A Fatherly Promise
In 1966 I bought my first car: a 1955 Chevy for $50. It was money I saved from washing dishes at a local diner after school. That car needed so much work that it had to be towed to my parent’s driveway.
I spent untold hours working on the restoration, often wishing that my Dad would have been able to sell me a family car, one that had been maintained, when I reached driving age. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I guess the dust from sanding fiberglass body patches was getting into my brain and making me a little crazy. I thought how cool it would be if, when I had a son, I would be able to do just that. After twelve months of rebuilding the interior, the exterior and the power plant, I drove the car for just two months before I sold it for $500 and enlisted in the Navy.
When I was discharged in 1972, I was again in need of a car. But this time, I had managed to save enough money to put a down payment on a new one and I knew financing would be no problem. At the time I was sure I wanted a luxury car and placed a $300 deposit on a 1973 Cadillac Coupe de Ville to be ordered from the factory. Only a few days passed before I noticed a car in the showroom at Lichtenberg Robbins Buick, In Queens, NY. It was burgundy and it looked like it stretched from one end of of the showroom to the other. It was long enough to require a New York plate on the rear and a Jew Jersey plate on the front. It was a new 1973 Riviera, and it was love at first sight. As the salesman familiarized me with the car I knew I had to have one. The next day, I returned to the Cadillac dealer, knowing I would lose my deposit, and cancelled my order. Immediately I went back to Buick to select my options and place the order on this new boattail, which was luxurious, yet sporty, all in one.
I took delivery seven weeks later, the day before Thanksgiving. As a remembrance, I saved a wishbone, which I still have in the glove box. The Riviera became my daily driver for only six months before I bought a used car to deal with the hustle and bustle of New York traffic. I stored the Riviera in a rented garage and saved it for weekends. I had the custom pin-striping done in 1973 by Vic Kessler, who was well known in Queens, NY and left little feet on the trunk as his trademark.
As years passed, the Riviera continued to be our weekend driver. Other than minor changes such as chromed engine parts and pin-striping, I babied the car and kept it original. I’ve maintained it as though it was a daily driver with new fluids, belts and tune-ups. Even after 42 years, she has been driven only 22,000 miles and rides like the day she was born. She is on her fourth set of tires, as I am not willing to drive on tires more than ten years old. As the original owner, I have every work order and receipt for every repair in chronological order. I doubt that there are many original cars that are documented as well.
I have to admit that I have come close to selling the car for financial reasons, but I hung in there. In keeping with my original promise to my son I offered him the car on his eighteenth birthday. He said he would prefer to have a pickup like his friends! I quickly reached across the table for the keys and said, “No problem, son.” Many years later he told me that he didn’t think he could care for the car as well as I had, and he didn’t want to disappoint me.
I moved to Florida in 1977 and recently retired. Now I have time to attend local car shows, not for the trophy, but for the opportunity to meet folks. I get pleasure speaking with those who remember these cars and seeing the look on their faces when they learn my ’73 is original and that I am the original owner.