How To Install Coilovers On Your 1963-65 Buick Riviera

New Road Comp Coilover Kits From Aldan America

By Ron Ceridono   –   Photography by Brian Brennan

At one time Buick’s advertising slogan was: “When better automobiles are built, Buick will build them.” Arguably some of the best examples of those better Buicks they made were the ’63-65 Rivieras. Marketed as a personal luxury vehicle, Rivieras were designed to compete with such cars as the Ford Thunderbird, Chrysler 300-J, Studebaker Avanti, and even the Pontiac Grand Prix.

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02 Aldan’s resident technical guru Gary Nelson took charge of installing the Road Comp front coilovers
Aldan’s resident technical guru, Gary Nelson, took charge of installing the Road Comp front coilovers and rear shocks on this ’65 Riviera.

Along with the classy sheet metal for 1963 came a revised version of GM’s X-frame that would be the basis for the Riviera’s new E-body chassis. While the frame was in fact new, the suspension was standard Buick with the roll centers lowered to reduce body lean. As a result, automotive writers of the day gave the Riviera high marks for its excellent balance, comfort, and agility, but there is certainly room for improvement. To that end, Aldan America has found a way to make a good thing better.

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03 The stock front shocks fit inside the original coil springs the upper mounting studs fit through hole
The stock front shocks fit inside the original coil springs, the upper mounting studs fit through holes in the top and bottom rubber bushings.

Aldan has been a leading manufacturer of suspension components since 1981. All their shocks and coilover kits are manufactured in the U.S. from lightweight, high-strength 6061-T6 billet aluminum, which makes them incredibly strong and lighter weight when compared to forged steel shocks. In addition, aluminum dissipates the heat generated by the shock’s movements better than steel. For longevity Aldan shocks use low-friction Viton seals and O-rings and the shock’s shafts are heat-treated, chromed, and finish ground before final assembly to reduce seal friction. Aldan’s coilovers and shocks are fully serviceable and rebuildable and come with Aldan’s Forever Guarantee.

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04 At the bottom the stock shock absorber attaches with a crossbar that bolts to the control arm
At the bottom the stock shock absorber attaches with a crossbar that bolts to the control arm. Note the bolts go in from the bottom.

To add to their comprehensive product line, Aldan recently introduced a front suspension kit for ’63-65 Buick Rivieras in their Road Comp Series (PN 300351). It includes front coilovers with double adjustable shocks and 750-pound springs. The only modification required for installation is enlarging the factory openings for the shock in the lower control arms. To update the Riviera’s rear suspension Aldan offers a direct bolt-on kit with a pair of TruLine single adjustable shocks (PN 300353). A complete Road Comp suspension kit package for the front and rear is also available (PN 300354).

05 With the spindles separated from the ball joints in the upper control arms and the strut rods the lower control arm is slowly lowered on a jack
With the spindles separated from the ball joints in the upper control arms and the strut rods, the lower control arm is slowly lowered on a jack to remove the spring.

Suspension Adjustment Explained With Aldan’s Gary Nelseon

To adjust the ride height of a vehicle with Aldan coilovers it’s a simple matter of changing the preload on the spring—increasing the preload by moving the adjuster up on the shock body raises the car, moving the adjuster down reduces the preload on the spring lowering the car. Aldan recommends starting with a baseline setting of 1 inch of preload on the springs, then adjusting as necessary. While preload changes to our Riviera were made easier with Aldan’s thrust bearing kit, adjustments should still be made with the car jacked up to take the pressure off the springs and the load on the threaded adjusters and shock bodies.

06 Aldan’s complete kit for ’63 65 Buick Riveras includes front coilovers rear shocks mounting hardware and the proper spring preload spanner wrench
Aldan’s complete kit for ’63-65 Buick Riveras includes front coilovers, rear shocks, mounting hardware, and the proper spring preload spanner wrench.

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Single Vs Double Adjustable Coilovers

For those who want to fine-tune their car’s suspension system, Aldan offers single and double adjustable shocks. In the case of the ’65 Riviera shown here, the front coilover shocks are double adjustable, which allows compression and damping to be adjusted while in the rear the TruLine single-adjustable shocks allow the rebound damping to be altered. In both cases the rebound adjustment knob is at the top of the shock body, and for the front shocks the compression adjustment knob is at the bottom.

07 To remove the nuts that secure the front shocks to the control arms
To remove the nuts that secure the front shocks to the control arms, Gary has found smacking the bolts with a hammer easily breaks the factory spot welds.

Rebound Adjustment

For initial settings start by turning the front rebound adjustment knob all the way clockwise to full stiff then backing off 10 clicks, which is the center of the adjustment range. For compression, damping begins with the knob on setting number two of the six positions available, then making further adjustments as necessary. Be aware the compression knob doesn’t have a stop and will rotate 360 degrees. As the adjuster is a barrel valve, if the knob is rotated past six it returns to position 1. In the rear, turn the rebound adjustment all the way counterclockwise to full stiff and back off three clicks.

08 The factory coil spring pocket is cut away to make room for the coilover
Compare the stock Riviera control arm (top) to the modified arm (bottom). The factory coil spring pocket is cut away to make room for the coilover. A plasma cutter or small reciprocating saw works best.

Shock Tuning

To fine-tune the shocks, start with front compression damping. Find a stretch of road with a bump or dip, drive the car through it at 15-20 mph. If the suspension is too soft, increase the compression damping; if it is too harsh, decrease the damping. Repeat the process until the compression damping is optimized.

09 This is the front coilover without the spring The knob (arrow) is for compression adjustments
This is the front coilover without the spring. The knob (arrow) is for compression adjustments.

Damping Adjustment

For rebound damping use the same driving evaluation. If the car is stiff on rebound and it stops moving and you don’t, that is if the seatbelt feels like it tightens up on return after compression, decrease the rebound setting. In the rear, start with the adjustment turned all the way counterclockwise, then back off three clicks clockwise, do the dip test, and adjust as necessary.

10 Before the springs are installed anti seize is applied to the threads on the shock body
Before the springs are installed anti seize is applied to the threads on the shock body. Aldan recommends copper anti seize, adding “it doesn’t have to be frosted like a cake.”

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Aldan’s Road Comp system for Buick Rivieras allows the ride height to be lowered properly up to 2 inches. A wide range of adjustment options allow the suspension to be tuned to your liking;. Aldan shocks come with a lifetime warranty. That really is the way to build a better Buick. MR

11 To make ride height adjustments easier Aldan supplies thrust bearing assemblies
To make ride height adjustments easier, Aldan supplies thrust bearing assemblies that go between the coils and the spring seats.
12 Aldan coilover springs are marked with the spring rate—the number of pounds required to compress the spring 1 inch
Aldan coilover springs are marked with the spring rate—the number of pounds required to compress the spring 1 inch. These are 550-pound springs, the Riviera uses 700-pound.
13 This is the lower coilover mount that fits inside the lower control arm
This is the lower coilover mount that fits inside the lower control arm.
14 When installing the front coilovers position the shocks so the compression adjustment knob is accessible
When installing the front coilovers position the shocks so the compression adjustment knob is accessible, and the spring has approximately 1 inch of preload.
15 Aldan supplies this tool to adjust the coilover’s spring preload
Aldan supplies this tool to adjust the coilover’s spring preload.
16 Once the spring’s preload has been finalized the pinch bolt (arrow) secures the adjustment
Once the spring’s preload has been finalized, the pinch bolt (arrow) secures the adjustment.
17 Aldan’s front double adjustable coilovers and shocks provide 120 unique combinations of settings
Aldan’s front double adjustable coilovers and shocks provide 120 unique combinations of settings. The rear shocks offer 11 adjustment settings.
18 The rebound adjustment knob is located at the top of the shock
The rebound adjustment knob is located at the top of the shock; it must be removed during installation by turning it counterclockwise.
19 Follow the included instructions when removing the rebound knob
Follow the included instructions when removing the rebound knob. It’s not necessary to remove the set screws on the knob. Also, use caution when there is a floating pin that may come out.
20 When installing the upper shock bushings the large bushing goes on the bottom and the small bushing on the bottom
When installing the upper shock bushings, the large bushing goes on the bottom and the small bushing on the bottom.
21 With the upper shock stud secured the adjustment knob can be reinstalled
With the upper shock stud secured the adjustment knob can be reinstalled.
22 This is the rebound adjustment on the rear shocks for the Riviera
This is the rebound adjustment on the rear shocks for the Riviera. It’s located on the top mount. Turning it counterclockwise reduces rebound, clockwise increases it.
23 The rear TrueLine shocks have urethane bushing top and bottom
The rear TrueLine shocks have urethane bushing top and bottom. The upper mount fits over the factory stud.
24 On the lower end the rear shocks fit between the factory mounting tabs and are secured with the included hardware
On the lower end the rear shocks fit between the factory mounting tabs and are secured with the included hardware.

Source
Aldan American
(310) 384-7478
aldanamerican.com

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