Rare Rides: The 1983 Buick Riviera Twentieth Anniversary

Corey Lewis
by Corey Lewis
rare rides the 1983 buick riviera twentieth anniversary

Not long ago, Rare Rides presented Buick’s very special celebration of the company’s 75th anniversary via the 1978 Buick Riviera. Today we’ll fast forward five years and have a look at another anniversary Riviera.

It’s the Riviera “XX,” from 1983.

Our story starts in 1979 — a rough time all across the passenger car landscape. By and large, quality control was laissez-faire, engines were strangled by emissions requirements, and consumer tastes were at the low point best summarized as Brougham. But General Motors had a trio of new personal luxury coupes to offer. Making the swap to front-drive-only and accompanied by a downsizing, the new E-bodies came in Buick Riviera, Oldsmobile Toronado, and Cadillac Eldorado guises.

Buick’s Riviera was in its sixth generation for 1979, and all examples rolled out of Linden Assembly (d. 2005). It was the first-ever front-drive production Buick, paving the way for the rest of the brand’s history to date. Most Rivieras were of the traditional coupe style, but by 1982 there were ASC-sourced convertibles as well. Engines on offer ranged from 3.8 to 5.7 liters of displacement (the former being turbocharged), with either six or eight cylinders. Special mention of the 350 Oldsmobile V8 here, as it was available in gasoline or ill-fated diesel guises. All Rivieras were motivated by a three-speed or four-speed automatic, dependent on model year.

Upon introduction the Riviera was blessed with a Motor Trend COTY award, and sales of the big coupe doubled over the prior year. Buick shifted over 52,000 in 1979, and a similar number in 1980. In 1981 the V6 Turbo model was renamed T-Type, as Buick started a new sports trim line. The same year saw the 350 (5.7L) disappear, which made the Olds 307 (5.0L) the largest engine on offer. Its 140 horses were bested by the turbocharged model’s figure of 185. Base model customers were relegated to a naturally aspirated 4.1-liter V6. With a four-barrel carb, it made 125 horsepower. Most customers chose the V8.

That brings us to today’s special Riviera XX. For 1983, Buick created a limited run of 500 coupes to celebrate two decades of Riviera’s existence. All examples featured a two-tone cream and tan paint job, upgraded leather and velour upholstery, walnut wood, badges of 24-karat gold, and actual wire wheels. Door trims were unique to the model, featuring a single slab of walnut. Previewing the ’84 model year, the XX had a slightly revised grille design not seen on other trims.

Refreshed with the aforementioned grille for 1984, the Riviera’s sales continued to climb. Personal luxury showed no signs of stopping, as sales reached the 65,000 mark for the sixth gen’s final year in 1985. But a new E-body arrived in ’86 that was 19 inches shorter and featured a singular V6 engine. The demise of the PLC was underway, and GM bowed out early.

Today’s superb condition Rare Ride goes up for auction in Florida on January 12, 2020. You can drive it home on some vintage Uniroyals.

[Images: seller]

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