Buick Riviera

In 1949 Buick line introduced the Riviera name for the first time as a designation for the new two-door pillarless hardtop, launching along marketing campaign of "stunningly smart" design. The Buick Roadmaster Riviera coupe became the first mass production use of this particular body style, which developed into one of the most popular American vehicles in the next 30 years. The company upgraded Roadster with a 2-door Riviera hardtop to the Super, the Special and the Century models.

During the early years Riviera was a body style designation and not a separate model, thus it wasn't normally visible on the car. In 1959, the company became more selective in applying the Riviera name with only premium models. The last use before the name became a model on its own was in 1963 to describe hardtops.

Buick Riviera was relatively unusual for a GM product since it was built with a shorter and narrower cruciform frame. Its wheelbase of 117 in (3,000 mm) and overall length of 208 in (5,300 mm) were slightly shorter than other Buick models and also designed to be slightly longer the competitor Thunderbird. Weighing 3,998 lb (1,813 kg), the Riviera model was around 10 percent lighter in comparison with other models of the same category. Riviera shared the standard Buick V8 engines, with a displacement of either 401 cu in (6.57 L) or 425 cu in (6.96 l), and the unique continuously-variable design Twin Turbine automatic transmission. Power brakes were also Buick standard, using massive aluminum finned drums of 12 in (300 mm) diameter.

Buick Riviera power steering and suspension used the same basic design as standard Buicks. Suspension included raised roll centers in order to reduce body lean. With coil springs slightly softer and the lighter overall weight, the results were increased firmness of the model. Contemporary testers considered the car as an excellent balance of comfort and agility.

The Riviera was introduced on October 4, 1962 as a 1963 model, with the 325 hp (242 kW) 401 cu in (6.6 l) Nailhead V-8 as the only available engine, fitted with dual exhaust as standard equipment, and the Turbine Drive the only transmission at a base price of $4,333. Typical prices with additional options raised the price over $5,000. Buick announced in December, 1962, the availability of a 340 hp (250 kW) 425 cu in (7.0 l) version of the Nailhead as an option. Total model production was intentionally limited to 40,000 vehicles, which was at the time less than 10% of the entire production, in an attempt to increase demand and brand it as exclusive model.

Model performance

Riviera had the same power as the larger Buicks and less weight, which produced outstanding performance results when Motor Trend found it capable of running 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) in 8 seconds or less, the standing quarter mile in about 16 seconds, and an observed top speed of 115 miles per hour (185 km/h), even 125 miles per hour (201 km/h) could be achieved on a longer run. Fuel economy was a meager 13.2 miles per US gallon (17.8 L/100 km).

From the interior perspective, Buick Riviera featured a four-place cabin with front bucket seats separated by a center console with floor shifter and storage compartment built in the instrument panel, and bucket-style seats in the back of the car. Upholstery choices included all-vinyl, cloth and vinyl, or optional leather. A deluxe interior option included real walnut inserts on the doors and below the rear side windows.

Most popular and brand specific extra-cost options included a tilt steering wheel, power windows, power driver's seat, air conditioning, a remote-control side view mirror, and white sidewall tires.

Buick continued with minimal changes till 1964, which is first year when the Stylized "R" emblem was used, a significant trademark of the Riviera in entire 36-year production run. Under the hood, the 401 cu in (6.6 l) was dropped as the standard power plant in favor of the previously optional 340 hp (254 kW) 425 cu in (7.0 l) V8. A 'Super Wildcat' version was optionally available, with dual Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors, rated at 360 hp (268 kW). Total sales for the three model year were a respectable 112,244.

Riviera was extremely well received among the American people and considered a great success of the Buick company, which created the Thunderbird first major worries and attacked their market share in exclusive vehicles. The first generation Riviera is still considered a styling landmark for the collectors worldwide.

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