Monday, June 11, 2018

The Rise and Fall of the Buick Riviera - Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part series about Buick's Riviera in the years it was a separate model and not, as it first was, a hardtop convertible sub-model.  Part 1 can be found here and a related post is here.

American cars reached a qualitative low point during the late 1970 due to two major causes.  First, there were increasingly stringent federal government regulations dealing with engine emissions and safety features that absorbed much engineering staff time.  The latter affected styling because bumpers were required to absorb stronger impacts, and due to their larger size had to somehow be incorporated into existing designs with smaller, better-integrated bumpers.  Also, to reduce injuries from rollover accidents, pillarless (hardtop) designs had to be replaced by designs having full-height B-pillars.  This was the case for the heavily facelifted 1974 Buick Rivieras.

And there was the post- Yom Kippur War oil crisis that resulted in noticeably higher gasoline prices and federal regulations regarding fuel economy.  The auto industry reacted by downsizing cars as quickly as feasible because less weight leads to better gas mileage.

By the 1980s, General Motors was experiencing increasing financial trouble, becoming less and less able to develop new cars at the pace of the 1960s and before.

The Buick Rivieras shown below could not escape these influences.


1974 Buick Riviera - "for sale" photo
Setting the scene is the Riviera discussed at the end of Part 1.

1977 Buick Riviera
Rivieras were redesigned for 1977.  They were shorter, lighter, and had those massive bumpers that engineers and stylists had yet to learn how to deal with gracefully.

1979 Buick Riviera
Riviera's next redesign came two years later.  The fender line harkens back to the first Rivieras of 1963, though modestly.  The rectangular-themed frontal ensemble does not seem to fit the more fluid rest of the design.

1979 Buick Riviera - "for sale" photo
Rivieras had no real B-pillar, but rollover safety was accommodated by the large C-pillar.  The small windows abaft of the doors are fixed in place.  Styling features at the rear represent Buick brand identity of the times and were largely preserved in the next redesign.  Interestingly, Rivieras of this generation were the best-sellers.

1987 Buick Riviera
Rivieras were redesigned for the 1986 model year, and the '87 cars shown above are little changed.  Again the fender line undulates slightly, a distant whisper from 1963.

1987 Buick Riviera - "for sale" phoro
Styling is technically good, but the overall result was not very exciting for a supposedly sporty car.  Sales were far fewer than those for 1979-85.

1995 Buick Riviera
The final Rivieras shared the platform of the four-door Oldsmobile Aurora: I discussed them here.

1995 Buick Riviera
Rear view of yet another rather bland GM design.

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