V8 Staff

After the Tour, the ‘70 Riviera remained in storage that summer, still waiting on funds and time to finish it. Luckily, I had found another car to tide me over. This was a 1969 Riviera that I found in the recycler newspaper’s online ads in Los Angeles. This was 1996, and I had just learned how to search for old rides online. I also learned not to buy cars from the Midwest, especially the Chicago area, because of the hidden rust underneath all the shiny paint. Cars from the west and southwest and other areas where they don’t use salt are much more likely to be solid under the paint.

Here’s the text from the original ad:

69 BUICK RIVIERA, lo mi, sharp inside & out, full pwr, new tires, runs grt, must see, on display at Park-n-Sell on crnr of Burbank & Sepulveda, $2750 obo – call Hal bet 10am-5pm only 310-274-xxxx


The ‘69 in the pics the seller sent me. Stock color, tan interior, split bench seat, column shift, brown vinyl, hubcaps, 100k mile original 430 under the hood. Black painted tail light bezels.

I was working as a maintenance guy for insurance company, a carryover of my old college summer job, as well as doing some PR writing, voice-over work, and website creation on the side. With the help of my Dad, I managed to scrape up some money to go fly to bring back the ‘69. I still had every intention of finishing the ‘70, but the ‘69 was done as far as I was concerned.

The car came from a guy named Hal Gerson who was a movie producer or director from the 40s and 50s. I flew out there and he met me at the airport. He brought me to the house on LaVelle drive in Eagle Rock where the car lived. I really think you wanted me to stay forever… it was a little bit strange. $2600.00 later I was on the road. He provided a receipt from a Union 76 station showing the car had new plugs, tires rotated & aligned, and a fluid change, so I was confident it would make the trip. It was a great drive from L.A. back to Chicago, and the ‘69 made the drive back to the Midwest with no problems. These cars are highway cruisers!

Of course, no old car is without it’s surprises, and the day after I got home to Illinois, the 430 in the ‘69 threw the timing chain and was rendered out of service. It puked in front of my buddy Steve’s house, and we had to flat tow it to my parent’s house so I could figure out that the heck happened.

After careful consideration, I realized that the car had all my money at this point, so I elected to swap the good 455 engine from the ‘70 into the ‘69 with plans to use the 430 as a parts engine. The 430s had pretty good heads, afterall.

Halfway through the swap, the local scrap guys came through our alley and carried off the original 430 from the ‘69 and my spare Turbo 400 transmission! I was PISSED OFF. These items were clearly on my property but were never to be seen again. I can only imagine that they must’ve really hurt themselves trying to throw that big Buick engine into a pickup truck for scrap.

I hope it hurt.

Some of our Police Officer friends stopped a couple scrap truck drivers in search of the engine, but never found it. I had heard a rumor that perhaps the occupants were “persuaded” to exit their trucks and made to walk to the city limits, but this is just hearsay… The down side is that the scrap dudes usually provided a valuable service, but this time, they straight up stole my junk. Not cool.

I recently found my service log on that car, although only 3 entries…


7/09/96 Vehicle Purchased 16,534.2, Oil Changed

7/17/96  Stereo Installed 19,000

7/27/96 Engine Removed 19,215


The first trip for the heart-transplanted ‘69 was with some buddies to get a couple of hot dogs. I had not yet reinstalled the hood, and we drove a couple miles to a place called Chicago Style hot dogs in Niles, Illinois. As soon as we parked and entered the restaurant, the upper radiator hose blew off the radiator and sprayed hot coolant all over the front of the restaurant. Some patrons were eating lunch outside, but they luckily avoided the spray.

Today’s lesson, make sure your hose clamps are tight after a couple of heat cycles.

The 69 proved to be a good car, I drove it to work on nice days, which was how I met Jeff Schwartz of Schwartz performance. I soon got a job working in the Marketing department for a chemical company, and Jeff was working at a plant across the street. He would occasionally drive his black and silver Cadillac to work, the car that helped him launch Schwartz Performance.