The Riviera was Buick’s answer to the Ford Thunderbird — a ‘personal luxury’ car that gave the Thunderbird its first real competition and became a long-running success story. The ‘Riviera’ tag had first been coined in 1949 to describe a two-door pillarless hardtop.
Buick was the first marque to put the style into mass production with its 1956 Roadmaster version and it had proved so popular that it was offered as an alternative body style on other Buick lines over the next few years. But the Riviera of ’63 was the first time that the tag became a model in its own right. It soon became Buick’s flagship car. Sales in the first three years topped 112,000.
The 1963 Riviera is considered a benchmark in car styling: a two-door pillarless hardtop sports coupe with frameless door windows (a completely new concept). Its streamlined elegance broke the mould and started a new era in American styling that introduced elements of sophisticated European design to large cars so that they appeared more than mere brash behemoths. The Riviera sold 40,000 in its first year — a huge success.
Buick used a modified version of its standard chassis — slightly shorter and narrower — and fitted a standard Buick VS engine and brakes, power steering and twin turbine automatic transmission, thus investing the Riviera with the same power as the larger Buick models for impressive overall performance.
The bucket-seated interior was equipped with every conceivable luxury and a range of optional extras, including power windows and seats, cruise control, air conditioning and a tilt steering wheel. In 1964 the 401 engine was dropped and the car acquired its distinctive stylized ‘R’ badge that was to last until the end of the run 36 years later, by which time well over a million of these beauties had been produced.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
FIRST YEAR OF MANUFACTURE:
1963 (until 1999)
6.5 I (401 cid), 6.9 I (425 cid) VS
Top speed of 115 mph (184 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
There were eight generations of this fabulously successful car each very different both externally and mechanically from the one before. The most sought-after versions date from 1963 to the early 1970s.