Growing up just north of Flint, MI, my psyche has been permeated by Buicks for much of my cognizant life, so it makes sense that I regularly shop for their flagship model, the Riviera. This is one of two Riviera T-Types for sale I didn’t buy. The fact that I’ve never owned a Riviera astounds me, like a freak of nature or a fireball plummeting through the sky. How can a man own five antique cars (two of them Buicks), love Rivieras, yet never have owned one?
The easy answer is that every Riviera I have ever looked at had problems I didn’t want to deal with at the car’s price point, and I’m too cheap to pay for a really good one upfront. In other words, it’s all my fault. This particular example had ruined bumper fillers, a common problem. That in itself is certainly not a deal breaker, but for three grand I just didn’t want to deal with it. Additionally, the T-Type packs a turbocharged 3.8 Buick, and in the words of an ex-girlfriend’s dad, “no used turbos!” Good advice, given the maintenance habits of the typical consumer, along with 25 years of sand through the hourglass.
I’m going to back things up a bit before I delve any further into 1980s Rivieras. I’ve been searching for the right first-gen Riviera for about 14 years. A few times, I was within a coin flip of pulling the trigger; in fact, last March I was behind the wheel of a very decent ’65 model that was priced about $2500 more than I wanted to spend. I’ve driven hours and hours to look at Rivs, but every time, I’ve come home empty handed. It’s my second favorite car in the world and I just keep coming home empty handed. Argh!
Considering the complete futility I’ve encountered in the search for my dream Riviera, I’ve diverged from that path into more accessible Rivieras from time to time. I rank second-gen Rivieras just a little lower on my list than earlier models, but they aren’t exactly commonplace or inexpensive either. The ’79-’85 models also pique my interest when the mood is right, and this one was no exception.
The only problem with this style of Riviera is that it’s not a ’60s model. With my limited amount of space, I try to be sure I won’t suffer any regret regarding my purchasing decisions. To me, I just can’t get to that point with an ’80s Riviera; I’ll always wish I had bought an earlier one. Apparently, not having a Riviera is better than having one that’s not my first choice. I’ll never come to terms with my thought process.
photo credit: hemmings.com
Obviously, this generation of Riviera is a beautiful car for its time period, one that deserves recognition from a loving owner. In a lot of ways, it really successfully carries on the Riviera mystique. It still wears a proud hood ornament, and its creased and peaked sheetmetal perpetuates the grand Riviera tradition begun by the original ’63. For the late ’70s and early 80s, it’s a unique, standout model.
T-Types are Buick-powered, unlike the 307-powered mongrels that seem to make up the majority of survivors. And they were rare! Buick produced just over 1,000 T-Types in each of the 1984 and 1985 model years. I passed up two (the first due to rust). Oh well.
With 200-horsepower in 1985, at least the Riviera T-Type moves out with authority, unlike the 307-powered cars I’ve ridden in; but in this case, I think I’d rather have a 307. I don’t want complexity in my rare car; a turbo adds complexity, and complexity adds cost. With that cost, I might be able to buy a beautiful ’63 Riviera, and that is the reason that a T-Type is not sitting in my garage right now.