Beast in the Beauty

Ken Becker’s ’64 Buick Riviera


You know, all these years I’ve never once con­sid­ered my­self a mus­cle car guy, mainly due to the fact that I’ve never even owned one. But as it turns out, I’ve owned not one but more than a few mid-’60s mus­cle cars—most no­tably, my Buicks. Now, to me (and I’m sure plenty oth­ers), your Chev­elles, GTOs, and Mus­tang GTs—those are pure­bred mus­cle. A first-gen Riviera though? That’s un­de­ni­ably a fac­tory mild cus­tom … of course with a rather large en­gine un­der the hood and a per­for­mance-minded chas­sis be­low that Nail­head (a name, in and of it­self, not com­monly re­ferred to around the benchracer’s camp­fire). But by def­i­ni­tion as well as com­po­si­tion, it is in fact a Detroit-bred su­per­car, as are a num­ber of var­i­ous makes and mod­els I’d never re­ally con­sid­ered as such … un­til now.

Be that as it may, the Buick Riviera in all its early in­car­na­tion beauty and glory is much more than a go-straight-fast mus­cle car, and that’s prob­a­bly be­cause it’s not typ­i­cally thought of or por­trayed in that man­ner. I would like to think that was kind of an ul­te­rior mo­tive of Bill Mitchell’s when it was an­nounced that Buick would pro­duce his de­sign, that be­ing an Ivy Lea­guers’ higher-end op­tion to Pon­tiac’s then-new GTO. With its Euro­pean­in­flu­enced styling, how­ever, as far as mus­cle cars go, its beauty ul­ti­mately over­pow­ered its beast.

The Buick Riviera may not go down in his­tory as a highly re­garded mus­cle car—but it will be highly re­garded, pe­riod. There’s just some­thing about the ’63-’65s that at­tracts buy­ers and

builders from all walks of life … and from all the var­i­ous seg­ments of the au­to­mo­tive world. Like the Beck­ers, Ken Sr. and Ken Jr. While the el­der is more of a restora­tion/ pu­rifi­ca­tion kind of guy, his son’s got the eye to mod­ify, but nev­er­the­less ex­udes his fa­ther’s com­mit­ment to per­fec­tion, es­pe­cially when it comes to paint and body, which he’s lit­er­ally pro­fes­sion­ally trained to do. For them, the at­trac­tion started with Ken Sr.’s ’65 Gran Sport project—but since Ken Jr.’s at­tempts to add some cus­tom touches were all shot down, it was in­evitable that he soon take on his own Riviera project.

In 2007, the in­evitable came to fruition when Ken Jr. ac­quired a ’64—an ex-pa­rade ve­hi­cle much worse for wear than able to idle down Main

Street be­tween march­ing bands and floats. But, with his fa­ther at his side, through that in­her­ited com­mit­ment to per­fec­tion, which in­cluded a solid year body­work­ing the un­der­car­riage and two straight years of block-sand­ing, ac­cord­ing to Ken, seven years within the con­fine­ments of his home garage later, his per­sonal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the per­fect Rivi was com­plete … cus­tom touches and all.

Named “De­cep­tion” for its mul­ti­tude of hid­den trea­sures be­neath the car’s pa­raded ex­te­rior, Ken Becker’s ’64 Riviera is unique in that it doesn’t ex­actly fall un­der one style cat­e­gory, as it con­veys el­e­ments of cus­tom, mus­cle, and es­pe­cially his main in­spi­ra­tion: high-end street rods, namely ones with the name Trepanier at­tached to them (the two-tone green color combo used was de­rived from the Rad

Rides ’40 Ford “Vi­sion”). After the car’s un­seen had been dis­cov­ered

and re­paired (which in­cluded re­mov­ing ac­tual ce­ment that had been poured into the doors and rock­ers), hours upon hours were spent on ev­ery inch of the Buick, no mat­ter whether or not it would be seen once it was com­pleted. On top of the three years spent smooth­ing sheetmetal and sub­se­quent seams from top to bot­tom—the en­tire bot­tom—Ken re­ports hav­ing over 100 hours in the cus­tom air cleaner alone, which be­gan life atop the AFB of a ’67 Buick. He also in­cor­po­rated a bit of late model as well, such as the frenched ’89 Cadil­lac tail­lights, ’15 Lacrosse ex­haust tips, and even a pair of ’10 CTS bucket seats.

Ken and his fa­ther un­der­took the en­tire project in-house (or as close to the house as you’ll ever get), from the fab­ri­ca­tion and paint to the fi­nal assem­bly. The in­te­rior was sent out in pieces—lit­er­ally—us­ing a trio of up­hol­ster­ers to han­dle the seats (JTS Cus­tom Up­hol­stery), door pan­els (Mikey’s Kus­tom Up­hol­stery), and cen­ter con­sole (In­te­ri­ors by Mar­cos), al­low­ing Ken the op­por­tu­nity to in­stall a Boss/Sony sound sys­tem while the Rivi was in­ter­nally bare. As for the driv­e­train and sus­pen­sion, other than a 3-inch low­er­ing job, front disc brakes, and a set of Flow­mas­ters, it re­mains as-was, just a lot nicer than it was ever in­tended to be.

For the dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ence:

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