2014 OUSCI Recap- JF Launier's 1964 Buick Riviera
The Detroit Autorama takes place every year at Cobo Hall and emerging from that storied event is a single, coveted award known as "The Ridler," so named in memory of the famous promoter, Don Ridler, who helped put the Detroit Autorama on the national landscape. The award is essentially the "best in show" from one of the most-prestigious car shows in the world, drawing entries from well beyond the borders of the United States, as evidenced by Canadian JF Launier, taking home the 2014 award with his ground-breaking 1964 Buick Riviera, Revision. The typical life of a Riddler winner ends up being pampered and trailered around to various car shows, possibly going to auction at Barrett-Jackson or Mecum, before entering into some private collection and disappearing entirely from public view.
The builders of these incredible machines often go on to be one of the "big-name" builders (if they aren't already) and join the ranks of Boyd Coddington, Chip Foose and Troy Trepanier, just to name a few recent honorees. The "Ridler award-winning" title follows them throughout their careers, much like "Oscar award-winning" titles follow actors. The competition at this level is very high and the resources involved are beyond comprehension for most people to grasp. With that background, we hope folks understand how unique and unusual it is to have a Ridler award-winning car in the OPTIMA Ultimate Street Car Invitational, presented by KN Filters.
Even though the folks who often commission these builds have tremendous financial resources, the practical thinking for an event like the OUSCI is that it is just too much for a Ridler car- too dirty, too much risk and generally just too hard on a car that is too costly to repair. However, JF Launier's Buick Riviera is a different story. As not only the builder, but the car's owner, JF decides when and where the car will be driven and there is no question, he built it to be driven- hard.
We felt honored to have it among the competitors in the 2014 OUSCI, as we don't know when we'll ever see another Ridler winner at any race track, let alone the OUSCI and we applaud JF for building a show-stopping car that can actually be driven and enjoyed on the road, track and wherever else he might take it. While the Riviera certainly has lots of chrome and mirror-perfect paint, it also packs a 784-horsepower LSX, that absolutely torches the massive 355-series tires crammed into the back end of the car.
Could this show winner handle the bumper to bumper traffic on the Vegas strip during the Detroit Speed Road Rally? Piece of cake. JF takes his kids to school in the thing! Might it impress the judges in the Lingenfelter Performance Design Challenge? Not surprisingly, it walked away with top honors. Could it survive the triple threat of the RideTech Autocross, Wilwood Disc Brakes Speed Stop Challenge and the BFGoodrich Hot Lap Challenge? Absolutely!
"We came to have fun and I had more fun than I could have ever expected," says JF. "The car was fast enough to scare me and the courses were well-laid out and challenging!" Challenges weren't just limited to the track layouts, as Launier indicated he broke some suspenion pieces and lost a fuel pump during the weekend, but he chalked that up to "typical race-day stress."
While videos of the unthinkable (a Ridler winner doing burnouts and running at the dragstrip) surfaced months before the OUSCI, the car did have a heavy show schedule. If JF's calendar would've allowed it, he probably would've preferred to do some test days to get the car totally dialed in for Vegas. While much of the attention and accolades have fallen at JF's feet, he was quick to share praise for his fellow competitors. "Every car in the OUSCI is cool and worth a look," says Launier. "They're all built by different people with different ideas and it really makes for a wild mix of cars. The young kids with the Evos were the fairytale David and Goliath story. It was so fun to watch them set the track on fire and I love seeing young people with fresh ideas!"
It wouldn't seem like a hot rodder like Launier would come away from the OUSCI impressed most by the competitors running Mitsubishi Evos, but that speaks to how open-minded he is about the automotive aftermarket and probably hints at why his vision allows him to go places few others dare. One place he would encourage others to go are future USCA and OUSCI events. "Go to have fun and you will not be disappointed," says JF. "I've raced bikes, karts, snowmobiles, cars and trucks and I never smile as much as I do at the OPTIMA events!" A ringing endorsement from one of the top hot rod builders in the world and we're happy to have it!
JF may be quick to embrace new technology in the automotive world, but he is a bit slower on the computer end of things. He did, however, finally jump onboard the Instagram train, so be sure to follow @jf_kustoms to see more of the Buick and other upcoming projects.