2014 Ridler award winning 1964 Buick Riviera

2014 Ridler award winning 1964 Buick Riviera
Owned and built by J.F. Launier, Osoyoos, BC

Starting with a 1964 Buick Riviera, one of the Iconic designs in the Automotive world, JF Launier, owner of JF Kustoms in Osoyoos has take Bill Mitchells design to a whole new level. Keeping true to the overall design of the car but tweaking every bit of it is tricky to get right..and the Ridler Award is proof he got it very “right” indeed.

As with all new customs, the modern running gear allows it to run and perform like a new exotic super car but with a totally unique personality. The overall look is so perfect that even the next generation “Boattail” rear window looks like a factory design. The original Riviera was designed by legendary design Bill Mitchell to give GM a car that had a taste of Rolls Royce with the performance of a Ferrari.

 Launier had already tackled the Detroit Autorama’s Ridler award with 3 cars he had built for customers and now was the time for him to “recreate” a Buick Riviera and tackle the Ridler award with a car of his own. The 1964 Buick Riviera dubbed “Rivision” was in a league of it own. Out of the 2014 Great 8 contenders 4 were Chevy’s and 3 were Ford Hot Rods.

Knowing the 64’s roof had a sedate look, Launier added another of Bill Mitchell’s classic designs, the early 70’s Riviera Boat tail rear window. Mating it to the 64 adds a flow to the roofline that is exactly what was needed back in 64. The whole body of the Rivision has been hand fabricated to improve it’s look, but still remain a Buick Riviera. Most changes are subtle and some are wild.

The front wheel arches are moved 3 inches forward and hand built louvers behind the front wheels resemble Corvettes but are bigger and more brash. Rear quarter panels are hand built and the rear of the car is widened 5.5 inches to give it the bulky sports car look. Hand fabricating the trunk and back section of the car gives a modern take on the classic Riviera that  is completely changed but still has the look of the Riviera…making Bill Mitchell proud.

To make sure everyone knows this is not some trailer queen showcar a pro touring type functional lower air dam juts out purposely and various scopes and holes in the bodywork appear for form and function. A high centre mounted gas cap is similar to the C-2 corvettes and the exhaust leaves the car high up between the taillights similar to…the Space Shuttle?

It is a modern work of art and as such has every advantage available on modern cars. Fuel injection, twin turbos mounted in the back of the car along with the intercooling system. The pressurised air is then fed through a tube to the front mounted engine…but the tubes of pressurised air goes through the passenger compartment adding a completely wicked sounds states Launier.

Although it won the Ridler award as a show car this car is going to be driven was built to be driven hard and raced. The chassis is a one off custom perimeter frame allowing the body to sit very low. The car’s Nailhead Buick mill has been replaced by a 850 hp 6.2 liter GM LS family V8 and early reports of the car being midengined are false…probably brought on by the rear mounted turbos and intercooler seen through the rear window.

The transmission is a Tremec T-56 Magnum double-overdrive 6-speed transmission and the drive shaft shares it tunnel with the hot exhaust heading back to the turbos. This allows the whole underside to be flat to facilitate the planned 200mph runs and 8 piston SSBC discs on the front and 6 piston discs on the rear make sure it can stop from the warp seeds. Speedtech provided the front suspensions and the Ford 9” rearend is a homage to traditional hot rods but with a custom built triangulated 4 bar set up.

The interior is fully skinned in leather and the hot exhaust gas is channeled under the floor and up through a large duct through the ceramic coated header and polished stainless exhaust system to the turbos. The cooler pressurised air flows through beautiful powder coated ducting above the passengers heads. Some wonder what was going through Launier’s head…but it works!

Competing for the Ridler does not come cheap. Many of the cars are multi million dollar builds done in commercial shops and paid for by an owner with very deep pockets. The Rivision by comparison was a budget build.  Using $300,000 in parts and materials and 20,000 hours spent over the last three years while he was still running a car customising business. A lot of work was done on weekends and after shop hours.

Launier give lot’s of credit to suppliers giving him lot’s of great equipment to work with and the large group of friends that gave up their time for free, to do whatever they could to be part of this amazing car. Now that he has the Ridler award the next step for this amazing car is to have the bag driven off it and to celebrate 3 long years of work in true Canadian fashion with a dozen donuts….the big smoky kind!!!

After the big show in April at the Tradex, I got to do a photo shoot of the Rivison and we got lucky with good weather and perfect late evening light. Although I am stoked about the great shots I took…I got to actually sit in the car and go for a ride. Unbelievable…the car was unlike anything you can imagine. Yes it is a show car but every surface in the car is built to be used and not wear out..and once you crawl over the roll cage assembly the leather seats are perfectly suited to long drives.

Knowing the big pipe in between our heads is filled with pressurised air feeding the powerplant adds a surreal feel…like a Dragon’s breath about to be unleashed, but the car is relatively quiet and very comfortable.

Setting up by the Abbotsford Airport we shot away until the light was almost gone and we were done…but JF was not. First we had to do some burnouts…but with the tires being warm from all the driving shots they did not come easy…but still JF was not done.

One more try he insisted…but not to be a launch but a series of donuts that I captured on video and then after the smoked started to clear JF climbed out of the car and announced, “For my next Trick…”

What is a bit surprising is the next “trick” was to drive his kids to school once he got home to Osoyoos and even take them for Ice Cream…in the Rivision. Taking friends for rides that helped out on the project also allowed some more seat time with the Rivison and shakedown time.

The car is not just a pretty face and is going into Autocross competition very soon. Donuts, Ice Cream and Autocross…a few things that have been very foreign to Ridler winners…Eh?


Sidebar:  The Ridler award is presented each year at the Detroit Autorama and has come to signify the vehicle that best conforms to new ideas, changing designs and concepts. Named for the talented promoter Don Ridler that helped the Autorama get going in the 50’s. Honouring him by naming a new award after him. The Ridler award is only for cars first shown publicly and this award had gone on to be one of the most prestigious awards in the Hot Rodding world and it has only been won by Canadians a few times.

For the first time shown cars, 38 were scrutinised and 8 are picked to be the Pirelli Tire Great 8. Meticulous judged and then 8 are picked based on new ideas, changing designs and concepts and getting to this levels is an honour on it’s own.