Q&A with Kit Foster: August 8, 2013

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Q. I have a question about my 1969 Buick Riviera. I was told it was a totally original car when I bought it 10 years ago, and have seen no reason to doubt that. I overhauled the motor five years ago, and it was obviously never touched before. My question is: The engine ID number on the block does not match the ID number my Buick Repair manual says it should have. I recently saw a similar car with the same style engine ID markings. The markings on my engine are B9E32706. The VIN is 494879H939484. I am just curious if this could be the original engine, or a rebuilt one, and why the markings would be different from my book. Any help would be appreciated.

— Gary Wedl, via e-mail

A. You’re right, those numbers don’t match up to your VIN in any way. Based on the VIN, you should see 49H939484. I consulted tech advisors from the Riviera Owners Association, and Darwin Falk is of the opinion that your engine has been replaced. He notes that in the photo you sent of the ID number that a different font is used for parts of the number, indicating that it was stamped at different times, supporting the replacement theory. He also thinks your “E” may be an “H,” as there was no Buick assembly plant coded “E” in 1969. The “9” means it is a 1969 engine.


Q. Just wanted to put my two cents worth in on the earliest FM radio. I’m the owner of a 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, number 213 in the series. The Broughams came standard with a transistorized FM radio, an industry first as I understand it.

— Dan Giove, West Bend, Wis.

A. That one had escaped my notice. I see several references to the Brougham’s “Delco Signal-Seeking twin speaker all-transistor car radio,” from the “Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975” and repeated online. These do not mention FM, but if your car has it and it’s original, I’d say you have first place.


Q. Regarding the Nov. 18, 2010, article about a 1969 Camaro with a Z11 option, which was a Super Sport package with striping for convertibles: The only Z11 I will recognize is the real one, a ’63 aluminum-nose Chevrolet with a stroked 409 for 427 cubic inches, intake valley pan, aluminum water pump, four-speed with nickel gears, etc. Is “Z11” used more than once?

— John T. Thompson, Duluth, Minn.

A. In one word, yes. Although some Chevy option codes have achieved cult status, like the aluminum-nose Z11 you mention, and others, like Z28, have become model names in themselves, Chevrolet has been known to re-use several of the codes. Often, it’s for different variations in the same category, like engines or suspensions. Z06, for example, has meant different variants of Corvette engines in different years. Once in a while, though, option codes (and they’re not all “Z-codes;” they range from 001 to ZZZ) signify completely different things, the reason for which is known only to the people who make up the corporate ordering system. Since they only concentrate on one model year at a time, there’s no real problem with repeating the codes some years later. An example of this is Z24, which began in the early 1960s as an option for full-size cars comprising a 427 engine and heavy-duty suspension. Some years later, it became a trim designation on the compact Cavalier. In addition to the Z11 “Indy Sport Convertible” option in 1969, there was a Z10 Indy Sport Coupe. The Z11 package, as mentioned in the article, was one element of the Indianapolis pace car replicas built that year. Z10 was a corresponding package for the coupe model.


Q. This is a picture of my father, grandfather and uncles. My father is third from left. Can you help me with the make and year of the car?

— Thomas Mitchell, Port Huron, Mich.


A. I think so. Cars of this era can be difficult to identify, because their radiators tend to look so much alike. The bottom shape of this car’s radiator and its tall filler neck suggest to me that it’s a Locomobile, about 1912-’13. It looks like they’ve had a flat tire and are repairing the tube.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail angelo.vanbogart@fwmedia.com or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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