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The Riviera established the "personal luxury car" as a model line - emulated in a few years by Toronado, Eldorado and even the Rambler Marlin!

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1963 Buick Riviera Brochure
From the famous 1963 Riviera Ad:
"Should you have a pilot's license before you buy a Riviera?"

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1963-65 Buick Riviera - More than a Styling Exercise - a trend setter for generations to come
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By Society Staff – reprint with permission only

The Riviera name first emerged in Buick back in 1949 as the two-door pillarless hardtop. The Buick Roadmaster Riviera coupe and the Cadillac Coupe de Ville and Oldsmobile 98 Holiday coupe were the first use of this body style in GM, and would very popular over the next 30 years.

From 1951 thru 1959, the "Riviera" nameplate was used to designate the highest-end Buicks. However, something else was running as an undercurrent in GM in the late 1950s, where GM began to feel the need for a personal luxury car to compete with the highly successful Ford Thunderbird four-seater introduced in 1958.

The design that would become the first Riviera was created as a Cadillac model, called the XP-715, and was considered being called "LaSalle", after Cadillac's "companion" car of the 1930s. The Riviera's styling was reportedly inspired by GM styling chief Bill Mitchell's visit to London during the period, when he was struck by the sight of an elegant, custom-bodied Rolls Royce in the fog. He later said that "knife-edged" styling was what he wanted for the new model, but with a lower profile and a bit of Ferrari thrown in for performance. The design itself was penned by stylist Ned Nickles.

The significance of the production Riviera was that it did not share its body shell with any other GM model, unusual for a GM product of the time. It used a frame similar to the standard Buick's, but it was shorter and narrower, with a 2.0" narrower track. The Riviera's wheelbase was 117" and its overall length was 208", 6" shorter than a Buick LeSabre, but slightly longer than a Thunderbird. It weighed in at 3,998 lbs., which was about 390 pounds lighter than the T-bird.

The Riviera was introduced on October 4, 1962 as a 1963 model, with the 325 hp 401 cu in "Nailhead" V-8 as the only available engine, but fitted with 4-barrel carb and dual exhaust as standard equipment. The only available transmission was Buick's "Turbine Drive" automatic transmission. Its base price was $4,333,but with typical options, it was priced close to $5,000. In response to demands of buyers, Buick announced the availability of a 340 hp 425 cu in version of the Nailhead as an option  in December, 1962. Total production was deliberately limited to 40,000 vehicles to emphasize its exclusivity and to increase demand; however only 2,601 Rivieras were delivered with the 425 cu in engine in the 1963 model year.

The Riviera's brakes were Buick's famous aluminum finned drums. Power steering was standard equipment. The Riviera's coil springs were actually slightly softer than other Buicks, but because of its lighter overall weight, the Riviera's ride was firmer. Contemporary testers found its handling to be excellent, with an good balance of comfort and agility.

With the same power as the larger Buicks and less weight, the Riviera had great all-around performance: Motor Trend tested a 401 cu in version in their April 1963 issue and it ran 0–60 mph in 8.1 seconds and the quarter mile in 16.01 seconds @ 85.71. It had an observed top speed of 115 miles per hour. Fuel economy was 13.2 miles per gallon, about average for big engined US cars of the time.

But it was the inside where the  Riviera was unique except for the Thunderbird. It featured a four seat cabin with front bucket seats separated by a center console with floor shifter, and bucket-style seats in the rear. A unique storage compartment that merged the console to the instrument panel. 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.

For 1964, the Riviera received minimal trim changes, including the discontinuation of leather upholstery from the option list, and a significant substitution GM's new three-speed Super Turbine 400 in place of the of the old Dynaflow-based "Twin Turbine". This was also the first year that the Stylized "R" emblem was placed on the Riviera, a trademark that would continue throughout the remainder of Riviera's 36-year production run.

Under the hood, the 401 cu in V8 was dropped as the standard power plant in favor of the previously optional 340 hp 425 cu in  V8. Most significant in the HP department was the 'Super Wildcat' option, with dual Carter AFB four-barrel carburetors, rated at 360 hp.

Changes for 1965 included the introduction of the "Gran Sport" option, which came with the dual-quad Super Wildcat 425 V8, a 3.42 axle ratio for better standing start performance, and stiffer, heavy-duty suspension. The stock dual exhaust pipes were increased from 2.0" to 2.25" and these pipes had fewer turns to reduce backpressure. Once again, the 401 cu in V8 returned as the standard Riviera engine and the Super Turbine 400 transmission now had a variable pitch torque converter.

Externally, the headlamps were concealed behind clamshell doors in the leading edges of each fender. This had been included in the original 1963 design, but was nixed by GM so that the Corvette could tout this feature. The non-functional side scoops between the doors and rear wheel arches were removed, and the taillights were moved from the body into the rear bumper. A vinyl roof was now an option, initially offered only in black, and the tilt steering wheel was now standard equipment.

Total sales for the three model years was 112,244 and would continue in its next iteration to sell well. The 1963-1965 Riviera was extremely well received by the public and the media. It was considered a great styling success and established the "personal luxury car" as a model line - emulated in a few years by Toronado, Eldorado and even the Rambler Marlin! The strong sales of the Riviera also caused Chrysler to spawn the Charger from their Dodge Coronet line in 1966.

The original "Riviera" the 1949 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop.

In 1955 Buick introduced a 4-door hardtop called the "Riviera".

As late as 1958 the Riviera nameplate appeared on top of the line Buicks, like this Roadmaster 75 series.

The 1963 Brochure contained awesome pictures of the car.

This 1964 Riviera Ad is especially dramatic.

Here is the announcement for the 1965 Riviera Gran Sport in the Brochure listing the special equipment in the model.

The Riviera GS debuted in 1965 - here is an ad for that model