In-Motion Classic: 1954 Buick Roadmaster Riviera Coupe – Upsetting The Old Order

Traffic in most of Tokyo is usually light on weekends. Except in a few places, like Harajuku – that’s always a very busy area, with vast crowds on the sidewalks going to the parks and shops, and streets congested by all manner of motor vehicles. Thanks to this fact, instead of having one stupid blurry shot of this amazing blue Buick, I was able to tag along (I was on a bike, which did help) and snap away.

Ah, Buicks of the ‘50s! Hard to pick a favourite, isn’t it? The over-the-top cetacean ’50, the Last-of-the-Straights 1953 Special, the near perfection of the 19555657 trio (way more attractive than the Tri-Five Chevys, in my opinion), the dramatic 1959-60… I never cared for the 1958 and the 1951-52s are a bit generic. I never really thought much about the ‘54s, chiefly because the three MYs that came right after were so great. Seeing this one burbling past has opened my eyes, though.

Yes, mea maxima culpa. I misjudged the 1954 Buick. The big ones, anyway. On this 127-inch wheelbase, the bulk of the body is spread out a bit better than on the shorter Supers and Specials. And this Riviera hardtop coupe design also looks incredibly good, with those windows down… The open rear wheel, a signature design feature of the 1955-57 Buicks I always adored, is already present in the ‘54s – a fact that I hadn’t really picked up on until seeing this one in the metal.

This post won’t bother much with historical facts and technical data about these cars, really. This has all be gone into thoroughly by other CContributors who know a lot more than I ever will about ‘50s Buicks (specifically Jon Stephenson for the ’54 Roadmaster and Paul’s essential post on the 5.3 litre “Nailhead” V8 that was once behind this beauty’s toothy grille).

I say “once” because I doubt this Buick, lovely though it may be on the outside, is all original underneath. The wheels are a bit of a giveaway. I don’t know for sure, but the engine sounded suspiciously LS-ish… Of course, I don’t exactly have the Nailhead’n’Dynaflow melody memorized – there weren’t many ‘50s Buicks where and when I grew up.

Whatever was propelling this barge is fine by me – one can be a purist with a Buick in the US, but out here, an ocean away from spares and specialists, reliability is perhaps more important. And if a more modern drivetrain (as long as it’s not something really inappropriate, like a Diesel… or a Ford engine) is what it takes for this sublime classic to beautify the streets, then so be it.

The more I look at this blue beauty, the better it gets. I’m still keener on the 1955-57 Buicks, but this close encounter with a 1954 Riviera has caused me to reconsider my top five ‘50s Buicks. The sheer madness (and straight-eightedness) of the 1950 Buick means it’s still in fourth place, but the ’59 just got demoted. Congrats, Riv, you made the list.


Related posts:


Curbside Classic: 1954 Buick Roadmaster – The Distinguished Rocket Ship, by Jon Stevenson

Design History: Buick’s Fully-Open Rear Wheel Wells (1953 – 1957) – The Year-By-Year Opening, by PN

Automotive History: The Legendary Buick Nailhead V8 – And The Source Of Its Unusual Valve Arrangement, by PN