Mark Sullivan might have had more cars in Street Machine than Hawkey had frothies, but he’d never been in a car club – until he built this 1967 Buick Riviera. Taking a hard left turn away from his usual build style of ’bagged, angry streeters on big wheels, Mark chose to transform this Riv into a traditional lowrider after falling in with the right crowd.
First published in Street Machine’s Yearbook 2022
“I started cruising with the guys from Fresh Stylz Lowrider Club, and then going out to dinner with them, and one thing led to another,” Mark laughs. “The more I cruised and went to shows with them, I realised I really liked how chilled-out the lowrider scene is. I joked with the Fresh Stylz guys that I never thought I could own a car on 13s or 14s, but I decided to build a lowrider, and I wanted to do something different.”
Mark rarely builds the same car twice, jumping between Aussie and American iron of almost any manufacturer, based on a simple need to walk his own line. “I try to do my own thing with cars, which can be hard,” he laughs. “There are a few iconic makes and models for lowriders, but I like the shape of the Riviera. In the USA, there are a couple of Riviera lowriders, so I know they can really work.”
Born from Hispanic youth cruising for girls in the 1940s, lowrider builds typically feature intricate custom paintwork with elite-level detailing. To accurately represent a traditional lowrider, Mark had to get a bit crazy with the Riv’s curvy lines. “I painted it like all my cars,” he explains. “I’ve never done any graphics on a car before, but I wanted to have a crack at it.”
The muted tones of PPG Charcoal are offset by epic amounts of flake, multiple panels and lace work. But the detail doesn’t stop there, as Mark also had the team at Biggie Scrolls hand-engrave a bunch of brightwork on the Riv, as is done on cars in America.
Of course, Mark is a street machiner at heart, so the drivetrain was always going to get attention. Under the bonnet, he swapped in a rebuilt 455ci Buick V8 from a third-generation Riviera he had from a previous project. “I put the 455 in from a Series III boat-tail Riv,” he explains. “I had one of them back in the day, so I had a spare 455 already built and that made this project much easier. It’s just a mild cam rebuild, so it’s nice and reliable.”
While the rest of the drivetrain is basically stock late-60s Riviera, the suspension certainly isn’t. Mark has done plenty of suspension work to his previous projects, but hydraulics proved to be a brave new world. “I’ve done airbags, but I’ve never done hydraulics before, so I got Sam Burns from BLVD Customs around to help me get my head around setting it all up,” he says. “It’s a bit more involved with the electrics and because I had to cut away the towers. I kept all the plates so I can weld it all back in later on if I wanted to put the car back to stock.”
Lowrider suspension is all about putting on a show, and it was in the 1960s that customisers started using aircraft hydraulics to lift and lower their vehicles. Using pumps in the boot powered by a chain of batteries, hydraulic suspension is as much about electrics as it is handling.
“I only run two pumps and four batteries, and there is so much weight in the boot, but some guys who hop their cars run eight or 12 batteries,” Mark says. “This will hop a front wheel, but it isn’t really built to hop.”
Mark learned this the hard way when leaving a lowrider show recently, with some hydraulics shenanigans necessitating a big clean-up. “Everyone asks me to hop it or make it bounce,” he laughs. “When we were leaving Lowrider Sunday, some kids asked me to bounce it, so I did and one of the braided lines touched a battery post and blew a hydraulic line, so fluid went everywhere.”
Still, Mark is finding that the fun is really in the driving, and has come to love the club way of life. “I’m not doing full show cars with super-detailed undercarriages anymore, because it is so much more fun to go cruising and go out to dinner,” he says. “The guys in the lowrider scene are really nice; it’s like a big family.”
It is great to know that, even after building several dozen knockout street machines, Mark understands that there’s always more to discover in the car scene.
1967 BUICK RIVIERA
|Camshaft:||Crow 232/244 hydraulic|
|Oil system:||High-volume pump|
|Fuel system:||High-flow mechanical pump|
|Cooling:||Alloy radiator, twin thermo fans|
|Ignition:||MSD electronic coil|
|Gearbox:||ST400 three-speed auto|
|Diff:||Spot 10-bolt LSD|
|SUSPENSION & BRAKES|
|Brakes:||Stock discs (f), stock finned drums (r)|
|WHEELS & TYRES|
|Rims:||Wire wheels 14×7 (f & r)|
|Rubber:||185/70R14 (f & r)|
Sam Burns at BLVD Customs; Matty at Biggie Scrolls; all the guys in Fresh Stylz Lowrider Club