Saturday, January 31, 2015

1970 Oldsmobile Ninety Eight - A Billion Miles Away

Always a luxury more than necessity, convertibles, obviously, gave motorists a most efficient form of ventilation.
The air bells rang telling the shop that someone wanted gas and Stu, his hands full overhauling the transmission on a Volvo, asked me if I would take care of the old man "in that block long Olds". I was was just hanging out in the shop and obliged believing that by doing menial tasks for him I could move up the food chain and start actually working on cars. The stuff that dreams are made of for an 8 year old. I knew it was wrong for him to ask me to do it and know now that Stu was in violation of every single child labor law there was in New York State at the time but it mattered little to me at the time. I was out of the house and surrounded by cars. Life was good. 
With the advent of ventilation systems and ultimately air conditioning, after World War II, the  limited convertible market shrank considerably.  
The old man behind the wheel of the Ninety Eight looked at me through squinting eyes and told me bluntly while looking away from me, "Five dollars. Premium". I nodded in acknowledgment with an enthusiastic "yessir!" and got to work putting the gas pump handle into the filler pipe behind the spring loaded license plate. All the while breathless at the amount of money the man was spending on gas. And for the good stuff too. "This is how rich people live", I thought to myself.
1970 was the last year that General Motors offered a convertible on their full size "C body" platform. Similar to "B Body", save for a longer wheel base, the Olds Ninety Eight shared its frame and body shell with the Buick Electra and Cadillac DeVille.
My dad never spent that kind of money on gas when he filled up the bone stripper Ford Ranch Wagon he had. Think Ford Country Squire with any shred of luxury removed from it then add some soulless taxi car into it. That's a good start. That Oldsmobile Ninety Eight seemed like a car from another world to me. As close to me as it was when I was pumping gas into it, it was a billion miles away.
The Oldsmobile "Ninety Eight" number-name goes back to 1941 and Oldsmobile's range topping "Series 90", the "8" denoting an 8-cylinder engine. Lesser Oldsmobiles over the years were series 60, 70 and 80. The Series 60 was retired in 1949, the same year the Oldsmobile 78 was replaced by the 88. The Oldsmobile 76 was retired after 1950. This left two remaining number-names, 88 and 98 to carry on until 1997 when the Oldsmobile Regency replaced both of them.
The old man fired up the Olds the instant he heard the unmistakable sound of the license plate frame snap up after I screwed the filler cap back on. I didn't even get a chance to tell him to have a nice day as he peeled out of the station; the right rear tire giving out a slight chirp as he hit Merrick Road heading eastbound. I shrugged my shoulders and took his gruffness with a grain of salt. After all, he was rich. And the rich can do whatever they want.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mr. Connolly's Old Pontiac

A goal of mine in 2015 is to finish writing about every car in my life that has had some sort of impact on me. Today, I look back upon the Pontiac Chieftain that belonged to the kindly gentleman who lived across the street from my family and I back in Baldwin. Coincidentally, that family shared our last name.
Between 1949 and 1958, Pontiac's top of the line model was the "Chieftain"
We always referred to Mike Connolly, who lived across the street from us, as "Mr. Connolly". We never batted an eye about doing so although you could possibly understand how that could be a bit awkward in the same way you feel a little bit awkward addressing someone who has the same first name as you do. Even though we had the same last name and even shared what I understand to be the least common spelling of "Connolly", we were not related. My parents had a nice relationship (which is saying a lot considering how difficult my parents were to get along with) with Mr. Connolly and his wife, Sally whom, and for whatever reason, we did not refer to as "Mrs. Connolly". In an event, I remember Mr. Connolly, who had to be at least twenty years older than my father, being quiet, kind and keeping mostly to himself. A tinkerer of all sorts, he kept a meticulous home and took exacting care of his old, seemingly gigantic, black, Pontiac sedan.
Chieftain is the leader or head of a group, especially of a clan or tribe.
Pontiac offered two models for sale in 1952; the Streamliner and the upmarket Chieftain like Mr. Connolly had. Riding on a generous 120 inch wheelbase, the Chieftain was available with inline, flat head sixes and eights and had Hydramatic (automatic) and 3 speed manual transmissions available. Mr. Connolly's Chieftain had the odd looking flat head 8 and an automatic transmission. I remember sticking my head under the long, open hood of his Chieftain and marveling at the massive, old engine that seemed like it came out of the 19th century what with the spark plug wires coming out of the top of the engine and all. And that's what was so odd about that car; it really wasn't that old. Not by today's standards anyway.
My older son in front of the house I grew up back in Baldwin. Through the trees to his right you can see the garage doors of Mr. Connolly's house.
My memories of that car probably date back to the early to mid '70's so that means that it was at the most, twenty, maybe twenty two or twenty three years old at the time. Certainly old but it seemed so much older than that because of how different it looked from everything else on the road at the time. Older kids than me in the neighborhood used to chide Mr. Connolly about his old car, goading him about getting a car that was more with the times and frankly, I agreed with them. However, seeing that Mr. Connolly was retired and on a fixed income, it makes all the sense in the world to me now that he was holding onto a car that was working for him. Cars back then were as expensive as they are today (adjusted for inflation) after all.  

Motor Trend tested a 1952 Chieftain sedan, recording a 21-second quarter-mile time at 95.24 mph and 16.4 mpg. Abysmal numbers for an automobile today but on par sixty years ago.
I went on several jaunts into "town", (that sounds so quaint being from Long Island and all, especially growing up in Nassau County), with Mr. Connolly and found the car to be something out of a movie set in the 1940's. Seating position was way up, seat springs were very "springy". The car smelled musty, the dashboard looked like an old fashioned radio and Mr. Connolly drove it very slowly. I'm not sure if he was driving it slowly or the car was that slow. With maybe 115 horsepower from that odd, flat head in line eight, the car was not exactly overpowered.

Overlook Place is named so because the street overlooks a county park on the other side of that Dead End sign. Mr. Connolly's house is directly to the right of my son in this picture.

Still, as far as cars go from my youth, nothing personified someone quite the same way that that Pontiac personified "Mr. Connolly". Whenever I see one at a car show or online, I can't help but think of him and his wife Sally puttering around Overlook Place and Fairview Avenue or coming up Foxhurst Road from "town". Thing is, though, apparently, Mr. Connolly didn't see the Chieftain as "him". One day, sometime in the mid 1970's, a canary yellow, rotary engined Mazda RX-2 appeared in his driveway were the Old Pontiac had always been.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Brother's 1966 Plymouth Valiant - That Ancient Little Car

My first foray into the seedy world of used car shopping was in the summer of 1976 when my parents bought a cheap used car for my freshly graduated from college, ten years older than I, brother. At first, 12 year old car wonk me was beyond excited at the prospect of "car shopping". However, I quickly found that it was an exercise in pain, suffering and ultimately, futility. Without the Internet, used car shopping  boiled down to pouring through ads in the local paper, pouring through ads in the local Pennysaver, daily scanning of community bulletin boards, chasing down any and all cars with for sale signs taped to their rear windows and word of mouth. Going to a used car lot was out of the question because those cars were way north of their budget. Many times we found ourselves driving literally all over Long Island in hopes of finding something suitable. The worst was when we would find something good and it would, invariably, had just been sold.
With nine out of ten of those traipses having been fruitless, even a dyed in the wool, washed in the blood car nut like me would beg off from going after awhile.  So, when my parents found a 1966 Plymouth Valiant,  just like this one, save for a black interior and not red, not a mile from our house they bought it immediately if for no other reason than to put an end to the seemingly endless search. As you can imagine, car wonk  that I've always been, I was none too thrilled with their purchase.

Reason I was so upset was that not a week before they had miraculously found a 1967 Dodge Dart GT, just like this but in light blue, that I fell madly in love with. Although I was a long five years removed from even getting my license, I knew that there was a chance that whatever car my older brother had,  it could be handed down to me one day. In theory at least. My dreams crushed when my lawyerly father and brother scared off the seller with some sort of "contract" for repairs if something was to go wrong with the car within the first 90 days or something. Crazy. While that Dart did have a bad exhaust and over heated on the test drive, I thought the contract ridiculous but it was amazing how quickly the seller backed out of selling the car to my family. Amazing what you can accomplish by "acting as if". My father was certainly no lawyer and my brother, who was to attend Michigan Law School in the fall, was at best a wannabee as well at the time.
Then, they bought this thing. Or something just like it. The only redeemable thing about this librarian on wheels was its cool sounding, "Slant Six", in line six cylinder engine. I have no idea if it was the 198 or 225. Remembering how frumpy and plain that car was, I have to imagine it was the smaller of the two engines. If this car had the available for 1966 273 cubic V-8 would it have made any difference to me? Oh, most indubitably. As it was, I had little love for that ancient little car. Even in 1976, that 1966 Plymouth seemed quaint, dumpy and old as dirt and it was only ten years old at the time. However, a ten year old car, nearly forty years ago, was much older than a ten year old car today is. Regardless, where that Dart oozed cool through every cubic inch, the Valiant was as uncool.    
The new for 1960 Plymouth Valiant and very similar Dodge Dart were Chrysler's bow shot at compact European imports like the Volkswagen Beetle. Offering no significant technological innovation above and beyond being simply smaller versions of Chrysler's full size cars, they were, nonetheless, quite popular. Especially the redesigned 1963-1966 models. They were so popular that nearly one-fifth of Plymouth’s half million units sold during the 1963 model year were Valiants. The Valiant and Dart were significantly updated for 1967 leaving the 1966 models, like my brother's car,  looking like something off the set of "The Flying Nun". The subtleties between a '66 and a '67 make all the differences in the world. 
Turned out I never had to worry about that Valiant being mine or not one day. Not a month after we got it, my brother rear ended a Datsun station wagon. While the Datsun looked like it had slightly backed into something, the Valiant was totaled. My parents, apparently still exhausted from shopping for the Valiant, did not replace it.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Little Red Corvette - It's Been A Good Weekend

After a miserable weekend on the Corvette last weekend, this weekend has already proven to be a better weekend than last weekend was bad. Yesterday, I got this right rear caliper off the car. Yes! Quite the battle too and I paid the price for it dearly what with having to lie on my back as much as I did but the end result is I got done what needed to be done.
To review, this project was supposed to be "just" replacement of the rear cross over brake line that carries brake fluid over the differential to the right caliper. The line had cracked and brake fluid gushed out of it thus the rear brakes did not work. Scary. Again, what's an old car that's not a project car?
Disaster struck last weekend when I broke off this inside bleeder valve on the right rear caliper. Now I have to replace this caliper. Great. Just. Great. It's simple to remove but very hard work. It's held on with two 5/8" inch bolts that are torqued in at at least 75 foot pounds and they look like are rusted as one with the spindle. I had already liberally sprayed down this   caliper bolt with PB Blaster when I took this photo. I sprayed both of them down several times over the past week after I got home from the office. Soak 'em and soak 'em again. And again.  
Yesterday morning it was game on to get that caliper off. At first neither of the bolts would budge. I mean, would NOT budge and there being TWO of them, I had serious doubts I was going to get this done. My "Tow Truck is My Backup" mantra ringing in my ears, I thought long and hard about how to get around this problem. These cars are very hard to work on because they are essentially sub compact cars with very heavy, dense components. Without a lift or a pit, I needed leverage. Then it dawned on me; I needed, "a breaker bar".
A breaker bar is anything you want it to be to make a lever. I bought this massive 1 inch wide, two foot long piece of pipe from Ace Hardware and put it on the end of my socket wrench. Along with a new 1/2", 5/8 inch driver, so I could clear the transverse leaf spring mount on the end of the trailing arm, elbow grease and a ton of creative combinations of swear words, voila. Success. Sweet, satisfying success. Mind you these bolts were completely rusted on and my heart was in my mouth fearing I'd break the heads off them but at the end of the day, I got 'er dun. Along the way and feeling mighty ambitious, I also removed the drainage pipe that blocked my access to getting the cross over line installed properly. I've determined that I put the brake line in backwards, remember, don't confuse me with someone who knows what they're doing. I'm going to fix that today.
So, in a lot of ways, the busted caliper was a good thing; I never would have gone through the trouble of pulling the brake line out again if it wasn't for having to spend as much time down here because I had to replace the caliper. I win because I had lost. It's been a good weekend.

Friday, January 23, 2015

1980 Buick Century - Is It Any Wonder GM Went Under?

I've had up close and personal "pit seats" to GM's remarkable decline in market share from 46% in 1980 to  less than 20% today. 
Much to Mom's consternation, Dad replaced his 1972 Cadillac with this 1980 Buick Century he bought, used, from a rental fleet company in 1982.
Now, there is no doubt that due to the influx of Asian and European makes throughout the 1980's that GM's once massive, near monopolistic share of the market would have shrunk significantly. However, more importantly, GM lost the bulk of that market share because they manufactured and sold cars like this 1980 Buick Century. A 1980 Buick Century that my World War II veteran father bought in 1982 to replace his 1972 Cadillac. It was just the latest in a long line of incredibly bad automobiles that my father had.
Please forgive the DeSuMa Deutscher SuperMarkt and the Euro tags. With only that picture at the top of this blog of my father's Buick, I had to find additional pictures of a 1980 Buick Century to illustrate this blog further. These pictures of a Century in Berlin, Germany, are all I could find.
When I was a wee little nipper growing up in the vast concrete and asphalt jungle of south Nassau, New York, vehicle break downs were a part of life. Not just for my father but it seemed everyone. Long Island roadways seemingly clogged with breaking down hulks or steaming, hood open calamaties on the side of the road; smoke and steam pouring out. One of my earliest childhood memories was of my father struggling to keep his Rambler alive because of a cracked engine block. The Ford Ranch Wagon he replaced it with having myriad electrical and mechanical issues; I remember it leaving us stranded on the Wantagh Parkway when the points wore out. My father flagging down someone who would then go to a service station to tell someone there that someone was stuck up on parkway. Life before cell phones and all. The Buick Electra and Cadillac DeVille that came after that (I guess he was doing better at work) offered no respite from unreliability. At least, one could argue, that those cars, including the wonky Rambler, had some semblance of romance to offset, to some degree, their awfulness. But that Century, every bit if not more so as horrible mechanically as anything he had before it, lacked even a shred of je ne se quois. 

This car is virtually identical inside and out to the Oldsmobile Cutlass sedan of the same vintage. This the embodiement of GM's famed "badge engineering".
That lack of mechanical reliability not to mention lack of elan or flair didn't bother my father as much as the lack of fuel economy that the V-6 powered Century delivered. Or didn't. After all, he bought the car Hertz' Used Car Sales lot on  Sunrise Highway for the wonderful mileage he thought it was going to afford him. The carbureted Buick V-6 with all of 110 horsepower and 190 foot pounds put out through a 2:29:1 rear end pushing a rolling brick of a car returned 12, maybe 13 miles per gallon in town. Certainly better than the 5 maybe 6 mpg the Cadillac gave him but still. I recall my father's enthusiasm when it returned 19 miles per gallon on a family traipse up to Mystic Seaport.  

The first Buick Century in 1936 was named such to denote the car's ability to accelerate to 100 miles per hour, or as they referred to England, "doing the Century". My Dad's Century was so underpowered that it struggled to get to 100 mph let alone do the century.
Then stuff stated breaking. With only a limited 12 month warranty from Hertz on the power train and thirty days on everything else, "everything else" started going on it the second those thirty days were up. The legend of GM "Metric" transmission failure being all true as well. At least that was covered. When the AC blew out on another trip I thought my brother and I would suffocate in the back since the rear windows did not go down. They didn't stop working, the rear door glass couldn't roll down since there wasn't any room in the door as the angle of the door was compromised by the rear quarter panels. When mom would light up a Pall Mall it was all we could do to not barf all over the "panty cloth" upholstery.
My Dad's Century had steel wheels not the alloys that this car has.  The rear wheels on my Dad's Century rusted onto the drums making them impossible to remove.
In addition to being unreliable and delivering mediocre at best fuel economy, the Century was not a good family car because it was just too small inside. The drive shaft "hump" taking up a remarkable amount of room in a car that was approximately the size of a modern day Buick LaCrosse; the LaCrosse's rear passenger compartment being as spacious as it is because of the space efficiency lent to it by being front wheel wheel drive. We missed the spaciousness of that Cadillac, that was for sure and we gave up a lot for the sake of fuel economy. Many American families did thirty, thirty five years ago. Many of those families then moving onto space efficient, fuel efficient, superbly engineered makes and models from Asia and beyond. Is it any wonder GM went under?
Going from a car as large as a 1972 Cadillac to one as small as this Buick Century always perplexed me. Seeing the apparent err in his ways, Dad replaced this Century with a 1979 Cadillac that proved to be every bit as mechanically unreliable as anything he had before. Including of course, this Century.
This picture was taken between February of 1982 and June of 1983, a sliver of time in my life when I had that red Comet parked behind my Dad's Century. When I replaced that Comet with my beloved Cordoba, my father quickly fell in love with the size of the Cordoba and the power of its 360 V-8. What's more, the Cordoba's fuel economy was not much worse than what the little Buick V-6 could muster. Not to be outdone, my father got rid of the Century and replaced it with (drum roll and fan fare, please) another Cadillac (a 1979) that was, no surprise, every bit the hunk of junk anything he had before it was. BTW, if you look closely at this photograph you can see my father behind the wheel of his Buick Century.  

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

1995 Buick Century - How Much Are You Willing To Lose?

My on again, off again search for another inexpensive car has landed me square in the sites of this twenty year old Buick that is in almost freakishly good condition.
How could I go wrong? It's for sale at the neighborhood gas station near my house and, it's a 1995 Buick Century - how much could they be asking for it?
Story has it that this car sat in the garage of the son of the owner after he passed away. After all these years, the family is moving and Dad's Old Buick has to go.
The interior looks to be in showroom condition. There is hardly a whiff of that unmistakable "GM Old Man Smell" that even my leather lined 1977 Corvette has. Then again, my Corvette was a smoker - this thing is as clean as a whistle. Probably cleaner.
Under the hood, the ubiquitous for the time, "3100 SFI" V-6 with an ahead for its time, 160 horsepower. With a curb weight a stone or two from a ton and a half, it made for brisk acceleration. Gas mileage with the 4 speed automatic could push 30 miles per gallon. Impressive even today. The 3100's propensity to eat intake manifold gaskets, a bear to replace since it sits down below the pushrods, makes me a tad wary of the car overall but with a scant 24,000 on the odometer, it would be a good 50,000 miles or so before that might be a problem.
The problem with this car, as is the case with a lot of "barn finds" these days, it isn't worth a whole lot even in pristine shape like this. Mileage be darned. Car hounds like me pounce on these things knowing what they can do; not for what they are. The owner is fielding offers and after I hastily made a pitch of $3,000 for it, I kicked myself over and over after finding that valued the car in excellent condition at $2,200. Yes, is not exactly the gold standard of determining vehicle values but it is a good starting point. So you know, my offer was kicked to the curb. That was almost a month ago. The car still sits.
The person trying to sell this car thinking they're sitting on a gold mine; they want at least $5,000 for it. Thing is, if someone pays that much for this car and they insure it, they'll never get anywhere near what they paid for it if it gets totaled. Consider that before plopping down that wad of cash, friend. How much are you willing to lose to own a mint condition, 1995 Buick Century?
Your $5,000 probably better spent on a later model, higher mileage Camry, Accord, Maxima or Altima. Best to move along. Not much to see here anyway. That said, they call me wanting to talk about anything near 3 grand, preferably less, and this thing is mine.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Little Red Corvette - Pandora Strikes Again

I didn't plan on rebuilding most of the rear brake system this winter but you make plans, the Corvette laughs.
The brakes on this car were never that good and I found out why; the rear brakes weren't working. When they failed is beyond me. Apparently, there was a small hole in the "cross over line" that carries hydraulic brake fluid from the left side of the car over to the right rear caliper. Think leak in your aorta.  Almost an entire can of PB Blaster and a week of yanking and tugging and I had it out. Pictured is the new line "installed". It got slightly bent out of shape with my attempts at pushing it through the exhaust system hangers and that funky drainage pipe thing. I guess that's what it is. I still haven't figured it what it is exactly. There are several odd tubes that look factory installed under here that I've yet to figure out what they're for. Most likely drain pipes for rainwater. By the way, I had to partially dismantle the exhaust system to get the line in. If anything, this project has cured me of my claustrophobia.  
In getting the old cross over line out I also had to remove the lines that go to the calipers. The factory spec replacements I got from are completely different from what was on there and they required quite a bit of finagling to get into place. Thanks to crude line drawings I found on the internet, I was able to figure it out. Cray cray.
Problem is, they fit counter intuitively vs. what was in there before. Apparently, it would seem, someone had done some brake work on this car. You can see here that they lie almost on the caliper which is, honestly, quite weird if you ask me. Just like about everything else on this car. And then, just as I thought I was almost finished; disaster struck. I was attempting to open the inside bleeder valve, yes, there's two bleeder valves on the rear calipers on 1968-1982 Corvettes (shoot me now), and the little bastard broke off on me. You can see the broken bleeder screw on the left side of the picture just above that rusty bolt. Quite the common problem. Now I have to replace the caliper. Either that or buy a set of tools to drill that thing out and reset it. It'll be less expensive to get the caliper off. Pandora strikes again.
I keep telling myself this is all worth it, that this too shall pass and that a bad day on the Corvette is better than a good day at work. Seeing I enjoy what I do for a living, that's saying a lot.

1978 Buick Riviera - The Emperor's New Clothes

We've often wondered why General Motors decided to discontinue building the Buick Riviera on their E body platform after 1976. Oldsmobile and Cadillac continued to build their E body models, the Toronado and Eldorado, through 1978 on it so why'd Buick stop? What's more, subjectively, we've always found the 1977 and 1978 "LeSabre Riviera" to be far less the Riviera that came before it. That's saying a lot too considering the 1974-1976 Riviera wasn't anything to write home about. Let's take a brief journey back and explore Buick's sometimes fabulous, sometimes bizarre luxury sports coupe named after the Mediterranean coastal region from Marseilles in France to La Spezia in Italy. We'll start at the beginning and end where today's entry started with the 1977 model. Our subject is a 1978.
Starting in 1949, Buick used the Riviera nameplate to denote several of their top of the line models. Then, beginning in 1963, Riviera became it's own distinct model. General Motors spectacular answer to Ford's four passenger 1958 Thunderbird, the 1963-1965 Riviera  never outsold Thunderbird but it was the very rare, post war American automobile that successfully combined sporting and luxury motifs. It's one of many intangibles that makes the 1963-1965 Riviera so remarkable despite the fact it didn't sell well and GM lost money on each one sold.
To expedite amortization, GM moved the Riviera to their new E body for 1966 that also underpinned the front wheel drive Oldsmobile Toronado and 1967 Cadillac Eldorado. Interestingly, Buick built the car on the same chassis the 1963-1965 Riviera had been built on thus maintaining its rear wheel drive lay out.  Regardless of which wheels propelled the car, the 1966 Riviera was extremely well received and sold quite well. Rarely does a cost saving measure pay off at the bottom line and at the box office but occasionally it does happen.
In one fell swoop, brush stroke and fender skirt, for 1970, Buick botched the Riviera with this horrible, one year only, redesign. Don't take our word for it either - 1970 Riviera sales were almost half of what 1969 sales were. Perhaps it was a case of the Emperor's New Clothes - Bill Mitchell was known to be quite the imperious manager. Best we can tell this was Bill Mitchell attempt to ape the lines of a pre war Delage D8 120. Who knows. All we know is that the 1970 Buick Riviera was an ugly car.
Things didn't get much better with 1971's redesign although, in a vacuum, what have become known as the Riviera "Boat Tails" were unique and ambitious designs. Its rear styling evoking the Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster of the mid to late 1930's that Bill Mitchell allegedly adored. However, against the almost delicate, yet sporting and luxurious designs of the 1963-1969 Riviera,  the boat tail Riviera was a disconnected, convoluted and most importantly, polarizing design. Not surprisingly, sales were soft.  
Much like 1971 boat tails, the 1974-1976 Riviera was an interesting design but paled in comparison to what came before it. With the boat tail and curvaceous sweep gone leaving a semi fastback/notch back design, while cleaner and simpler it didn't mean it was gooder. Couple that with the first gas crisis and these Rivera's sold poorly as well.  
                                                     1978 Riviera                                      1979 LeSabre
Enter the 1977-1978 LeSabre Rivera. With Riviera sales in a slump, Buick had a choice; keep selling the slow selling E body, retool the Oldsmobile Toronado or Cadillac Eldorado into a Buick  or, move Riviera to the new B or C body. They chose the later since making a Riviera out of the then current Eldorado or Toronado made no sense since it was scheduled to be replaced and used the entry level LeSabre of all things as a starting point. The 1977 LeSabre based Riviera lacked almost any distinctive sheet metal to differentiate it from a LeSabre above and beyond  a kicked up opera window and a different grill. We don't like the 1977-1978 even as a LeSabre.           

Well, Buick did have a third choice - they could have dropped the model from their lineup for 1977 and 1978 instead of doing this car. Did buyers notice the Emperor's New Clothes that was the Buick LeSabre Riviera? Based on sales of approximately 25,000 per year compared to projections of 50,000, sure looks they did.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

1983 Buick Riviera Convertible - I Love You. Please Abuse Me.

I know better yet I still can't stay away from these damn shitters cars.

I'm not a convertible guy but there is something about these drop top Rivieras that leaves me slack jawed. For sale for a mere $3,500, in Minneapolis of all places, the cheapie price should tell me all that I need to know. Still, I'm drawn to it like a moth to a flame. Red on red in particular. I love you, red Riviera. Please abuse me.
Introduced for the 1982 model year, each Riviera convertible began life as a Riviera coupe built in GM’s Linden, New Jersey, plant. Once put together, the coupes were shipped to American Sunroof Corporation (ASC) in Lansing, Michigan, where the lengthy process of changing coupe to convertible began. It didn't come cheaply, though. Base price of 1983 Riviera convertibles was $25,035, more than $10,000 more than a Riviera hardtop.
I had a 1982, white on red Riviera hardtop years ago that was a beautiful car but it was an atrocity. Seemingly everything broke on it. Perhaps it was just a very bad example every GM car my family had back then had similarly horrific problems. I thought it was just the way things were. Amazing what you learn to live with.
Maybe just maybe this one is different? For $3,500, how could I grow wrong? Ha.