Last Update 26th July, 2016
Name: 1973 Buick Riviera
Year(s) Produced: 1972-1793
Number Built: 33,810
Class: Sports car
Body Type: 2-door fastback coupe
Engine: GM Buick Big-Block V-8 455
Power: 255hp @ 4000 RPM
0-60mph: 8.1 seconds
Top Speed: 120 mph
Transmission: 3-speed automatic
Length/width/height: 223.4 in./79.9 in./ 54 in.
Wheelbase: 122 in.
Base Price: US$5,253
Highest Price: US$31,900 (Barrett-Jackson)
Bruce Kunz, a Contributing Writer for the Pulitzer prize-winning website St. Louis Post-Dispatch, shares his impressions on what he considers as a bemoaned era of car styling during the 70s. However he seemed to have a change of heart when it comes to a 1972 Buick Riviera mentioned by one his readers. In response to his previous article, this particular reader said, “I read your column today about ’70s era cars and the weak styling. I owned what I think is a great exception, a ’72 Riviera with the boat-tail design that the Riviera had in ’71, ’72, ’73.” According to him, his Riviera was a deep maroon with black vinyl top, black leather interior, and comes with a 455 cubic inch V-8.
Certainly, Buick Rivieras of the early 70’s were stylish in their own right. “From almost any angle, but particularly from the rear, the styling was avant garde,” says Kunz. This comes as no surprise since the famed ‘boat-tail’ styling of the Riviera was designed by renowned GM automotive stylist Bill Mitchell who happens to be the designer of the Corvette Sting Ray as well. Regarding the similarities between the Riviera and the Sting Ray, Kunz commented that, “It’s sort of a shame he didn’t use the split-window treatment on the Riviera as a tribute to the 1963 Corvette coupe.”
The 70’s Riviera indeed had a mean, aggressive look but had to be toned down eventually with the introduction of the mandatory 5mph crash test bumpers in 1973. Nevertheless, the rest of the car is a beauty to behold that brings back memories of the Buick lines of the past. Kunz added, “Walking around the car, the profile was long, low and sleek compared to the larger GM sedans of the period. And the reminiscent Buick character line, sweeping over the front wheel, dropping just ahead of the rear wheel then arching over it to the stern, was a nice touch of nostalgia.”
Rear end of a 1973 Buick Riviera GS
This eventually renders the Riviera a favorite choice for resto mods specialists such as Bill Bierman of Creative Customs. A quick Google image search may just prove that, resulting to a “plethora of customized versions from mild to wild”. As it seems, the Riviera’s boat-tail design has been gaining popularity on the customization scene as an iconic ‘70s cruiser.
A restomodded 1963 Buick Riviera
It should be pointed out at this point that the Riviera is not all eye candy – with just looks but no brawn. Even under strict EPA emissions regulations, the Riviera’s 455 cu. in. ‘nail head’ engine managed to deliver an impressive 255 horses, as compared from its 265hp Gran Sport Package. In terms of performance, it remained decently brisk with a 0-60 time of 8.1 seconds and a recorded top speed of 120mph.
In spite of its looks, luxury, comfort and power, the Riviera eventually faced the inevitable future similar to any collectible car of its era. Despite its features, Riviera sales dropped to 33,810 in 1971 the lowest to date in the marques’ eight-year long history according to GM. One probable reason for this could be the steep price tag attached to it. “Riviera was the priciest Buick for 1971 with a factory base price of $5,253, a couple hundred more than the marque’s flagship, land yacht Electra 225. A formidable list of options could easily push the bottom line over $6,000,” Kunz noted.
So how much does it worth nowadays? Hagerty gives the Riviera a humble concours value of US$19,400. However, the highest auction price for any Riv was awarded to a 1973 Buick Riviera GS 2 Door Hardtop at the 2012 Barrett-Jackson auctions bagging a final bid price of US$31,900. It may not be as high as any other classic or muscle car in particular, “but don’t expect to find one easily as with a production total of only 33,810, less than one in 10 Buicks for 1971 were Rivieras — making them even more appealing in my mind,” Kunz concludes.