Curbside Classic: 1973 Buick Riviera GS – Be Memorable

More than a few years ago, I had been semi-voluntarily vacuumed into the guilty TV pleasures that were the early seasons of “America’s Next Top Model” and, once my resistance faded, I went quite willingly.

Initially, the appeal of the concept and execution of the show eluded me almost completely.  I simply wasn’t impressed by the first commercials I had seen.  In fact, I hadn’t watched a single, new episode until maybe three years into the series, when cable music channel VH1 was concurrently airing reruns of the first several seasons (or “cycles”, in the parlance of the show).  Early in ANTM’s run, it had seemed completely plausible (with steadily diminishing believability) that contestants could become, minimally, starlets in the worlds of fashion and media.  Ultimately and on a positive note, there have been a few breakout, mainstream successes over the life of this show, among winners and non-winners alike.

I followed the show regularly for a few years, and yes, I have my favorite contestants.  I even had the incredible experience about a year ago to Facetime with one of my all-time faves.  During an eve-of-spring vacation outing in Detroit (one of my favorite U.S. cities) last March, I became acquainted, unknowingly, with this contestant’s cousin on a fluke meeting.  After I asked the cousin, based on his last name, if he was related to her, he then left the room, called her, returned, and then put me on the phone with her.  (This beautiful, vivacious free spirit should have won her season, in my opinion.)

When I think about which of these contestants I liked the best and why, it often comes down to them, as individuals, having made some sort of unique and memorable impression.  This was usually through their cadence of speech, strongly expressed views, and/or through their physical features that, while attractive, were unconventional in some way.

The world is full of attractive people, with something / someone for every type and persuasion.  Regardless of how one may feel about oneself inside – absent one’s own issues, there is going to be someone out there who digs the way one looks, even if one doesn’t.  Blessed are those who can own their so-called quirks, love themselves, and project that self-love (and, thus, love of others) out into the world.  We’ve all come in contact with someone (male or female) who, while physically attractive on the outside, self-sabotaged their own outer beauty by lacking self-confidence, projecting insecurity, or being inauthentic.  Each of us has also met someone who, while he or she may not have been the hottest thing we’ve ever seen, had us asking ourselves why we found him or her so alluring.  It may sound cliché, but it’s often true: authentic beauty radiates from the inside out.

The 1971 – ’73 “boattail” Riviera is one of the realest, most authentic cars of its era that I can think of.  Only a car built in my own scrappy, blunt, survive-and-thrive hometown of Flint, Michigan could project this car’s apparent aura of “this-is-how-I-look-and-I-don’t-care-what-you-think”.  Recently, I had written and posted an essay here at CC about how a ’62 Plymouth Valiant was visually “doing too much”, with too many incongruous lines, curves, shapes, etc. in its exterior styling.  I’d say this ’73 Riviera could be Exhibit B of this same idea, but in a completely different (and, to me, positive) way.

While the lines of that ’62 Valiant strike me as being a bit schizophrenic, there’s a quiet, solid, dignified gravity to the lines of this ’73 Riv, especially within the context of its setting beneath the CTA “L” Loop tracks.  One of 34,000 ’73 Rivieras originally assembled in the Vehicle City, no one is going to mistake it for any other personal luxury car, period.  When I had originally photographed this car about six years ago, I hadn’t noticed the “GS” badges on the front fenders.  This package included an upgraded 455-cubic inch V8 (with either 260 or 270 hp, up from 250 on the standard 455) and a suspension package (along with a few other mechanical goodies that I’m not really that qualified to write about), all at a relatively cheap price which was considered a bargain at the time for what one got – something around $200 (around $1,100 / adjusted).  Base prices for ’73 (before many necessary options) started at $5,221 – about $30,000 in 2019.

Cars equipped with the GS package that year reportedly numbered fewer than 2,000, though I could not find concurrence on the exact number.  I must also opine that though the rear styling of the ’73 Riviera was toned down somewhat compared to that of the preceding two model years, the ’73 Riv was still a very distinctive and (to me) handsome-looking car.  I like the horizontally-bisected taillamp clusters, and centering the license plate within the rear bumper was a change for the better.

Obviousness is not quality I place a premium on, and I can appreciate topics and objects that provoke debate.  The polarizing design of these Rivieras (sales actually fell from 37,300 units in 1970 to 33,800 for the all-new ’71s) is just another reason why I love them.  They’re not everyone’s cuppa, but not everybody has to like everything.  I like that Chief Designer Bill Mitchell and his team had reinvented Riviera styling for this generation into something that was bold, brash, and eminently memorable.

Downtown, the Loop, Chicago, Illinois.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013.

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