George Barris' 1963 Buick Riviera - The Villa Riviera

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1963 Buick Riviera owned by famous customizer George Barris of Barris Kustom City in North Hollywood, California. Designed by George, the car is also known as the Villa Riviera Buick. Photo by Mark Macreading.
The Villa Riviera is one of George Barris'best-documented customs, and every modification on the car was fully featured, step by step, in Custom Car Yearbook No 2 by Petersen Publishing.
A photo of the Buick taken before it was restyled. 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.
Barris-villa-riviera-custom5.jpg
The front area was extended over 6 inches. Kerry Camper worked for George at the time, and he was directed and supervised to perform the majority of body modifications. Kerry told later owner Jeffrey B. Goldstein that Barris showed him where to make the body cuts by drawing on the fenders.
The rear end treatment was extended 5 inches. The taillights were 1957 Rambler front parking lights turned upside down.
George examining how the new stainless molding fits over the edge of the roof section. Photo courtesy of Barris Kustoms.
An early illustration that George made to show the Essex Production Company how the car would look for the movie "For Those Who Think Young". Photo courtesy of Barris Kustoms.
James Darren and Bob Denver on the sound stage for the movie For Those Who Think Young. The movie was released in June of 1964.
A scene from For Those Who Think Young. Mr. Martinson requested that the car should be painted a flat white, so reflections were not a problem for the camera crew. The vinyl half top on the white iteration was painted red, and the factory door handles were still in use.
George Barris on the film set, doing some shots with the Buick in the alley at Paramount.
Another scene from For Those Who Think Young featuring the Buick. Additionally, since this movie was one of the first surf movies. Mr. Martinson also requested that Barris equip it with mounts for two surfboards.
The Villa Riviera Buick on the set during an episode of the TV series Perry Mason. In this scene the Buick has been abandoned in a park after a chase and is being examined by police for fingerprints.
George's Buick was dressed up with Astro chromed slotted wheels that ran tri-bar spinners and triple stripe white wall tires. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
A Barris Kustom City press release announcing the car. Scan courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Once the movie work was done, George experimented with a fogged paint job before returning The Villa Riviera to its originally intended cherry red paint scheme. This photo of the Villa Riviera, taken at the Astro Wheels both at a Los Angeles hot rod show, shows an iteration of the car that featured red fogging on the wheel wells and lower body molding. Miss Rod & Custom is posing with the coupe. Photo by George Barris - Barris Kustoms.
The second fogged paint job. According to Barris Kustoms of the 1960s, the fadeaway paint was an interesting idea, but it still wasn't what George wanted. This version featured front and rear bumpers. Photo by George Barris - Barris Kustoms.
George-barris-1963-buick-villa-riviera16.jpg
Barris-villa-riviera-custom.jpg
George-barris-1963-buick-villa-riviera14.jpg
A photo of James Darren with the Riviera. This photo was taken after it had been finished in Candy Apple Red. At this time the Buick still sported a manufacturer's license plate. Photo by George Barris - Barris Kustoms.
The Villa Riviera was featured on the cover of the souvenir program for the 1964 Sacramento Autorama.
The Villa Riviera was featured on the cover of Car Model March 1964.
"For Those Who Think Young" was released to theatres in June 1964, and George arranged for the car to be parked in front of several Southern California theaters during movie opening nights. The stars of the movie were often driven to the theatre in the car and signing autographs in the lobby after the show.
The stars of "For Those Who Think Young" signing autographs in a lobby after a show.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
In AMT's annual 1965 Riviera model kit, parts were included to build your own Villa Riviera, thousands of kits were sold and the box featured a beautiful rendering of the Villa Riviera.
A photo of the car taken in front of Barris Kustom City. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
James Darren in the Buick. 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. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
George Barris Registration Card from 1967. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
George Barris maintained ownership of the car until 1983 when it was sold at an auction with many of his cars.
The Buick as it appeared when Russell Johnson bought it from George in 1983. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Russell was a body man, and he restyled the car by installing Pontiac Firebird taillights, side pipes, chrome reverse wheels and removing the hood chrome that Barris custom made. He also painted the car a deep maroon. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Bill Ryan bought the car from from Russell. Bill painted it blue and installed a custom gray interior. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
The Buick as it appeared after it had been painted blue. Bill reinstalled the hood chrome strips. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
After several years George Barris spotted his old car and tracked down Bill. George shared his original cherry red paint formula and the car was returned to its former colors. This photo was taken at a Pennsylvania car show. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
In 2015 Jeffrey B. Goldstein of Warwick, Rhode Island bought the car and had it restored back to the way it was when Barris first customized it, including chromed slotted wheels with tri-bar spinners and triple stripe white wall tires. Jeffrey also installed the twin telephone handsets and Muntz 4-track tape player to the dash. He also located and installed a Sony micro-TV exactly as Barris had done. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
The Villa Riviera as it appeared after the restoration. Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo by Mark Macreading, courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.
Photo courtesy of Jeffrey B. Goldstein.

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.[1]


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

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.[2] 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.[3] Kerry Camper told later owner Jeffrey B. Goldstein that Barris showed him where to make the body cuts by drawing on the fenders.[2]


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.[3] The drilled, three bar wheel spinners were made by Accessories International of Los Angeles.[2]


Cantilever Roof

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.[3] 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.[2]


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.[3] 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.[2]


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.[2]


"For Those Who Think Young"

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.[2]


European Flavor

According to a press release by Barris Kustom City, the Buick was styled in George's new modern concept in European design. The build was completed in 1963, and it was valued at $18,000.[3]


Custom Car Yearbook No 2

The Villa Riviera is one of George Barris'best-documented customs, and every modification on the car was fully featured, step by step, in Custom Car Yearbook No 2 by Petersen Publishing.[3]


Fogged Paint Job

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.[2]

Candy Apple Red

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.[3] 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.[2]


James Darren

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.[2]


Perry Mason

The Villa Riviera was featured in roles on Perry Mason and in the Bullock's television shows. Several magazines also featured the car in articles and in advertising.[2]


AMT

In AMT's annual 1965 Riviera model kit, parts were included to build your own Villa Riviera, thousands of kits were sold and the box featured a beautiful rendering of the Villa Riviera.


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.


Painted Blue

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.[2]


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.[2]


Magazine Features and Appearances

Car Model March 1964
Custom Car Yearbook No 2


References





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