The Ford Thunderbird was such a hit since the time it was publicly launched at the Detroit Auto Show. So when General Motors finally decided to create a unit that could compete with the Thunderbird in the personal luxury car segment, its chief stylist, Bill Mitchell, decided to make it look like Rolls Royce with a Ferrari flavor. That’s the reason the 1963-1965 Buick Riviera was considered a styling milestone and became one the ‘60’s most coveted cars.
1963 - 1970: First to second generation Riviera (a styling icon)
The first generation Riviera was a one-of-a-kind styling landmark sporting a perfect blend of luxury sedan and sports car characteristics. It’s not typical for GM, but it made sure the Riviera won’t share its bodyshell with other models. It rode on a cruciform frame and had a power advantage over the Thunderbird with Buick’s 401 cu. in. “Nailhead” V8 with 325 gross horsepower. This powerful engine was paired with a Twin Turbine automatic transmission. It went on sale in October 1962.
For its second generation, the Riviera was restyled and given a wider, longer, and more curvaceous body. The most important change for this series was the adoption of Buick’s new 7.0L V8 that generates 360 hp and 475 lb.ft of torque. For the 1967 model year, the U.S-mandated safety equipment was included.
1971 - 1976: Third to fourth generation Riviera (boat-tail to Colonnade styling)
The Buick Riviera was drastically redesigned for 1971 model year. It rolled out of the plant with a dramatic boat styling plus Buick’s new Max Trac traction control system, which prevents wheelspin while accelerating on slippery surface. For the fourth generation, Buick replaced the Riviera’s boat tail roofline with a “Colonnade” treatment, transforming the car from being a hardtop coupe to being a pillared coupe. The 1974 Riviera came with wide B pillars as well as fixed quarter opera windows.
1977 - 1985: Fifth to sixth generation Riviera (GM B platform and LXXV edition)
For 1977 model year, Riviera was downsized, riding on Buick’s new GM B platform. The 1977 and 1978 models were produced only for two model years in the GMB platform before being redesigned in 1979 using the FWD E-platform. This is the reason ’77 and ’78 Rivieras are such a rare find these days.
In 1978, Buick produced a special LXXV edition to mark its 75th year on the market. There were a total of 2,889 LXXV units produced. The 1979 model year was marked by the introduction of the first front-wheel-drive Riviera. That same year, Riviera was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year.
1986 - 1999: Seventh to eight generation Riviera (unibody construction to egg-like styling)
For its seventh generation, the E-body Rivieras were converted to unibody construction. What’s new for this series was the advanced electronic instrumentation that includes the first automotive touchscreen controls. For 1986, the Riviera placed fourth in Motor Trend’s Car of the Year contest.
Riviera resurfaced in 1995 as a larger model with an egg-like styling. riding on Cadillac’s G platform. In 1997, revisions were done on the suspension to make the car lighter and give it a more nimble handling. The 250 hp supercharged V6 became standard in 1998. The eighth-generation Riviera also got the most powerful V-6 Buick engine since the 1980s—the supercharged OHV V6.