Copper Queen: 1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport Custom

When the Ford Motor Company introduced the Thunderbird in 1955, they created a market for a brand new type of vehicle: the personal luxury car. From the very beginning, the Thunderbird was a big hit that broke sales records and earned high praise from customers.

Over at General Motors, VP of Styling Bill Mitchell wasn’t about to let Ford hog the spotlight. He decided that General Motors needed a personal luxury car of their own. Mitchell asked designer Ned Nickles to come up with a rival to Ford’s 2-door, 4-seater Thunderbird.

Mitchell wanted the car to include Ferrari-like sportiness with the “knife edged” design of a custom-bodied Rolls Royce. Nickels’ original sketch was intended to be a LaSalle, a revival of a brand that Cadillac had discontinued in the 1940s.

When the sketch was complete, Cadillac wasn’t interested in building a personal luxury car. Neither was Chevrolet or Pontiac, but Buick and Oldsmobile both wanted the project badly. In the end, Buick won the internal battle for the new car project.

In late 1962, Buick introduced their own personal luxury car: the Riviera. This was a completely new car for General Motors that did not share any body components with any other cars. It was the first car to feature flush-mounted glass without big, thick trim pieces. Like the Thunderbird, the Riviera was a hit right from the start.

After its debut, Italian coachbuilder Sergio Pininfarina called the Buick Riviera “one of the most beautiful American cars ever built.” William Lyons, the founder of Jaguar, called the 1963 Riviera “a very wonderful job.” That’s some pretty high praise coming from those guys!

Buick gave the Riviera an update for 1965 when they removed the non-functional side scoops and moved the taillights down into the rear bumper. They also introduced a higher trim level, the Gran Sport. The Gran Sport had the upgraded dual-quad Super Wildcat 425 V8 engine that made much more power than the standard engines.

The ’65 Rivieras also had a one-year only feature: clamshell headlights that snapped open with the flip of a switch. These early Rivieras are not only extremely good looking cars, they are now highly sought after collector vehicles. That makes this 1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport a very desireable car.

This particular Riviera has been customized by its owner. It’s got shaved door handles and locks, a shaved trunk lock, and shaved emblems. The car has been lowered thanks to an Air Ride Technologies adjustable air ride system. The car has been painted a beautiful shade of copper paint that looks absolutely stunning and really shows off the body lines.

The inside has some modern upgrades including a billet steering wheel, additional gauges, and a fancy in-dash DVD player stereo. I must admit, the stereo and the speakers on the dash look a little out of place in that car. Look closely and you’ll notice the screen in the dash is the only thing made of plastic! Everything else is metal or leather.

Under the hood we have a 100% chromed out V8 engine with some very clean wiring and plumbing. Looking at the motor is a bit like looking at a multi-faceted diamond, it’s so shiny I cannot turn away!

From start to finish, this Riviera looks every bit as gorgeous as a SEMA show car. Unfortunately, I could not find anything to help me identify who owns this beautiful Riviera Gran Sport.

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8 thoughts on “Copper Queen: 1965 Buick Riviera Gran Sport Custom

    • Yes, I know and some times I wished I would have kept the 425. Man!!,
      have I had a ear full from the individuals that believe in no change to
      the original Buick Rivieras.

      To explain the reason why:

      This was a project car to promote interest of the hobby of building cars to
      our young youth. A way to get them involved into something other than
      hanging in the street, becoming gang members and criminals. It was to
      get the youth involved and use their ideas during the build. The “Riv”
      was shown on a web-site called Cops for Kids, during the entire build.
      One day during the build while everyone was taking a break the idea came
      up about the engine change and how it would be a challenge to
      transplant a big block Chevy into the 65 Riviera. Well guess what,
      that’s what we did. Thanks to GM Performance a ZZ454 Crate engine was
      exchanged for the 425. As a result of this build and as a contributing
      factor, a newly developed Body Shop class was established at
      Richwoods High School in Peoria, IL. The lead builder of the 1965 Buick Riviera is the owner/operator of the Farmington Road Autobody located in Peoria, IL His name is Pete Brown. He is the shop’s instructor and
      teacher. The Lead Coordinator for the one time Cops for Kids program
      (Greg Collins) was responsible for the development of the High School
      Body Shop class. At this time they are building a 67 Chevrolet.
      I apologize to all that are offended by the engine swap, but no matter
      what you do to a 1965 Buick Riviera, it is still a “Good Looking Car” and we preferred to build it the way it sets today. We appreciate and thank Mr. Freeman for noticing the “Riv” and a special thank you from me for his kind words mentioned in his article.

      Sammie j.

      • I think that’s a great reason to swap out the engine if there ever was one, though I hope you still have the 425 tucked away in your garage somewhere.

        Believe me when I say that I wasn’t offended, I just happen to like BOP motors (mostly Olds, but I do have a soft spot for the Nailhead) and I don’t subscribe to the Chevy-centric world that most hotrodders seem to be fans of. I’m sure the 454 is a fast, reliable power plant. It just doesn’t excite me like the Nailhead does. It’s a wonderful car though. My grandfather had a 65 with a 401, it was a real bruiser.

        • Im building a 1965 riviera and i sure like your center console. Can i get some help on who did it up for you. Or can you help me. Thank you

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