Junkyard Find: 1986 Buick Riviera T-Type
The General’s Buick division went all futuristic starting in the middle 1980s, hoping to win back (younger) American buyers who were switching their loyalty to high-tech European machinery at that time. The sleek Reatta two-seater came along in the 1988 model year, but the 1986 Riviera (and, to a lesser extent, the Somerset) were the first models to get the science-fiction touch.
Here’s a maximum-options Riviera T-Type coupe, which came with 800-way power seats and a touchscreen computer interface, spotted in a Silicon Valley self-serve yard last month.
The T-Type name first appeared on the 1981 Riviera and spread to other Buick models as the 1980s went on. T-Types had sporty badges, bucket seats, and (often) performance-oriented mechanical upgrades.
Sunroofs were regarded as super-luxurious items in the 1970s and 1980s, and this car got a costly aftermarket installation immediately after purchase (or perhaps it was dealer-installed).
I found some paperwork in the car that led me to its final address. Here’s a Google Earth view of the car, with big sunroof, moldering away in a blocked-in driveway in suburbia. My guess is that it broke a decade ago and its owners finally ran out of motivation to get it fixed.
Crevices for dust and fast-food crumbs abound in these complex leather seats.
With a 140-horse 3.8-liter pushrod V6 driving the front wheels and no manual-transmission option, the 1986 Riviera lured away few BMW or Mercedes-Benz shoppers. Still, this car was a radical departure from the geriatric-grade Buicks that American car buyers had come to expect by the 1980s.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this drawing I found in the back seat.
This was the most expensive new Buick you could buy in 1986, listing at $21,577 (about $50,600 in 2019 dollars). That was pretty close to the cost of a new 1986 BMW 325es ($21,950) and you got 19 more horsepower with the Buick. However, the rear-wheel-drive Regal T-Type with turbocharged 3.8 engine had a mighty 235 horsepower in 1986 and its MSRP was a mere $13,714 (plus $635 if you wanted the Grand National appearance package, which you did).
This ad is sort of a combination of Top Gun and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
If you like these Junkyard Finds, you’ll find links to 1,800+ more at the Junkyard Home of the Murilee Martin Lifestyle Brand™.
Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.
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