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The French Riviera is known for its attractive coastline, and Buick hoped to bring a little bit of that elegance to its own Riviera, first released for the 1963 model year. Since then, it has strayed a bit from its former self, but in its heyday, it was quite the trophy.

Buick used Riviera to represent certain vehicle and trim designations starting in 1949.  After the Ford Thunderbird's success in the ‘50s, GM planned to offer a personal luxury car of its own. GM Designer Ned Nickles was assigned the task of designing the new contender, the XP-715. Buick, being number 2 on GM's tiered pricing structure, was passed over in favor of Cadillac.  Cadillac, however, was uninterested. The middle marques - Buick, Pontiac, and Oldsmobile - had their own issues (the biggest being their public perception as outdated) and believed the new model would help alleviate some of these problems. Each of the three presented their budget and marketing plan to GM executives for the potential vehicle, and Buick, with the help of advertising agency McCann-Erickson, won.

They hardly changed the XP, so the Riviera had a distinctive body, which added more appeal. It did have coke bottle styling laced in chrome, but its unique egg-crate grille, and chiseled hood made the Riviera one sharp lookin' ride. Vinyl or leather fitted to five seats, real walnut trim, power windows and seats, and air conditioning were a few of the top options. Buyers were also satisfied with the 401 cubic inch V8 with 325 horsepower, the 425ci V8 with 340 horsepower, and the Super Wildcat with a 425ci V8 with 360 horsepower planted under the hood. Upon the Riviera's reveal, drivers, enthusiasts, and journalists alike all raved about its unique and dazzling appeal. The Riviera racked up 40,000 sales that year. Buick officially had a hit.

The remaining years of the first generation brought the "R" emblem in 1964 and the GS version with the Wildcat V8 in 1965. Clamshell headlights, a design meant to be included on the 1963 model, were also included for 1965.

Striding in Style

The second generation, redesigned for the 1966 model year, more or less retained its original form. Hidden headlights still jutted out from the side, and it maintained its curves decked out in chrome. The body grew in size and it added a bit of weight, so acceleration was slower, but Buick solved this with the 1967 model by including a 430ci V8 engine with 360 horsepower to replace the 401ci. For the '68 model, the grille and headlights pushed into the bumper and the interior design changed. Stylistic changes continued for 1969, and in 1970 skirted rear wheels were added, as well as a 455ci V8 with 370 horsepower.

1971 brought the third generation, also somewhat resembling the original form but with a few more radical changes. Tapered hood indents, coke bottle styling, a V-shaped grille, and chrome trim all remained, but a redeeming boat-tail styling with an aerodynamic fastback design in the rear gave the Riviera new life. Emission standards lowered the 455ci engine output to 255 hp, but buyers could grab 10 extra horsepower with the Gran Sport trim. Slowed sales lead to a new design for 1974.

Through the Years

The fourth generation, redesigned for the 1974 model year, adopted the more gargantuan personal luxury car designs pervading the ‘70s. Buick favored a thick and wide trunk over the rear boat-tail styling that many deemed too radical. Engine output fell to 230 horsepower in the 455 V8, and sales continued to fall as well. This trend continued for the 1975 model, with horsepower dropping to 205. For 1976, the model didn't change very much.

As Buick prepared the sixth generation for the E-body, the fifth generation didn't last long. Only around for the 1977-1978 model years, GM transferred the Riviera to the B platform, shrinking the car in size. A 350ci V8 with 155 horsepower replaced the 455ci V8. Not much changed for this generation other than the downsizing.

For the sixth generation, beginning in 1979 and ending in 1985, GM switched the Riviera over to front-wheel drive. Horsepower jumped up to 185 with a turbocharged V6, and earned Motor Trend's Car of the Year award. A convertible version was also available, one of which was used as the pace car for the 1983 Indianapolis 500. 1986 brought the seventh generation, dropping the V-grille and improving gas economy. However, the lack of any style, or any engines other than a 3.8L V6 with 165 horsepower, pushed many consumers elsewhere.

The final generation, lasting the 1995-1999 model years, took on a much more conventional and aerodynamic shape. Buyers could opt for a V6 with an output of 205 horsepower or a turbocharged version with an output of 225 horsepower.  It was only available as a two-door coupe, and as more buyers were opting for four-door sedans, Buick decided to end further production. Since then, Buick has displayed two concept Rivieras, much more in tune with the flashy looks of the original, but there are no signs that a production model is coming. 

Need Buick Riviera Parts? 

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The Buick Riviera is a classic automobile and a perfect example of American ingenuity. Introducing the best technology available, the Riviera was ahead of its time with powerful V8 engines and advanced electronic devices. However, being discontinued, Buick Riviera parts are difficult to find. 1A Auto Parts supplies new aftermarket Buick Riviera headlights, carpet, weather stripping, radiators, and more. Feel secure shopping online, we utilize HackerSafe® to keep your personal information safe. Don't wait; buy your new Buick Riviera aftermarket parts from 1A Auto Parts today.

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