A Lesson in Restraint – Butch Yamali’s ’65 Rivi by Martin Bros. Customs
Butch Yamali is the proud owner of a ’65 Buick Riviera that his father had owned. The car was a solid driver but living on Long Island, it was rare that Butch really got to enjoy the Riv on the open road. Once Hurricane Sandy put the Riviera under water for a spell, he knew the car was going to need a complete rebuild.
Enter Martin Bros. Customs of Johnson City, Texas. (Yes, the same Martin Bros. of the Motor Trend TV Show Iron Resurrection.) Butch told Joe Martin and his team that he wanted the ’65 Rivi completely gone through and updated to today’s modern performance and handling standards. With that directive, the crew immediately pulled out the original X-frame replacing it with a new Roadster Shop Fast Track Chassis fitted with Baer Brakes, a 9-inch rearend and everything to make the Riv handle better than new.
The driveline consists of a 525-horsepower LS3 mated to a durable 4L70E providing all-around great performance for the Rivi. To keep up with the original flavor, the engine was painted Buick green and received a set of finned valve covers to hide the eight coils. The crown is a one-off chrome engine cover that shop manager Chad Glasshagel fabricated based on design cues from the original 425c.i. dual quad air cleaner.
Joe Martin is also a big fan of early Rivieras, so his plan since day one was to refine yet show restraint. The body lines were crisped, bumpers were nipped and tucked, and custom vents were added just in front of the rear wheels – a cue from the ’63/’64 models. One major adjustment was to alter the front axle line to get it precisely centered in the fending opening, which required considerable work. Once deemed ready, the shell was moved over to Vastine’s Paint Garage to receive a Toyota Teal finish that is a modernized version of the Midnight Aqua 1965 shade.
The interior was also a study in refinement. The wiring was completely updated with an American Autowire harness, and the factory dash upgraded with Dakota Digital gauges that wisely resemble the originals. There’s also a Vintage Air system to keep temperatures comfortable. New seats from Wise Guys were covered in black Relicate leather by Innovative Rides, as were the door panels. The custom woodgrain panel inserts on the console and door panels were hand painted by Darren Wenzel of Gasoline Art.
The Martin Bros. team could have easily touched this and modified that on Butch’s ’65 Rivi, but instead they stuck with their original vision of restraint and respect for the advanced styling of the first-gen Rivieras. Smart choice.
Photos by Todd Ryden