Tag Archives: # car spotting

Car Spot: Buick Riviera

GM’s first entry into the personal luxury car market …

I remember 1963. I was in fourth grade living in Madison, Wis. Yup, remember the day when we were told that JFK was assassinated. I remember it more because it was also the year that my dad was hired by American Motors, and we moved to Milwaukee. I was a car guy before, but this made my addiction to everything automotive even bigger.

1965 and 1967 Buick Rivieras
It’s not often that you see these cars, but I found these 65 and 67s for sale.

But beyond the AMC stuff, I remember what a big deal it was for the automakers to introduce their new cars. Take for example this week’s spot, or actually spots, the Buick Riviera. Advertised as “Buick’s bid for a great new international classic,” the Riviera was a hit when it was introduced at the Paris Auto Salon in October 1962. The hardtop coupe won praise from three of the world’s most respected designers, Sergio Pininfarina, Raymond Loewy, and Sir William Lyons. It was a ground-up design on a new GM E platform and the automotive press loved it.

1965 Buick Riviera with hideaway headlights
This 65 came from California. I love the headlights.

Giving the Ford Thunderbird its first real competition it came with one of two monster V8 engines either 401 cu in or 425 cu in and needed everything those bad boys could put out since it weighed just over 4,000 pounds. Motor Trend tested one of the luxury personal coupes equipped with the 425 cubic inch, four-barrel engine. Time from 0–60 mph was clocked at about 8 seconds while running the standing quarter mile in about 16 seconds.

1965 Buick Riviera hood
There are a lot of ponies under that big hood.

It came loaded. Standard features included “power steering, two-speed wipers with washers, back-up lights, glare-proof inside mirror, parking brake signal light, safety buzzer, Riviera wheel covers, electric clock, foam padded seat cushions, center console (covered in a black veneer material) heater and defroster and frameless side windows. Customers could order either fabric or leather seats.

Buick Riviera interior
This interior was spotless.
1967 Buick Riviera
The 67 also had hideaway headlights but instead of a door, they are tucked up above the grill.

The second generation debuted in 1966, retaining its cruciform X-frame on a platform shared with the Oldsmobile Toronado and later, the Cadillac Eldorado, but its redesigned body was longer, wider, and 200 pounds heavier. Along with the new styling came an entirely new 430 cu in V8 putting out 360 horsepower and 475 lb-ft of torque which improved performance. America liked it and sales for 1966 rebounded to 45,308, a new record. A total of 1,127,261 Rivieras were produced when the last one, the eighth generation, rolled off the assembly line in Orion Township, Michigan on Nov. 25, 1998. Less than 2,000 models sold in its final year.

67 Buick Riviera rear shot with my Hayabusa in the background.
Both these Rivs were in great shape. That’s my Hayabusa in the background.

So what will one of these cars set you back? Not a lot. A 67 in Concours condition according to Hagerty is $45,000 while the 69 is slightly less. These were both priced in the mid-30s. That’s not a lot of dough for this much power and luxury to drive a landmark car from the 60s.

67 Riviera front with the 65 behind it
A bright sunny day and these Rivs were glistening in the sun.

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to check out my other spots and Mark’s reviews of new cars. Make sure to come back next Friday when I’ll have another one of my spots with some of the history behind it. Have a great weekend.


Car Spot: Rare 1979 VW Convertible

UPDATE: How I was the temporary Caretaker …

This is an update of a blog post I did a year ago in February. When you think about all the cars that were made since the history of cars, there’s one that just about guarantees a smile every time you see one, the VW Beetle. I’m talking about the original Type 1 Beatle, not the most recent version that just went out of production. The subject of one in this blog entry is a 1979 Convertible.

Mint 1979 VW Convertible

The one that got away

If you’re any kind of car geek like me, you remember your first car, or one you owned very early on and wish you had it again. Mine was a 1970 AMX in this case Dan Chaudoir’s was this Beatle. Like any good dad, put his family first so had to let one like this go to put bread on the table and sold it. Flash forward to last year and Dan lets me know that he’s looking for another ’79 convertible Florida Blue just like this one. I found several of them but none were really in great shape and the one was located in Finland. Go figure, drop-top in a cold climate. Not that Wisconsin isn’t. The hunt was on.

Related: This might have been Paul’s 1970 AMX

I had kind of forgotten about the search for a while when a got a call from Dan who had found one in Florida not in Florida Blue but in Nepal Orange. Of course, there’s a story behind this. He had found it originally on Bring A Trailer but it had been sold. He left his contact information with the seller in case things didn’t work out on the sale. You guessed it, he got the call because the sale fell through. So Dan does the deal and arranges for transportation from Jacksonville to Fort Meyers.

Dan’s VW in Door County

The Beetle led a very charmed life. It was part of a collection in a museum in South Carolina for 13 years and then sold to the collector that Dan bought it from. It had just over 12,000 miles. This bug is cherry and all original. The body has no dents or scratches and the paint looks like it just came off the showroom floor. The chrome and other brightwork are also in excellent shape. The interior has no rips or tears and the rubber isn’t even cracked.

A pristine interior

Mechanically it is sound. All U.S. Beetle Convertibles in 1979 featured a 1,584-cc horizontally opposed, OHV four-cylinder engine. With Bosch L-Jetronic fuel injection, the air-cooled engine was rated at 48 horsepower at 4,200 rpm when new. The engine looks new. The four-speed manual is in great shape too. I remember Dan taking me for a ride in it and warning me of the neck-bending acceleration. I’m kidding. It goes 0-60 when it’s ready.

Like new engine.

1979 was the last full year for the VW Beetle in the U.S. and VW built 1,156,455 vehicles in 1979 but only 10,681 were Super Beetle cabriolets sold in the U.S. Production. It listed at $6800 and today has become a fairly collectible car. According to Hagerty prices range from #4 Fair: $9900, #3 Good: $17,200, #2 Excellent: $44,500, and #1 Concours: $62,000. Hagerty defines Concours as “the best in the world. The visual image is of the best vehicle, in the right colors, driving onto the lawn at the finest Concours. Perfectly clean, the vehicle has been groomed down to the tire treads. Painted and chromed surfaces are mirror-like. Dust and dirt are banned, and the materials used are correct and superbly fitted. The one-word description for a #1 vehicle is “Concours.” With very little effort this big could fall into that category. Dan even kept the original tires although it rides on new ones now. This Florida Blue Convertible with just 94 miles (that is not a typo) sold for$65,625 on Hemmings.

Photo: Hemmings

How I became Caretaker

Dan took delivery of the car in mid-July and drove it around his summer home in Sturgeon Bay, WI but unfortunately did not get much time to enjoy it as he passed away in October of 2021.

Dan with the top down at his place in Florida

I’m not exactly why his wife Jody chose me to be the caretaker but am happy to do it. Maybe it’s because I Iove classic cars or maybe I’m the only one she knows that can drive a manual transmission.

Related: Read about the VW fleet in Oshkosh

I drove it down from Sturgeon Bay to Jody’s home in Grafton with my daughter Meg last Fall abiding by Dan’s wish, taking the scenic route, and not going over 60 mph. In some ways, this car is like Jeep Wranglers and older CJ’s because there was always a smile when I stopped for gas or was passed on the highway.

Grandpa meets one of the kids at a pit stop along the way home

Here’s the big update to the story. Jody decided that the bug should have a new home and it was just recently sold to a new owner in France. We’ve already said our goodbyes and hope to someday go visit the VW. Thanks for stopping by and check back next week for another spot along with some of its history. Have a great weekend.

Car Spot: 61 Rambler Cross Country

A time when wagons roamed the country

Just in case you couldn’t tell, I have a soft spot for the cars and Jeeps made by American Motors Corp. Maybe it was because my dad worked there for 17 years starting in 1963 and ending just after Chrysler bought AMC. Not sure why he did, because his dad was into Chevys and my mom’s dad was a Pontiac and Hudson salesman. It was just something about a certain pluckiness of the company that would almost always come up with something the other manufacturers weren’t offering.

Did you know that at one time AMC was No. 3 in sales, ahead of Chrysler? Part of that was because of the station wagons they produced, like this week’s car spot, a 1961 Rambler Classic Cross Country I found on a car lot in Johnson Creek, Wis.

In 1961, the redesigned Classic Cross Country wagons were among the most popular station wagons in the land and Rambler moved nearly 82,000 of them that year pushing them into the No. 3 sales spot with a car that had not seen much change since 1956. Studebaker, still selling cars, was fifth.

RELATED Spot: This Rambler’s grandkid, the AMC Pacer.

Unique Rambler door handle. I remember these.

Among the things that made the Classic such a value was its standard engine, the 195.6 Inline Six. Not as powerful as Chrysler’s 225 Slant Six, but with up to 138 hp from the 2-barrel version it got the job done. Better than Ford’s anemic Falcon Thriftmaster or the Lark’s Skybolt, which tended to blow its head gasket.

This almost always happened though, throughout AMC’s history, the other manufacturers out-engineered the company, this time with their magic door gates and Vista Cruisers. The ride was over. AMC would slip to No. 4 until Chrysler bought the firm in 1987.

RELATED Spot: When AMC joined the pony car race with the Javelin.

The Rambler logo. Notice some pitting on the chrome, This was also on other chrome pieces on the car.
Power rear windows were still a few years away. This one is an old-fashioned crank.

This one will sit on this dealer lot for a long time since it has a super high price at $29,000!

Wayyyyy too high as these cars normally go for around 11 grand or less in really good shape. Not sure why the dealer thinks this one is an exception. Maybe because it’s a survivor.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to check back next week for another one of my spots along with some history behind it. Have a great weekend.