Two Owner Survivor: 1963 Buick Riviera

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I was once asked to compile a list of a single favorite car from each post-war decade, and the 1960s proved the most challenging. A 1966 Ivy Green Mustang GT with a K-Code under the hood would be a strong contender. However, this 1963 Buick Riviera is impossible to ignore. It is a stunning car, and even the entry-level engine provides plenty of power and performance. This gem is a two-owner survivor, and while it isn’t perfect, the new owner could choose preservation over restoration and still climb behind the wheel of a car that turns heads. It is worth a closer look because its only immediate need is a new home.

Ford created the Personal Luxury Car market segment with its Thunderbird, and Buick joined the party in 1963 with the Riviera. The car caused a sensation on debut, and I rate it as one of the most attractive vehicles ever to roll off an American production line. Buick hit a sweet spot with the styling, and unlike many cars from that era, it has aged like fine wine. The first owner ordered this gem in Desert Sand, with the seller describing it as an unrestored survivor. It retains a respectable shine, but it can’t be considered perfect. There are minor chips and scratches, and the panels sport a few small bumps and bruises. However, it isn’t horrendous, and the overall presentation is comfortably acceptable for a driver-grade classic. One thing this Riviera lacks is rust. That is often an issue, but the underside shots confirm it is as solid as the day it rolled off the line. The trim looks excellent for its age, and the tinted glass is crystal clear.

Buick offered 1963 Riviera buyers a choice of two engines to power their new purchase. This car may feature the entry-level powerplant, but with its 325hp and 445 ft/lbs of torque, the 401ci V8 propelled this classic at a rapid rate of knots. A Twin Turbine automatic transmission handles shifting duties while the steering and brakes receive power assistance for an effortless driving experience. The Riviera’s natural competitor was the Thunderbird, and it is fascinating to compare the pair. The Buick features a lower curb weight, and with both cars sharing similar engine power across the range, it would be fair to expect the Riviera to show the T-Bird a clean set of heels. However, the less efficient Twin Turbine transmission impacts performance, although it doesn’t trail the Ford by much. This numbers-matching classic is in excellent mechanical health, having received a long list of recent work. It includes a carburetor rebuild, a new booster, a master cylinder and other braking components, a tune-up, and a new dual exhaust. It runs and drives perfectly, ready to head into the sunset with a new owner behind the wheel.

This Riviera’s interior is serviceable but has shortcomings many potential buyers may wish to address. The leather and cloth seatcover on the driver’s seat has split beyond repair. Slipcovers would hide the problem, but splashing $480 on a new set of front covers in the correct materials and pattern would be a permanent solution. Less easy to disguise is the split and lifting timber on the doors. Repairs would be challenging, but complete interior timber kits retail for around $400. With those items installed, this interior would look stunning. The seller indicates the air conditioning system requires a recharge, and they recently bypassed the heater due to a leaking core. Both issues would be easy and cheap to fix and represent the only functional shortcomings. This Buick features the appointments an owner rightly expects from a car of this type. The buyer receives power windows, a power driver’s seat, a power antenna, a tilt wheel, a remote trunk release and mirror, and an AM radio.

The seller listed this 1963 Buick Riviera here on eBay in Boise, Idaho. Bidding sits below the reserve at $5,100, but the fourteen submitted bids and the listing’s recent viewing history suggest the situation could change at any moment. A car of this caliber should climb beyond $15,000 before the hammer falls, and a higher figure is possible. One factor worth considering is that values have risen strongly during the past year, and there are no signs of the trend slowing. Therefore, this Riviera could also represent an excellent investment opportunity. Hmm, stunning looks, plenty of power, and a strong return on the investment. I can’t think of anything negative about that scenario. Can you?

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  1. HoA HoAMember

    Uncle Howards car, no relation. Enough time seems to have passed I can repeat my “stories”, Uncle Howard was a friends uncle in N.Wis. He was single his whole life, had a small resort and bar on the Wilson Flowage, in Phillips, and was rumored to be quite the “spelunker” with the ladies. We always heard rumors of his ’63 Riv, although was well hidden, and nobody had seen it in years. Well, around 2000, Howard offed himself at like 90, and upon going through his property, there it was, a shed containing Howards white ’63 Riviera. He hadn’t driven it in years, and was pretty sad looking, but I’m sure it had low miles, and was auctioned off. Can you imagine the choices Howard had in 1963? A T-bird, a GP, a Starfire, a Chrysler 300,, he went with the Riv. The most beautiful design of all, and never matched again.

    Like 11
  2. bobhess bobhessMember

    If GM hadn’t messed with the original design they could have given this car a 6 year or so run and never lost a dime. One of the few iconic designs and right on top of my best designed list.

    Like 10
    • Poppy

      I agree with you to a point. The redesigned ’66 Riv had a decent sales bump over ’65 according to another recent BF listing. I don’t think you can improve over the original ’63-’65 design, but buyers back then were used to new cars looking “new.” My guess is the sales would have continued to decrease had they not changed the body style.

      Like 1
  3. PaulG

    There are timeless designs, and this is one of them…
    In the mid 70’s a friend and I discovered a complete ‘65 in a junkyard, a touch rusty but with some air in the tires and fuel in the tank it fired up, drove it out of there and proceeded to use it for a couple years. Even the clamshell lights worked!
    This one, if the cost stays reasonable, could be a great project.
    Adam, I appreciate your optimism but your comment regarding the heater core/ A/C repair being “easy and cheap to fix” is a reach.

    Like 10
  4. Nelson C

    This car was Bill Mitchell all the way. GM’s ultimate go at the Thunderbird. What a car for sure.

    This car was introduced at the same time as Saginaw tilt column. I seem to believe that it was included on the Riviera but have not been able to verify it. I’ve never seen a Riviera without the feature.

    Like 3
  5. John AndersonMember

    I’d hold out for a 64 with the much improved transmission

    Like 2
  6. DLO

    I love this car. My absolute favorite.

    Like 2
  7. Timothy Hanson

    It’s over $10 k now with 6+ days left.

    Like 1
  8. Dan

    A leaking heater core on a first-gen Riviera with factory A/C would be “easy and cheap to fix”??? Boy, have you got another think coming…

    Cheap only if you do 100% of the work yourself. Easy? Tell me another fairy tale.

    Like 5
  9. Joe Haska

    Barn Finds, You are killing me this morning half the cats listed I want!

    Like 5
  10. UDT FROG

    Beautiful, I have the same engine and tranny in my 54 but I’m haring various debates as to changing out the tranny, , Looking to have the doors and windows changed to electric. Yesterday I found out 2 of my books will become movies , so money will not be an issue. What should I do about the tranny. ? Any ideas??? OH, and the car is currently in a shop having the entire interior insulated and GGP? sound and etc. done. Coming soon a brand new 1954 Buick Century…

    Like 1

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