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Written By: Tom Olsen
Sometimes one just has to be a little patient to get a story for The Motor Market. Over a year ago, our editor told me that Larry Olson recently had a new car built, a ‘65 Buick Riviera GS, that would make a good story. (In reality, any of Larry’s cars make a good story.) Upon contacting Larry, I learned that the Riviera had just been completed, and it would make its public debut at the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) show in October of 2016. I was fortunate to see the car in the PPG display at SEMA 2016, and there was no doubt, this one was definitely worth an article! But, here’s where the patience comes in. Immediately after SEMA, the Riviera went on a nationwide show tour, and it didn’t return to its home in Brandon until December of 2017. But my patience paid off, and in mid-December, I was able to photograph the car and learn more about it from Larry.
Bobby Alloway, of Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop in Louisville, TN, was Larry’s builder of choice on the Riviera. He has built three previous cars for Larry. In fact, it was Bobby that came up with this one. He had recently bought it from the original owner, and knew that Bobby was just the guy for this car. Larry had long been an admirer of the early Riviera model, so this was the perfect opportunity. This being the fourth car for Bobby to build for Larry, they both had an understanding of each other’s expectations. In an Alloway build, it’s black inside and out, with just the right stance, serious power and perfection throughout.
In talking with Larry, I didn’t realize, initially, how serious Bobby Alloway is about creating black hot rods. When I asked if there was a particular name for this black (yes, there are different colors/variations of black paint), Larry joked that the Riviera is “Alloway Red.” I understand that he has, on very rare occasion, created a car in a different color, but black is the signature Alloway color. This one uses PPG Deltron 9700 black.
This is one of those cars that you can look over many times and not really “see” it all. General Motors’ Bill Mitchell design of the Riviera in 1963 was an ahead-of-its-time design to begin with. Then, with all the custom touches done by a shop of Alloway’s caliber, there’s much more to take in. Things like rear wheel wells subtlety stretched to accommodate the 22-inch rear wheels, wipers missing and cowl rework, rear window lower vent removed, bumpers tucked and so much more all require study. With these modifications, and many more, the exterior is simply stunning!
In addition to examining the car and photographing it, I consider myself fortunate to get a ride in it. (That wouldn’t happen most years on December 16th in South Dakota!) The car is exceptionally comfortable inside, rides and handles well, has amazing power, and is solid…not a creak or groan anywhere! Here’s what it’s made of.
Did I mention power? How about 502 cubic inches of big block Chevy power? At casual glance, it appears to be a typical Buick “Nailhead” engine with the flat topped rocker covers. But, that’s a Chevy engine lurking under there with rocker covers crafted to give the Nailhead look. The original Riviera air cleaner adds to the effect. Stainless and chrome abound in the engine compartment. The 502 has a hotter cam, carburetion (not fuel injection), custom-built headers, several internal tweaks, and produces “around 525 horsepower.” With a 2 ½-inch Borla exhaust system, it sounds fantastic! Other powertrain features include a Tremec 5-speed manual transmission and a Currie 9-inch rear end.
The chassis received nearly as much attention as the exterior of the car. An Art Morrison Bikini Clip replaces the entire front section of the frame. Morrison’s independent front suspension and a Currie coilover system on the rear were used to get just the right stance, all without airbags. It’s interesting to see that the rear housing, in addition to all other rear suspension components, is molded and smoothed for a custom, totally finished look. Fourteen-inch Wilwood brakes provide the stopping on all four corners. The wheels are Alloway’s own design, “Alloway 5,” by Billet Specialties; 19’s on the front, and 22’s on the rear. The wheels are shod with BFGoodrich 35 and 45 series g-Force tires.
Upon getting into the car, I immediately noticed how comfortable it is. Unlike many hot rods, there’s no sliding around trying to find just the right seating position in here. It’s interesting to note that the front seats are 1964 T-Bird buckets. The matching rear bucket seats are custom-built for the car, and a full-length console extends from front to rear. Black leather is everywhere, accented with chrome! Steve Holcomb, of Pro Auto Upholstery, Knoxville, TN, created the interior. In addition to the seats, rich leather covers the door panels, dash top and face, and the console. The interior complements the work of art which the exterior displays. Custom-built Classic Instruments provide the instrumentation, and a Vintage Air system keeps all that black leather cool.
As mentioned earlier, the Riviera made its debut at the 2016 SEMA show in Las Vegas. After SEMA, it headed to the Grand National Roadster Show, in Pomona, CA. Later, it was off to Goodguys shows in Nashville, TN, and Columbus, OH. These were followed-up with the huge NSRA meet in Louisville, KY, then last September the car was shown at the Shades of the Past show at Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, TN. In addition to these major shows, the Riviera graced the cover of the October 2017 Street Rodder magazine.
So, what’s next for the Riviera? It’s going to be around home as part of Larry’s “Ritz II” car collection. Larry plans to drive it locally to various cruise nights and area car shows. Larry tells me that the short drive he took me on recently was the farthest he’s driven the car…it’s time to drive it! As for Larry and Alloway’s Hot Rod Shop? Yep, there’s another car in the works! What color do you suppose it will be?