If there’s one thing we’ve learned about automotive barn finds, such discoveries are not always the cut-and-dry variety. You know, the classic image of some rarity being pulled from a structure so dilapidated any hint of wind might bring it crashing down. There are the well-used, truly original vehicles that have spent the static hours of existence in dusty, century-old abodes, handed from one family member to the next. Some barn finds were never really lost, rather just left to languish under the auspice of an idyllic restoration that never seems to happen. And then there are barn finds that have a habit of migrating home.

A case study is this 1964 Buick Riviera. It’s never really been lost, technically contradicting “find,” yet its decades-long dormancy in more than one storage facility, and with more than one owner, makes this first-gen GM E-body a prime barn find candidate. More so when the car’s known history, and relative desirability, can be recited with ease by current owner Tim Lynch.

Tim, a resident of West Deptford, New Jersey, is well versed in Buick’s Riviera legacy, thanks largely to his dad, Gene Guarnere, who has had a penchant for the personal luxury car since he was a teen. “My dad has been into first generation Rivieras since he came home from Vietnam in 1967. That’s when he got his first ’64 to drive back and forth from South Philadelphia to Fort Dix, to finish his draft requirement,” Tim says.

Since then, Tim estimates his dad has owned too many Rivieras to count, through a combination of having driven, collected, parted out, and rebuilt many for resale. Though the Riviera nameplate lasted for eight generations of production, and thirty-six years as a standalone model, the 1963-’65 editions will always be Gene’s favorite. “There’s something about those Rivieras. There was really nothing like them on the market at the time,” Gene says.

The Riviera name had a long history with Buick. It first appeared in conjunction with the revolutionary true hardtop design unveiled within the 1949 Roadmaster lineup, the missing B-pillar ushering in “Riviera styling.” That design moniker evolved slightly through the mid-Fifties, provoking thoughts of elegant open road motoring for a modest price, and it even survived Buick’s model name revamp of ’59, when it became a trim level within the Electra 225 series though ’62.

Right about the time the dust was settling from the Buick renaming buzz, GM Advanced Styling guru Ned Nickles had already created a sketch of a new car that–according to later interviews with Nickles and GM Styling boss Bill Mitchell–was based on Mitchell’s foggy visit to London, where he spotted a custom-bodied Rolls-Royce in front of the Savoy hotel. Mitchell is famously quoted as saying, “make it a Ferrari-Rolls-Royce.”

Coincidentally, Cadillac was considering the introduction of a junior line to bolster sales, helping prompt the development of the XP-715 project (Mitchell is also quoted as saying GM didn’t take kindly to Ford attending the Motorama events to study concept cars, which lead to the four-seat Thunderbird, prompting development of the XP-715). Unofficially, it was dubbed La Salle II, but by the time a full-size clay mockup had been created, Cadillac had reversed its sales slump and was having trouble filling orders. It didn’t need a new car complicating matters.

The XP-715 might have been forgotten had Buick’s general manager Ed Rollert not learned of its unclaimed status. He made a pitch for the project but would have to fight for rights to it with Oldsmobile’s and Pontiac’s management. The latter was lukewarm on the idea of adding another series, while Olds wanted to modify the existing design, something Mitchell was deadset against. By April 1961, the XP-715 / La Salle II concept mockup was photographed wearing Buick emblems.

In the fall of 1962, Buick rolled out the Riviera on a new E-body platform. The car was a departure for Buick, with “knife edge” body lines, minimal trim, a Ferrari-like egg-crate style grille flanked by running lamps/signal indicators behind 1938-’39 inspired La Salle grilles, and kickups over the rear wheels designed to hint at the car’s power (helping conjure the “Coke bottle” design nomenclature). It was an amalgam of styles, fitting in somewhere between a sports car and luxury car, all rolled up in one breathtaking package.

Speaking of power, the Riviera was equipped with Buick’s four-barrel equipped V-8 that boasted 325 hp and 445 lb-ft. of torque, though in early December, the division started to offer the 340-hp, four-barrel engine as optional Riviera equipment. Just 2,601 examples of the latter were produced. Backing either engine Buick’s Twin Turbine Dynaflow automatic in its final year of production.

A year later, Buick management elevated the 340-hp, single four-barrel 425 engine to standard power team status, paired with a new Super Turbine 400 automatic transmission. Peppy as the engine was, a dual four-barrel version of the 425 became available, known as the “Super Wildcat.” Aside from its eye-opening 360 hp and 465 lb-ft. of torque, it looked the part of a performer too, due to finned aluminum rocker covers and a twin-snorkel chrome air cleaner assembly. Despite its low production, only 2,122 of the 37,658 Rivieras built for ’64 came equipped as such, this engine became the cornerstone of Riviera’s Gran Sport package for ’65, cementing Buick’s legacy as a luxurious personal muscle car.

Although any first-gen Riviera is a great score to Tim and Gene, some examples are better than others, whether it was due to overall condition or the car’s born-with options. So, when this 1964 Riviera popped up on Gene’s radar 30-plus years ago, he quickly made a deal. “The history between my dad and this car is a long one. He first bought this car in northeast Philadelphia for $1,450 in the early Nineties,” Tim says.

The reason Gene wanted it more than any other that previously crossed his path was that not only was it in reasonably good shape, but the Buick also turned out to be one of the relatively rare dual-quad 425 examples. But like many of the Rivieras that came Gene’s way over the years, the Buick didn’t stick around too long. “The car was sold and/or traded multiple times for the first fifteen years my dad knew about it,” Tim says.

However, like all good things, they somehow find their way home and this car is no exception. “For some reason, the Riviera always ended up with us some way or another. I finally ended up buying the car from the last owner in 2009. He had it stored in my dad’s barn during his ownership, so we knew it was in a safe place for a long time. I now have it tucked away in one of my garages waiting for the next phase in its lifeline.”

What Tim has in possession is an interesting example beyond the power team. “This Riviera is typical of the examples built in ’64. It’s just chock full of options that cater to the upscale buyers that would have had the funds to purchase one of these high-end rides from the dealership.”

Present within are many of the accoutrements that catered to the posh consumers in the luxury sports car market. Options here include the Deluxe vinyl and cloth interior, tilt column, and power seats. Power windows and power vent windows add to the lavishness of the Buick’s aesthetic, while its front seat belts, rear armrests, wood ornamentation, and rear defroster only add to the upscale feel.

Though it's seen better days, the condition of the interior is remarkable, knowing of its lengthy journey since it was taken off the road circa 1980. The upholstery is dirty and moldy but with a good washing it will probably clean up nicely. The dash is also in great shape, though since the V-8 has not been started in years, there’s no way to determine what gauges and switches are functional. Underneath the carpet, the floors are solid as well, owing to its life mostly indoors.

Under the hood it looks as if the engine has barely been touched. It’sKX” code stamped on the block is still visible, the original Carter carburetors are present, and the wiring and plumbing still appear usable. The air conditioning looks to be intact as well. Finally, power brakes and power steering round out the luxury amenities.

Outside, the body is in excellent shape for a car of this vintage. The last 30-plus years of indoor storage has helped keep the metal intact, though minor body work will be needed on the quarter panels to get it up to snuff. The original Claret Mist paint has turned to a satin finish under all the dirt, but a good cleaning and buff could bring it back to life. Most of the trim is also in great shape, and the car appears to be relatively complete, save for a few pieces of rear window trim.

As for the mechanical functionality beyond instrumentations, no one is really sure of its condition “My first order of business would be to send the engine to “Nailhead” Matt Martin in California, who is an artist that works in the nailhead medium; he’s the ultimate authority in these V-8s. I believe the rest of the car deserves a nut and bolt restoration, too. That time will come soon,” Tim says.

2024-05-11T16:09:05Z dg43tfdfdgfd