The Buick

Added on by David Watson.

En route back to Sydney in 1989 after years of working in the UK, Denise and I purchased a fabulous black 1965 Buick Riviera for $2000 from Virginia Gaunt, a Hollywood TV-producer’s widow, in LA. Petrol was a dollar a gallon, and we were off to Mexico! 

After the restraint and subtle greys of London, the ‘black man’s Cadillac’ embodied all the delicious freedoms of the new world – small town yearnings, restless road movies, bad bars, neon and billboards – with a hint of European styling.[1] Yet, according to Virginia, the two-door Buick coupe with its 401-cubic-inch engine was ‘a lady’s car’, which she’d used primarily for shopping.[2] Because I loved its seductive lines and its history and because it toured so effortlessly I shipped the Riviera home, had the steering switched from LH drive, and drove it in Sydney for many years.

However as those devil-may-care late-20th-century days slowly evaporated, our ‘dream’ car became something of a nightmare and, as if in testament to spiralling oil prices, emerging environmental sensitivities and middle-east unrest, the dear old eight-cylinder, eight-mile-per-gallon dinosaur languished mute, dust-laden and unloved in our garage for 15 years.

A Dinosaur in the Garage, 2006


After a few false starts and substantial hand-wringing (it’s surprising how attached a mechanical klutz can become to a piece of metal) – earlier this year I finally decided to let go.

Rozelle Riviera on January 2015


Ian from Adelaide was quick out of the blocks and a few days later was on our doorstep with a plastic bag full of cash, which, he assured me, his father had helped him count. He planned to strip the car back to bare metal and to restore its original factory paint – to white. In coming years it’ll doubtless be worth a small fortune.

Buick Divestment Day, 4 February 2015


Nowadays, with only an occasional teary glance in the rear-view mirror, I travel largely by bicycle. Funny ol’ world… 


[1] The Buick was No. 2 in the General Motors’ stable. The Riviera was designed originally for Ferrari.

[2] 401 cubic inches is approximately 6.6 litres.