By on May 14, 2010

The boattail Riviera is a fitting finale to Curbside Classics for now. I’ve had a thing for fastbacks since day one, and I’ve been indulging in them this week. This Riviera also represents the difficult ending of an era, where the large luxury coupe, especially GM’s, was the standard bearer for American design innovation and leadership. What started as a revolutionary concept with the 1958 Thunderbird, and was elevated to timeless elegance in the 1963 Riviera, now struggled to regain its former glory in the dying days of the giant car.

The 1971 Riviera was a bold effort by GM styling head Bill Mitchell to recapture the magic that seemed to permeate GM in the sixties. The result was controversial and flawed, but its hulking and brash shape has certainly enriched our streets. For me, CC is about the visual thrill of rediscovering the unique shapes and designs of the past, no matter how imperfect, and the boattail Riviera certainly does that as well or better than any other car in my collection. It’s a car worth stopping for.

Bill Mitchell’s younger days and early career was steeped in the classic cars of the twenties and thirties. And he endlessly looked to them for inspiration. The crisp and sharp lines of the ’63 Riviera, and the awkward 1980 Seville were inspired by the razor-edge lines of the British coach-builder Hooper. And of course, the boattail speedsters of the classic era informed the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray’s tail. With this new Riviera, Mitchell again reached to the past, including his own earlier designs, the Corvette, of course.

To understand the ’71 Riviera’s design and execution challenges in greater detail, ateupwithmotor has a fine article on its tortured birth. The ’71 Riviera was originally planned to join the Grand Prix and Monte Carlo on the smaller A-Special platform. And the original sketches by John Houlihan (above) were based on that assumption. But when Buick’s new GM Lee Mays saw what was planned, he refused to spend the money on the new body shell, forcing the boattail design to be upscaled to share as much of the body of 1971 full-sized LeSabre/Centurion as possible.

Clearly, and understandably, something of the original scale and intent got lost in the translation, from the prow-like beak, to the compromise of using the LeSabre’s front greenhouse, and the challenge in blending it with the tapered rear end. The way it came out, there are certain inconsistencies in transitions as well as some awkward angles, especially the transition from the low rear window back, and the rear hips from certain angles are just all wrong. This is a car like many movie stars: it begs to be shot from certain angles, and not others.

Although the front end may have come out a bit flatter than originally conceived, I do find it to be a very handsome face nevertheless. It just screams Bill Mitchell, and in the best way possible. It evokes a number of GM designs during the golden era, and as much as anything about this car, it represents a swan song: by 1973, five mph bumpers ruined it forever, and that whole era of beautiful faces. This face is saying: take a good look, because you’ll never see anything quite like it again.

The side sweep that starts at the front fenders and carries down across the sides was a Buick trademark for ages. But its use here is questionable, given the difficult transition it has to make into those exaggerated hips.

The new Riviera was not greeted enthusiastically. Sales actually dropped from its dull and boring predecessor. Within a couple of years, the boat tail was gone, replaced by perhaps one of the dreariest Rivieras ever, still using the same front end, but with a very conventional roof and a decidedly conventional but ugly rear end.

The Riviera was a huge car for being a “personal coupe”. The ’73 version with its new bumper stretched just shy of the 225 inches that the giant Electra used to crow about. And it weighed around 5,000 lbs when equipped in the usual fashion. One of the more disappointing aspects of this generation was the ever declining loss of interior quality. While the ’63 had an interior to drool over, this Riviera shares the ever-cheaper interior of its LeSabre/Centurion stablemates. Nothing to make one feel special sitting in here, except perhaps the view out the back window.

I’m (literally) running out of words today, so let’s just take in a few more angles; each of them has plenty of visual interest.

From this direction, its clear that a fair amount of the originally intended prow made it into the final design. And under that expanse of hood sat Buick’s biggest and best 455 cubic inch V8, rated at 330 hp (gross) in 1971, and 250 hp (net) for ’72 and ’73. The GS package included a slightly higher rating on the big V8; 345 gross/270 net. Plenty of torque for the job at hand, but don’t even ask about fuel economy. These were the rock-bottom years, when single digits were the norm, and anything in the teens was something to brag about.

This angle again is an awkward one for the big boattail: those hips look fine in profile, but in conjunction with the narrowing tail, they stick out in a way that only a true lover of these cars or big-hipped women can appreciate. And there are plenty of those (in both categories). Boattails have an enthusiastic fan club, and thanks to them, we can look  forward to seeing these around for a long time to come.

It was a bittersweet ending to GM’s big car golden era. And although Ford had quite a run with its popular big Lincoln Marks, they really weren’t stylistically significant, except for ushering in the vulgar baroque blow-out of the mid seventies and the ghastly Super-Fly/Bugazzi era. The Riviera struggled along in several stages of mediocrity, until it found a reasonably happy mid-life in the fairly handsome downsized 1979-1985 incarnation. By 1986, it was a shrunken shadow of its former self, headed for its inevitable axe. All things must end.

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47 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1972 Boattail Buick Riviera...”


  • avatar
    Stingray

    I have the same 63 Corvette picture in my cell phone gallery of wallpapers. I haven’t used since my baby was born last year.

    In the roof I could say he also got some influence from Bugatti cars in the center nerve.

    That Riv is beautiful. I remember seeing one of those in Caracas long time ago. It was coloured (Aussie spelling is courtesy of Firefox’s dictionary) gold.

    The Riviera was reborn with the Aurora in the 90′s, but don’t remember in which year it was finally axed. The Aurora survived to see the 21st century.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    I love these Rivera’s for being sooooooooooo over the top. I know the previous generations were better in interior quality and blah, blah, blah, blah… But I love that boat tail! My Uncle Tim had one (interesting guy if you look at his “auto-biography”) and he crashed that beautiful nose into a telephone pole not far from home in Ohio. A local gas station had an arrangement in which there was no curb in-front of their business just a straight shot off the street and a telephone pole inconveniently placed.

    Tim was stone cold sober pulling into the station but got distracted by a hot little lady walking by in summer wearing some very short 70s shorts and a halter top. (BAM!!!!!!!!!!) Right into the pole, dead center on that sharp nose. My dad (Tim’s older brother) claims that pole couldn’t have been more dead center if poor old Tim had aimed for it.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Pure lust in automotive form. Think Ava Gardner, Jayne Mansfield, Raquel (if anyone asks Raquel who?….turn in your Man Club card.) or Betty Page…..in auto sculpture. Languid. The best color for these was maroon, IMHO, but gold looked nice, too.

    Also, IIRC, this is the last of the non-”badge-engineered” Rivs….every model after this shared platform and mechanicals with the Toronado…so this is the last uniquely Buick Riviera…

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      Indeed, although a few women surely bought them, the last, great Riviera is definitely the last from Detroit automotive design based entirely on pandering exclusively to the heterosexual male market. For proof, just look at any car driven by a pimp in a movie made in the seventies. It’s invariably a customized boattail Riv or Grand Prix.

      Then, Federal bumper standards fouled everything up. Likewise, some smart auto-exec started realizing that all their vehicles had to have ‘softer’ lines to more widely appeal to the entire, gender-neutral market.

      The final nail in the coffin was the success of the 1986 Taurus in increasing fuel efficiency by lowering Cd.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Kluttz

      Lest we forget about the mildly downsized ’77 and ’78 models? They were two-door LeSabres with a stand-up front end and a different roofline and taillights. Handsome, but handsome like the downsized full-sized cars. Not very.

  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    Is that vinyl roof standard? I seem to remember the Riv had that basket handle thing going on, with the roof being vinyl only from the rear edge of the side windows, forward. This looks like maybe an aftermarket job? I always thought T-Tops on this design, a la the C3 Vette, would have suited this design, but maybe with all the girth, this beast needed the roof to maintain structural rigidity. Also, ya gotta love those classic Buick wheels.

    A friend of mine who was an artist always told me you could see a cat-face in the back end design of every 1960′s to 1970′s Buick. Look at the top picture again….it is there….

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    UMMM…what do you mean fitting finale, for now? This week…This month? Indefinitely?
    OH, Just read the earlier article…good luck,,,

  • avatar
    Monty

    I feel honoured this week. You have posted two of my all time favourite cars – 1st gen Barracuda, and the boat-tailed Riviera.

    I like big, hippy women, so it’s no wonder I love every single line on this beauty. This design is the interpretation of Jayne Mansfield, Jane Russell or Marilyn Monroe as an automobile. A nice rack out front, generous hips, and a beautiful rear end.

    My favourite colour was any of the blue (pictured) with the dark blue interior, or the gold with the dark brown interior or the champagne with the maroon interior.

    Drool…

    Paul, your last CC is a classic of the genre.

    Thank you so much.

    Monty

    • 0 avatar
      educatordan

      “I like big, hippy women, so it’s no wonder I love every single line on this beauty.”

      Agreed. Senorita got to have booty or I don’t look twice.

    • 0 avatar
      Stingray

      You both would be happy down here.

      Big booty, big hips, big boobies… there’s one for each taste.

      J-Lo corrupted you gringos. And to think that her boot is normal down here :)

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      Funny – I always thought of the Harley Earl cars of the ’50s as the feminine-mobiles. Big thick rounded sections, like a well-fed fast girl you’d pick up at a roadside cocktail lounge.

      When Bill Mitchell took over at the turn of the decade, everything became crisply and elegantly folded and creased. I’d never thought of it, but this car is kind of a return to the Earl aesthetic.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    “…this Riviera shares the ever-cheaper interior of its LeSabre/Centurion stablemates…” Well, yes and no. The Riv did have its own dashboard, but the only real difference was that the area in front of the passenger was concave, whereas in the other full-size 1971-73 Buicks it was flat. But personal luxury coupes from other manufacturers, too, were lacking in interior distinctiveness starting in the ’70s – for example, the utterly generic early-1990s Thunderbird/Cougar dashboard (somewhat remedied for the 1994 model year). The Aurora-based Riv of the late 1990s made a real effort in this area, as did (less elegantly) the Thunderbird-based Continental Mark VIII, but few people bought them.

    As for sharing a platform with the Toronado, that didn’t happen until the 1979-85 generation when the Riv became a front-drive car. The 1974-76 Riv (as already noted) was LeSabre-based, as was the 1977-78 “downsized” version.

    I recall seeing boattail Rivs (when new) without vinyl roofs. The “basket-handle” treatment, with vinyl only from the rear edge of the rear side windows forward, may have been a factory option on the 1973s only.

  • avatar
    whynotaztec

    I always wanted on of these, but I’ve cooled off over the last few years, partly because of that front end – too much like my 71 LeSabre, as mentioned here.
    That 1980 Seville – awful – I saw one yesterday, looked like the rear end rusted and the trunk was pointed downwards.
    Regarding big-hipped women, well, they do have a certain charm.

  • avatar
    Mark out West

    I think the 1966 Oldsmobile Toronado was more cutting edge than the Riv. And if you prefer the Riviera, the 1966 was the best from a styling perspective.

    • 0 avatar
      Mike66Chryslers

      I think the 66-67 Olds Toronado and the 71-72 Riv are both beautiful cars. Strangely enough, the 72-73 Dodge Monaco looks like they tried to copy the front-end of the earlier Toronado and failed; I don’t like it at all.

    • 0 avatar
      GeneralMalaise

      To each his own, but I don’t think any of the subsequent generations could top the 1st gen Riviera. What a beauty!

      Thanks for this curbside classic series! A great way to revisit my youth.

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      Want to do a fascinating exercise in auto design analysis? Put a ’66 Toronado next to a ’69 Ferrari Daytona. At first blush, that sounds crazy. But actually look at them side by side. You can’t miss the connection.

  • avatar
    dcdriver

    WOW 225 inches long. That’s longer than an Escalade ESV.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I loved their flamboyance, but hated that awful willowy structure and the cheap interior materials.

    As a kid, there was an older retired couple who lived down the street. They had a brown one, and I thought that it was one really cool car. This may be the only 71-73 GM big car that I could actually own. Sure, it was a loose, juddering cheapmobile, but, dammit, it was unique and interesting – 2 traits in short supply among big 70s cars.

  • avatar

    The Riviera is a car that needs to return and could be a youthful, aspirational shot in the arm Buick needs.

    GM has the structure (The Camaro) and the plant (Oshawa) and the stylists to make a new luxury/performance Riviera based on the 1960s classics a reality.

  • avatar

    Although the boat tail was supervised by Mitchell, it was mainly the work of Jerry Hirschberg, who later became chief designer for Nissan. Hirschberg’s tenure included the Infiniti J30 and the droop-tailed Altima.

    AUWM’s history of this car: http://ateupwithmotor.com/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/74-das-boot-buick-riviera-boattail.html

  • avatar
    capdeblu

    In the mid seventies my parents wanted a new car. They had mostly always had Buicks but the boring ones like the Skylark or Lesabre. They went to the dealership intending to get a Regal but I begged them to get the Riviera. It was out of character for us to get anything top of the line. My father was hesitant but went along. The car was red with a white vinyl top. It rode and looked beautiful.

    But unfortunately it was a lemon. It had a variety of problems that showed up after the warranty had expired. The a/c went south and it needed two transmissions. Needless to say it was our last Buick.

  • avatar
    GMis4GoodManners

    This (or to be exact, it’s 1974 version) is the car of my childhood dreams. My mother – who always drove the smallest Buick or occasionally smallest Olds – was picking up her 1974 Buick Apollo (the first of the 4 horrible GM cars in a row my parents bought that led them to now be avid Honda drivers), and I tried to talk her into trading up to the Riviera sitting next to it in the showroom. She would have none of it – “That’s a man’s car” she told me with her Yankee tone of disgust.

    I have lusted for one since.

  • avatar
    Mr Carpenter

    The lead designer on this Riviera (and I’m surprised that nobody has mentioned it) was a GM “new hire” but very old hand at the biz, Alex Tremulus.

    Whoozat? you ask? For shame! Not knowing the man responsible for designing much of the TUCKER.

    And yes the rear of the Riviera in question IS intentionally done like that.

    Read something about when Tremulus was interviewing for a job at American Motors in the mid 1960′s. The interview went something like this:

    Tremulus: I was a lead designer on the Tucker.

    Interviewer: I have 20 guys who’ve interviewed for the job who’ve said the same thing.

    Tremulus: Here is my drawing portolio.

    Interviewer: The other 20 guys were bums.

  • avatar
    SilverCoupe

    I can’t not comment on a Riv! Though we had the ’64, there were several Riv’s I loved during their lifetimes, and this was one of them. I always note where they live, and check them out whenever I drive by them.

    When looked at up close, the detailing really was a bit imperfect, but they certainly had flair!

    It would be nice if Buick could bring this one back in a smaller package, and do it right, though I do not really know if retro would sell in this market – the reborn T-Bird certainly did not light up the sales charts.

    Ah, but we can always dream.

  • avatar
    Phil Ressler

    By the time this car was in design, it was organizationally much more difficult for Mitchell to exercise purity of vision than a decade earlier when the ’63 Sting Ray, the ’63 Riv, the ’65 Corvair and their elegant ilk were springing from the imagination of GM design. So, the compromises made to scale-up the original vision might seem obvious in dissection, but at the time, people only saw that whole car for the dramatic statement it was. Fewer had the personality to embrace something so expressive. The ’60s boom had begun petering out by 1971, but it hadn’t sunk in yet that a malaise lay ahead. We knew there was some kind of end-game in Vietnam, and Americans were still optimistic, as well as proud to be the only country going to the moon. This Riv reflected that exuberance.

    As an teenager into my driving years when this Riv debuted, I didn’t think of myself as ever driving something so large, but I was excited to have such a car on the road. Growing up in a conservative region (Lancaster County, PA) wasn’t as boring automotively as you might imagine. A lot of my Dad’s generation made room in their otherwise careful lives for a cool car, and Bill Mitchell cars were the coolest. I had an uncle who was as quiet, reserved, correct and careful as could be, but he liked a statement car, and he owned a copper boattail Riv that instantly conferred an inimitable measure of swagger on someone you didn’t know had it, until he rolled up in his Buick.

    Phil

  • avatar

    That’s the one I’m going to get as soon as I have a place to put it. I’ve wanted a ’72 Riv for ages, and just love the lines and presence of it. I have plenty of evil plans for it once I get it, just as soon as space, money, and the right car all come along at the same time.

    Thanks for showing a beautiful car as your final CC – I’ve enjoyed all of them, and it’s wonderful to see my all-time favorite get a write-up.

  • avatar
    geeber

    Another great article…on a very controversial car. I remember these when I was a kid. We thought that they were a little over-the-top even then. They sure did turn heads, though, even in the early 1970s.

    What’s interesting is how hard Mr. Mays worked to kill the boattail. The resulting 1974 Riviera was a fat coupe without the room of the LeSabre or the drama of the 1971-73 models. They were big, unattractive, anonymous cars.

    As someone once said, be careful what you ask for – you just might get it.

  • avatar
    newfdawg

    The 1963-65 Rivieras were one of the most beautiful vehicles General Motors ever built; in contrast to most Buicks which were chrome encrusted barges and they were wonderful. Unfortunately the theme of that era was bigger = better; the 1966 got a Batmobile restyle job and then things really went off the rail with the ’71 Riv. I thought it was a hideous abomination-and alwsays thought of it as a Corvette Sting Ray that had been restyled by Salvadore Dali. Buick was never able to duplicate the beauty of the first Riviera.

  • avatar

    I have to agree with the fastback ending to CC and Paul-you had a real knack for finding the unloved and misunderstood in car world.That’s what made the section so compelling.

    Here’s a 73 owned by a kid who walked during the week so he could drive his big boattail Riv during the stupid gas prices a few years ago.Really nice car.
    http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/2-features/stories/238-my-star-1973-buick-boat-tail-walking-to-work-pays-for-cars-thirsty-habit.html

  • avatar
    obbop

    A man’s conveyance.

    A manly man’s car.

    No wimpy girly boys need poke the make-it-move pedal.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    The last great design by GM.

    They’ve done some good ones since, but these Rivs cannot be mistaken for anything else. A great, big, wasteful, AMerican barge. Gotta love ‘em.

  • avatar

    The face looks like a ’65 Chevy. The hips like an R. Crumb drawing, or maybe the babe in Little Abner, except I greatly prefer those sorts of hips on a woman over those on a car. Although this car has far more style than 97.85% of what’s out there today, its style is a bit vulgar. This particular example just isn’t attractive to me, although I do like the one in the link Jerry Sutherland provided, as well as the drawings. I’m not surprised the style was dumbed down in bureaucratic infighting.

  • avatar

    I’m pretty sure that other than the drivetrains, Rivieras and Olds Toronados shared platforms and body structures from 1966-1971. After that the Toronado and Cadillac Eldorado were siblings.

    I’ve may build a Locost and I might make it a boattail. Ever since I saw the Packard “Myth” custom at the 2010 Detroit Autorama, where it was a Ridler finalist, I’ve been thinking about boattails.

    Though he drew some nice cars, I’m not a huge fan of Bill Mitchell. Two much chrome and way over the top.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I had a high school buddy who had one of these in the late 70s. Thanks to their gas guzzling ways, you could pick them up for practically nothing. His was maroon, and as Mark M. noted, very sharp in that color. We use to run it road rallies with the local sports car club. Didn’t quite fit in, but it was so over the top we didn’t care.

    • 0 avatar
      Geeky1

      You know, the funny thing is that compared to their contemporaries, the Riv and the smaller, lighter grand prix had the best handling of any of the American “personal luxury coupes.”. I’ve had my 73 on some mountain roads around here and it shocked the hell out of me. It actually acquitted itself halfway respectably for a 20ft long 5000lb automobile. Only problem was the little two lane roads were barely big enough for it. I scared the bejesus out of more than a few oncoming drivers. >_>

  • avatar
    PeriSoft

    It’s bizarre how the ttac demographic, which violently detests bloat, automatics, weight, low power output, and bad interiors, will get all teary over cars that are showcases for the opposite. It’s like a body building web site having a popular subsection devoted to fat, lazy, diseased people with bad teeth.

  • avatar
    big_gms

    @ TriShield:

    I’d like to see the Riviera make a comeback as well, but it’s never going to happen. The market for big luxurious coupes is dead and has been for many years. Let’s face it, we enthusiasts tend to live in an automotive fantasyland of sorts, dreaming up all sorts of cool cars that would never sell because the realities of the market are very different from our ideals. A man can certainly dream, though…

  • avatar
    big_gms

    I see the usual amount of hate for the 1974-76 Rivieras. I’ve never quite understood it and I’ll be the odd man out here: I actually prefer the 1974-76 (especially the ’74) to the boattail Rivieras. The rear end certainly was toned down considerably, but I think that’s a good thing and it’s really quite handsome. The boattail design would not have made the transition to 5 MPH rear bumpers required for ’74 very gracefully, and really, the boattail was so over the top that it couldn’t get any wilder-the only direction to go was with more understated styling. If you look closely, the ’74 has the same retro sort of theme that the 1980 Cadillac Seville had, but on the Riviera it’s done much more subtly and tastefully. The ’74-’76, while not the greatest Riviera ever, was hardly the dreariest one. You want dreary Rivieras? How about the 1977-78s? Rather boring. I’ll argue that the ’74-’76s had more style. The dreariest, most godawful Rivieras ever were the 1986-88 models. Too damned small and no style whatsoever.

    • 0 avatar
      chrisgreencar

      That’s a good point about the similarity of the ’74-76 Riv and the ’80 Seville. (Especially since a similar fastback LaSalle concept was introduced about the same time as a proposal for the first Seville in ’76, but was shelved until ’80.) I do have a certain appreciation for the ’74 Riviera, but not so much the ’75 and ’76. Somehow the rectangular headlamps didn’t go with the retro theme, and it just seemed more and more like a big barge. Riviera is one of my all-time favorite models, EVERY generation, even the also-hated ’86-88 (interesting for their smallness and the wild CRT screen dash!) I would love to have an original ’63-64, a boattail, and a ’79-85. Also LOVE the ’95-99 and had a ’97 for 9 years. It was a fun, distinctive car to own, although not without its problems.

  • avatar
    dingram01

    Oh yeah, this one’s a classic all right, just like plaid polyester leisure suits are classics.

    What a horrific abomination from top to bottom and front to back. I always felt like puking when riding around in American barges, but this one makes me want to puke just looking at it.

    These cars were just like their owners: completely lacking in taste, fat, ugly, and always followed by a strong and objectionable trail of fumes.

    What a terrible, terrible way to end the Curbside Classics series. Unless the object was to hoist the most indelible marker of American auto industry moronitude for all to see.

  • avatar
    OMG_Shoes

    Two words: Buh. Largh. These ѕhitboxes were inexcusably ugly when new, didn’t age well, and it’s a fortunate, happy thing that most of them have disappeared from the roads. Maybe it was good for visibility of the right brake light from the lane to the left of the car, but that concave rear bumper “styling” that disfigured so many GM products of the late ’60s and early ’70s made the cars, even when brand new, look like rear-end smash victims. There are prow noses (Ford/Mercury/Lincoln circa ’69-’75) and prow noses (Dodge Dart, ’73-’76) and then there are prow noses (the abomination displayed on this page). The side profile view looks like a collage assembled by a gaggle of drunken winners of a “you’re a car designer for a day!” sweepstakes, all prevented from speaking to one another or seeing what any other gaggle member was doing. About the only angle from which this car looks good is…um…

    …um…

    …just a minute, don’t press me…if you nag at me I’ll never get it…

    …uh…

  • avatar

    I’ll grant that this car’s styling has always been pretty polarizing, but I have always loved these monsters from the first time I set eyes on one. The 71/72 Riv is one of the cars on my “list”. My wife has a list of celebrities that she would sleep with given the chance, without any consequences from me, and I have a list of cars that, if I see one unattended somewhere, I would fondle, lick, and probably try to mate with. The boat-tail Rivs are high on that list.

    Pooh-pooh all over it if you like, I don’t care. That there is one awesome and beautiful car.

  • avatar
    cheezeweggie

    Awesome design, although a bit super-sized. If there was time when one GM model actually looked different than the others, this was it. A 3/4 scale version would have probably made a great pony car, but 72 was the start of the automotive dark ages for America. Low compression EPA smog pump vacuum hosed monsters.

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    “I see the usual amount of hate for the 1974-76 Rivieras. I’ve never quite understood it and I’ll be the odd man out here: I actually prefer the 1974-76 (especially the ‘74) to the boattail Rivieras. The rear end certainly was toned down considerably, but I think that’s a good thing and it’s really quite handsome. The boattail design would not have made the transition to 5 MPH rear bumpers required for ‘74 very gracefully, and really, the boattail was so over the top that it couldn’t get any wilder-the only direction to go was with more understated styling. If you look closely, the ‘74 has the same retro sort of theme that the 1980 Cadillac Seville had, but on the Riviera it’s done much more subtly and tastefully. The ‘74-’76, while not the greatest Riviera ever, was hardly the dreariest one. You want dreary Rivieras? How about the 1977-78s? Rather boring. I’ll argue that the ‘74-’76s had more style. The dreariest, most godawful Rivieras ever were the 1986-88 models. Too damned small and no style whatsoever.”

    Thanks for the good words about the 1974. I still own one of these, was my mom’s car since 1977, black on black and put over 200k miles on it til the rear main seal got to leaking too badly. It’s black on black and await a restoration in the garage one day.

  • avatar
    ceipower

    Here’s a car that screams , I have brass balls and I don’t care who knows it. Even though this is considered a failure sales wise , I’d much rather have this as a failure on my resume , then say the Aztek. Both stayed around for a few years , neither sold in any kind of numbers. Still , over time , these boatail Riv’s haven’t lost their style. The Aztek can’t lose what it never had.

  • avatar
    Dynasty

    Ok, I had one of these.  Drove it as my daily driver close to four years.  I’ll admit.. it was big, only really a good look from certain angles.. BUT, driving this car was something special.  I’m not sure where the author states these cars weighed 5000 pounds came from.  In the service manual I have somewhere, I’m pretty sure the curb weight was closer to 3800 pounds.
    At any rate, the 455 big block had no trouble moving this vehicle down the street, or up the steepest mountain pass you could find as fast as you wanted, in the heat of summer with the frigid ac unit chilling straight through your bones.
    The front brakes were quite impressive too.  I don’t have performance figures, but they seemed to be able to stop the car quite well.  In fact, for the size and weight of the vehicle it was actually quite nimble.
    Mine was gold with a complimenting vinyl top.
    I put quite a bit of time and money into doing some defered maintenance and some upgrades all pretty much to no avail.  The engine (455s) had a terrible lubrication system.  With cold oil, oil pressure was dismil.  Once the engine was warmed up, I think I was lucky to have 10 psi.  If even that much. I just remember it was pretty bad.  Had I known the oil pressure problems prior to purchase, probably would have passed.  And it wasn’t for at least a couple years that I had it that I got to putting some VDO gauges into it.
    Eventually the engine needed about 2K worth of work (because of lack of oil pressure), the cost of gas was rising, and sadly.. it just was not that cool of a car, say like a 65 riviera, that I could have justified putting any more money into it.
    Sold it for 2k.  Hopefully, the gentleman who bought it from me rebuilt the motor, because the body, interior, suspension, and brakes were all in top notch shape when he got it from me.


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