Aaron Kirby had just finished a six-year, 100 percent stock restoration of a numbers-matching ’69 Camaro RS/SS convertible when it was stolen from his driveway in broad daylight. Living in Los Angeles at the time, he took this opportunity to buy the car he’d been in love with since a teenager, a ’65 Buick Riviera. Since he told us the ensuing story so well, we’ll let him take it from here.
“I wanted to turn this miserable event into something positive, so I immediately started looking for a Riviera, but not just any Riviera. It had to be a ’65 Gran Sport, [which is] in my opinion, a custom from the factory and Bill Mitchell’s greatest design.
“After about a month of searching everywhere, I found an awesome, rust-free California car on eBay. I had used up most of my vacation time chasing dead ends so I wasn’t able to fly out to Oklahoma to see it, but it looked great and the seller was a high standing member of the Riviera Owners Association. I took the chance and bought it sight unseen. As soon as I saw it I knew I’d made the right call. The red paint was faded and thin, but I couldn’t find rust anywhere. The newly rebuilt engine ran strong, all the mechanicals worked, and the chrome and stainless were in great shape.
“I finally had the car of my dreams, so I had to make it perfect. Growing up near Detroit I was exposed to a lot of car prototypes. To me they were always the coolest cars around, and I still remember the day in high school when a friend took me to the GM tech center for a car show. I was already a huge fan of customs and prototypes, but this was the first time I saw the ‘Silver Arrow’, Bill Mitchell’s original prototype for the Riviera. To me that was it; I loved the design and it was cool to see how close it was to the ’65 Riviera. With this in mind, my plan at the time was to create a custom that had the feel of an early ’60s prototype.
“Since this was my daily driver, however, I wasn’t able to do much to it that wasn’t essential. On one occasion driving to work I lost brakes and coasted through a usually busy intersection. Luckily, there was a lull in traffic and no major damage occurred, but I took the hint and upgraded the stock single reservoir master cylinder to a dual reservoir version and redid the brake system. I decided to upgrade to front discs after I found a guy in Australia who developed a bolt-on system that used ’06 Pontiac GTO components. I may have gone overboard with the discs, but helplessly coasting through an intersection left an impression!
“The next few years I spent gathering parts, finding the best parts from the ’63-65 Riviera and thinking of the overall look and colors of my prototype. I didn’t want to do any modifications to the car that would permanently alter it, considering it is a real GS, and I respect that fact, but I learned from the Camaro incident to enjoy it while I can and make it my own. I added Autoloc’s shaved door handle and trunk release kits to keep me going, but life got in the way and things were put on hold.