Porthole Illumination: 1955 Buick Super Riviera

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Appearing in original condition and being a desirable hard top model, we are a fan of this 1955 Buick Super Riviera. These famous large 2 door coupes are still plenty large to haul a family, plus whatever else you could want to put into the trunk. There are some flaws, but to be in completely original condition, we think the little bit of tlc this Buick needs is marginal. The asking price of $10,100 is a little stiff, but it is a complete, and an original hard top model. Find it here on craigslist out of Sacramento, California.

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The 322 cubic inch v8 is listed as being in good health, and the seller suspects that it may have been rebuilt. The automatic transmission has indeed been rebuilt. We only wish this Buick had air conditioning. But beggars can’t be choosers when finding an original Buick such as this. A swamp cooler, or other various vintage methods could keep the interior chilled. The engine and bay would benefit from a good cleaning and detailing, but it looks to be in over all good shape under the hood. The seller has shared a lot if information on this car and has also mentioned that the wiring is in good operation which can be a little hairy on an old car that’s sat. The body looks straight and honest for the most part with some blemishes and touch up spots on the paint. The rear passenger quarter looks as if it may have been squashed slightly in the long, long ago. One of the tail lights is broken as well, but that’s a minor detail to contend with.

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The interior of this Buick looks promising, and is in fair condition. The front seat is obviously torn, but that is the worst of it. The back seat is very nice, and the dash board and gauges are reported as mint and fully functional. The steering wheel may be a little faded, but that could be resolved as well. The Door panels look very nice and the carpet appears to be there, but it may require a little attention. A little tlc on the interior would go a long way for the look of this Buick.

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It is exciting to see a car that has a slightly raw look, but is still fully functional. We love the light up portholes on the fenders. This Buick isn’t absolutely perfect, but it is a great start for a preservation cruiser, or even a complete restoration. The outside looks like it would clean up wonderfully and that annoying little black spray paint spot on the trunk would certainly get wet sanded back down to the white finish if we owned this Buick. Would you take on this Buick Super Riviera? What would you do with it?

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  1. HoA Howard AMember

    If I remember, someone sold a gadget that was hooked to the plug wires, and the port hole lights flashed with the engine firing. Anybody? Be a great car to detail as you go. One of my favorite Buicks.

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      Vague memory here too Howard. But yes the plug wires fired the lights as I remember too. Thanks Barn Finds for letting us reminisce.

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    • Brad

      Hadn’t heard of that – neat! Looks like Wikipedia, at least, mentions that it was part of stylist (and Ventiport creator) Ned Nickles’ 1949 custom car:

      “The source of this design feature was a custom car of Buick stylist Ned Nickles, which in addition had a flashing light within each hole each synchronized with a specific spark plug simulating the flames from the exhaust stack of a fighter airplane. [snip ]The flashing light feature was not used by Buick in production, but VentiPorts remained as nonfunctional ornamentation.”

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  2. Ben T. Spanner

    Those Cruise Line Venti-ports; (official name of the portholes), probably have lighting kits from J C Whitney. As a kid, my neighbor had a 4 door hardtop in the same color combination.

    This thing has Dynaflow. In college my roommate had a 1953 Cadillac Hearse with Dynaflow due to a Hydramatic plant fire. He would be gone for months working on the railroad. I would exercise the hearse. Dynaflow is comparable to the rental cars I have driven with CVTs. Lots of revs; little motion. Perhaps a 350 THM could be retrofitted, maybe even with a lock up torque converter. Then with a front disk conversion, this could be a freeway flyer, and a decent daily driver.

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  3. Alan Brase

    Back in 1967-69, I had a 1956 Buick Special with a 322 and the Dynaflow. I felt the same way about the transmission. I think in normal operation it only used one gear and just the torque converter to get it underway. Lots of noise, precious little acceleration. I was spoiled by a 1955 Oldsmobile I’d had previously with the solid 4 speed Hydramatic with about a 4/1 first gear. That thing would always chirp the tires in first and 2nd gears, and quite a bit of acceleration.
    Like the Buick otherwise.

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  4. Alan

    Just hit the switch. Blinkity blinkity

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  5. rockribbedrushy

    The front end/hood looks mashed in a bit and was not mentioned in the ad.
    And not a really good picture of the front end.
    Looks like more than just a little TLC, non?
    But with the right amount of work, you would have a really nice ride in the end.

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    • Alan Brase

      I’m not sure that’s what you are seeing; it looks like the hood is not fully latched. BUT with 23 photos, why is there NOT a good picture of the full front or of the right front?
      Whenever I sell something, I try to get the clearest, most honest photos, because I want the deal to go down well with no surprises when the buyer is in my presence with the money in his pocket. If he goes back home without handing me the money, it is going to be a very bad day for me. So, if he is rather pleasantly surprised, we will both be happier.
      It’s overpriced, anyway. It might take 6 weeks for the seller to figure that out. $5k-$6k car. It would take LOTS of money to make all that chrome perfect. And there is absolutely no mechanical restoration of anything. Not even the brake hoses! If you are gonna spend $10k restoring, why not start with a better car?

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      • rockribbedrushy

        Well he’s got enough pictures on craiglist, except for the head on shot.
        Just looks awful funny to me.

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  6. M B

    1965 Wildcats had the Nailhead V-8 and THM400, factory production equipment. THAT’s the transmission to look for. Then adapt a modern starter mechanism (key switch actuated! or adapt the foot starter manual linkage from a ’51 GM pickup truck. The problem with brake upgrades is that there is limited room under the floor for a modern master cylinder! Best to find some better brake linings and rebuild the stock brakes.

    That CHROME steering wheel horn “ring” looks great in the bright sun, when turning the steering wheel! Really neat seeing the flashing reflections! Even better than the lighted portholes at night.

    A snazzy car! Looks like it’s already got an alternator!

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  7. John

    The motor doesn’t look right. The 55 Super had a larger carburetor and the air cleaner had a distinctive “can” on front of the filter housing. The filter itself was an oil bath type. It also seems to me that all of the 55 Supers had a green motor. This looks more like a 57 or 58 motor. The front of the hood is clearly damaged and from what we can see, the “dagmars” are very rusty. Each one of those will require a small fortune in re-chroming expense.

    But it’s a rare body style and it can be made into a stunning vehicle – it just is not going to be cheap to do.

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    • Alan Brase

      You are right about the air cleaner. This one looks to me to have the bottom made from a black plastic drain pan and the top is the original. WRT the engine color, you are right on that too. The rocker covers at least ARE green… under the orange. You can see the green where the orange is scratched off.
      DAGMARS? One has to be pretty old to know that word!

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  8. starsailing

    This Buick is a good base car…Note alternator and wires, needs a lot to be perfect and worth an investment…add wire wheels when everything else is done…burley classic looking road king. I would add later 425 2×4 set up…
    Back in 85 on a Sunday drive through small towns, saw a 54 Super in guy’s driveway. Pulled in. looked it over knocked on the door and bought it for $1200. Ran fine, same red black interior color interior and mine was mint. Radio not working. Had my 58 Impala and we bought the Buick cause the wife had seen 54 Roadmaster with wide whites and wire wheels….SHE had to have this…but after she drove it a few times…non power steering was a bit hard for her…and she worried about the car breaking down someplace, worried about gas pedal starter setup…. So I had two fun cars. After two years, rod knocking while 50 miles from home….limped all the way home…turned the corner and went to pull in driveway…rod finished it off right there as I coasted into driveway….Wanted to put in a 65 Buick nailhead/2X4 set up…That’s what I was thinking the whole way back with rod knocking. 10 minutes later…wife tells me is pregnant….settled for running 55 motor from a roadmaster..radio fixed, rebuilt tranny, sold it to pay for the new baby. What a road car!….I bought it cause dad had bunch of Buicks the last one being a 54 white with black top Special Hdtp. I see it at back to 50’s St Paul Mn car show year after year for over 20 yrs now…and try to buy it every year…

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    • Dave Wright

      Great story……lt is experiance like this that make the old car hobby fun……..do you tell your kid that he/she is responsible for you having to sell the car? The story would last for generations……….

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      • starsailing

        Cody’s sister did tell him….Geez it bothers him even today. So….wife hits her head while gardening…has major seizures….then goes full manic bi polar with epilepsy meds…we divorce….Cody gets his driver’s license…I am at St Paul Fairgrounds big car show…there is my red and white 54 Super for sale…Guy that bought it, rebuilt the engine…and was going to do father son restore…kid turned to drugs…went to prison…father son dream dead….the Buick sat in the garage about 14-15 yrs…he takes it out puts Maaco paint job on it(ZERO RUST) and offers it back to me for 5k….I call ex…trying to get hold of son…going to buy him the car…and give to him. She doesn’t tell him about me calling….takes him out that night in huge storm in dark and buys him a T Bird….Told him a few yrs later…Life…is like a 54 Buick..Here today…gone tomorrow. Got pic of dad’s 54 and mine here someplace. May post later.

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    • rockribbedrushy

      What a great Olde Buicke story. Reminds me of the cars that my father owned in the 50’s and 60’s; a Maroon ’56 Special and a white ’62 Wildcat to name a couple.
      Great cars and great rides. When we lived in Maine, long drives to Lake Sebago during the summer.

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  9. starsailing

    Life was “American Graffiti” when younger. Buddy McClean had a turquoise 55 or 56 4dr Buick….For some reason he bent the fuel line from fuel pump to carb…laying on top of engine fixing something. Fuel line would drain down if sitting for 30 mins…After school…we picked up our catholic girlfriends from school early….went down to Mississippi River bottoms…to park with the girls…was my idea…Angie and me left Mike and his girl in his car…Marge got mad at Mike for you can imagine…and after that we had to leave. well the Buick was sucking air not gas, Mike had left his gas can at home….and with wrench yanks off fuel line and told me it was my idea so I was supposed to suck up gas from fuel line…NOPE! not me. So girls are really late and mad…Mike is sucking air from fuel line with Margie yelling at him and MIke takes a full mouthful of gas….chokes and swallows it. While choking etc, I tell him to drink river water…while I put fuel line back on. Car starts right up. Mike drinking river water while on knees and elbows…I try telling him to throw up…car running 10 yards from us, some guy trying to steal it but car stuck in deep sand…I chase him off…I drive girls home(10 miles away) Mike laying on back floor finally upchucking….I buy several bottles of Pepto for Mike. We get home….Margies books are in back seat…she wants them NOW! Soooo Mike sicker than a dog…takes the gas can…takes off air cleaner and fills the carb with gas to the top! get’s in, cranks and backfires shooting gas everywhere, engine on fire…Mike whacks fire with small back seat blanket, bends the fuel line feeding gas all over engine…now in huge flames…His mom looks out window calls fire dept….Mike grabs a shovel and tries shoveling dirt on engine….engine still running pumping gas….all over….I remind him engine running …shuts off and lets it burn…Fire truck puts it out….Mike is sick passing out from drinking gas earlier, taken to Hosp to get stomach pumped etc….Margie mad cause she never got the books. Buick was towed away to junk yard with Margies book in back seat..I took Mike to junk yard to fetch the books…Mike see her several days later to give her the books…kisses Margie and burps…gas burp….She refused to kiss him for months….Buicks ….the car for adventure and lovers ….

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