1969 Buick Riviera
I picked this car up from a fellow named Red down in Vancouver, WA for $650. He's a pretty cool guy who buys and sells parts and cars to support his own "car habit". He's about 10 times more into it than I am and was a really neat guy.
NOTE: There is a list of parts that are and are not available near the bottom of the page. Please check it before emailing me. For example, the console and buckets are not for sale...
While is may seem strange for me to purchase a Riviera, it has various options and pieces that I can use on my 1970 Electra, and some I can use on my 1973 Electra, so it's a good deal for me. The options and pieces that I will be using on my 1970 Electra are in green, and the ones that I will be using on my 1973 Electra are in purple.
Making The Deal
Here are the pre-purchase pictures sent by the seller.
Day 1 - Cleanout of Loose Pieces, Front Seats, and Console
NOTE: These are not consecutive days, they are each of the days I spent working on the car.
Here are the pictures of the car as it arrived in my driveway, including removing some trash from the trunk to get a look at what all was in there. The webs on the spare tire rim are not painted to match the other rims, but it is the proper rim for the car. The right front rim is a slightly different style that the others, but is painted in the same color as the car body. A simple oversight when selecting what rims to custom paint, perhaps? The rear defogger grid is intact and looks like it should be functional. The door panels are rotted away from the water getting into the car, and anything in the engine compartment not made of metal - and a few things that are made of metal - is wasted. Engine fires are nasty - check out how the washer bottle melted. Also, check out the speakers firing in the rear seats - cool! I'll have to take them out and see if they're any good. They look to be dry and intact...
Here is the front seat and console removal, including pictures of the parts as they were removed. The drivers seat is a 6-way power seat with the controls on the seat and the passenger's seat is the simple manual forward-and-back control. The headrests were in the back seat and the folding mechanisms work perfectly. They are both missing their side trim pieces - I'm hoping bench seat trim pieces will fit - because I have plenty of those. The console came out fine - mostly because the front mounting screws were already removed and the rear mounting section was broken out around the screws. I'll have to see about gluing it back into place. All the pieces are there, so it should work, and that part is hidden from view once installed, so cosmetics are not a major concern. The shifter works fine, though something is locked up in the cable or at the trans, perhaps due to the engine fire. Under the grime it's actually in pretty good shape and should work quite nicely in my Electra. The catch for the rear lid is broken, but I can either fab a new one out of metal or hopefully find a reproduction piece.
Here is the random junk that was laying in the back seat and on the floor. Interesting stuff includes a spare dash cluster, a parking light, what looks to be a spare water pump pulley, armrests from some other car, a cornering light that may or may not go to this car, and what appears to be a Buick "U" style console shifter from a different car. Not shown is the spare wiper arm and the driver side lower trim that I found laying on the rear floor.
Day 2 - Off the Trailer
I spent an evening with a friend getting the Riv off the trailer and into my driveway where I could yank the motor/trans. It was the last time the Riv ever rolled anywhere - only pieces will ever get removed from the car in it's final resting location in my driveway.
Day 3 - Up, Up, and Away!
Finally, a day with no rain so I could do some work on the Riv. I got it up onto jack stands, got the wheels off, and started removing minor pieces. I did a lot of cutting off of burned hoses and melted wiring harnesses - it if was not metal and got charred in the engine fire, it went into the trash. Some of the hoses had burned so badly that as soon as I touched them, they turned to dust and floated away in the breeze. They looked relatively intact, but were far from it. Pretty much every piece of wiring inside the engine compartment was toast, so was the coil and the fan shroud. I saved the AC hoses in case the hard lines at the ends can be re-used by a Riv-restorer, but they might end up in the trash too. One of the plastic containers in the engine compartment (I'm guessing the one for the washer fluid) melted so badly it was wrapped around a brake line and could not be removed. I'll have to cut it away with a Sawzall after I get the inner fender off the car!
The brakes seemed to be in OK shape, as was the intake manifold. The inside of the intake is a bit dirty, but there is no sign that the fire intruded on the intake. That and what I could see by peeking inside the valve cover through the oil fill and breather hole indicate that the fire did not get to the inside of the engine and that it may be intact under all that grime and charring. If so, and it can be made to run for reasonably cheap, it's going into my 1973 Electra. I might use it as an excuse to build an engine test stand... :-) The carb linkage is stuck solid, but there may be salvageable pieces on the carb (fuel bowls, vacuum secondary housing, etc.) so I'm sitting it aside for later review.
I also had a chance to start separating out the Riv-specific stuff and taking note of it. If I can't use it on my Electra and it's in usable shape, then it's for sale. I've started making lists below of what's for sale and what's not for sale.
Day 4 - Dashing Through the Parts...
It was raining a bit, but not much, so I decided to spend some time and pull some more stuff. Since it was raining a bit, I decided to stay inside the car as much as possible. The focus was on the dash, steering column, and associated wiring. I started by pulling off the dash pad, then the front door panels, then the steering column, then the dash cluster, then the under-dash wiring, and finally the front seatbelts. Along the way most of the flexible ducting in the heater system came out and went straight into the trash can. I also managed to get the drivers door open - it turned out to just be locked and the shift knobs were missing so I couldn't unlock it until the door panel was off.
I had to go under the car to remove the linkage between the column and the trans - even though it's a console shifter, the linkage looks to still have been used to control the shift pointer. There were signs this was not originally a bucket seat car - there was a center front seatbelt and the seatbelt buckles were not the "rigid plastic" kind you usually get with bucket seats. The wiring to the neutral safety switch on the console appeared to be original - it was all in the factory tape and connected up into the main under-dash harness. I'm not sure what to make of that. The rag joint on the steering column came apart as soon as I put any pressure on it - apparently the heat from the engine fire damaged it. I also pulled the shifter control cable off the trans, but not the bracket it sits in that's attached to two of the trans pan bolts. The shifter cable had been damaged where the speedo cable went near it, and that's apparently why it's stuck. It looks like the speedo cable developed a kink of some sort and began whipping around - a 6-8" section of the shifter cable had the entire outer casing worn away and so did the speedo cable - and there was a "knot" in the end of the speedo cable right by the trans that looks as if the inner cable snagged the outer casing and tried to spin it - that would explain the appearance of "whipping around" and the wear of the cables. I'm saving the shifter cable as a "core" to compare with a future replacement.
The dash cluster was in decent shape with only one minor crack down near the AC controls. The rest came out fine - even the AC controls with all the vacuum hoses attached. The radio turned out to be an AM/FM unit with a separate amplifier of some kind - it all looks very factory and very period correct, so I'm assuming it's original. It might be an interesting option to restore for my convertible if it's a nice unit - we'll see how it goes. The headlight switch had two vacuum lines going to it for the hide-away headlight system and it was all hooked up, presumably original. I'll save that for later to see if it works or not, and so I can sell it as a complete system.
The under-dash wiring came out relatively easily once the instrument cluster was out. The fuse block simply pulled right off the firewall - the bolts were already gone or the outer part was damaged so badly from the fire that they didn't hold. There was some butchering and repair work on original wiring right at the ignition switch terminals - it seems like an OK repair job, but I'm not sure what was going on with that. It make me suspicious that someone spliced in the console wiring.
The drivers side door turned out to be an obvious replacement with a non-original piece. It was blue inside under the spaces covered by the door panel, white along the edges, and painted the same "plum" color as the rest of the car on the outside. It also had a completely different handle setup for unlatching the door - which explains the lack of an inside door handle on that door. Instead of the "pull the paddle" arrangement like the passengers side door, it had a splined shaft for a rotating handle. And it had a second splined shaft that appear to be linked into the same lock mechanism near the rear of the door - presumably to be actuated by a rear seat passenger? I've never seen anything like it so I don't know what to make of it. It's interesting, I'll give it that! Another clear sign that the door had been replaced - badly - was that all of the power window wiring going to the door had been cut and re-spliced in the space between the door and the body - and the protective rubber wiring "channel" was missing, leaving the wires exposed to rub on things, and to rub on the sharp metal openings at the door and body openings. It was not terribly bright of the person doing the repairs - it's easy to imagine the kind of things this caliber of repair could lead to when it was done to other areas of the car, such as an engine fire... :-)
Day 5 - Rear Seat, Package Shelf, Speakers, Seat Belts, and More Body Wiring
Pretty straightforward stuff. Pull the rear seat, pull the rear side panels, pull the rear package shelf trim (I cracked one of the drivers side mounts, but it should still be OK to use if someone is careful), pull the rear seat belts, disconnect all of the remaining body wiring except for where it goes down to the fuel tank (I'll have to get under the car for that), and remove the rear defroster wiring and relay (carefully set aside since I'm re-using it). I also pulled out the previous-owner-built rear speaker board with four woofers on it - they seem to be intact; though they need to be tested. The wiring to the amp came out too (the amp was long gone by the time I got the car). The center rear speaker was an decent looking aftermarket Pioneer unit, I opted to leave it with the seat for now. The body wiring channel was trashed (but the wiring seemed to be OK), so I took the plastic channel off the wiring and junked it. I also junked any sound deadener material I yanked off the car - it's wet and trashed, plus modern materials are much much more effective and the originals are really only good for the trash bin. The C-pillar covers came out too and they're reasonably intact, definitely good enough to use for patterns.
Day 6 - Suspension Removal, Body Wiring
Pretty straightforward, but very greasy in front and very dusty in back. Since I was underneath in back, I disconnected the fuel pump and fuel sender connector, and removed the body wiring harness from the car. The fuel tank is a bit dented, but intact, so I will likely remove it later on.
Up front, I could not separate the passengers side upper control arm from the spindle no matter what I tried, so I ended up leaving them together. The drivers side came apart much easier, and had signs of being rebuilt recently - not only did it come apart very easily, the cotter pins were not bent over (!), the upper ball joint was installed incorrectly, and the short brake line that connects the flex line to the caliper was not done like the factory setup on the passengers side was.
In back, the axle came out pretty easily, with the usual prying required to get the bolts out of the mounts and then more work to get the control arms out of the mounts. The panhard bar came out really easily once I got the bolt loose - they were incredibly tight, though. The axle brackets are a lot different than on the Electras - it's a three link system with a panhard bar, so the axle is a good bit heavier with all the extra brackets.
The rear axle had the following codes stamped into it:
That decodes as "PJ" = 3.07 "regular" axle (non-posi, no special or optional gear ratio - so much for hoping this car had a posi rear in it!), "058" = day of the year is was produced on (day 58 of 1969 was Thursday, February 27th 1969), and "D" should be the axle "source". This should likely be a "B" for "Buick, so it's a good chance that I mis-read the stamping here - it was a pretty light stamping. Interestingly enough, the axle build date indicates it must have been built in the same week as the body - the body tag on the car had a build date in the 4th week of February 1969 - see below on decoding the body build tag.
Day 7 - Engine, Transmission, Doors, Front Sheet Metal, and Oh My!
This was the big day - I had all day to work on the car and a friend to help me out so I could remove the larger pieces. The engine, trans, driveshaft, doors, the windshield and rear window exterior trim pieces, and the front sheet metal all came off the car today. Check out the twisted and melted wiper fluid container - it was wrapped around one of the brake lines and I was only able to get it out after removing the drivers side inner fender. The engine came out pretty painlessly and spun over OK when I had to turn the flywheel to remove the torque converter bolts. The trans fluid that leaked out the tailshaft didn't seem too toasted, another good sign. And the grease under the body had not burned in the fire (it was real gummy and juicy - oh joy), so it shows the fire had stayed relatively contained to the engine compartment.
The VIN tag was "494879H932039", which decodes as "49487" = Riveria 2 door hardtop, "H" = Flint Assembly Plant, and "932039" = the car serial number, with the leading "9" signifying it is a Riveria.
For the engine, it is a 1969 Buick 430. The heads are casting #1231109 which is for a 1969 Buick 400/430 and the block is casting #1383424 which is for a 1967-1969 Buick 430. The stampings on the block are "49H932039", "RD", and "305". The longer stamping breaks down as 4 = Buick, 9 = 1969, H = Flint Assembly Plant, and 932039 should match the car serial number in the VIN code of the vehicle the engine originally came in - and in this case, it does. Also, the leading "9" on the serial number indicates the engine was used in a Riveria. The "RD" means this is a 1969 non-export 430 with 10.25:1 compression and a 4-bbl carb that was rated at 360hp @ 5000 RPM and 475lb-ft of torque @ 3200 RPM. I have yet to find anything to tell me what the "305" means. Anyways, that all confirms that this motor is the original motor that came in this car, which is good news because it hasn't been swapped around and chances are the innards haven't been horribly dorked with by a previous owner.
The body tag was as follows:
That decodes as "69" = model year, "49487" = Riveria 2 door hardtop with the leading "4" signifying Buick, "EUC" = Assembly Plant - most likely a plant specific to the GM "E" bodies, "189637" = the body serial number, "692" = the trim combination code - Gold vinyl buckets, "77" = lower body color - Antique Gold Poly, "D" = the upper body color or fabric top color - likely white or silver, and "02D" = the time built code - "02" = February and "D" = 4th week of the month. The gold dash and gold inside the trunk and door jambs confirms the original body color. The vinyl top is in the right color range, though it had likely been replaced at some point in it's life. Also, the bucket seats had obviously been recovered or replaced at some point - they are clearly black and not gold.
Day 8 - Master Cylinder and Power Brake Booster
I only had a bit to work on the car, so I took the easy (and valuable) pickings to ensure they were inside before it rained again. I disconnected the passengers side front and the rear brake lines from the junction/warning block (it looks like the proportioning valve is a separate piece plumbed in before the junction block, I need to check the manual for that to be sure), unbolted the block from the frame, disconnected the brake pedal pushrod from the brake pedal, and unbolted the master power brake booster from the firewall. There was a mounting plate between the booster and the firewall, so I kept that with the booster by threading the nuts back onto the four mounting studs. The top two studs that mount the brake pedal assembly to the firewall bolted through the plate, and I tossed those nuts into a container along with the clip and washer for connecting the pushrod to the brake pedal. Why so much detail? So I can find all the pieces to this later, of course! Disc brake equipped Buicks from 1967-1969 are rare and desirable, and I have no idea how many of these parts are Riv-specific vs. applicable to all Buicks, so I'm saving everything to be rebuilt and used on my car if possible/as needed.
Day 9 - Heater System, Side Windows, and More Trim
I got a bit done. I removed the rest of the heater/AC system, rear side glass with window regulators and motors, the wiper linkage, the valence panel between the bottom of the rear window and the trunk, the trunk springs, the brake pedal assembly, the gas pedal and linkage, the inside rearview mirror, and the interior front and side window trim. I did find out the the rear window seal is pretty loose in places, so I have a good chance at getting the glass out intact. I also found out that the wire to the map light in the rear view mirror was accidentally severed by a previous owner when re-installing the mirror. At least it's all there and can be repaired.
Day 10 - Front and Rear Glass, Anger Management Therapy, and More Misc Bits
I got a hand from a friend and removed the front and rear glass - both came out intact. I also started on my anger management therapy - otherwise known as carving up the pieces of the car I don't need with a Sawzall. The roof, A pillars, and C-pillars are all gone. I also removed a few more odds and ends - the recirculate/fresh air control piece from the heater/AC system, the gas pedal pivot mounts in the floor, the body and VIN tags, the door strikers, and the front sway bar. I also removed and tossed what was left of the voltage regulator and the wiper motor - the firewall is now pretty clean of stuff, though a couple of things remain to be removed.
Day 11 - Steering Box & Linkage, Parking Brake Pedal Assy, and Misc Bits
Not much time to work on the car, but I got some good stuff done. The steering box and linkage are off, along with the parking brake pedal assembly, the passengers side dash trim, and a few odds and ends I found still bolted to the car - like the main power window relay that was tucked up under the dash. I'm rapidly running out of things to unbolt - I think all I have left is the gas tank and pump, the rear shocks, and then I need to remove the body from the frame. There are also a few bolts that no longer hold things on that I'll need to remove - various plastic things melted away in the engine fire, so all I have left are the bolts to save in case I end up needing them.
Day 12 - Carving the Carcass
An afternoon of fun and destruction. I removed the gas tank and in-tank pump by cutting the bolts on the straps - they were too rusted to undo on their own. I also removed the rear wheel well trim and all of the lower fender rear trim from the rear edge of the doors all the way to the back of the car. Then, the carving commenced in force until I ran out of daylight and resulted in another full load of metal for the recycling folks. I'm getting pretty close to having just the floor piece I want to save. Note that I'm carving the back up first so it doesn't get tail-heavy - the rear jack stands are just forward of the rear axle and there isn't too much weight on the nose of the car anymore, so I'm being careful to remove weight from the rear of the car first. That's why the dash piece is still attached even though it will take just one long cut across the firewall to get rid of it.
I do want to note that the gas-tank is slightly dented on the bottom and it was that way when I got the car. There is still some gas sloshing around in in (I'm guessing ~1 gallon based on the weight) and it shows no signs of leaking, so I would think it's good for use in a daily driver. I have no idea how one could restore it, but it's available if someone wants it. The straps went into the recycling, though.
One of thing of interest is that the lighter the car gets, the harder it gets to cut up. The metal is getting more and more prone to "bouncing around" when cutting it, and with anything less than a perfectly sharp blade, it's slow going and the blades tend to get damaged and break. The car is way more flexible than the Electras I've cut up, I can only guess that the X-frame on this car isn't nearly as stiff as a full perimeter frame on the Electras? That's just a guess.
Day 13 - Trunk Floor and Rear Wheelwell Removal
More carving. The trunk floor was oddly shaped to have a recessed spot for the spare tire, and I tried to carve it up into small enough bits to make disposing of it easy - which translates into lots of cuts. As part of this I removed the four rearmost body to frame mounting bolts - I'll toss them when I get done since they're pretty wasted and not good for much except patterns to compare against for replacement. Since I don't have a Riv to restore, they're not much good to me as patterns. The amount of dirt and crud in the rear fenders was incredible - that's what's on the ground underneath the rear frame area. Yuck.
Day 14 - More Sawzall Fun
The floorpan has been librated from the frame! The firewall has been cut off (need a dash for a 1969 Riv? I've got one, at least until I toss it. :-) and the sections of the floor over the rear axle are cut up as well. I removed the rear shocks, rear upper control arm, lower front control arms, and the few remaining bolts in the firewall that were not holding anything. The fuel and brake lines were removed and set aside, and all of the retaining clips along the frame were saved.
After I got the floorpan off the frame, I commenced carving up the frame itself, starting from the rear and working my way forward. Along the way, I discovered that the "max speed" adjustment on the Sawzall got set to something much less than "full power" with a resulting slow-down in the cutting speed. On the thicker metal of the frame this made a big difference! I figure all of the vibrations must have caused it. Once I corrected that, I got a lot more cutting done in a lot less time. I've removed everything from the front of the "X" connection to the rear of the frame, and it fits in a nice small pile of easy to move pieces.
With most of the frame and the floorpan out of the way, I also swept up the enormous amount of dirt and grime that had fallen out of and off of the car while I've been working on it. I ended up with about 10 lbs worth of stuff that went into the trash can. It was a surprisingly large pile - the rear fenders had a ton of dirt in them. Most of it appeared to pre-date removing the rear fender sections - it was quite the archeological dig down in there.
Day 15 - The End
I finished cutting up the frame and saved only the engine mount cradle for possible later use. Everything else is in the scrap pile, which I had to move to be able to clean off the part of the driveway where the car had been. I also needed to clear the way to move my 1973 Electra into place on the driveway so I can work on the engine replacement for it - I'm going to try to rebuild the 430 out of this car to use in the 1973 Electra.
As part of this work today, I also did a bunch of unpictured cleanup in the side/back yard where the parts-to-keep and parts-to-sell have been going. To get the 1973 Electra out of the side yard, I first needed to move a rather large pile of parts out of the way, most of which were 1969 Riveria parts from this car. I took the opportunity to re-arrange my parts a bit so that the stuff that is for sale and the stuff that needs to leave (Jon, you need to get the last of your Duster parts! :-) were all easily accessible. I also made room for the parts that will have a bit of a longer-term residence with me - aka, stuff that's spares for my projects - so that it can be in the back and out of the way, and not in the side yard blocking access to cars, the trailer, and whatever else I decide to put back there. Basically, I did the bulk of the work to reclaim my side driveway again and make it possible to remove the 1973 Electra from there.
At this point the frame is nothing but scrap and the car is effectively gone. The floorpan section and the brake/fuel lines still need to be moved from the front planter bed into the back yard, but I'll need some helping hands for that. I also need to begin the task of disposing of the pile of scrap metal I've created. But, that's mainly some final cleanup and odds-and-ends that are not interesting to detail here. In short, except for selling off the parts I don't need (see below for for sale list), this little tale is done. All in all, not bad for 15 days of work in my spare time spread over a few months - I'm getting pretty efficient at dealing with my parts cars. :-)
Pictures Requested of Various Parts
Stuff that folks have asked me to take specific pictures of.
Rear window trim and rear ventilation cover under rear window.
The AC and heater control unit.
The inside door pull straps.
Not For Sale List
This is the stuff I'm keeping. It's not being sold unless you make me a really good offer. :-) *
* Some folks seem to be having trouble figuring out that the smiley face just above here indicates that I'm not serious about selling this stuff. Sure, if you made me some ludicrous offer like $10,000 for the console and buckets, I'd sell it, but no, it's really not for sale...
I'll list stuff here so folks know it's gone.
For Sale List
This is stuff I know I do not need and appears to be in good shape, or at least might be useful to someone somewhere. Count on cleaning up most of this stuff before you can use it. Price is always negotiable, so if you want something, make an offer. Buyer pays shipping, picks up at my house, or delivery can be arranged in the Seattle, WA area for a fee.
If something is not on this lit and is not in the two lists above, it may be available, it it could have been missing or damaged beyond repair when I got the car. You never know until you email me and ask. Most of the car is gone now, just the headlights and a few interior bits remain.
This was Vehicle #24. My first case of shopping for a parts car for very specific upgrade parts and of buying a car that was not a near-identical match for something I owned (aka, I did not own a Riviera at the time I bought this car) to get at parts I wanted.
Comments? Kudos? Got some parts you'd like to buy/sell/barter/swap? Nasty comments about my web page so far? See Contacting Us.
Page last updated 12/27/2011 10:23:21 AM