Buick Riviera

From Academic Kids

1965 Buick Riviera
1965 Buick Riviera

The Buick Riviera was an automobile produced by Buick in the United States between the 1963 and 1999 model years. A full-size coupe or personal luxury car, the early models of the Riviera in particular have been highly praised by automotive journalists and writers.


Origin of the name

The Riviera name first entered the Buick line in 1949. It was an optional bodystyle rather than a model, and denoted the new 2-door pillarless hardtop, which was described as "stunningly smart." The Roadmaster Riviera (http://www.ephemeranow.com/cars/cars168.htm) (along with the Cadillac Coupe de Ville) constituted the first mass production use of this bodystyle, which was to become extremely popular over the next 30 years. GM was first again in 1955 with the 4-door pillarless hardtop, so the Riviera option was then available in two configurations. Over the next several years, it was offered in all model ranges, including the Buick Century, Buick Special, and Buick Roadmaster. Since it was a body style designation and not a model, however, the Riviera name did not usually appear on the car. The last usage of the term 'Riviera' to describe hardtops was coincidentally 1963, only on the #4829 Electra 225 Riviera 4-dr hardtop

Origin of the model

In the very late 50’s, GM began to feel the need for a personal luxury car to compete with the highly successful Ford Thunderbird—a large, 4-seater, 2-door model which promised both comfort and performance. A project was begun for a Cadillac model in this style (http://www.cadillaclasalleclub.org/images/book/pg369_big.jpg), possibly to be called LaSalle, after Cadillac’s smaller “companion” car of the 30’s. During this time, GM styling chief Bill Mitchell reportedly visited London, and was struck by the sight of an elegant 50’s Rolls Royce in the fog. He later said that was what he wanted for the new model—Rolls Royce lines, but lower-profile, and with a bit of Ferrari thrown in for performance.

In the end, Cadillac was not particularly interested as their sales were steadily increasing in this time period. So the project was thrown open to competition by the other divisions. Buick won, with a promise not to alter the original design, which created minor difficulties when it came time for real-world engineering and assembly. Nevertheless, this was dutifully accomplished, and the Riviera name, with its implications of European wealth and prestige, was taken from the body style designation and bestowed on the new car. It was introduced on October 4, 1962, as a ’63 model and was a great success, giving the Thunderbird its first real competition. This first Riviera (http://www.musclecarclub.com/musclecars/buick-riviera/images/buick-riviera-1963a.jpg) is considered a styling landmark and is quite collectible today.

Subsequent history

The Riviera model subsequently ran through seven generations over 35 years, and about a million cars were produced. After the first generation, it often shared much of its body and frame structure with the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado, and generally used the same engines as other Buicks. Nevertheless, it maintained a unique identity and produced several notable models, such as the G/S and Stage I performance cars of the late 60’s and early 70’s, the extravagant “boat-tail (http://www.musclecarclub.com/musclecars/buick-riviera/images/buick-riviera-1973a.jpg)” body of ’71-’73, the first front-drive model (http://members.tripod.com/%7Etishdish/riviera.html) which became Motor Trend’s 1979 Car of the Year, and the final ’95 body (shown below) which won more than a dozen design awards. Also, the late 80’s models were particularly noted for advanced electronic instrumentation, including the first automotive touch-screen controls, and a turbocharged Riviera convertible (http://www.gaspumpclassics.com/resources/indy500/images/1983.jpg) was chosen to be the pace car at the 1983 Indianapolis 500.

A 1995 Buick Riviera
A 1995 Buick Riviera

The Riviera was on a short run for 1993 with the last 1993 Riviera rolling off the Hamtramck, Michigan assembly line on December 10, 1992. The 1995-1999 Rivieras were built in Orion, Michigan. The very first 1995 Riviera rolled off the assembly line on May 23, 1994.

1999 was the last model year for the Riviera and it was very short, production ceasing on November 25, 1998. The final 200 cars had special silver paint and trim and were denoted “Silver Arrow (http://www.rivowners.org/silver.html)” models, a designation which harked back to several Silver Arrow show cars which had been built off Riviera bodies in years past.

Some reports have indicated that Buick briefly considered using the Australian Holden Monaro coupe as a basis for reviving the Riviera. This did not happen, but the car did come to the U.S. as the new Pontiac GTO.


  • 1986 3.8 L (231 in³) V6
  • 1991-1992 3.8 L (231 in³) V6
  • 1995-1997 3.8 L (231 in³) V6
  • 1999 3.8 L (231 in³) V6

See also


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