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Buick Riviera 1963.jpg
Buick Riviera
Production 1963-1999
Class Personal Coupe
Body Style 2-Door Coupe
Platform FR E-body (1963-1976)
FR B-body (1977-1978)
FF E-body (1979-1993)
FF G-body (1995-1999)
Related Oldsmobile Toronado
Oldsmobile Aurora
Cadillac Eldorado
Similar Ford Thunderbird
Mercury Cougar
Lincoln Mark series

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Eighth generation (1995-1999)

1997 Buick Riviera

There was no 1994 Riviera, but a restyled, larger model returned for 1995, now with the option of a supercharged version of the 3800 V6 rated at 225 SAE HP. The new Rivieras were built in Lake Orion, Michigan. The very first 1995 Riviera rolled off the assembly line on May 23, 1994.

1996 brought an increase in hp on the supercharged versions to 240 SAE HP and 280 lb-ft (380 N·m) of torque. 1997 saw revisions to the suspension which lightened the car and gave it more nimble handling. For 1998, the supercharged engine became standard. GM's OnStar service was added as an option, and a few interior changes were made.

1999 was the last model year for the Riviera, a very short one, production ceasing on November 25, 1998. The final 200 cars had special silver paint and trim and were denoted "Silver Arrow" models, a designation which harkened back to several Silver Arrow show cars that had been built off Riviera bodies by Bill Mitchell.

Seventh generation (1986-1993)

1986 Buick Riviera

The E-body coupes were converted to unit body construction and further downsized for 1986, to a 108 in (2,743 mm) wheelbase shared with the Buick Regal. The V6 was now the only engine, rated initially at 140 SAE HP. This generation was noted for advanced electronic instrumentation, including the first automotive touchscreen controls. The smaller dimensions, generic styling, and lack of V8 power soured buyers, and sales plummeted to 22,138 for 1986, only 15,223 for 1987, and a dismal 8,625 for 1988. A restyle for 1989 that added 11 inches (279 mm) to the overall length (on an unchanged wheelbase) helped, but only incrementally, boosting sales to 21,189 for 1989, but dropping to a low of 4,555 for 1993, the shortened final year of that model. The last 1993 Riviera rolled off the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant line on December 10, 1992.

Sixth generation (1979-1985)

1981 Buick Riviera

1979 saw the debut of the first front wheel drive Riviera on a trimmer, 114 in (2,896 mm) wheelbase, now sharing its mechanical design and platform with the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado. The Olds 403 was droppped, but the 350 remained, as did a new turbocharged Buick V6 of 231 in³ (3.8 L) displacement with 185 SAE HP. The new Riviera became Motor Trend's Car of the Year. Sales more than doubled, to 52,181 for 1979 and 48,621 for the very similar 1980 models.

1981 saw the Turbo renamed T-Type and the demise of the 350 engine in favor of the Oldsmobile-built 307 in³ (5.0 L) with 140 SAE HP. A strange new option was a diesel engine with a mere 105 SAE HP. offered through 1985. 1982 also saw the first-ever Riviera convertible, although relatively few were built, owing to very high prices. A turbocharged Riviera convertible was chosen to be the pace car at the 1983 Indianapolis 500, although most convertible Rivieras had the V6 engine.

Overall sales made the 1980s Riviera a great success, reaching 65,305 for the 1985 model year.

Fifth generation (1977-1978)

Buick downsized the Riviera for 1977, sharing the new smaller GM B platform. It was, in most respects, a Buick LeSabre coupe with unique styling. It was reduced to a wheelbase of 115.9 in (2944 mm), down 6.1 in (155 mm), and an overall length of 218.2 in (5542 mm), down 4.8 in (122 mm). Weight dropped some 660 lb (300 kg). The 455 was gone, replaced by a 350 in³ (5.7 L) Buick V8 engine with 155 SAE HP or Oldsmobile-built 403 in³ (6.6 L) with 185 SAE HP.

Sales were up modestly to 26,138 for 1977 and 20,535 for 1978, although this was strictly a transitional model.

Fourth generation (1974-1976)

1975 Buick Riviera

The Riviera lost its controversial boat-tail roofline for 1974, as well as its forward-jutting grille. Thus modified, it looked a great deal more conventional, lacking its former distinction. The tamer-looking Riviera was no lighter, and its standard 455 lost more power, dropping to 210 SAE HP and 245 SAE HP for standard and Stage One models. Max Trac was dropped from the option list after 1974 due lack of buyer interest.

The revised styling did nothing for sales, which plummeted to 20,129. The Stage One was dropped for 1975, and the standard engine's output dipped to 205 SAE HP. Sales for 1975 were 17,306, rallying slightly to 20,082 for 1976.

Third generation (1971-1973)

1971 Buick Riviera

The Riviera was radically redesigned for the 1971 model year with flowing and dramatic "boat-tail" styling. Designed under Bill Mitchell's direction, it was penned by Jerry Hirshberg, future head of design for Nissan, mating the fastback rear window design of the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray coupe to the Riviera's platform. The design was originally intended for the smaller GM A platform, and the use of the Riviera's body—expanded for 1971 by three inches (76.2 mm) in wheelbase and more than 120 lb (55 kg) heavier—produced controversial looks. The 455 engine had a lower compression ratio to meet EPA emissions requirements, reducing power to 225 SAE HP with 250 SAE HP in the Gran Sport. Performance remained reasonably brisk, but the Riviera's sporty image was rapidly fading. One noteworthy advance was Buick's Max Trac system, a traction control system that prevented wheelspin during acceleration on slippery surfaces. Another unique option were rear shoulder belts. Both these advanced options are very rare.

Despite these features, Riviera sales for 1971 dropped to 33,810, the lowest to that time. The 1972 Riviera was little changed, with the 455 engine switching to net power ratings, 225 hp (168 kW) or 250 hp (187 kW) with the Gran Sport, although the actual drop in net power was only 5 hp (4 kW). Sales remained moribund at 33,728. For 1973, the 250 hp engine became standard, with 260 hp (194 kW) on the Stage One, which replaced the Gran Sport, with 34,080 sold.

Second generation (1966–1970)

1966 Buick Riviera

The Riviera was redesigned for the 1966 model year. It retained its cruciform frame, powertrain, and brakes, but it wore a longer, wider, more curvaceous body, a shell it now shared with the Oldsmobile Toronado, and, a year later, with the Cadillac Eldorado. A notable styling point was the absence of vent windows, a feature GM had introduced with a flourish in the 1930s. Headlamps remained concealed, but they now pivoted up above the grille when not in use. Unlike the Toronado, the Riviera retained a conventional rear wheel drive layout. It was now some 200 lb (90 kg) heavier, so acceleration with the unchanged engines was slightly slower. The Gran Sport package remained available as an option.

Inside, the four-place cabin with front and rear bucket seats and center console was replaced by conventional bench seats as standard equipment, making the Riviera a full six-passenger car for the first time. Optionally available was a Strato bench seat with armrest or Strato bucket seats with either a short consolette or a full-length operating console with a "horseshoe" shaped floor shifter and storage compartment. Both the buckets and Strato bench seat were available with a reclining seat option for the passenger's side.

1967 was substantially the same except for the adoption of Buick's entirely new V8 of 430 in³ (7.0 L) displacement and 360 horsepower to replace the old 425 "nailhead". Powerful Disc brakes with Bendix 4 piston calipers became optional for the front wheels but most Riviera continued to be ordered with Buick's aluminum brake drums which were almost as good.

1968 and 1969 had a reshaped nose and rear bumper as well as hidden wipers. The interior was also new and unlike the 66-67 model, the 1968 shared its instrument panel with the other full size Buick models. There were very few mechanical changes in 1968 but the transmission lost the variable pitch torque converter. Again, Rivieras were available with front bench or bucket seats.

The 1970 model featured exposed headlamps and rear fender skirts. The engine was upgraded to 455 in³ (7.4 L), the largest engine Buick offered to date, rated at 370 gross horsepower (or 245 net horses) and over 500 pounds of torque. Even so, sales dropped in the final year probably because it was becoming overdue for a major styling change and competition from less expensive personal-luxury cars such as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and Pontiac Grand Prix. But with 227,669 units sold over five seasons, the second-generation Riviera was more successful than the original, if less distinctive.

First Generation/Origins (1963-1965)

1963 Buick Riviera

The production Riviera (unusually for a GM product) shared its bodyshell with no other model. It rode a cruciform frame similar to the standard Buick frame, but shorter and narrower, with a 2.0 in (51 mm) narrower track. Its wheelbase of 117 in (2972 mm) and overall length of 208 in (5283 mm) were 6.0 inches (152 mm) and 7.7 in (196 mm) shorter, respectively, than a Buick LeSabre, but slightly longer than a contemporary Thunderbird. At 4190 lb (1900 kg), it was about 200 lb (90 kg) lighter than either. It shared the standard Buick V8 engines, with a displacement of either 401 in³ (6.5 L) or 425 in³ (6.9 L), and Twin Turbine automatic transmission. Brakes were Buick's standard "Al-Fin" (aluminum finned) drums of 12 in. (304.8 mm) diameter. Power steering was standard equipment, with an overall steering ratio of 20.5:1, giving 3.5 turns lock-to-lock.

The Riviera's suspension used the same basic design as standard Buicks, with double wishbones front and a live axle located by trailing arms and a lateral track bar, but the roll centers were raised to reduce body lean. Although its coil springs were actually slightly softer than other Buicks, with the lighter overall weight, the net effect was to make the Riviera somewhat firmer. Although still biased towards understeer, contemporary testers considered it one of the most roadable American cars, with an excellent balance of comfort and agility.

The Riviera was introduced on October 4, 1962 as a 1963 model, with a base price of $4,333, although typical delivered prices with options ran upwards of $5,000. Production was deliberately limited to 40,000 or less to increase demand.

With the same power as the larger Buicks and less weight, the Riviera had sparkling all-around performance: Motor Trend magazine found it capable of running 0-60 mph (0-96 km/h) in 8 seconds or less, the standing quarter mile in about 16 seconds, and an observed top speed of 115 mph (184 km/h), although 125 mph (200 km/h) was feasible with a longer run. Fuel consumption was a meager 13.2 mpg (18.4 L/100 km).

Inside, the Riviera featured a four-place cabin with front bucket seats separated by a center console with floor shifter and storage compartment that was built into the instrument panel, and bucket-style seats in the rear. Upholstery choices included all-vinyl, cloth and vinyl, or optional leather. Popular extra-cost options included a tilt steering wheel, CCC Forum-cruise control, power windows, power seats, air conditioning, AM/FM radio and wire wheel covers.

The Riviera continued with minimal trim changes for 1964 including the discontinuation of leather upholstery from the option list, differing mainly in substitution of the old two-speed Dynaflow-based Twin Turbine for the new three-speed Super Turbine 400, which was marketed as Turbo Hydra-Matic by other GM divisions. This was the first year that the Stylized "R" emblem was used on the Riviera, a trademark that would continue throughout the remainder of Riviera's 36-year production run. Under the hood, the 401 (6.5L) was dropped in favor of the 425 in³ (6.9 L) V8, with 220 SAE HP. A 'Super Wildcat' version was optionally available, with dual Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors, rated at 240 SAE HP.

Changes for 1965 included the introduction of the Gran Sport option, which included the dual-quad Super Wildcat 425 V8, a numerically higher 3.42 axle ratio, dual exhausts, and stiffer, heavy-duty suspension. The 401 (6.5 L)V8 returned as the standard Riviera engine and the Super Turbine 400 transmission now had a variable pitch torque converter like the old Twin Turbine Dynaflow had two years before. Externally, the headlamps were concealed behind clamshell doors in the leading edges of each fender, as in the original design. Further back, the non-functional side scoops between the doors and rear wheel arches were removed, and the taillights were moved from the body into the rear bumper. A vinyl roof became available as an option, initially offered only in black, and the tilt steering wheel optional in previous years was now standard equipment.

Total sales for the three model years was a respectable 112,244. All in all, the Riviera was extremely well-received and considered a great success, giving the Thunderbird its first real competition. This first Riviera is considered a styling landmark, and is quite collectible today.


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See Also


General Motors Co.

Buick | Cadillac | Chevrolet | GMC | Holden | Opel | Vauxhall | Daewoo | Saab


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Apollo · Centurion · Century · Eight · Electra · Estate Wagon · G-Series · Gran Sport · GSX · Invicta · LeSabre · Limited · Luxus · Rainier · Reatta · Rendezvous · Riviera · Roadmaster · Sail · Skyhawk · Skylark · Somerset · Special · Sport Wagon · Super · Terraza · GNX · Grand National


Y-Job · LeSabre · XP-300 · Wildcat I · Landau Concept · Wildcat II · Wildcat III · Centurion · Lido Concept · Skylark II · XP-75 · Flamingo · La Salle · Century Cruiser · Riviera Silver Arrow I · Riviera Silver Arrow II Concept · Riviera Silver Arrow III · Questor · Wildcat · Lucerne · Park Avenue Essence · Bolero · Sceptre · XP2000 · Signia · Cielo · LaCrosse · Blackhawk · Bengal · Centieme · Velite · Riviera · Invicta Concept · Business Hybrid Concept · Avant Concept · Regal GS Concept


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External Links

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The page uses content from Wikipedia Buick Riviera page and work form these contributors.