The Buick Riviera is a personal luxury car that was marketed by Buick from 1963 to 1999, with the exception of the 1994 model year.

As General Motors' first entry into the personal luxury car market segment, the Riviera was highly praised by automotive journalists upon its high-profile debut. The ground-up design that debuted for 1963 was also Buick's first unique Riviera model, and it pioneered the GM E platform.

Unlike its subsequent GM E platform stablemates, the Oldsmobile Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado, the Riviera was initially a standard front engine/rear-wheel drive platform, only switching to front-wheel drive starting for 1979.

While the early models stayed close to their original form, eight subsequent generations varied substantially in size and styling. A total of 1,127,261 Rivieras were produced.

The Riviera name was resurrected for two concept cars that were displayed at auto shows in 2007 and in 2013.
The Riviera name

1949 Buick Roadmaster Riviera (one of the first hardtops)

1959 Buick Electra 225 Riviera
The name Riviera, Latin for coastline, was chosen to evoke the allure and affluence of the French Riviera. It first entered the Buick line in 1949, as the designation for the new two-door pillarless hardtop, described in advertising as "stunningly smart". The Buick Roadmaster Riviera coupe (along with the Cadillac Coupe de Ville and Oldsmobile 98 Holiday coupe) constituted the first mass production use of this body style, which was to become extremely popular over the next 30 years. Buick added a two-door Riviera hardtop to the Super the following year, the Special in 1951 and the Century upon its return, after a 12-year absence, in 1954.

From 1951 to 1953 the Riviera designation was given to the existing long wheelbase versions of the four-door Buick Roadmaster and Super sedans. The 1951–53 Buick Roadmaster and Super four-door Riviera sedans feature more standard features, more plush interior trim and, most significantly, a wheelbase (and overall length) that is 4 inches (102 mm) longer than a regular Buick Roadmaster or Super four-door sedan. The 1951–52 Buick Super four-door Riviera sedan is still 0.75 inches (19 mm) shorter in wheelbase and length than the regular Buick Roadmaster and 4.75 inches (121 mm) shorter than the Roadmaster four-door Riviera sedan. In 1953, with the move from the Fireball straight-eight to the more compact Nailhead V8 engine, the Roadmaster and Super four-door Riviera sedans became the same length.

In the middle of the 1955 model year, Buick and Oldsmobile introduced the world's first mass-produced four-door hardtops, with Buick offering it only on the Century and Special models, and the Riviera designation was also applied to these body styles. Four-door Riviera hardtops were added to the Roadmaster and Super lines at the beginning of the following model year. However, since it was a body style designation and not a model, the Riviera name does not usually appear on the car.

In 1959, Buick became much more selective in applying the Riviera name. From then until 1962 it only was used to denote a premium trimmed six-window hardtop style which it initially shared exclusively with Cadillac (the Oldsmobile 98 would receive it in 1961) and was available only on the Electra 225. The last usage of the term Riviera to describe a luxury trim level was 1963, as the formal designation of the #4829 Electra 225 Riviera four-door hardtop, the same year the E-body model two-door hardtop coupe Riviera made its debut.

Debut as a personal luxury car

The production Riviera was introduced on October 4, 1962, as a 1963 model, its distinctive bodyshell was unique to the marque, unusual for a GM product. The design was substantially the same as the original, less expensively hidden headlights concealed in the fender grilles.[5] The elegant ground-up styling sported the new "Coke bottle look" introduced the year before on the arresting Studebaker Avanti, with a tapered midsection surrounded by flaring fenders. There was no trace of the "Sweepspear" used on beltlines of earlier Buicks with the Riviera package,

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 (3,000 mm) and overall length of 208 in (5,300 mm) were 6.0 inches (150 mm) and 7.7 in (200 mm) shorter, respectively, than a Buick LeSabre, but slightly longer than a contemporary Thunderbird. At 3,998 lb (1,813 kg),[8]:210 it was about 390 pounds (180 kg) lighter than either. It shared the standard Buick V8 engines, with a displacement of either 401 cu in (6.57 L) or 425 cu in (6.96 l), and the unique continuously variable design twin turbine automatic transmission. Power brakes were standard, using Buick's massive "Al-Fin" (aluminum finned) drums of 12 in (300 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 Buick's standard design, with double wishbones up front and a live axle located by trailing arms and a lateral track bar in the rear, but the roll centers were lowered to reduce body lean. Although its coil springs were actually slightly softer than other Buicks, the Riviera's lighter weight made its ride somewhat firmer. While still biased towards understeer, contemporary testers considered it one of the most driveable American cars, with an excellent balance of comfort and agility.

Buick's 325 hp (242 kW) 401 cu in (6.6 l) "Nailhead" V-8 was initially the only available engine,[8]:204 fitted with dual exhaust as standard equipment, and the turbine drive the only transmission.[8]:206 Base price was $4,333,[8]:210 running upwards of $5,000 delivered with typical options. Buick announced an optional 340 hp (254 kW) 425 cu in (7.0 l) version of the Nailhead in December 1962. Total production was deliberately limited to 40,000 vehicles (in a year that Buick sold 440,000 units overall) to emphasize the Riviera's exclusivity and to increase demand; only 2,601 were delivered with the delayed availability larger engine in the 1963 model year.

With the same power as the bigger Buicks and less weight, the Riviera had sparkling all-around performance: Motor Trend found it capable of running 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 8 seconds or less, the standing quarter mile in about 16 seconds, and an observed top speed of 115 miles per hour (185 km/h). Fuel economy was a meager 13.2 miles per US gallon (17.8 L/100 km; 15.9 mpg‑imp). Front leg room was 40.1 inches.[9

Inside, the Riviera featured a luxurious four-place cabin with front bucket seats and bucket-style seats in the rear. A center console with floor shifter and storage compartment built into the instrument panel divided the front. Upholstery choices included all-vinyl, cloth and vinyl, or optional leather. A deluxe interior option included real walnut inserts on the doors and below the rear side windows. Extra-cost options included a tilt steering wheel, power windows, power driver's seat, air conditioning, a remote-controlled side view mirror, and white sidewall tires.

Minimal trim and mechanical changes were made for 1964, with the most identifiable distinguishing features being a raised stylized "R" hood emblem and "R" emblems replacing the Buick crests in the taillight lenses. The interior is distinguished by moving the heater controls from controls under the dashboard eyebrow to slide controls in the forward fairing of the center console. Leather was dropped as an option, and the Dynaflow-based twin turbine replaced by a new three-speed Super Turbine 400. This was a GM Turbo Hydra-Matic with a variable pitch torque converter like the Dynaflow's. It used a two speed "D,L" selector but could automatically downshift from third to second until the car reached a suitable speed to downshift to first. This was the first year of the stylized "R"] emblem, a trademark that would continue throughout the remainder of Riviera's 36-year production run.[10] The engine was upgraded to the previously optional 340 hp (254 kW) 425 cu in (7.0 l) V8. A 360 hp (268 kW) 'Super Wildcat' version was available, with dual Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors.


1965 Riviera at Hastings, Minnesota Classic Car Show (2017)
In 1965 the 401 cu in (6.6 l) V8 returned as the standard engine, and the "Gran Sport" version made its debut, powered by the Super Wildcat V8 and outfitted with a more aggressive 3.42 axle ratio and stiffer, heavy-duty suspension. The Super Turbine 400 transmission retained its variable pitch torque converter, but was fitted with a three-speed gear selector. The stock dual exhaust pipes were increased from 2.0 inches (51 mm) to 2.25 inches (57 mm) inside diameter and had fewer turns to reduce backpressure. Externally, the headlamps, now vertically arranged, were hidden behind clamshell doors in the leading edges of each fender, as had been in the original design. The non-functional side scoops between the doors and rear wheel arches were removed, and the taillights moved from the body into the rear bumper.[11] 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 1963–1965 model years was a respectable 112,244. The Riviera was extremely well received from all quarters and considered a great success, giving the Thunderbird its first real competition as America's preeminent personal luxury car.

It has since earned Milestone status from the Milestone Car Society. Jaguar founder and designer Sir William Lyons remarked that Mitchell had done "a very wonderful job," and Sergio Pininfarina declared it "one of the most beautiful American cars ever built; it has marked a very impressive return to simplicity of American car design." At its debut at the Paris Auto Show, Raymond Loewy said the Riviera was the handsomest American production car—apart from his own Studebaker Avanti, in his view the Riviera's only real competition for 1963.[12] The first-generation Riviera is considered a styling landmark and has become a collectible car.

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