Terrific Survivor: 31K Mile 1955 Buick Riviera

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This 1955 Buick Riviera is said to only have 31,461 miles. I’m inclined to agree with that after looking over the pictures here on eBay. It’s located in Bakersfield, California, and is said to have been garaged it’s entire life and has no rust!

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It’s pretty obvious the paint is glossy in the pictures due to being wet, but I’m betting the paint would come up nicely if treated correctly (Josh, do you offer classes?) I love the look with all the chrome, wide whitewalls (but not too wide) and what I think are the original wheel covers. The two-tone paint is just right, too. I suspect it’s been repainted, but it looks like a quality job–I’m not going to count it against it being a “survivor,” but feel free to do so if you feel that way.

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What a great grin! All the shut lines look pretty straight as well; it looks like this one hasn’t even been in a fender bender! I would love to have this one to drive the family around. The seller gives us the history of the car, which was a two-owner car prior to the current seller (doesn’t that just make it a three-owner car?) There’s a lot of original documentation included as well, and the spare tire is said to be the original one!

collage

While a little dirty in spots, the interior is really gorgeous and I’d encourage you to visit the ad to see how pretty the detailing is. There’s a period “motor minder” aftermarket vacuum gauge attached to the steering column. To be honest, I’d prefer an automatic in a car like this, but I’m certainly not going to complain about the three-speed. The “air conditioner” mentioned by the seller is really a window-mounted swamp cooler, but it would be a neat accessory to try–I wonder how much cooling they actually provide? Is there a reader out there with experience?

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Needless to say, the under hood appearance looks as original as the rest of the car. Assuming that’s the original engine, it’s a 322 cubic inch “Nailhead” V-8. In case you haven’t guessed, I really like this beautiful car and wish I were in a position to consider bidding on it. While not being perfect, this would be a great weekend driver and a car you could be proud of owning, and over time some detailing would go a long way! Anyone else like this as much as I do?

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Comments

  1. RON

    I had spotted this beauty already on ebay. what a piece of class. I have owned a number of old cars in this hobby and experienced a few as new, but the Buicks f the 50’s and 60’s have always been in my favorites. Quite a find only thing better is the top of the line rivera’s loaded with accessories. This 3 speed would truly b e a treasure for a summer week end cruiser

  2. ydnar

    Nice car, they should have not had a 3rd grader write the add on ebay though.

    • Jason Houston

      Hey, give the poor fool a break; 3rd grade is as far as he ever got! And if it’s any consolation, back in 2013 Bakersfield was named one of the top three “least literate” cities in the US. BTW, it’s an “ad”, not an “add”.

    • Sam

      ADD ???? Try 3rd grader to proof read “your’n”…..

  3. Glenn

    When I was a kid in the Bronx these cars were daily bread. Now I wish I had one. It certainly would be a crowd puller here in Scotland. I really love the color combination too.

    • Jim

      I’m not sure which end looks better, very cool.

  4. Peregrine Lance

    The swamp coolers were great–not for supplying cold air, which they only did in low doses, but in the psychological kick. Cylinders containing straw which was wet down were mounted just below the door frame top.

    In the ‘fifties, my family drove across country many times, with one or another of these devices mounted on the passenger-side front frame. It ended up, really, being a toss-up, whether one felt “cooler” with the device, or cooler with the device-holding window fully open. I did not mind when these lost favor; but I sure hated it when the full-width front window visors faded away!

  5. mark

    Wow, great looking car. Perfect for car shows, parades, weekend cruises etc. Someone is going to get a fin automobile there. Also the seller done a great job with the photos and the ad

  6. Jason Houston

    No doubt this is one gorgeous car. Not to nit-pick, but I’m not convinced the interior is 100% original. There are too many wavy seams, and I don’t believe that silver piping is factory. Maybe someone who knows ’50s GM interiors better can check in? Still, I’d love to own this car! And a “real transmission” in a hardtop is unheard of! The V8 and manual trans is superb, the tires are 100% correct, the colors are outstanding… what else could you ask for? Just too bad it lost its black CA plates…

    • Woodie Man

      I believe the Cali plates would have been yellow with black numbers in 1955. Since the car came from Colorado where are the original plates from Colorado?. You can see some circa 70’s ’80’s Colorado plates in the trunk. Judging by the recent Cali plates on the car I’d say the car hasn’t been in Bakersfield very long. But who knows. If you bought this car you could buy a set of “cleared” 1955 Cali plates and register them with the car.

    • David Wilk Member

      Tom Mack has one just like this for sale and you can see from his pictures that this interior is correct. http://www.tommackclassics.com/collection/inventory/55-buick-riviera/55-buick-riviera.htm
      Both of these are beautiful cars.

  7. Gary I

    Cool Fifties 4 door. Good body style.

  8. Woodie Man

    I always wanted to own a car once owned by a female lady. Its the other ladies that make me nervous. Sheesh……..English as a second language. In the early eighties I almost bought a ’55 Century. I remember the steering wheel was so far out from the dash that I felt like I was in the back seat when I was behind the wheel. I’ve owned almost any car from the fifties and sixties you can name so it wasn’t like a new experience. It’s just the mid fifties Buicks were set up with the steering wheel seemingly waaaay back from the dash. Beautiful car and they are only original once.

    • Jason Houston

      HAH! Good point. Welcome to Bakersfield! Yes, we still have female ladies, too.

  9. bobhess Bob Hess Member

    That width whitewall is exactly what came on my Dad’s ’55 Roadmaster. Know that first hand as I was too short to do any other washing except for the wheels, tires, and hub caps. Also, those are the hub caps that came on the 55s. Good looking car.

    Bob

    • John

      The hubcaps are proper, but 1955 Buicks all had red steel wheels. The spare may be original, but it has been repainted. Beautiful old car, though.

  10. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Sweet ride, although I don’t see how two different owners could use her as a daily driver for 31 thousand miles and never seen rain or snow? Growing up it was rare to see more than one car in a driveway. I could understand it today as it seems that every driveway has about four cars taking up space.

  11. JW

    Boy that air cleaner is a monster isn’t it !!! Mice could subdivide it for a condominium.

  12. fred

    I would prefer power steering in a car this size… but otherwise, someone is going to get a great deal- imagine what this would go for if it was a 2 door HT. I’ve always liked 4 door hardtops, the look of the 2 door without the price!

  13. DRV

    In the 60s and 70s these were everywhere in good shape. I have seen so many around for forever that to me they are nothing special even though they are, especially since they are a bulletproof tank that can just keep going (in a standard tranny) . A great period American piece that is easy to own and use.

    • Jason Houston

      You got my vote on that. Too bad they didn’t build more with actual transmissions. Like modern cars today, the only weak link in those big, beautiful Buicks were those dreadful Dynaflows!

  14. sir mike

    Sorry but it’s a Century….4 port holes…My grandfather had one in a mint green color.Great driving car…wish I still had it….hindsight…

  15. 64 bonneville

    Buicks from 55-57 are some of my favorite body styles. A neighbor had a 57 Roadmaster Convertible, about 1960. Car was fully loaded, windows, seats, etc. Black and white with a red leather interior. He was an auto upholster by trade, and did fantastic work. every year he would put a new top on it, black one year, white the next. I always wanted that Roadmaster.
    I digress, it appears to me that there are several things unusual on this car. Spare should also be a white wall, it original to the car, also the lap robe cord across the back of the front seat is missing, carpet appears very closely to what was in the 57 Roadmaster, as the lower line cars had mostly a semi flat level loop type carpet. In my personal opinion I think it is an older restoration which has aged gracefully. BTW the 3 speed manual was the base transmission for Buicks in the 1950s’, it wasn’t until dealers started ordering automatics and power steering in the late 50s’ to boost their bottom line that they became more common. In 1967 the full sized Oldsmobile, except the 98 and Toronado, the 3 speed was the base transmission, with automatic being an option.

    • Jason Houston

      You echo my feelings on the interior. I, too, feel the car is a very older restoration, perhaps from the 1970s. Thanks for raising that issue.

  16. piper62j

    Seems hard to believe a car this old is in this superb, original, low mileage condition… Just imagine actually sitting behind the wheel of real nostalgia.. Beautiful machine..

  17. Howard A Member

    Very nice car. Sure looks original. Nowadays we are used to certain things on cars, automatic transmissions and power steering, but back then, I think people were wary of new things, and stayed with what they knew. Lazy clutch pedal may mean a clutch adjustment or a worn clutch, and I’d lose the vacuum gauge. The gas mileage shouldn’t matter in a car like this. Overall, it’s great to see a survivor like this. Try putting “Dagmar’s” on the front of a car today, and see what reaction you’d get. Just a beautiful car here.

  18. Peter R

    I bought a one owner version of this one in 1965 – very low mileage as it had been chauffeur driven for a senior executive of a local company – it was an automatic but no power steering – something I would want today – I’d be happy to get another one – It was our family car when my first two kids were born and lots of happy memories from that time

  19. Jim Ward

    Is not a classic car chaser just a flipper?

    • Jason Houston

      That’s determined by how long he keeps it! Two weeks, he’s a flipper. Two years, he’s a serious hobbyist.

      • John

        I think it’s also dependent on whether he has taken steps to improve or preserve the vehicle. In my mind, a flipper is mainly someone who opportunistically buys a vehicle at a low price with the full intent to use his marketing skills to make a profit, most often without having done anything or much of anything to preserve the heritage of the machine.

  20. charlie Member

    the 3 speed standard is a real advantage if you are going to drive it – we called their automatic Dyna-slush, it was smooth, but inefficient, the engine roared and the car moved steadily, but not rapidly, up to 70 or 80 mph. An entirely different design from today’s CVT’s – it was basically two fan like (or turbine like) propellers in a liquid, one turning with the engine, the other coupled to the driveshaft. More complicated than that, but the basic principle.

    • Jason Houston

      Dynaflow is the Very Worst transmission ever offered…bar none.

  21. Jim

    Chevrolet had a Turboglide trans for a few years also 59-62(?) But people didn’t like the fact that they couldn’t feel the transmission shifting. Remember people who drove in those days learned on cars with a standard transmission and feeling the shifts was normal. Things have changed!

  22. Jim

    I’ve got a friend, a retired transmission repair guy, he agrees, the Chevy turboglide and Oldsmobile Jetaway are close second and third and Pontiac early sixties version of the Jetaway forth! LOL Some of the foreign automatics, old Datsun and most Jaguar autos brought tears to his eyes and brought dinner back up, his words. Funny he misses the hydro-stick in his Anglia gasser. Glory days of his youth I suppose.

  23. Jim Ward

    He said he is a classic car chaser to me that means he buys and sells. So if he buys because he thinks he gets a deal and can make a couple dollars or he puts minimal work in it and turns it he is a flipper. Nothing wrong with that. That is what all used car dealers are. Only difference is most flippers don’t have a dealer license.

    • Jason Houston

      Truest words ever spoken.

    • CMS

      Jim, I agree except for one thing. Jumping titles in all States is illegal. When you purchase a vehicle for any reason, you are required to title it in your name. In Minnesota, you can only sell a limited number of cars per year, even if they are in your name. Whenever I answer an ad for a car on Craigslist For Sale By OWNER, the first question I ask is; ‘is the car titled in your name?’ Many time they are ‘selling it for a friend’,or give you some other stupid reason. That’s a flipper. Real dealers have to be licensed and bonded which gives protections to buyers. In this case, if he is being truthful that he is selling it for a friend, he should at least have a brokers license in the state of California. With the way this car is presented, I would have to be in the ‘can’t live without it mode’ to even call him. Something about this Buick smells bad.

      • Jason Houston

        Well, not quite. “Jumping title” doesn’t exist in California because there is no law against it. Likewise, we don’t have “brokers licenses” because it’s not illegal to sell a car in the previous owner’s name. Back in the 50’s it was illegal to sell more than a select number of cars per year, without getting a dealer’s license, but that was repealed after it became impossible to enforce. The closest the legislature ever came was when they began forcing private transactions to pay sales tax, and that was only at the insistence of the used-car dealers lobby, since many people would wisely choose to buy a car from private owners, rather than trust a lying used-car lot and pay tax. Believe it or not!

      • Jason Houston

        In California, all used car sales are final, and come with all the lies the crooked car lot owner can shove down your throat. Being “licensed and bonded” means nothing for the consumer.

  24. Jim

    I want to jump in on the title conversation. I’m in NY, years ago a friend and I bought cheap cars, fixed, cleaned and polished a few dozen 5-10 years old cars. We always registered them in one of our names first, even though chasing people who don’t is pretty far down the list if priorities for Dept of Motor Vehicles there are pretty stiff penalties if you’re caught and the DMV computer has a long memory. Also if you ever get caught any time you have any dealings, even normal things for your own vehicles or license they put you under the microscope. For the few dollars it cost it avoided us a lifetime of trouble. Not all states seem to care about the proper ownership, paperwork or background when it comes to out of state vehicles.
    One of my old techs bought a 68 Malibu hi-option parts car from Kansas with no title, month later decided to use it instead of his old car, wrote to DMV Kansas to find last owner, they’re response was vehicle was junked and taken off there database. But they would not issue a duplicate or give previous owners info. NY state has a lengthy painful procedure to get a car a title from scratch so he used a place in Georgia through the mail gig a new Georgia tag in his name for a fee and went to NY DMV and transfered it to a NY Title no problem. Since he painted it original color I wonder if by chance the original owner will show up at a show sometime and say it was stolen! Personally I would have used the original chassis and body she’ll cause the history was safe, I wouldn’t take a chance on losing a car I spent a thousand hours on. My point is WE (car guys) gave to be careful, our states DMV’s aren’t worried about us, just making money, I would never buy a veh that wasn’t properly titled, who wants to lose a dream car. Walk away and keep looking. Sorry I rambled on. Have a good day everyone

    • Jason Houston

      That why most states require a bond on untitled cars, if the vehicle is valued over a certain dollar amount, usually $1,000 or above. The bond is like title insurance on your house, it indemnifies you from claims of any unknown, previous owners.

  25. 64 bonneville

    So how would you title a car that was bought from a state that doesn’t title older cars, like Mississippi or Alabama?

  26. Jason Houston

    Mississippi and Alabama aren’t the only non-title states. Many New England states are, or become, non-title once the car reaches a certain age, such as ten or fifteen years. In lieu of a title they issue plates and registration, which are valid for transfer in any state.

  27. Jim Ward

    In years past I was what you would call a flipper. I went thru about 25 cars one year. I titled everyone of them. In my state if you put plates and ins. On them they won’t say anything,if you only transfer title and then sell I think after 5 they tell you no more or you must get a dealer license. Trouble now days is the ins. Gives a hard time if you change cars that much.

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