By on October 3, 2013

07 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinJust about everybody likes the “Boat-Tail” Riviera, and you’d think that would make even battered examples valuable enough to avoid the cold jaws of The Crusher. Think again!
06 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThis car is very rough, with a lot of three-dimensional patina, but it doesn’t seem to have much super-cancerous rust.
17 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinWhen the 1973 oil crisis hit, the value of these big fuel-sucking personal luxury coupes plummeted. That meant that a lot of these cars descended into beater status during the middle and later parts of the 1970s.
11 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThis car clearly spent many years sitting outdoors in Colorado, so the interior is pretty much toast.
12 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinStill, you can see remnants of the luxury that once was.
14 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinSomebody got the intake, but there’s still most of a super-torquey Buick 455 here.
15 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinLook, Buick Rally wheels!
10 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinLooks like the traditional GM rear-window rust was repaired at some point, with copious quantities of Bondo used to smooth things out.
22 - 1973 Buick Riviera Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee MartinThis glass must be getting hard to find these days.

There it is— America’s dream car!

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45 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1973 Buick Riviera...”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Hope someone at least saves the wheels, one of my favorite designs ever!

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on the wheels. Semi-on-topic: While I’m not a big fan of the current Camaro, kudos to Chevy for offering decent-looking steel wheels on its base trim level in recent years. It looks like they’ve gone to alloys on all trim levels for 2014. (That Riv’s steel rally wheels would’ve been an option, of course.)

      Obligatory road test link of a ’72 GS:

    • 0 avatar

      +2 The “Riviera wheel” is one of the best designs of all time

  • avatar

    I wonder if it might have been saved it it were a ’71 or ’72?

    • 0 avatar

      The boat-tail was much more pronounced on the ’71 and ’72, as I recall. That made the design more pure, like a ’63 split window Corvette, but I think that there was some sales resistance to the unconventional design with the off center license plate, hence the less pronounced boat-tail on the ’73.

      • 0 avatar

        It was the mandated 5 mph bumper requirement that caused the redesign

        • 0 avatar

          Actually the rule for 1973 was 5 mph front, 2.5 mph rear. In 1974 both were 5 mph, with redesigns required for many of the 1973 front bumpers to meet revised impact standards (see, for example, changes in many GM front bumpers from ’73 to ’74).

      • 0 avatar

        As a former “fuel transfer technician” in the early 1990s, in the great “no pump your own petrol state” of NJ, the Riviera’s fuel tank access (for both models- offset and center license plates) was the worst ever.

        I hated the couple of Riviera’s we used to get in the station I worked at because us pump jockeys had to kneel down on the ground to pump gas into them.
        We had to turn the pump handle sideways to the ground to get it into the filler hole so the handle would clear the back of the license plate holder — with the holder already pushed down.

        Worst gas filler access ever.

  • avatar

    Very cool, definately don’t see these around.

    Anything in the ammunition box?

  • avatar

    That’s a shame. The car is 95% complete and the body is mostly good. There must be someone looking for a project. I’m not a GM fan but these were beautiful cars, and deserve to be preserved.

  • avatar

    I can visualize today’s Crabspirit personification already.

    Jed liked guns. Rather, he liked working on them…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It was my grandmother’s Buick Riviera that first got me into cars, so I have a thing for them. I really like the second-gen (’66-’70), the sixth-gen (’77-85), the seventh-gen facelifted models (’90-’93), and the eighth-gen (’95-’99), especially the supercharged ones. But I *never* liked the boat-tail, so I’m not sorry to see this one go.

    On a semi-related note, maybe GM will bring the Opel Cascada over here as a reincarnated Riviera…but that might push the brand back toward geriatric clientele…

    • 0 avatar

      I agree about the ’77. Even though it was just a standard iteration of the downsized GM full-sized body with a rear-fender rise added aft of the doors, I always thought its proportions were very graceful.

      • 0 avatar

        I love the 77 because of the availability of the Buick 350 or Olds 403. They should have kept it in production a few more years instead of switching to the FWD platform from 79 to 85.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Lol…I actually meant ’79-’85 for the sixth-generation; the ’77 was the fifth-generation. But the ’77 was very pretty too.

        • 0 avatar

          The ’79-85 E-body trio were great cars, and sold great as a result. Unfortunately the 1986 downsizing was a bit of a disaster.

          • 0 avatar

            Were they really great? The Eldo’s I see are pretty ratty looking. None of these are worth anything today.

            The 86 redo was indeed a disaster though.

    • 0 avatar

      The 1977-78 was not the same platform as the 1979-85, since the 79 was FWD. The 77 was a guised up LeSabre.

    • 0 avatar

      Tbink you’re off on your gens there. The ’77-78 is the fifth gen and the ’79-85 the sixth gen. Very different cars, with the former being basically a tarted up RWD B-Body LeSabre and the latter the new FWD platform shared with the Toro and Eldorado.

      I don’t know if a Rivera in 2014 would carry any brand equity. I’m sure GM has studied that and would do it if so. Like the Thunderbird, there was a bad Rivera (the 1986-93 seventh gen), but I don’t know if there’s any negative equity.

  • avatar

    Pretty car when in nice shape. But to restore one like this would cost FAR more than it will be worth in the foreseeable future, so off to the crusher it goes.

  • avatar

    I remember my folks buying one of these in baby blue with a white interior back in the early 70’s. It was used, maybe a ’72 model and as I recall the car had a checkered past with being owned by some shady individuals prior to us having it. Seems like I recall a story of the FBI having gone through it at one point hence its’ many oddities. Dad says it was quite the highway cruiser though. I don’t recall the car being in our care for very long, I’ll have to ask about it and see what he remembers of this car.

  • avatar

    My paternal uncle had one of these in the late 70s after the gas crisis had cratered their value as used cars. He wrecked it running into a telephone pole.

    Was he drunk? No.

    Bad weather? No.

    Tire blowout? No.

    Pulling into a gas station on a beautiful sunny summer day he was “distracted” by a woman in short shorts walking down the sidewalk away from him… BAM! Hit the pole square in the middle of the front bumper/hood/logo. My dad claimed he couldn’t have nailed closer to dead center if his brother had been aiming for it.

    So you see, I get it honest. ;)

    • 0 avatar

      So the indentation in the front corresponded with the boat-tail protrusion in the back? Must have looked interesting from above!

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, I don’t think my father has ever laughed so hard in his life. (According to family lore.) My Dad (being the older sibling) was the one who got the call from the gas station pay phone, “Come help my sorry self out.” He also got to be the first to hear the explanation of how it all happened.

  • avatar

    I had a friend in high school who had one of these, you could pick them up super cheap in the late 70s. Of all the 70’s personal luxo-bloat mobiles, this was my favorite.

  • avatar

    Ken was living large.

    The Denver air was chilly this morning. It was jacket weather. Members Only, to be precise. Ken’s elbow jutted out into the airstream as the Riv made it’s way across town. The big boat seemed to have come alive to the song on the radio, and exuded swagger. The mass of the front end bounced on a compromised shock absorber in lock and step to the organ’s melody.

    The shares crash, hopes are dashed
    People forget
    Forget they’re hiding.
    Behind an eminence front
    Eminence front – it’s a put on

    Ken rode the waves, and admired the car’s character. He even added gas and brake with perfect timing to get a good bounce. It was time to get some supplies for the day. He stuck his index finger into the overboosted steering wheel and twirled it, guiding him into the 7Eleven parking lot. V8 muscle throbbed towards the parking space next to the phone booth. A lifter ticked away in steady cadence, and the oil light flickered. Ken took the oddity under advisement. The door groaned under un-lubricated action as he stepped out. Ken checked the back of his mullet for any signs of a disturbance while strolling into the convenience store. He re-emerged with the tin of Skoal, already jamming a wad into his lower lip before the door had swung shut behind him. Then, he perched himself on the Buick’s fender, and waited.

    Sitting there, Ken noticed the oxidation of the three year old Earl Scheib respray coming off on his hand. Panic encouraged him to get off the car and check his overpriced, trendy outerwear. Nothing was there. He brushed his backside with his hands anyway. That’s when the phone rang. He walked into the booth and answered.
    “Yeah, I’m green.”
    “That’s too much of a score. I don’t have that much.”
    “That, I can do.”
    “You at work?”
    “I’ll pick you up in twenty. By the Radio Shack right?”

    Ken hung the plastic handset back up on it’s cradle and returned to the Riviera. The 455’s starter was energized with an oscillating gear noise, and with two pumps to the gas pedal, torqued the chassis to the right as it came alive. It roared down the street on it’s way to deliver Denver some early snow. Now at cruising speed, the Buick upshifted and settled down. Ken checked his mirror. With no sign of the heat in the graceful rear window, he plotted a course to “Cin City” to deliver the payload. The big brute under the hood had become quite loud. The oil light flickered while the V8 voiced it’s displeasure with a noisy valvetrain clatter. This was something new to Ken. It had never done this at cruise, only at idle.

    It could no longer be ignored. The denial stage was over. The Riv had a real oil situation. Ken diverted to his cousin Eddie’s farm. He pictured his customer, waiting for an eternity in front of the JC Penney’s for an instant party that would never come. He had close to a key in the trunk as well. “Arrrgggh!” Ken dropped the shifter down a peg to try to put the savage V8 in a good mood. In doing so, he also became aware of the power loss.

    Eddie tossed a final 3/8″ bolt into the old ammo can. “…yeah, you dun wiped it out alright.” Ken responded with a huff “Great. Just great.” He took off his Members Only, and when his cousin went to wash up, retrieved the hidden wad of green sitting on the shag carpet. The key was snatched from under the parcel shelf, and he wrapped it like a newborn in the jacket.

    “Can you drop me off by that BMW dealer in town?”

  • avatar

    Big fan of the boat-tail from the first time I saw one back in the early 70s. It’s a shame to see this one on its last legs. We did a story a few years ago about a very unlikely high school-aged owner of a boat-tail who sold his late model Ford to buy it. He had to bum rides to school because he couldn’t afford gas in the car, but he loved his big old Buick from the moment he saw it. The economics meant that he drove it sparingly, but it was worth the sacrifice in his mind.

  • avatar

    Huh. Wasn’t expecting to see one of these in this series; the only one that I’ve seen period for the last, oh, probably 5 years has been my own. They pop up on craigslist fairly regularly, but I can only recall seeing one besides mine actually out and driving around.

    Pity I’m nowhere near Colorado. I need that back window; some jerk took something sharp to mine before I bought the car and scratched “POS” into it.

  • avatar

    whoa! theese were cool american cars!!

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Cool looking car. Surprisingly generous boot.

    First gen Rivs are BEAUTIFUL. The first boat tails too. I’d hit an early one of these, no worries.

    I hope someone salvaged the 455.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, BOP 400s, 455s, and 350s deserve to be saved.

      I’d love to put a true Olds 350 in a “shovel-nose” Cutlass, but I’m sure it won’t be nearly as easy to get as a Chevy 350.

  • avatar

    Car ended up here for one of two reasons:

    1. “Honey, either that old car goes, or I go”

    2. “We don’t know why Uncle George was keeping this old car, it was willed it to [teen nephew] but he hates it.”

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    My parent ‘s next door neighbor , like all our neighbors back then a Jewish businessman , had been driving Rivieras since they first came out . He bought a 1971 mint – green 1971 GS which I used to salivate over back then even tho at the time as some dumb-ass high school student I thought such large cars were wasteful and stupid I thought that boat -tail was totally cool . One time he gave me a ride in it and I thought the interior was a bit cheesy but still , that rear view , even then I realized was so totally unique. If I were to buy any full – sized 70s boat , this would be it . But not the 1973 model . That flattened boat-tail was a mistake .

  • avatar
    Andy D

    The 60s Rivieras were even prettier. So were the Gran Sports and the Electra 225s

  • avatar

    Definitely plenty there worth saving…Buick 455s are getting a bit scarce (assuming it’s not cracked) and the wheels and glass as Murilee implies, the wheels and glass.

  • avatar

    I purchased a 1975 Riviera from the Cars for Causes auction in Santa Paula, CA for the grand sum of $305. It has the 455 and the rare automatic floor shifter. Though definitely not a boat-tail variant it still has the big GM look and cruises “admirably”. The Verde Mist (medium green) with the white interior is fantastic.

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