Cec and the Riviera

Kenny (my brother), Cec (my dad) & I headed off one Saturday morning to buy Kenny a new car to go off to college in. Cec was sure that Kenny should have something economical, so a nice 63 Oldsmobile Cutlass 4 door was acquired for him. It was a pretty common looking little car. It looked more like our grandmother should have been driving it. Kenny was less than pleased, but knew that life was going to be tough for him, with his going to school and plans to get married soon. So he went along with it.

On the same lot was a 1964 Buick Rivera. This was in 1968, so the Rivera was only three or four years old. I was sure it would cost too much, but I made the suggestion to Cec that I really needed that car. I was going into my junior year of high school. For some strange reason, upon finding it priced at just under $2,000, he agreed that I could buy it. I am still not sure why, as that was a lot of money for a kid in the sixties. He surely felt that I would pay for it somehow.

Same model and same color

That car had everything in the way of gadgets that had ever been thought of for a car. It turned out to be a fine purchase, at least for the few months. I drove that car hard. After about six months, the situation with the Rivera started to unravel. The engine blew up. All Cec said was, “boy you jest gonna have to put a new engine in it.” I brought it into our shop and started tearing it down. With a 465 Cu. In. engine and all the gadgets it had on it, it was a task that I wasn’t sure I could handle. You can’t even imagine the hoses and wires under that hood. But un-aided by anyone, I finally got the new motor in it and it actually ran. We had bought a new short block, meaning I swapped most everything over from the existing engine, except the block, new pistons, cam shaft and crank shaft.

Now on to the next problem. The new engine vibrated so badly, you couldn’t hold it on the road. The engine I installed turned out to be defective. It had a guarantee. All I had to do was pull it all back apart and the company would exchange it. I was better at doing it the second time around. The second time, it ran fine.

I no sooner than I got the motor running again, that the transmission started slipping. It wasn’t slipping too badly, but Cec told me that to get ready, I would have to replace it before long.

Actually his fatherly advice was to just wreck it, and we would collect the insurance. Cec had a different way of thinking than a lot of other people. He really didn’t see anything wrong with making an insurance company pay, because nearly everything he made ended up going to the IRS, a Bank or the Insurance Companies. “Boy, you just need to wreck that damn thing before it gets to where it won’t move”.

At the time I worked for after school at the Chevrolet & Buick dealership. I was the handyman around the car lot. I kept the batteries charged, the dusted off of the cars, moved cars from place to place and ran back odometers when a car came in that show a few too many miles.

Each night as I would start my nine mile drive home, I would be determined to straighten out the next curve. However, by the time I got there, I would decide that Hamilton Creek would serve my needs if I just cut past the end of the guardrail and run into the backup waters of the lake. As I approached Hamilton Creek, it occurred to me that Sycamore Creek, with its big boulders laying all up and down the creek bed would serve my needs much better. And you guessed it, when it got to Sycamore, I had a better plan for down the road. Well the next thing I knew, I was already sitting in front of the house.


This happen for several days in a row. Each time I got home, I would be a teenage walking talking frazzle. The pressure was too much for me I guess. Doing dangerous things usually didn’t bother me, but this seemed a little over the top.

Each time that Cec would see that I still hadn’t done the deed, he would just smile and shake his head when I would tell him I would do the next day.

Well I put it off until one morning when I got ready to leave for school, the ole Rivera wouldn’t move out of its’ tracks. I caught a ride to school, then walked across the street to the car lot to work. About the time I was getting off work, Kenny drove in at the car lot. His first words were, don’t worry about your Riviera anymore, Cec just totaled it out.

He went on to explain that Cec had told him they to push the Riviera, with him inside to town, a distance of nine miles, with the bumper of a pickup. We did this often, as we found ourselves broken down a lot back in those days.

Cec was always the impatient kind, so he was constantly motioning for him to push faster and faster. At the top of Whitman Hill, he waved Kenny off. Kenny thought he was just going to coast off the hill and let Kenny catch him in the next flat, to start the pushing again. Kenny was dead wrong about Cec’s intentions. As he was about mid ways down the hill, coming to a curve, Cec pulled to the edge of the road, opened the door, going about 25 or 30 miles per hour, he rolled out.

Kenny tells how he tumbled and rolled for quite a distance. Startled as to what had just occurred, Kenny pulled up to check on our poor old Dad. He was scraped and torn, his wire rim glasses wadded up on his head. All Cec said was, “get the hell out of here before someone comes along.”

Cec decided to go down and inspect the condition of the car. Sure enough, the car came to rest on a huge boulder after going off of a fifty-foot drop-off. As he pulled himself back to the top, a car came along and gave him a ride back home. From there he called the sheriff’s office and told them a crazy driver had run him off the road. He meet a deputy back at the scene and you would think the story stopped there.

But not with Cecil Lewis. The car was towed to George Becker’s wrecking yard, where it set for several months. Cec would drive past it several times each day. He finally reasoned that one day someone would come along and want to buy the transmission out of that car. If they did, it would be discovered that it was completely burned up. So he went to George Becker and bought the whole car for $500, the salvage price.

Then he hauled it home and put it down in our pasture for several years. I am not sure what ever happen to that car.
I’m sure that George Becker would have rebuilt the transmission for $500, the price Cec paid to buy the car back.

But you know, that sure wouldn’t have been Cecil Lewis, and the story wouldn’t have been nearly so memorable.

2 thoughts on “Cec and the Riviera

  1. This story caused me to reflect on my own father at about the same time. For work he was provided with a company car, leased from a Ford dealership. He chose to use the car to drag something around some acreage he had bought, and tore up the transmission in the process. He figured the dealership would have to take care of it because they wouldn’t know why the failure happened. OK, that puts him in the same league as your father. Where he went a degree further was his next statement, “they were Jews anyway.” Until he died in 1991, he never backed off of that kind of prejudice. It stood like a wall between us. He’s been gone for 3 decades. His attitude still rankles me.

    Liked by 1 person

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