Buick Riviera: A Close Look at the Personal Luxury Car

Buick Riviera is one of the oldest luxury cars from General Motors and is usually a popular choice among car enthusiasts. With a wide range of generations, you can still purchase some of these cars in the second-hand market.

Buick Riviera

The Buick Riviera is an upscale muscle car that will take a fantastic spot in your car collection as it combines the themes of luxury and sportiness. In this guide, we will take a look at this American luxury car and go through its different generations.

Introduction to the Buick Riviera

Buick Riviera is the first series of personal luxury cars released by General Motors, and its model years were between 1963 to 1993 and 1995 to 1999. Despite being the first entry by GM, the Buick Riviera gained a lot of popularity and was praised by journalists for its unique design. It was initially a rear-wheel drive platform but eventually became a front-wheel drive.

The “Riviera” name is Italian for “coastline,” and it first entered the Buick line in 1949. By the 1950s, General Motors wanted to make a luxury car that could successfully compete with the Ford Thunderbird, which had gained a lot of popularity. The Riviera was first the name of the existing long-wheelbase versions of Buick Super and Roadmaster sedans.

In 1955, Buick and Oldsmobile then released four-door hardtops on the Century and Special models, this was also named Riviera. It was the first mass-produced hardtops in the world. The Riviera hardtops were then added to the Super and Roadmaster lines in the next year. Thus, the Riviera was mostly a body style designation and not a model until 1963.

From 1959 to 1962, the Riviera name was used to identify a premium trimmed six-window hardtop style that was placed on the Cadillac and Electra 225. Then, it was used to describe a luxury trim under the Electra 225 brand. By 1963, it was released as a luxury car to compete with the Ford Thunderbird.

  • Buick Riviera 1963

The Buick Riviera’s first generation was released between 1963 and 1965 and is known as a classic convertible. The Riviera 1963 was powered by a 6.6-liter V8 engine that gave 325 horses and 445 pound-feet of torque. Another option was the 7.0-liter V8 engine that increased your power to 360 hp and 465 pound-feet of torque.

The car also featured a 2 or 3-speed automatic with rear-wheel drive. The front suspension had control arms and coil springs, while the rear suspension had a live axle with coil springs. There were 112,244 vehicles produced between 1963 and 1965. If you’re wondering whether you should own the 1963 model, there are different reasons why it is a popular choice for collectors.

The Buick Riviera 1963 is known as a beautifully proportioned car made in America, and upon its release, it was praised by contemporary designers like Sergio Pininfarina, Sir William Lyons, and Raymond Loewy. The aesthetic will definitely appeal to anyone that loves cars. Aside from that, the Riviera has an active owners group, so you can share information with other collectors.

Keep in mind that the fuel consumption of the Riviera 1963 is high, which is expected for a car from that time. But if you’re buying the car in the second-hand or vintage car market, you can get it for a reasonable price despite it being one of the best cars in the late 1960s. Also, the Riviera was considered a great success and gave the Thunderbird its first real competition.

  • Buick Riviera 1966

By 1966, General Motors released the second generation of the Buick Riviera. The 1966 Riviera shared the front-wheel-drive with the 1966 Toronado and 1967 Eldorado. The company tried to use the front-wheel drive, but when problems emerged during the early testing phases, they decided to stick with the rear-wheel drive. The front-wheel drive also makes the Riviera more expensive.

Buick Riviera 1966 Review

The 1966 Riviera and Toronado models were quite similar as they used the same sheet metal stampings in the roof, inner doors, cowl and glass. They also had the same rear section in the floor plan. Keep in mind that the second generation lasted through the model years of 1966 to 1970.

As for the engine, it was powered by a 7.0-liter Nailhead V8, 7.0-liter Buick V8 and 7.5-liter Buick V8 engine, and they all featured a 3-speed TH-400 automatic engine. The car also features 360 horsepower, and the transmission shifts solidly and smoothly. With the 12-inch finned aluminium drum power brakes, you get nimble handling when driving.

Despite dating back to 1966, if you have a well-maintained model, you will still have a reliable and dependable car. But it’s hard to find the 1966 Riviera now because most collectors or owners don’t want to sell the one that they have. Also, most people use the car as an engine donor for another car.

  • Buick Riviera 1971

The third generation Riviera model lasted between 1971 and 1973 and is known as a cool and affordable classic car. Although the Riviera was a popular model, the sales started to reduce in 1970. Due to this, the 1971 model year was completely different, with a unique boattail rear design and long-tapered hood front-end.

Once it was released, the design caused the car to rise to the top of the chart. It was even described as the “most daring new automobile design in recent history.” The car was powered by a 7.5-liter Buick V8 engine with 3-speed TH-400 automatic transmission. It was designed to give a sporty vibe and was slightly bigger than the previous model.

The 1971 Riviera also came with a wide range of standard and optional features. The standard list of luxury features includes AccuDrive suspension, tilt steering column, remote-control outside mirror, variable-ratio power steering, power disc brake and automatic transmission. It also comes with optional features like a power seat, Cruise Master cruise control, and vinyl roof.

The interior of the car is also known for being grand and attractive. The dashboard of the Riviera comes with an easy-to-read instrument cluster with replaceable panels. The standard interior came with a bench or bucket in sandalwood or black vinyl. The optional interior offers green, sandalwood, or blue options.

  • Buick Riviera 1974

Next is the fourth generation of this luxury car, the Riviera 1974 to 1976, which was the least popular out of all the generations. It was built in small numbers and was left in the shadow of the more popular 1971 to 1973 cars. Even with this, it was a clean and muscular car, featuring a length of 218 inches and 4,600 pounds.

Details of Buick Riviera 1974

The car was a 2-door coupe powered by a 7.5-liter Buick V8 engine with a 3-speed TH-400 automatic transmission. The car changed from a hardtop coupe to a pillared coupe in the fourth generation. Also, while the previous generation had a boat tail roofline, the fourth one had a standard-looking Colonnade.

With the V8 engine, you get 230 to 245 horses, The revised style in the fourth generation didn’t improve its sales, and this was also due to the energy crisis of that time caused by OPEC. The car also had a Riviera GS Stage 1 variation available which made the 245 horsepower available.

By 1975, the Riviera was designed with an updated front fascia and a fiberglass front end cap. The quad rectangular headlights were mounted horizontally, and there was a vertical-bar grille that is standard on many GM cars. Buyers could purchase the Gran Sport handling package.

  • Buick Riviera 1977

The model years of 1977 and 1978 make up the fifth generation of the Riviera. While it was not the most popular car from the Riviera series, it was still a decent car that buyers loved. The car was powered with either a 5.7-liter Buick V8 or a 6.6-liter Oldsmobile V8, with 3-speed TH -400 automatic transmission.

The 1977 Riviera was downsized and placed on the GM B platform. Under this was the Buick LeSabre coupe, designed with unique styling like the quarter windows that looked like the Cadillac Eldorado. The front fascia on this car was a vertical tool.

The 1977 Riviera featured a smaller wheelbase of 115.9 inches and an overall length of 217.2 inches. The weight was also reduced by 660 pounds. Although the sales were higher initially, they dropped for the 1978 model.

In the 1978 Riviera, you could purchase the 75th Anniversary Package, which offered silver and black paint, gray leather seats, a black trim, brushed chrome trim, special nameplates, four-wheel disc brakes, and deep pile carpeting.

  • Buick Riviera 1979

In the sixth generation, there was the Riviera from 1979 to 1985. They came in two-door coupes or convertibles, and it was the first series with a front-wheel drive from Riviera. It was also the first front-wheel drive in Buick history. It was built on a 114-inch wheelbase, with a similar mechanical design to the Cadillac Eldorado and Oldsmobile Toronado.

Buick Riviera 1979 Car Review

There were different engines used in this generation. These include the 3.8-liter Buick V6, 3.8-liter Buick V6 Turbocharged, 4.1-liter Buick V6, 5.0-liter Oldsmobile V8, 5.7-liter Oldsmobile V8, and 5.7-liter Oldsmobile diesel V8. As for the transmission, it was either a 3-speed TH-325 automatic or a 4-speed THM325-4L automatic.

With this generation, the sales of Riviera cars picked up as it doubled. It was even named Car of the Year by Motor Trend. The car is loved because the ride is smooth and the engine power is impressive. The convertible was available in two color choices, which were red firemist and white, while the interior color is red leather.

The 1979 Riviera S Type was the highlight of this generation, as it offered better road-holding performance. The tires were changed to the GR70-15, with tightened-up shock valving and spring rates. It also has faster anti-sway bars that can control the body roll.

  • Buick Riviera 1986

Now we have the seventh generation, which consisted of 2-door coupes between the model years 1986 to 1993. This generation had different engines for each year, 1986 being a 3.8-liter V6 with 140 horsepower. In the 1987 model year, you get a 3.8-liter V6 offering 150 horsepower. With 1988 to 1990 trim years, you get a 3.8-liter V6 engine that gives 165 horsepower.

Then, the 1991 to 1993 models feature a 3.8-liter V6 engine with 170 hp. All the engines are powered by a 4-speed THM440-T4 automatic transmission. In this generation, the Riviera was a unibody vehicle with a front-wheel drive, and it was downsized to a 108-inch wheelbase.

From this generation, the Buick was designed with a Graphic Control Center which features an advanced electronic instrumentation system. It came with a dash-mounted 9-inch monochrome CRT display, a stereo and a climate control system. It also had standard four-wheel disc brakes and three suspension packages available.

  • Buick Riviera 1995

The final generation of the Buick Riviera is the 1995 model, which was released after a hiatus in 1994. Buick surprised its fans with a completely different design that strayed from the previous generations.

Everything About Buick Riviera 1995

The engines in this generation included a 3.8-liter L36 Buick V6 engine with 205 horsepower, a 3.8-liter SC LG7 Buick V6 with 225 horsepower, and 3.8-liter SC L67 Buick V6 with 240 horsepower. It also features different kinds of transmission, including the 4-sp auto 4T60E for the 1995 to 1996 models and the 4-sp auto 4T60E-HD for the 1996 Supercharged engine.

Then, there is the 4-sp auto 4T65E-HD for the 1997 to 1999 models. The 1999 Riviera is the most recent model from this classic luxury car and is a large, comfortable and attractive coupe. The suspension is too soft to be a sports coupe, but it won’t be a practical car for families to use too.

By the final generation, the sales of coupes were declining in North America, and General Motors followed suit. The last 200 cars that were released featured silver paint and trim. These were the Silver Arrow models and gained quite a bit of popularity. Also, the eighth generation of the Riviera has the most powerful engine.

How Do the Buick Riviera and Chevy El Camino Compare in Terms of Design and Features?

The Buick Riviera and Chevy El Camino share a rich chevy el camino history and generations. When it comes to design, the Riviera exudes elegance with its sleek lines and luxurious appeal. Meanwhile, the El Camino stands out with its unique fusion of a car and a truck, offering versatility and a vintage charm. In terms of features, both vehicles offer various options, but the Riviera leans towards comfort and luxury, while the El Camino prioritizes utility and functionality. Ultimately, it boils down to individual preferences and needs.


The Buick Riviera is one of the most popular classic cars from the late 1900s, spanning eight generations.

Here’s a rundown of what we covered in our article:

  • The Buick Riviera was first released in 1963 and is the first entry from GM in the personal luxury vehicles section.
  • The 1963 Riviera is the first generation and is now sold to collectors.
  • The 1971 Riviera is one of the most popular generations due to its unique design and the many standard and optional features.
  • The 1999 Riviera was the last model year, with the final 200 models released as Silver Arrow.

If you’re curious about the Riviera, you can enjoy reading this complete guide above. It’s possible for you to find some of these Buick models for sale in the second-hand or vintage car market.

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