Quick Look: 1973 Buick Riviera

Although it hasn’t actually arrived yet, last week my buddy Jason Bagge, AKA The Brougham Whisperer, agreed to acquire the grand set of wheels you see before you: A 1973 Buick Riviera.

The classic boat-tail Rivieras were built from 1971 to 1973, and there’s no mistaking them for anything else. Though they do have a slight resemblance to a middle-aged 1963-67 Corvette coupe. One who has invested well, married well, and drinks Scotch, plays golf and lives in the right neighborhood.

Two things stand out on this car. The standard wheel covers, shared with 1973 Electras, was almost never seen on these, as the chrome-plated and gorgeous optional Buick Road Wheels were frequently installed on these cars.

Thing Two: Those colors! The Burgundy paint, contrasted with the white half top and lipstick red interior, is just resplendent.

I love this car. And Jason tells me it needs only minor work to look like new once again. Once it’s all pretty, washed, waxed, vacuumed, revived and reinvigorated, expect a longer post, with many, many more pictures

As the famous jingle went, The great American Road belongs to Buick! That more than applies to this fine Riviera. Stay tuned!

22 Replies to “Quick Look: 1973 Buick Riviera”

  1. AvatarJohn C.

    Gosh when Mitchel went bold watch out. Tom did a good job of describing the buyer Buick had in mind. I think there were many like that, but in a different era this car might have been a little too much in your face about it, hence the cars failure in the marketplace.

    One thing about them, their GS was a real handling package and could be accompanied with a “Stage 3” higher output 455 V8. With the other GMs premium PLCs front drive and Tbird and Mark IV aimed more at luxury, it was a unique offering.

    Tom, if you are able to write this car up further, it would be great to get Jason’s thoughts on how to value it. With changing tastes and less discretion on the part of the more modern folks, this car could strike a cord today.

    Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      Stage 1 was the best you could opt a Buick 455 up to, by this vintage it was a different cam, dual exhausts and chrome valve covers and air cleaner lid, the Stage 1 option was available on all Buicks with a 455 from the Century through the Electra and Estate Wagon, it was good for a bump up to 245 or so net hp in this era. 1974 was the last year the Stage 1 option could be ordered on any Buick.

      Reply
  2. Avatarstingray65

    Looks like a great candidate for a restomod. Fuel injected crate motor, OD automatic, suspension, wheel, and brake upgrades, some nice bucket seats and audio-upgrade and you would have a classic looking road machine that wouldn’t bankrupt you with 10-12 mpg fuel economy.

    Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      I disagree, if you want a new car, those are available.

      3 out of my 7 old cars are 10-11 mpg cars and it hasn’t bankrupted me yet.

      These cars drive really well, they all have disc brakes, it most likely isn’t going to be daily driven and even if it was, its perfectly comfortable in modern driving situations, its not a 1930’s car.

      Reply
      • Avatarstingray65

        To each his own, and if you mainly drive your classic to the occasional cars and coffee or club meet then MPG and performance become irrelevant, but if you want a semi-daily driver then it becomes a bigger issue. The nice rust-free condition of this car would make a stock looking restorod a relatively cost effective way to increase the utility of an interesting car that has not reached crazy priced collector car status (particularly since it seems to be somewhat of a base model without many rare upscale or performance options). Personally, I liked to regularly drive the classics I have owned, but this Buick’s 10 mpg with the acceleration of a Prius would mean this car would be nothing more than a nearly 20 foot long dust collector in my limited garage space.

        Reply
        • Avatarsabotenfighter

          Im with you Stingray65. A restomodded boat tail, but with period correct or at least something not to huge and flash would make a slick DD. This is one of the few american cars I actually love the look of.

          Reply
    • AvatarArbuckle

      Nah, I don’t like restomods at all. By the time you update everything you don’t have a “classic car” anymore you just have a styling exercise. The whole reason I like old cars is to experience them how they were.

      But it’s your money, knock yourself out.

      Reply
  3. AvatarDirt Roads

    I love those older Rivieras. They were under-appreciated classics in their day, and they are even more under-appreciated today. I love em.

    Reply
  4. AvatarMantis2073

    The show Fast ‘n Loud is building one of these for SEMA with a 300K budget in the season that is currently showing. They weren’t going to have it done in time but decided to take what they had to the show anyway. I’ve been into these since I was in the 6th grade in ‘73 and watched a parent pick up a classmate in one every day while waiting for my yellow ride to arrive.

    Reply
  5. AvatarLynnG

    Singray65 your quote: (particularly since it seems to be somewhat of a base model without many rare upscale or performance options)… I must disagree. This car is well optioned. Tilt-Tel Steering Wheel, Power Windows, Power Door Locks, Rear window Defogger, Driver 6-Way Power Seat, Rare Passinger 6-way Power Seat, Cruse Control, Auto Tempature Control, Body Colored Side Molding…. Just from what I can see with the limited pictures. It is true that today we take a lot of the options for granted but in the 1960’s-1970’s all of these were options. Some were even options on Cadillacs. IMHO this is a nice well perserved car that should be maintained in its stock condition. I would agree if the Motor/Trans were shot then more modern drive train would be nice but if the existing machanical systems are functional I would hope Tom’s friend Jason just saves what is there.

    Reply
    • Tom KlockauTom Klockau Post author

      No worries on that count. Jason would never modify a vintage car, he loves the originality. He might add a period accessory, like a right side mirror or a tilt wheel, but that’s about it. No crate 502, 17″ wheels or hood scoops-ever. 🙂

      Reply
  6. Avatar-Nate

    Very nice ! .

    I hope we’ll get an update once it’s all spiffed up .

    I’d love to see an article on that old army truck too……

    -Nate

    Reply
  7. AvatarShocktastic

    I’m with Nate, what’s the story with the truck? Although many of Jason’s pics show a trailer park, these shots of the Riviera may be the seller’s home base and not Jason’s. We sold my wife’s Spokane-only 1966 Mustang at the turn of the century. Spokane must have used road salt sometime because there was lower panel corrosion. Not enough rust to keep it from being turned into a nice resto-rod (we knew the buyer) but we were surprised by the tear-down pics. PS: I have a lassitude for all model years of Riviera.

    Reply
    • Avatar-Nate

      Just so ~

      I’ll buy the gas and dinner of someone takes me for a ride in this glorious old Buick .

      I love them, I don’t want one but I’m old so I grasp how aspirational they were .

      Plus, it’s Bordello Red inside and out ! =8-) .

      -Nate

      Reply
    • AvatarDirt Roads

      Spokane did use salt for a while ages ago but they switched to that glycol spray before the turn of the century, even back to the late 80s I think. I didn’t pay that much attention back then as I was driving little Fiats which all rusted 🙂

      Reply
  8. Avatarjunqueboi

    I will never understand how anyone would consider bastardizing a car like this. Burgundy/white over oxblood is a very nice and uncommon color combination on this car and its wheel covers are a testament to its originality. This car is beautiful as-is and deserves to be kept that way.

    Reply
  9. AvatarJohn C.

    If this goes to someone with a mind toward restomod, I hope it goes like this. Replace the 455 with a modern 2.0 turbo from anybody. It would match the horsepower and surely there is miles of engine bay room to make it all fit. The car would lose 300 pounds out of the nose, the mileage would double and so you could replace the gas tank with one half the size and plastic to save another 100 pounds in back.

    With modern V8s and V6s tuned to deliver power like an 80s MR2, testers have started asking for turbos on everything as they feel it is the only path to low end torque.. This month’s C/D, under a female at the helm, made such demands on both the Mustang Shelby GT350 and the Cadillac XT6 with a 3.6. The 2.0 would of course be atrocious in this Riviera but is an answer to their stupid question. Those with no sense of history or the American motor heritage might finally take a new look at the 455 and realize that there was a different way to tune engines that delivered the goods right off idle so that it can be enjoyed in everyday driving. Leave the 8000 rpm redlines to the MR2 and the Fiats they were a poor copy of.

    Reply
  10. AvatarCJinSD

    The buyers of 1963 Buick Rivieras must have wondered what went wrong when one of the best looking GM cars of al times was replaced with the Toronado-afterbirth second generation car and then this…bold design. I have some photos I took of a 1971 Riviera, and does look much less amateurish with matching front and rear bumpers and Bunkie beaks. The difference between 1963 and 1973 interiors sold a few boatloads of Mercedes. Overall, I’d put GM’s treatment of the Riviera right up there with the styling evolution of the Cadillac Seville.

    Reply
    • Avatarstingray65

      Yes those Gen 1 Rivieras had fantastic interiors in terms of both quality and great design. In contrast, this Riviera in many ways isn’t as nice inside as a well optioned Monte Carlo of the same year. I also think Buick made a mistake in not putting the Riviera on the same A-body as the Monte Carlo and Grand Prix, as it became just too large a bloated by the 2nd generation for a luxurious sporty car (same mistake Ford made with the T-bird).

      Reply
    • AvatarCarmine

      The 2nd generation 1966-1970 is regarded by many to be even better than the original, and I can see why in the 1966-1967 cars, when examined, they have just as many interesting and bold styling features as the 1963-1965 cars, they actually predict the 1968-1971 styling themes of many later cars years before everyone else did them. They sort of go off the rails after the 1968 and the 1970 with the exposed headlights is not liked by many.

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt yet another lovely “only idiots bought these and all smart people bought Mercedes” circle jerk, please continue……

      Reply
  11. Avatarstingray65

    Carmine – I like the 66-67 Riv although it was already starting the unnecessary exterior bloat that I personally don’t care for, but the interior was still pretty nice and well done (although I still prefer gen 1). As I noted previously, the frustrating thing about 70s American cars is that the 1960s versions were so much better in terms of build quality and aesthetic design (with a few exceptions), not to mention unburdened by early smog controls and 5 mph battering rams.

    Visibly lower quality and ridicules bloat are what caused more and more Americans to start looking at MB, Jaguar, BMW in the 70s, because they seemed to maintain or improve their aesthetic qualities (versus their predecessors) and had much more reasonable dimensions for increasingly crowded streets. One aspect of this that I always thought was strange was the fact that very small foreign firms such as Porsche, Jaguar, Rolls, and Volvo did a much better job of integrating their 5 mph bumpers to create a harmonious design than most of Detroit did even though the Big 3 were the home team.

    Reply

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