In Dennis Lee's neighborhood, not every kid has to climb into some vast and dull minivan when there are trips to be made and errands to be run. In fact, the kids at Dennis' house get to take those kinds of rides in the coolest car around.
To most of us, this long, low, mild custom Riv probably doesn't shout "family fun!" When we look at that assertive stance and that extensive black sheetmetal, our imagination whips up images of sharkskin suits, and cool tough-guy attitude-but according to Dennis, it's all about trips to the video store and the ice cream shop, and cruising down Main Street. What it's not about is sliding side doors, liftgates, and flip-down DVD screens.
While Dennis definitely wanted a custom his whole family could ride in, he also wanted something that still had some of that edgy flavor. He had previously owned a stock '65 Riviera and really loved the lines, which he says reminded him of some of the exotic European classics. This time he wanted a Riv with some modifications, but not so many mods that they would "custom out" the lines he liked so much. And he wanted it jet black to intensify the car's ready-to-go aggressive look.
He discovered this '65 Riviera GS on eBay, posted by a classic auto dealer in New Mexico. It was in great shape, rust-free, and a bargain. Finding a builder who was able to understand his ideas and could apply them to a not-so-typical car was a more difficult mission, until Dennis met Randy Clark from Hot Rods & Custom Stuff in Escondido, California. Dennis had been impressed by the Ridler-winning '49 Chevy that Randy built a few years ago. When he found out Randy had owned a couple of mid-'60s Rivs, the deal was sealed.
For the next two years, Dennis and Randy worked together to determine the direction of the mild custom modifications. Dennis' kids got involved in the project by contributing their own ideas. His daughter Taylor loves the color red, which ended up all over the interior, from the leather upholstery to the door panels, dash, and trim. His son Grant inspired the choice of a Grant steering wheel. And preschooler Garrett knew there had to be some flames somewhere on the Riv, a wish carried out with some black outline licks on the woodgrain side panel inserts. From the beginning of the buildup to the end, all the kids wanted to know was, "When is the Buick coming home?"
Now that the big black Buick is home, Dennis, his wife Liza, and the whole gang love to go for family rides in the coolest car in the neighborhood. "They just go berserk," Dennis says. Then again, who wouldn't?