This Detroit Speed-Built 1965 Buick Riviera Is Built To Drop Jaws


This Detroit Speed-Built 1965 Buick Riviera Is Built To Drop Jaws


Over the years the Detroit Speed and Engineering name has become synonymous with pro touring-focused chassis and suspension upgrades, but the company has also amassed a formidable roster of jaw dropping in-house builds as well. The latest entry is this 1965 Buick Riviera, a project which incorporates serious power and proven handling upgrades while also leveraging the car’s inherent style.

“The big thing for us is that we want to keep the elements that made the car cool in the first place,” says Detroit Speed’s Matt Butts. “From there we expand on the details and refine the overall package, but we never want to lose the original vibe of the car. And from a performance standpoint, we of course always put a lot of emphasis on the handling, drivability, and the ride quality of the vehicle.”

DSE Riviera side profile

While Detroit Speed offers direct bolt-in suspension systems for platforms like the GM F-Body, first generation Ford Mustang, and Chevy C10 pickups, some builds call for a more custom solution. “So with this Riviera, we ended up grafting our first gen Camaro hydroformed subframe assembly into the car,” Butts explains. “And our engineering team basically scratch-built a rear suspension for it using our QuadraLink system components. The Riviera’s original rear suspension is kind of unusual – it’s a three-link design. We wanted to stick with that three-link setup, so we basically just built our own using our Swivel-Link components. It goes back to staying true to what the original vibe of the car was.”

That custom setup required DSE engineers to design and build that assembly from the ground up to ensure the geometry and other characteristics of the rear suspension system were up to snuff. “The goal is to get a geometry that we like within the space constraints that we have,” he tells us.

The car arrived in Detroit Speed’s shop in decent shape and mostly complete, but once the team started to dig into it, the project quickly snowballed. “We discovered a ton of rust, and anyone who knows Buick Rivieras from that era can attest to the fact that there’s not a lot of reproduction parts available for them,” says Butts. “So that meant that a lot of those parts needed to be built from scratch. But the overall concept was clear from the get-go: Take an iconic car and make it even better than it originally was.”

DSE Riviera Engine Bay

Under the hood is a 468-cube Black Label LSX from Mast Motorsports that belts out 730 naturally-aspirated horsepower thanks in part to a Mast custom 3-bolt core cam, Mast Black Label LS1 295cc cylinder heads, and a Holley Dominator EFI system. “We almost always use Dominator systems with our builds,” Butts notes. “And part of the reason is because of the sheer number of inputs and outputs that the Dominator offers – we normally end up utilizing most of them with these types of builds. It definitely lends itself to a car that has a ton of features.” The engine bay maintains a vintage look thanks to custom touches like the Nailhead-style valve covers and oversized dual snorkel air cleaner, the latter of which keeps the fuel rails hidden.

Despite the emphasis on big power, Butts says the Riviera is still more of grand tourer than a drag car or an autocross terror. “Being a big body car, it’s still a luxury cruiser in many respects, so it kind of blurs the lines in that way. You’ve got the presence of this big coupe, but it also has carbon brakes from a Corvette ZR1, a Bosch Motorsports ABS system, and JRI’s hydraulic coilover system. So it’s got a lot of high tech, performance-oriented hardware, too.”

DSE Rear Wheel detail

The JRI system incorporates a hydraulic piston in the coilover that allows the car’s ride height to be controlled and altered on the fly from inside the car, enable the suspension to raise and lower the vehicle by as much as three inches without any change to the ride characteristics.

The dark red paint hue comes by way of Ferrari and helps to accentuate the Buick’s sinister look, but there’s also an array of subtle aesthetic touches that help to set this Riviera apart from the crowd. “We hand-fabricated the front and rear bumpers,” says Butts. “They’re sort of stock style, but sleeker and tucked really tight to the body. We also 3D-scanned the factory headlight assemblies because those clamshells have a really tight bar spacing to them from the factory, and then we designed our own headlight assemblies that perfectly match the spacing of the grille bars. From there we 3D printed them to make sure it had the symmetrical look we wanted across the front of the car, and then we machined them out of billet aluminum and chrome plated.”

DSE Riviera taillight detail

The DSE team gave similar attention to the rear of the car as well. “We moved the tail light assemblies from the bumper into the tail panel,” he says. “The process was similar to what we did with the headlight assemblies, beginning with a rendering of our custom tail light housing design, which was 3D printed to mock it up, and then it was ultimately machined out of a solid piece of brass and chromed.”

But the cabin is arguably the centerpiece of this build. With few reproduction parts available for interior pieces, the team re-chromed and refinished many of the existing parts, but others required more fully fabricated elements. Since the DSE team scratch-built the car’s frame and put a modern 6L90E six-speed automatic transmission in it, they also had to fabricate the entire floorboard as well, which in turn necessitated a fully fabricated center console.

DSE Riviera Interior

“The idea was to create an interior that looks original but is actually far from it,” says Butts. “So all of the wood inserts in the door panels and the center console are constructed from bloodwood planks which were milled down to veneers, cut to fit, and satin clear coated. Satin tends to bring out more of the grain pattern than a gloss finish does.”

The steering wheel was also custom designed in CAD, incorporating elements of the factory look while also integrating paddle shifters into its design. “There’s probably more than a dozen billet machined components that make up the whole steering wheel assembly now,” says Butts. Speaking of integration, DSE also repurposed the factory climate control sliders, which now control the adjustable JRI suspension system as well as Hooker Blackheart exhaust cutouts. The Classic Instruments gauges provide accurate information while retaining the classic aesthetic of the Riviera's interior.

The Buick is headed to the SEMA show later this year, where it’s scheduled to compete in the Battle of the Builders. “It’s a good candidate for it,” Butts adds. “It’s definitely one of the more detailed Riviera builds in recent years, so I think it’s going to turn a lot of heads.”

DSE Riviera Headlights On


251 Posts


14 Posts