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1965 Buick Riviera was worth the 38-year wait

- - Thursday, August 30, 2012

When Pennsylvanian Burt Zwibel was discharged from the Army in July 1965 after serving as a dentist at Fort Myer, he was smitten by Virginia and decided to become a Virginian by choice.

He was also enamored of the new 1965 Buick Riviera. 'It wasn't in the cards,' he says. 'I had one wife, two kids and no Buick.

'The allure of the Riviera is that it looks like a customized car,' Dr. Zwibel says,.

An older physician in Silver Spring, however, did purchase a new black 1965 Buick Riviera with a base price of $4,318. He kept the car for 27 years, then sold it to another Silver Spring doctor.

In 1998 the Buick was advertised for sale and Dr. Zwibel leapt at the opportunity. Another prospective buyer, a man from Stafford, leapt quicker. A disappointed Dr. Zwibel told the third owner to call him if he should ever want to sell the sleek Riviera.

His telephone rang in the summer of 2003 and, after a 38-year wait, Dr. Zwibel was the owner of a like-new 1965 Buick Riviera. 'I wanted an original car,' he says. Except for a respray of the gleaming black finish by the second owner, the car is virtually as it was when it left the factory.

The car still had fewer than 100,000 miles when Dr. Zwibel drove it from Stafford home to Fairfax. 'The original radiator was not doing the job,' he says.

Since then, an oversized custom-made four-core radiator has been installed. 'Now it's a nice parade car,' Dr. Zwibel says. 'It cannot overheat.'

Beneath the sculpted engine hood is a 401-cubic-inch V-8 developing 340 horsepower, which can give the 140-mph speed- ometer a workout.

Factory-installed optional equipment includes:

• Tinted glass.

• Cruise control.

• Power antenna.

• Custom interior.

• Air conditioning.

• Wire wheel covers.

• Rear-window defogger.

• Remote driver's mirror.

• Nonslip rear differential.

• Cast ribbed valve covers.

• Four-way power driver's seat.

The custom interior with black leather seats, black dashboard and black carpeting is easily identified by the wide strips of real wood extending along the sides from the dashboard to the back seat.

The headliner is a contrasting silver gray and all the interior window frames are highly polished stainless steel.

The two-spoke steering wheel has only a tilt function but, because the driver's seat can be adjusted any which way, that is not a problem.

Anachronisms on the Buick include vent windows that are hand-crank operated, while the main windows are electrically powered.

Although the car has a powerful air conditioner, it still has under-dash vents to bring fresh air into the cabin when the car is moving.

Inside the cavernous trunk the spare tire is mounted horizontally atop the hump created by the rear axle.

With the 4,036-pound Riviera cruising comfortably on a 117-inch wheelbase, Dr. Zwibel last summer drove to the Riviera National Meet in Lancaster, Pa.

'It's a terrific road car,' he says.

The odometer is just now approaching 103,000 miles and Dr. Zwibel says, 'This summer I hope to put some miles on it.'

The Turbine 400 automatic transmission shows no sign of wear and a few road trips would keep it limber.

Of the 34,586 Rivieras manufactured by Buick in model year 1965, this black beauty has to be one of the nicer survivors.

Dr. Zwibel plans to maintain it as have the previous three owners. 'We don't really own them,' he explains.

'We're caretakers of these things.'

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