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1968 Buick Riviera, Should I take it?

My aunt is offering me a free 1968 Buick Riviera, 455 cu v8. It needs a new battery and hoses, which she will provide.

Here are the facts:
1. I live in Chicago, I’m a recent college graduate, with a moderately employable degree and a long-term temp job.

2. The car will be used mostly for city driving, with a little bit of highway use.

3. The car has not been regularly driven.

4. I will have to drive the car from Nebraska to Chicago

5. The car gets 15-18mpg.

6. I LOVE the look of this car and am willing to put a few hours per week of maintenance into it.

I don’t know a lot about vintage cars, and am not sure about the facts on this particular model. What would be the cost of maintenance per year?

Any information you can share about this car would be great!

The 455 is a smooth, powerful motor, and these were pretty nice cars. While it’s likely to need more than hoses—possibly carb work, belts, all fluids flushed and changed, and the suspension and steering fully checked out, it’s also a classic, and is probably worth some $$ if it’s in even fair shape. Expect more like 10 MPG. If it has drum brakes all around, expect pretty miserable braking performance.

This car will likely require more maintenance than a new vehicle. You will need to regularly adjust the points, for example. The car is very simple though, and should be easy to maintain. The only electronic device on it is likely the radio. I would keep it out of the salt and snow—cars of this era were not rust proofed nearly as well as modern cars, and will noticeably rust in just a couple of years.

Congratulations on getting a nice car!

If you intend to drive this car from Nebraska to Chicago, you may be in for an adventure. You will first need to make sure the basics are in good condition. Fluids need to be in good shape, rubber components, especially tires, will need to be in good shape, the cooling system really needs to be in good shape, and you should definitely plan on some problems along the way. Join AAA and carry a cell phone with you on the trip. Carry a good credit card with plenty of credit on it in case you face unexpected breakdowns you can’t deal with on your own or lack of parts availability (i.e: staying where you are overnight or longer). Learn how to replace and set breaker points and dwell angle, and carry a new distributor cap, rotor, breaker points, feeler gauge, condenser, and dwell meter with you in case any of those parts fail on you, and they may. Once you make it home, you have your new hobby!

I say “hobby” because that’s what a vintage car really is, a hobby. They can make viable daily transportation, as I have done plenty of times in the past (still miss my 1971 Chevy C-20 pickup), but you will spend a lot of time working on them and cannot really depend on them for use as a daily driver, and repairing them can be a problem due to possible parts availability problems. The Buick 455 is not as popular or common as it once was. Many auto parts stores don’t even stock the most common parts for the old smallblock Chevy any more, and they made around 90 million of those things! If you intend to use this as your primary vehicle, forget about it, but if you want to learn a lot, want to have a cool classic car to play around with, and will have something else as a daily driver, I say go for it.

Not to burst your bubble, but I think it would be a mistake to have a car like this as a daily driver. If the car is in good condition and clean, it's not likely to stay that way for very long when it sees daily use. Things that are hard and expensive to repair or replace will start wearing out. A car of this age that has not been mechanically restored or updated is likely to have issues beyond regular maintenance.

This would be a great car to have on a road trip--they drive like a dream, especially on the open road. That is, if you like the feel of 1960's luxury. I happen to. But when that 43 year old timing gear strips somewhere in Nebraska, you might not like it so much.

The car does not have a 455 (unless someone put one in there). It's a 430 Buick engine, with I believe a Rochester 4-Jet carburetor. Plenty of torque and horsepower. Keep it around 70mph and I'd expect 16 mpg.

Determine if there's ethanol-free gas in your area. If there's not and E10 gasoline is used in this vehicle it will result in fuel system problems.

The fuel system in this vehicle was never designed to be exposed to any concentration of ethanol gas. And because of this deterioration of rubber components and the corrosion metal components can occur.

Now if you don't mind taking the carburator apart each year so it can be rebuilt to replace the components damaged by the ethanol gas, then go for it.


Agree with others that this is not a good daily driver, and the gas mileage is pretty awful. I drove a 1964 model from Detroit to California in 1964 and averaged 12-14 mpg. The 15-18 mpg while driving in Chicago is highly suspect. These cars, when new, required regual service and parts replacement. This one will be worse due to cracked seals new hoses, etc.

This is a great hobby car with good looks. If you have room to store it inside in Chicago, and don’t mind the expense of having to keep an extra car, by all means buy it.

You should be all over this car. Not only is it a vastly underrated muscle car, these have become collectible and are worth some money along with being pretty to look at.

I'd change the oil/filter, make sure the belts and tires are in good shape, and give it a 20 mile test hop. If it's ok after 20 miles it should be fine for the trip back.

Back in the 70s I drove a 1960 Chrysler New Yorker from CA to OK and I bought that car for 10 dollars; running good and with a clear title and current tag. It wasn't a problem.

It's a great hobby car. It would be a real mistake as a daily driver. Can you afford it as a second car? It will require quite a bit of work to get it highway-ready, it sounds, and you can expect to need frequent tuneups and maintenance, that's what '68-era cars needed.

Can you keep this as a hobby?

Another possibility is to drive it back to Chicago and sell it. You could use the proceeds to buy a newer compact car.

You will have a nice collectable car here. It will attract a lot of attention as it could be worth something in the collector marketplace, so you will need a secure place to park it.

As a daly driver, it would be a shame if it got any dents or scratches in it from that Chicago traffic. Basic liability insurance should not be a problem, but you would need a special policy to cover collision damage. Also if someone hit you, even if they have insurance, determining the value of your vehicle could be difficult.

It will need a tune up about every 12,000 miles, thats plugs, points and condenser. You find it difficult to find a mechanic that can install and set the points. This could be something you could learn to do yourself, the tools required aren’t that much.

You can go 5,000 miles on a modern 10w30 oil but a 15w40 diesel oil would be better.

Brakes are going to be a problem. The drum brakes from the 60’s and earlier worked just fine. I would actually put them up against anything today for first stop performance. They tend to fade after multiple hard stops like in racing.

However, in the 60’s, the shoes were lined with asbestos. Today, you cannot get those linings. Now, while disk brake pads have some high performance materials available, there doesn’t seem to be anything like that for drum brake shoes. Consequentially, the brakes will not work as good today as they did when the vehicle was new. In Chicago, you will need good brakes. Having said all this, I think that Buick did offer disk brakes on front as an option that year so you may have them.

Here's the '68, not the same as the more-desired first generation, but still liked. But it does define the term 'gas hog'.