Junkyard Find: 1985 Buick Riviera

junkyard find 1985 buick riviera

In 1979, the Riviera moved onto the front-wheel-drive Toronado/Eldorado platform, continuing the tradition of rococo Riviera personal luxury coupes that started back in 1963. This version of the Riviera was built through the 1985 model year, so we’re looking at the very last year of the V8 Riviera in this weathered Denver car.

While the Evil Empire was being vanquished by a combination of crashing oil prices, idiotic decisions made by cheap thugs and vodka-soaked gerontocrats, and rebellion on its fringes, the abolition of the 85 mph speedometer requirement ranked as one of the Reagan Administration’s major accomplishments in the fight for freedom. General Motors, however, had stockpiled millions of these speedometers and had to use them up in cars like this before they went back to the 120 mph speedos preferred by the Founding Fathers.

The Buick Division got a lot more futuristic later in the decade, with octogenarian-confusing touchscreen displays and such, but we see some foreshadowing of this stuff with the microwave-oven-control-style Electronic Touch Climate Control HVAC unit in this car.

The landau roof and opera lights on this car have suffered much from decades in the harsh Colorado sun.

Under the hood, the 150-horsepower Oldsmobile 307-cubic-inch V8. This engine went into cars made by every GM division at the time.

This chintzy interior light features plastic “chrome” and fake woodgrain and seems more appropriate on a low-end camping trailer than a $16,710 luxury coupe (at a time when a new BMW 3-Series coupe could be had for $16,430).

Still, these cars were pretty comfortable when they were new.

[Images: © 2016 Murilee Martin/The Truth About Cars]








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  • Mackie Mackie on Jun 06, 2016

    That steering wheel... good gawd.

  • Akear Akear on Jun 07, 2016

    The 1987 model looked far more modern. These things are so dated they look like they are from a different planet.

    • Shiv91 Shiv91 on Jun 08, 2016

      It is incredible how this and the '95 Riv are only a decade apart. Technically a little less, as the '95 Riv was introduced in Mid-1994 for the '95 model year.

  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!
  • Bryan Raab Davis I actually did use the P of D trope, but it was only gentle chiding, for I love old British cars of every sort.
  • ScarecrowRepair The 1907 Panic had several causes of increased demand for money:[list][*]The semi-annual shift of money between farms and cities (to buy for planting and selling harvests)[/*][*]Britain and Germany borrowing for their naval arms race[/*][*]San Francisco reconstruction borrowing after the 1906 earthquake and fire[/*][/list]Two things made it worse:[list][*]Idiotic bans on branch banking, which prevented urban, rural, and other state branches from shifting funds to match demands. This same problem made the Great Depression far worse. Canada, which allowed branch banking, had no bank failures; the US had 9000 failures.[/*][*]Idiotic reserve requirements left over from the Civil War which prevented banks from loaning money; they eventually started honoring IOUs illegally and started the recovery.[/*][/list]Been a while since I read up on it, so I may have some of the details wrong. But it was an amazing clusterfart which could have been avoided or at least tamed sooner if states and the feds hadn't been so ham handed.
  • FreedMike Maybe this explains all the “Idiots wrecking exotic cars” YouTube videos.
  • FreedMike Good article! And I salute the author for not using the classic “Lucas - prince of darkness” trope, well earned as it may be. We all know the rap on BL cars, but on the flip side, they’re apparently pretty easy to work on (at least that’s the impression I’ve picked up). On the other hand, check the panel fits on the driver’s and passenger’s doors. Clearly, BL wasn’t much concerned with things like structural integrity when it chopped the roof off a car designed as a coupe.
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