Hunters and automotive hobbyists often have a lot in common. When the hunter steps into the field, the focus is on the quarry, and when an auto enthusiast gets an idea for a project, there is an intensive hunt for a vehicle. There is no guarantee of success when a person goes hunting, and hunters come home empty-handed day after day.
There comes a time, though, when the game hunter is successful and the gearhead finds the perfect vehicle. Don Russo of West Chester, Pennsylvania, was looking for a car on which to work. There were many days when Don's hunt ended with zero. Nada. Undaunted, he kept looking. One afternoon he was driving near his home when he spotted a '63 Riviera sitting by the side of the road. In an instant he was backing up. Actually, he said he was going about 70 backwards because he couldn't believe what he'd seen.
A quick inspection of the vehicle led to some serious negotiations with the original owner. With only 57,000 miles on the clock, he thought he would restore the Riviera to its original condition, but when he rolled it into his driveway, his son took one look and decided it was time for a talk with Dad. Don's friends, Barry Rice of Main Street Customs of Leesport, Pennsylvania, and John Torrie, were brought in for consultation, too. They decided to make some changes to reflect their version of how the car might have looked if they were the GM stylists given the task of designing the Riviera.
They mulled over some ideas and thus began a twelve-month makeover that resulted in this stunning Candy Tangerine custom. The subtle changes and smooth bodywork combine to turn the Riviera into a real crowd-pleaser.
When Don and friends began the project, the chrome was shipped off for re-plating, and work began on the body. While Don said the lines of the car flowed nicely, he also felt there was room for some improvement.
The top was chopped 3 inches in the front and 4 inches in the back. Anything more, Don said, would have been too much.
The Riv hails from the era when cars were long, which is one of the reasons Don liked the Buick so much. The door handles were shaved and replaced by solenoids. Several proposals were made for changing the lighting, both front and rear. In the end, it was decided to custom-build the taillights, but tubing was shaped around the housing for them. Additionally, the tubing was shaped around the front turn signals. The tubing, Don says, helps bring some definition to the long, straight body panels.
The hood was smoothed, but Don felt it needed something make it stand out. He found what he needed in the center section of a '68 Mustang hood and grafted it to the Riviera hood because he felt its peak and corresponding lines highlighted the tubing around the lighting. It was a perfect match.
Lowering the car was next on the agenda. The front springs were replaced with new units that brought the car down 3 inches. The rear springs were cut to get the back of the car down. Other than the lowering, no other changes were made to the chassis
Beneath the hood rests the reliable Buick 401 nailhead engine, the same one the Riv had when it rolled off the assembly line. With some fresh paint and detailing, along with an Edelbrock 750-cfm carburetor, the engine is stock. Dress-up items may be brought into the picture, but for now Don wanted his custom functional and driveable.
An aluminized exhaust system exhales into Harley-Davidson motorcycle exhaust tips, which help give the car a unique appearance. The paint was mixed by House of Kolor and sprayed at Extreme Auto Painting. Luxor wire wheels are mounted on 235x15 radial whitewalls. When it came time to do the interior, Don reached out to cousin Fred Carello in Warwick, Rhode Island, who covered the seats, door panels, and remainder of the interior in a comfortable crme Naugahyde.