Saturday, July 17, 2004

Riviera still stylish after 39 years

Terry Escelman's 1965 Buick Rivera has 35,000 miles on the odometer, its original paint and tires bought in 1967. These days it comes out of the garage only for car shows.
First car: A 1951 Henry J, when he was 13. He bought it from a car lot next door to his father's auto garage for $1 a week and drove it in a field until he got a restricted license at age 14. "I couldn't drive it on the road, but I could stir up a cloud of dust out back."

Dream car: A 1934 Chevrolet Coupe Street Rod, with a late model engine and transmission. "I just like the looks of them.

Tell us what you are driving
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The question for Terry Eshleman shouldn't be "What are you driving?" but rather, "What aren't you driving?"

The answer is a white, 1965 Buick Riviera, complete with air conditioning and power windows. When he was 20, Eshleman bought it new for $4,500 and drove it quite a bit at first, including three trips from Ohio to Florida and back.

At some point, though, he decided he wanted to keep the car in its like-new condition. He kept it off snowy, salty roads and away from smokers and parking lots. He drove other cars instead, including an El Camino that he bought in 1971 for $3,485 and sold 25 years later for $5,000.

Now, the Riviera mostly stays in Eshleman's garage in his Lebanon home, with 35,000 miles on the odometer and its original paint, and the tires he's had since 1967.

"I'm about ready to replace them," says Eshleman, 59.

When Eshleman, a former mechanic, isn't driving an 18-wheeler all over the country for Cincinnati-based Ace Doran Hauling and Rigging, he keeps the Riviera well-maintained and carefully drives it to car shows.

"It's kind of got nice lines to it, even today," he says. "They're kind of a collector's thing now."

People have made him offers for the Riviera, he says. But he's always told them it's not for sale.

"It just means something to me," he says, "because I've had it for so long."

Lauren Bishop

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