but the MSD and the fat exhaust have made a real seat-of-the-pants improvement.  When my buddy went from 2" to 2 1/2" exhause he shave a full half-second off his quarter mile time.  With the MSD box, I expect about the same!   I should be at 13.3 or 13.4 in the quarter mile at over 100 MPH.  We'll see this spring...

*** A word of warning about doing your own exhaust***
I had to have the headpipes (they are the front-most exhaust pipes that attach to the headers) welded to my header collectors.  I got my buddy to come over and do it, but unfortunately we didn't have a lot of time.  As a result the front pipes hang way too low.  I dented them pretty good on my first ride out. I have an appointment with an expert performance muffler shop next week and he will replace my headpipes with custom bent ones.  Also, the passenger-side headpipe wasn't even close to fitting my application.  I spoke with 3 others with 69/70 Rivs who installed this system and they all say they had no problem with that pipe.  I had one of them measure the pipe and it indeed lookes like the same pipe I used.  I have no idea why it failed to fit my car. At any rate I had to modify it to fit.  And I am happy it will be replaced with a professionally made unit soon.

It looks like computer dyno results which say I should have in the area of 470 HP and 570 lb ft of torque are accurate!  The way it pulls to 5500 now is effortless, where before it was definately struggling as it was fighting with a LOT of backpressure.  The exhaust note sounds a lot easier and rumbly as well.

I cut a coil off my front springs.  The stiffer springs I installed, while 1" shorter than stock, refused to let the nose sit down to where I wanted it.  It was just way too high.  Now the stance is very aggressive and menacing.  I will post pics when I can. It was an easy project... a cut-off wheel on my drill made mince-meat out of the springs. DON'T use a torch to cut them as the heat will take the temper out of the springs and you'll be left with mush for suspension parts.   I bought an arbor attachment for my drill from Home Depot and a 4 1/2" cutoff wheel.  Very cheap tools, and it cut each coil spring in a matter of minutes.   The hairy part was separating the lower ball joint from the spindle.  An impact hammer on the lower ball joint area of the spindle made the driver's side pop off after about a minute of holding it on there.  But the passenger side required many raps with a ball peen hammer to finally free it up.  Just be sure if you do this that you only LOOSEN the castle nut on the ball joint enough to let it pop free, then support the control arm with a floor jack, remove the nut, and lower the control arm slowly.   NEVER remove that nut unless you have the lower control arm supported.  If you were to remove that nut without jack support and rap on the spindle to release the ball joint, the lower control arm will snap free, drop down and allow the spring to fly out.

I sealed my aluminum mags with a product called ZoopSeal.   Visit http://www.zoops.com and see what they offer.  My new mag wheels are not clearcoated or sealed.  They are just polished aluminum.  And as such they will oxodize very rapidly.  I was polishing them weekly just to make sure they didn't.  Well, ZoopSeal promises 3 years with no polishing.  It is a ceramic sealant that bonds with the aluminum and seals the pores.  It was very easy to use, but it is VERY expensive.  $150 for the mixture.  And once mixed it will stay fresh in the refridgerator for only 3 weeks.  So you must use it all once you mix it, basically.  If you have friends you can all chip in, but you must all agree when you'll be doing the application, so the potion stays fresh enough for everyone.

Summer 2004

Installing a Ford Solenoid in your GM car

In order to start the car once it warms up I needed to correct the heat soak problem so many GM cars have once headers are installed.  The problem stems from the fact that there are several small gauge wires that need to connect to the starter, yet they must pass perilously close to the high heat given off by the headers. Once these wires get hot their resistance to electric current goes up and they refuse to pass along the current from the battery to the starter. My Riv would do absolutely nothing if I turned the key once the engine warmed up.

A heat shield usually does not cure the problem.  Heat shields only block heat from getting to the starter and the solenoid. Wrap the wires in a head shield wrap?  Maybe, but I had that fail too.

The cure?

Install a Ford Starter solenoid.  They are less than $10 and are available at all auto parts stores. The Borg Warner part number is S63P.   It is a "4 Post" solenoid.

This will allow you to relocate the wires away from the headers and hot engine block.  You will only have a SINGLE cable running to the starter, not a bunch of wires. My wires were able to reach to the inner fender on the driver's side near the battery with the only wire needing modification being the wire to the oil pressure sending switch.  You will need to unwrap the harness somewhat, but it isn't a big deal.

Just be sure NOT to use electrical tape to rewrap the harness! It will turn in to a gooey mess over time. Invest $10 and buy the original harness wrap "friction" tape from Year One.

Here is a picture to help:

Ford-Solenoid.jpg (48805 bytes)

Installing a modern alternator

When you add a lot of new electrical accessories such as a fuel pump, one or more amplifiers, CD player and an MSD ignition, your stock 60 amp alternator is taxed to the limits.  Performance and reliability suffers.  Imagine driving your beautiful car on a hot summer night.  You will have on the headlights, tail lights and dash lights, the CD player, amplifier(s) and the electric fuel pump. You will also be running the cold Riviera AC while your MSD ignition fires multiple sparks on each ignition stroke.   That's a LOT of draw on an old style alternator.

Not to mention the brittle 35 year old wiring harness.  Be sure that is up to snuff too. I like the 3-wire alternator over the 1-wire alternator.  For our applications it is so very simple and fits our needs nicely.

So, installing a modern alternator is very simple and straightforward. But you should locate a shop that rebuilds alternators and starters. That's because I can't tell you for certain which application will fit our cars.  The location of the battery post on the back of the alternator is the key.

Where the wiring harness connects to the back of the alternator is referred to as "clocking". I told the shop I wanted a 12SI alternator, 90 amp, clocked at the 12 o'clock position.  I also took my old alternator in so he could use the shim behind the pulley so my belts line up correctly.

Dash Mat

Well, it is sad to see that our beloved antiques are no better at preventing dashboard reflection on the windshield than some new cars (my wife's 95 Intrepid for instance). Fuuny thing, as a kid driving mid to late 60's cars I never noticed just how horrible the visibility is with the glare reflecting off the dashboard onto the underside of the windshield.

It was so bad in my Riv in fact, that I woould drive with a brown terry cloth towel on the dash in front of me just so I could see.

The cure? Well, I looked at a lot of dash mats, and when I finally called about one I was told they certainly do have them for my 69 Riv!  However... I asked if the mat covered the dash all the way to the windshield or if it just covered the vinyl pad on the dash.  I was told it only covered the dash pad.

BUT... the gentleman told me that if I made a template and sent it to them they would duplicate it exactly!  But with the understanding that there would be no returns allowed.

And for only $70!  So I cut a lot of paper, taped a lot of pieces together, formed it just like I wanted it.  And a few short weeks later this arrived:
rivdashcover.jpg (79973 bytes)

I got it from Auto Craft Direct and the gent's name is Dave. I cut holes for the defroster vents and it fits and looks great.

And NO MORE GLARE!  Here is their website: http://www.dashcoversdirect.com.

I have since completely redone my interior in black (see pics below) and have sent this cover back to Auto Craft Direct so they
can duplicate it in black.

WELL!!!  The winter of 2004 - 2005 was a busy one.  I repaired my speedometer and fixed the leak and calibrated it pretty close to correct.   And more importantly, I FINALLY REDID THE INTERIOR!!!!!  Completely gutted from stem to stern.

Ron Fryer would have been able to restitch the seat covers in the exact correct off-green/beige material that it should have.  However, this vinyl was what they call "antique" where there was a base color, then a darker color in the same family was scattered over the top, creating a textured, or 3D effect.  However, had I gone that route the faded and dirty door panels would not match and could not be dyed to look new because the antique effect can't be duplicated.  Also, the headliner wouldn't match either, as it is not available and would have to be dyed.

So, what to do?

Black.  Not only is it easy to match vinyl dye so the doors look like the new seats, but I think it just looks a million times better.  Don't you agree?

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Let's see... in my haste to get the seats covered, I made the snap decision to change the color to black.  What all did that entail?  Well, it dawned
on me that I'll need new carpet.  Oh, and seat belts.  Carpet is available all over, seatbelts, not so much.  I DID get lucky in that I found a BPG club member who was parting out a black interior 69 Riv.  I got the belts and used a couple cans of spray vinyl dye from Pep Boys to make them look like new.  Ron Fryer redid the doors with new carpet and provided me with pieces for the kick panels.  I had him recover the door pull straps, make new windlaces and new bucket seat-back padded inserts that are unique to the Rivs versus the A-bodies.  New seat backs, release buttons, plastic base covers and chrome piping. New seat foam, too.

OOPS!  And my brown steering wheel would need to be replaced.   I bought a black one off ebay and sold mine to a BPG club member.  The end result was an even swap.

That device on the steering wheel in a stereo remote control.

I installed the headliner myself, with Ron Fryer's instructions.   It came out OK.  I think it is acceptable.  I had to paint all the trim pieces and dye the A-pillar covers and dash pad.  I pulled the windshield to aid in painting the top of the dashboard.  I also removed the package shelf and painted it.   The dash, console and kick panels all got a new coat of paint.  The sun visors were recovered and I added new hinges.  While it was all apart I installed a rear view mirror with a map light from an Electra 225.  I had to reuse my mounting bracket and the new mirror and support arm.

Ron stitched new vinyl for the arm rests in the rear that hold the ash trays.  I dyed the top portions and the door panels.  It was a LOT of work, but it paid off.

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The driver's door arm rests in these cars take a beating, and mine was no exception. It  had many cracks and splits in it.  So Fryer's sent it out to be recovered with the same type of process that is used to recover dash pads.  A new piece of vinyl is shrink wrapped over the entire arm rest.  The results are expensive, but worth it.

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It's funny, in my mind I figured it wouldn't be a big deal.   Just a new set of seat skins. Then it all started to become clear just how much was involved. It was WAAAAAY more involved that I had thought.  New headliner, carpet, the driver's armrest needed to be recovered, the doors and kick panels needed new carpet, and the door panels, dasboard  and dashpad needed to be painted/dyed.  A lot of work, but worth the time, cost and effort.

Well, my antique Holley carb finally reached the end of its life.   The throttle shafts began leaking right after I first fired it up after the long winter break.  I was able to cope with it until about late June 2005 but finally had to get a new carb.

My carb of choice?  Well, I have seen too many poor quality issues with Holley as of late, so I decided to try a Mighty Demon from Barry Grant.   While their customer service leaves a LOT to be desired, the carb is really nice. It came jetted 80/88 right out of the box, but that proved to be too rich.  I rejetted it to 79/82 and it seemed to like it.  However, the vacuum secondaries just would not open until about 4000 RPM.  I sent it back to BG and the tech there told me the secondaries won't open any sooner because the carb "is supplying the engine with all it needs and it is they are not 'sensing' that they should open.

So I now run a mechanical secondary carb.  WOW!  Anybody who claims that big heavy cars need vacuum secondaries does NOT know what they are talking about!  My car will break the tires loose from a 15 MPH roll now.  The vacuum secondaries never did that!

Front Disc Brake Conversion


1965 – 1970 Buick Electra and Wildcat

1966 – 1970 Buick Riviera

While our Buicks had the best brakes available at the time, by today’s standards they are very outdated.  You could spend a ton of money, time and effort locating factory disk brake components for your Riviera, but they are very hard to find and are also very expensive to repair.

Using brackets supplied by a company called SCAREBIRD and readily available part-store components, we can now convert our antique Buicks to a modern disc brake system for under $600.  This is a slam dunk conversion, at least is was on my 1969 Riviera. I have not heard feedback from anyone who tried this on a Wildcat or Electra, but seeing as how they have the same brackets as the Riviera conversion, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that those applications are also a slam dunk.

Here is the parts list with NAPA numbers and prices.  My local NAPA had EVERY part in stock except one inner wheel bearing and one dust cap.  They arrived the next day.

Scarebird says you may reuse your wheel bearings, but I say “No Way”.  Why go through all this trouble only to scrimp on the only things that allow your car to actually ROLL.  And you can source the calipers from a junkyard. But again, you may get junk that is useless, so why bother?  However, I DO plan on sourcing 2 junk calipers as cores because the core charge is $45 a piece for these calipers!  That’s $90 that I can use elsewhere on this project.

I was not happy with the spongy feel of my brake pedal after the initial swap, and  panic stops saw the pedal go all the way to the floor.  Besides that, I believe that the brake conversion was worthless! The brakes were not road worthy by any stretch of the imagination. The factory drums were far superior. So to correct the issues, I had to make modifications, and now the brakes are as good as any car of that era. NAPA had the OEM 1969 Riviera disc brake master cylinder in stock.  With its 1/8” larger diameter piston (1.125” vs 1.00” on the drum/drum master cylinder) it now provides me with very good pedal feel, but it still wasn't enough. When I held the brakes on and gave it gas (like on the starting line) it was impossible to keep the car from rolling forward.  I’ve spoken with Scarebird about the master cylinder and request that they at least include the info in their parts list with their brackets.  You will need to use a compatible disc brake master cylinder for your vehicle.  If your car was available with disc brakes, I suggest that you use that particular one.

Now here is where it gets a little involved... and you must buy or borrow a brake line flaring tool and practice make some brake lines so you are good enough to have decent lines on your ride.

First off, the proper HOLD OFF VALVE is required. It is commonly referred to as a proportioning valve, and it holds off applying the front brakes until a certain amount of pressure is in the rear brake lines. I used an OEM replacement valve for a '70 Skylark (GS 455) that I ordered from one of the many brake suppliers on line.

And finally, I had to plumb in a 10 LB RESIDUAL VALVE into the rear lines. It holds 10 LBS of brake pressure in the rear brake lines at all times. I got it from Jegs or Summit and it was pretty easy to install. However, I DID have to raid the brass brake fitting bin at my local NAPA to make sure I had all the correct adapters.

Scarebird includes direction with their kit, but I've outlined what you need to know here.

Part                                                       Application                                          NAPA#             Price


Rotor (2)                                              1971 – 1976 Riviera, front                       85537              83.36 ea

Caliper, LH                                          1990 – 2002 AWD Chevy Astro front     242-2138        18.99

Caliper, RH                                          1990 – 2002 AWD Chevy Astro front     242-2139        18.99

Caliper bolt (4) (if not incl w/caliper)   1990 – 2002 AWD Chevy Astro front     82792

Brake Hose  (2)                                   1979 – 1990 Caprice front                       36847              12.09 ea

Banjo Bolt  (2)                                      1990 – 2002 AWD Chevy Astro front     82703               2.96 ea

Wheel Seal (2)                                     1977 Riviera                                            19984               2.12 ea

Brake Pads (your choice of grade)     1990 – 2002 AWD Chevy Astro front                             65.00+

Dust cap (2)                                          NAPA Brand                                           730-2438        3.99 ea

Wheel Bearing, inner (2)                      1969 Riviera                                            BR5                 11.49 ea

Wheel Bearing, outer (2)                      1969 Riviera                                            BR3                 10.49 ea

Brackets                                                SCAREBIRD  425-422-0273                                         115.00

Disc/Drum Master Cylinder                   1969 Riviera                                           47-36306        33.99

1. Secure the vehicle on jack stands, remove front wheels and hubs. Save the large nut and washer from the hub assembly, you will reuse them.

 2. Using a line wrench, disconnect the brake line from the hard line at the frame bracket, then remove the locking clip.

 3. Remove the bolt that holds the brake hose bracket from the rear of the steering knuckle/spindle.

 4. Remove the 2 lower backing plate nuts and and lock washers.   Remove the bolts. Remove the top bolt where the springs attach. 

5.  Remove the brake shoe hardware, old brake line and backing plate in one assembly.

6. Clean the entire area.  Carb cleaner or mineral spirits, a wire toothbrush and a roll of paper towels will get it squeaky clean.   Now is the time to squirt the lower control arm and reaction rods with a can of black spray paint.  I like gloss, but I believe the factory lacquer looked semi-gloss or satin.

7. Slip the bracket over the spindle with the caliper opening to the rear and the little “dog house” over the lower rear bolt hole.  Insert the new, shorter top bolt (supplied) loosely, then reinsert the lower rear bolt, lock washer and nut. You may Loc-Tite the top bolt if you wish. Torque the top bolt to 90 ft-lbs and ther lower bolt to 75 ft-lbs.
bracket mounted.jpg (90536 bytes)

8. Pack the wheel bearings.  Lay the inner bearing into the hub and tap in the new seal. Slip the rotor over the spindle. Slide the outer bearing and washer onto the spindle and screw the nut back on.  Check for any contact between the rotor and the bracket.  The “dog house” on my bracket had a large weld that needed some light filing to clear the rotor.

9. Now here is where it gets dicey… I used an adjustable wrench and gently tightened the nut while spinning the rotor. It doesn’t take much effort!  When the bearings are compressed all the way, you’ll feel how you can back off the nut and it won’t compress any farther.  Insert a NEW cotter pin.  Install new dust cap.

10. Wash your hands, and using a clean rag and Brake Cleaner, spray and wipe the rotor well.   It must be perfectly clean!

11. If your caliper came unassembled, as mine did, coat the 4 rubber O-rings with the supplied lube, and slip 2 into the grooves cut into the inside of the sleeves for the attaching bolts.   2 more go at the inner end of the sleeves and are held in place with the 2 flat rubber washers. The 2 large caps will cover the attaching bolts once they are torqued down.

12. Snap the brake pads onto the caliper and then slide the caliper over the rotor and into place on the bracket. Lube the attaching bolts with the supplied lube and start BOTH bolts before tightening them down.  Torque to 35 ft-lbs.

13. Install new brake hoses with 2 copper crush washers at caliper.  Attach at hard line and lock in place with clip.
done1.jpg (124624 bytes)

14.   I did not use a proportioning valve at first, but I later added an OEM "Hold Off" valve from a 1970 Chevelle/Skylark. It bolts on to the master cylinder right at the vacuum booster, yet it still wasn't enough to give me the pedal I wanted. I finally plumbed a TEN POUND RESIDUAL VALVE in to the rear brake line. The residual valve maintains 10 pounds of pressure in the rear brake system and did the trick. I bought mine from Summit Racing.

15. Bench bleed and install your new disc/drum master cylinder.   Bleed the brake system, install your wheels and break-in the pads. Scarebird recommends following  the 30-30-30 rule: 30 stops from 30 MPH with 30 seconds cooling time between stops.  I used an empty parking lot close to my house