25 July 2013


The Buick Riviera is the first car I ever drove. I’d’ve been 13 and it would’ve been in 1964. My father was a General Motors executive; he’d bought a ‘63 Riviera; one of the first.
My father’s Riviera came with the 401c.i. 4bbl V8 / 325H.P. engine, automatic (dynaflow) transmission w/stick shift, power steering, power brakes, power windows, power seat, air conditioning, cruise control, tilt steering column, remote trunk release, AM Radio, remote outside mirror, bucket/console, broadband whitewall tires on factory steel wheels with wire hubcaps, and “Granada” red exterior. My father called it “fire ball red”. The interior was black leather, with bucket seats, mahogany details and chrome finishes. He liked the way it looked.
I’ve learned General Motors advertised the Riviera as “the car you wear”. This is perfect! My father liked charcoal and light grey single-breasted wide lapel fine wool business suits with pleated cuffed pants held up by suspenders or a black leather silver-buckled belt. He placed a folded tri-cornered white handkerchief in his suit jacket breast pocket. He wore white cotton French-cuff shirts finished with emerald-cut, 5-carat black onyx, gold-posted, cuff links. Black art-deco diamond shaped RTC pocket monogram adorned his shirt pockets; the shirts were always freshly laundered, starched and ironed. Black polished wing tip lace-up calf-leather shoes and black knee socks, sometimes w/garters, finished his everyday business attire. He liked the way he looked.
My father let me drive his Riviera. I drove it around our semi-ovular Oakwood, OH. driveway. I must’ve been asking to drive, my sister and brother were gone by that time, and a limited permission was granted; I was restricted to our driveway. My father had spoken. And that is what I did, a round and round and round and round I drove in a counter clockwise fashion.
After some time I decided to reverse course. The driveway’s eastern end was a steep uphill; I wanted to drive uphill. And that is what I did, around and round and round and round I drove clockwise and uphill. I went nowhere but my experience was exhilarating.
I wanted to try something different. So I attempted to pull into our garage, into the space next to, and to the right of, my mother’s Buick LeSabre estate wagon. I pulled in at a 45° angle to her car and the garage space. I was blind to the tight geometry and declining space. I gashed the Riviera the length of the driver’s and passenger doors. Terrified but confident, too bull-headed to ask for help, fearing dire and painful physical consequences, but working to cover-up my errors, I backed up and pulled forward again and again and again so to extricate myself. I succeeded in deepening and lengthening the gash. I lifted the LeSabre up and over to it’s left, while creating squealing tire noise and ruckus, wedging it at its own 45° angle into the closed garage space. I recall screeching rubber on concrete and the wagons violent up and down bouncing landing. My father appeared wedged between wagon and entryway, then my mother, both aghast and dumbstruck. I wriggled out of the driver’s door window.
I never bought any car until I moved to Tennessee; I was 31. Ah well.

1 comment:

  1. Bill:
    Enjoyed the read. Having begun a career in the era of your father its no wonder the car and he clothing reminded of him. My first mentor was very much of that time, a guy who never put anything on his body not custom made. He had been publisher of Harpers Bazzar and Seventeen. Vince