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A 1963 Buick Riviera Shines

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Richard Dowler had no particular interest in the 1963 Buick Riviera when he saw it sitting in a neighbor’s garage 38 years ago. He did notice that the Buick was rust free and sported only a few minor dents in the front. He figured it would be a good candidate for a restoration in the future. “I asked if they wanted to get rid of that pile of junk,” laughs Dowler, owner of Riverside Auto Body in Arkansas City, Kan. His neighbor gave him the car for $175.

Immediately after its purchase, the Buick was again destined for storage. “I had to [wait] until I had the funds and the time to [restore] it,” Dowler says. While the car sat parked, popular car shows on TV began to feature special interest vehicles, and public awareness of the Riviera sparked. Dowler developed an affinity for the vehicle. “It didn’t really become desirable to me until years later when I realized the price and value of the car,” he admits. After more than 30 years, he moved the Riviera out of storage and began its long awaited restoration. In 2008, he finished the $18,000 two-and-a-half-year project, and now the Buick receives plenty of deserving accolades.

PROJECT IN PROGRESS

While the restoration was often time consuming, Dowler was patient as the Buick slowly came together. “You get 1,000 to 1,200 hours in a car like that.” Nights, weekends and holidays were dedicated to the car.

One part of the process that proved difficult for Dowler was locating parts. Because of the Buick’s uniqueness (the Riviera, he says, is the only American car of which he’s aware that features bolt-on door skins, a removable speedometer and gauges and an air-operated trunk release_notes), he often spent much of his time searching for the pieces he needed. Fortunately, the car’s rising popularity helped. “As more people become interested [in the Buick], more people are reproducing parts for this type of car and selling them on eBay,” he says.

Restoration highlights included a new interior, carpet, motor, transmission and brakes. Dowler installed updated headlights, air conditioning, a new trunk liner and taillights. “You spend a lot of time polishing it and making it look good,” Dowler says.
When it came time to paint the car, he stuck with the vehicle’s original greenish silver hue—a shade called fawn mist.

EYE POPPER

“You do all this work and stand back and take a look at it,” Dowler says. “[You think], ‘This is what all this time and money was about!’”

Admiring fans are eager to ask Dowler questions about the unique beauty. “People ask, ‘Where’d you get that, and how’d you do it?” he says. “That’s the thrill—everyone wishing they had one.”

But for Dowler, the Buick—like other vehicles he has restored—is not yet complete. “None of them is ever finished,” he laughs. “They’re just close to being done! There are always a couple more things I want to do.”


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