George Barris' 1963 Buick Riviera - The Villa Riviera
1963 Buick Riviera owned by famous customizer George Barris of Encino, California. George, who owned and operated Barris Kustom City in North Hollywood, California, designed the car himself. The car is also known as the Villa Riviera Buick.
The Villa Riviera Buick was originally constructed as George's personal custom. Buick Motor Division gave George a brand new Riviera from their press fleet to see what he could do with it. The new 1963 Riviera was already receiving accolades as one of the most beautifully styled cars and is considered to be a crowning achievement by Bill Mitchell and his styling team. George's criteria for the build was a Candy Apple Red paint job and a half landau white top.
- 1 Hidden Headlights
- 2 Extended Rear End Treatment
- 3 Cantilever Roof
- 4 White Leather Interior
- 5 Movie Car of the Year
- 6 "For Those Who Think Young"
- 7 European Flavor
- 8 Custom Car Yearbook No 2
- 9 Fogged Paint Job
- 10 Candy Apple Red
- 11 James Darren
- 12 Perry Mason
- 13 AMT
- 14 Sold and Reworked
- 15 Painted Blue
- 16 Restored Back to the 1964 Iteration
- 17 Magazine Features and Appearances
- 18 References
George immediately took out the torches and began restyling the car. Kerry Camper worked for George at the time, and he was directed and supervised to perform the majority of body modifications. The front area was extended over 6 inches in a v-wedge aerodynamic grille shell. Double cavity design utilized a composite of canted center bars and strips extended into scooped hood impressions. The headlights were set into grille patterns on the extension of the front fender ends with horizontal rubber mounted floating bumpers, hiding the headlights in the grills two years before Riviera's would come with this feature. Kerry Camper told later owner Jeffrey B. Goldstein that Barris showed him where to make the body cuts by drawing on the fenders.
Extended Rear End Treatment
The rear end treatment was also extended 5 inches. It featured feathering designed taillights that were inset along the ends of the rear fenders with an illuminated white on red lens. The taillights were 1957 Rambler front parking lights turned upside down. The rear pan assembly was rolled into the body and deck lid with sculptured license plate housing. Oversized large flared radiused wheel wells front and rear were sculptured throughout the horizontal length of the body sides in order to enhance the extreme 10 1/2 inch ballon General tires with deep recessed 9-inch chrome Astro air vented wheels with tri-bar knock-off hub. The drilled, three bar wheel spinners were made by Accessories International of Los Angeles.
According to a press release by Barris, the Buick was fit with a landau cantilever rear half top that was covered with Congo pearl white alligator hyde with a jeweler's hand brushed frontal band. The front half top section was removable and made into two pieces. Later owners can confirm that it was covered in Vinyl congo pearl imitation alligator hyde. The front removable section of the roof was also a one-piece fabricated from the original roof section.
White Leather Interior
The interior was done in white leather trimmed with walnut panels, so Barris did not make any changes to it except for installing a four-speaker Autostereo music system plus a removable 1964 Sony solid-state micro television unit, and a two-line telephone system done in Candy Red and white pearl. The music system included a Muntz 4-track tape player. The TV came with a 12-volt power supply cord which fit a cigarette lighter.
Movie Car of the Year
The Villa Riviera is significant as the first project Kerry Camper worked on. Leslie H. Martinson saw the car at Barris' shop and cast it for his upcoming movie "For Those Who Think Young" starring James Darren, Pamela Tiffen, Bob Denver, Paul Lynde, Tina Louise, Nancy Sinatra and Claudia Martin. While the car was in the paint booth, receiving its intended Cherry Red paint job, George and Martinson entered the booth. George asked Kerry to stop painting when Martinson requested that the car should be painted a flat white, so reflections were not a problem for the camera crew.
For Those Who Think Young revolved around a group of college kids who believed that surfing, music, and romance were grade subjects. The movie was one of the first surf movies, and Martinson requested that Barris equip it with mounts for two surfboards. The movie was released in June of 1964. The vinyl half top on the white iteration was painted red, and the factory door handles were still in use. Cal Custom and Bullock's Department Store used the Villa Riviera in print advertising during the white phase.
After the filming was done, George experimented with a fogged paint job before returning the Villa Riviera to its intended cherry red paint scheme. The first red fogging attempt was limited to the wheel wells and lower body molding. Later on, red paint was also added to the nose, tail sections and to all of the body creases. During this second "fogged paint" phase Barris changed the wheels to chrome 5-spokes, the tires to double stripe white walls and installed flush mounted door handles. Front and rear bumpers were also installed, and the vinyl half top was changed to white.
According to Barris Kustoms of the 1960s, the fadeaway paint was an interesting idea, but it still wasn't what George wanted, so the Buick was repainted Cherry Red, like he originally planned. 35 coats of translucent Candy Apple Red paint finished off the build. The red was laid over a fire frost pure pearl white under base, and it was hand rubbed to a mirror gloss perfection. The chrome slotted wheels and triple stripe tires were also returned to the car. This is how the Villa Riviera appeared when parked at theaters promoting "For Those Who Think Young." The movie was released to theatres in June 1964. George arranged for the car to be parked in front of several Southern California theaters during movie opening nights with the stars of the movie often driven to the theatre in the car and signing autographs in the lobby after the show. Imagine the thrill of watching the movie, then meeting the stars and seeing the car parked in front of the movie theatre.
James Darren loved The Villa Riviera so much that arrangements were made for James to use the car as his personal transportation after filming. Between James Darren's busy schedule, George Barris - ever the promoter, scheduled The Villa Riviera for tours with car shows around the country.
Sold and Reworked
The California manufacturers plate 49P 015 was on the car before Barris customized it and it remained until sometime before 06-06-1967 when it was registered with California license plate TZZ 867. George Barris maintained ownership of the car until 1983 when it was sold at an auction with many of his cars. The next owner was Russell Johnson, a body man from Chicago, Illinois. Russel restyled the car by installing 1969 Pontiac Firebird taillights to each side of the rolled rear panel. He also installed side pipes, chrome reverse wheels and removing the hood chrome that Barris custom made, he also painted the car a deep maroon.
A few years later Bill Ryan of Seymour, Connecticut bought the car from Russell Johnson. Bill painted it blue and installed a custom gray interior. After several years George Barris spotted his old car and tracked down the owner, he shared his original cherry red paint formula and the car was returned to its former colors. Bill removed the Firebird taillights and filled the rear panel when he painted the car. He also removed the lake pipes during the last few years of his ownership.
Restored Back to the 1964 Iteration
In 2009 Bill Ryan passed away. His family kept the car until 2015 when it was offered for sale at a Connecticut auction. Jeffrey B. Goldstein of Warwick, Rhode Island bought the car at the auction. Jeffrey rewired the entire car and restored the interior to how it was when Barris had it. In 2018 Jeffrey told Kustomrama that he located and installed the same style Muntz 4-track tape player, Sony micro-TV, dash compass and telephones as Barris used. "I also located a vintage set of Astro chrome slotted wheels. The rear bumpers, three bar spinners, and triple white stripe tires could not be located, I arranged to have them custom fabricated." Jeffrey completed the restoration in 2016.
Magazine Features and Appearances
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