Several months ago, a longtime reader of Curbside Classic, Jeffrey Farias, contacted me about doing an article on his 1990 Buick Riviera. He happens to live nearby and extended the offer of getting some seat time in it, which I gladly accepted. Without further ado, here is the story of Jeffrey’s rather unique 1990 Buick Riviera, as well as my own driving impressions.
When the significantly downsized Buick Riviera debuted for 1986, it was total disappointment. Losing nearly twenty inches in length, V8 power, and mostly any distinctive styling, the 1986 Riviera was a catastrophic misstep by General Motors, and enough for Paul to pick it as the first car in his series of GM Deadly Sins. Buyers were not happy either, as 1986 Riviera sales were barely one-third that of the outgoing 1985 model.
1989 would see some changes in attempt to correct some of the 1986-1988 Riviera’s blandness. Eleven inches of length were added to the car, restoring the Riviera’s iconic sloped decklid in the process. A new and more formal roofline was added, with a new landau vinyl roof. These changes gave the Riviera back some distinctiveness and style, but unfortunately didn’t do much to improve sales. The freshened 1989 model would soldier largely unchanged, seeing continuing falling sales, until it was discontinued after a brief run of 1993 models. Today these cars have little collectability in the mass market, but that hasn’t stopped some people from appreciating these Rivieras for what they are.
This Riviera’s Story:
Cars have always played a huge role in Jeffrey’s life, and his family has a deep-rooted history with GM products, particularly Buick and Oldsmobile. As a child of the post-Malaise Era, there were an increasing number of interesting cars Jeffrey could have been obsessed over. Above all, there was one car that captured his fascination and made a lasting impression: the 1989-1993 Buick Riviera. Upon first seeing one, it was love at first sight. Neighbors of his owned an ’89 model which he would frequently admire every time he saw it. He told me that around age 3 he’d tell his mother to slow down when they’d drive by to get a longer stare.
By sheer coincidence, around 2004 and by now a teenager, a 1990 Riviera showed up in the driveway of his grandparents’ elderly neighbor whom he was not acquainted with. One day he decided to take a walk and introduce himself if she was sitting out in her breezeway, with hopes of learning a little more about her car.
The woman, who introduced herself as Priscilla, was more than happy to talk about her car, as she was very much a car enthusiast herself. It turned out that she had recently acquired the Riviera as replacement for her 1976 Monte Carlo, which faithfully served as her daily-driver for nearly 29 years. Her son-in-law, JR, had actually located the one-owner Riviera for sale while in Florida. JR was a die-hard Buick fan, and having already converted his wife to the brand, knew he could do the same for his mother-in-law with this beautiful Rivera. With her approval, he bought it and had it shipped up to Massachusetts for her.
Priscilla drove the Riviera for the next eight years, in that time putting little mileage on the car, as she only drove locally and never in the snow or rain. In early 2012, while recovering from a broken hip, Priscilla came to the decision that she no longer felt safe behind the wheel and would not renew her license that June. Through the years, Jeffrey had stayed in contact, and had come to know her daughter and son-in-law, who had actually both gone to school with Jeffrey’s aunt.
The title to the car was actually in JR’s name, so after discussing it with Priscilla, they agreed to put the car up for sale. Knowing Jeffrey had a deep interest in the Riviera, JR gave him a call, offering him first dibs. Jeffrey willingly accepted this offer, making his childhood dream a reality. Tragically, JR, who was losing his battle with cancer, would pass just three days later. It would be his widow and Priscilla’s daughter, Cynthia whom Jeffrey would ultimately purchase the car from, in June of 2012.
The Riviera was in decent condition for a 22-year old car with 82,000 miles on it, but it had nonetheless experienced 22 years of weather and human interaction. Upon taking ownership, Jeffrey invested a significant amount of TLC to bring back some of the luster that had been lost over two decades. First up, he had the paint buffed and compounded by a local dealer, which brought back a significant amount of depth and shine to the car’s metallic paint.
Jeffrey then proceeded to have the center caps of these less-commonly seen alloy wheels sanded and repainted with a new clearcoat. Jeffrey was able to repaint the side mirrors himself, using the paint codes to obtain the matching color to the Riviera’s original.
When it came to the interior, the leather had a few worn spots and tears from two decades of use. Jeffrey brought it to a trusted auto upholstery shop that was able repair it spot-on. Having seen and felt it in person, I’d never have known the leather wasn’t all-original.
As of the time of our meeting, the Riviera has been in Jeffrey’s loving ownership for three years now, and in that time he has only put about 4,000 miles on the car. Complementing the car’s time period, he has thoughtfully included several period accessories, such as a vintage Motorola cell phone, TWA brochure, and Filene’s and Jordan Marsh (popular department stores in the area that no longer exist) tote bags in the trunk.
Jeffrey currently keeps the Riviera garage-stored year round. He doesn’t drive the car in the winter, only pulling it out regularly to let it run for a few minutes during the abusive winter months. Driven only on nice days, and having seen rain only a few times in its recent years, the Riviera is in excellent hands with Jeffrey. He is the ideal type of owner for a classic car, and it is thoroughly refreshing to see someone care so much for a car because he loves it and sees it as a collectible car, not because it has high collector’s status in the car world.
My Driving Impressions:
Just sliding into the soft leather buckets, and looking out at the Riviera hood ornament was enough to bring a grin to my face. Regardless of how this car handled, I knew I was in for an experience I would never forget. As I reached for the door handle, I was instantly overcome with nostalgia to both of my grandfather’s 1990s Oldsmobiles, as the used the same chrome L-shaped handles. Closing the long, heavy doors led to a securing, solid thud.
Upon turning the key, the flawless digital dash came to life, proudly displaying its full-instrumentation in that period blue-green color. Shifting into drive instigated the automatic door locking system and its reassuring vault-like click.
Out of its sheer uniqueness from the type of car I’m used to, driving the Riviera was a blast. By no means is this a fast car, but I didn’t find that a detriment. As we say in the Boston area, it’s “wicked” comfortable and quiet. Once it reaches about thirty, and the engine revs slow, this big Buick glides like a magic carpet on air.
Had Buick equipped the Riviera with the same supercharged version of the 3800 as in the Park Avenue Ultra, I wouldn’t have had any objections. That being said, the Riviera never felt under powered, with 165 horsepower and 210 pound-foot of torque from its naturally aspirated 3.8L V6 being perfectly capable for this grand tourer, especially at higher speeds.
Despite its substantial downsizing from past Rivieras and facing sharp criticism as a result, this 1990 Riviera is by no means a “small” car. At 198.3 inches long (up eleven inches from 1986-1988), it’s longer than a current Lacrosse, and within 3.5 inches of an Enclave. For a more timely comparison, the 1990 Riviera’s exterior dimensions are nearly identical to that of the 1978-1987 G-body Regal coupe.
Behind the wheel, the Riv feels like a bigger, heavier car than its approximately 3,400 pound curb weight would suggest. Its long hood and front overhang, combined with the engine over its drive wheels is likely the reason why. Yet this heaviness isn’t necessarily a bad quality for personal luxury coupe, as it gives the car a commanding, solid feel that many modern front-wheel drive cars I’ve driven lack.
Even with this heaviness and a softer suspension than I’m used to, I always felt in full control. I found the car remarkably agile, delivering power when needed, and maneuvering easy through traffic and turns. Pulling a U-turn on a narrow side street proved a simple task.
Jeffrey was kind enough to let me drive his beautiful Riviera for nearly two hours. In that time, he gave me a wonderful tour that included plentiful curbside classic sightings through several Massachusetts towns. My lasting impression of his Riviera is that it is the perfect personal luxury coupe. It’s tastefully styled, easily maneuverable, and has all the luxury features one could have ever wanted in for its time.
I can understand why seasoned personal luxury car buyers would have balked at the Riviera’s downsizing in 1986, and still wouldn’t have been totally satisfied with the 1989-1993’s improvements. Not a member of that crowd or age group, I find the 1990 Riviera’s size perfect for a “personal” car.
I can’t thank Jeffery enough for providing me with the opportunity to drive a vehicle I would likely never have the chance to. It was a fantastic day, and will go down as one of my most memorable driving experiences to date.
The most interesting and unique aspect to this particular car lies in its mysterious first eight months of existence. Produced in November of 1989, this Riviera wasn’t sold until June 1990 at a dealer in Florida, with 21 miles on the clock. Is eight months unheard of for a new car to sit on a dealer lot? No, but to go that long in Florida, arguably prime real estate for a car like this, as well as only accumulate 21 miles in that time does strike it as a bit odd.
But here’s where it gets real intriguing. This Riviera is finished in Medium Slate Gray (color code 9235), a color never officially offered on any Buick. Medium Slate Gray was a newly introduced color for 1990, available on several Cadillac and Oldsmobile models though 1992, but never on any Buick. Coincidently, this was also the same color of my grandfather’s 1992 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight.
The Riviera’s vinyl top also does not correspond to any listed Buick colors for 1990. The possibility of the car having been repainted can be ruled out, as the service parts identification sticker reveals that indeed 9235 is the original color.
Upon researching this, Jeffrey found out that exactly five 1990 Buick Rivieras of the 22,526 produced for that year were painted in this color. Further digging revealed this picture from the 1990 Chicago Auto Show. It’s hard to clearly make out, but the Riviera in the far back left does appear to be match. The auto show season always begins right around late-November with Los Angeles, and runs until early-April with New York. Could this Riviera and the four others have been originally trucked around for the auto show circuit before being given to preferred Buick dealerships for sale?
This is Jeffrey’s theory, although he unfortunately hasn’t been able to find any definitive evidence supporting this. It really isn’t all that far-fetched, and would certainly be an interesting tidbit if true. Can anyone else out there shed any light on this matter?
Regardless of this 1990 Buick Riviera’s past, Jeffrey loves this car all the same, and has fulfilled a lifelong dream in owning it for the past three years. Unfortunately, during our test drive, Jeffrey informed me that his time with this car might be coming to an end.
Jeffrey also owns another classic, this 1930 Ford Model A Deluxe Sport Coupe he inherited, and with work ramping up on its restoration, he would only have room for one of these cars. He had actually listed it for sale several times in recent months, but like any responsible owner, wanted to make sure the Riviera would fall into the hands of another collector, and not someone who would use the car as a winter beater.
Just this past weekend, Jeffrey and I met up again at the Bay State Antique Auto Club Car Show, where he proudly brought the Riviera to display, as well as list for sale. Towards the end of the day, Jeffrey indeed found an enthusiastic buyer, all set with a deposit in hand.
Although Jeffrey’s relationship with the Riviera has now come to an end, the car will live on, as will all of his memories with it, as he moves on with his next project car. Personally, I can’t thank him enough for offering me up his beautiful Riviera to take for a spin and share its story. It’s a car and experience I shall never forget!
It’s very nice to know your good story about the Riviera. Nowadays, I started to notice the drivers of pristine Rivieras being younger than what I thought, and many of the youngsters are very pleasant looking just like their cars. ( regardless of gender, but it only applies to the last two generations, as I didn’t see any pre-’85 driven by anyone young yet. And generally it’s not common to see youngsters driving cars before ’85 these days )
Last September around Flint, Mi on I-75 during my routine trip back from northern Michigan, I was doing 85mph, and I noticed an older car with hood ornament coming by slightly faster than the traffic. I thought it was an ’80s Caprice ( such one passed by me amazingly fast around Bay City earlier that day, driven by a rather boyish operator ) but it turned out to be a Riviera. I snapped few shots and the young driver gave me a thumb up ( I was driving a deep jewel green Lincoln Mark VIII, quite comparable to his ) slowing down at the same time before resuming his cruising speed. From his silhouette, he is surprisingly young for a Riviera, and it remains my most memorable encounter on road and I hope to meet him someday ( however, despite my weekly commute, I never see this Riviera again, and I think its appearance would be limited during April to November only. )
Nice story Brendan. The paint/roof codes is the kind of intrigue that occasionally rears it’s interesting head in cars with American style long order forms. Jeffery ensured his enthusiast credentials by picking up on it.
The digital dash and the graphic control center that earlier and Toronado versions of this car had showed where GM tried to give these cars a technological edge. The switch in taste and to unit front drive architecture meant dramatic sheetmetal of the Bill Mitchell school was not in the cards. It was thought that giving the driver something to fiddle with on the dash was a way to make the car special and justify the higher price. These innovations did not come from Europe, and only Japan countered on some of their cars. The gods of style at car and driver declared them gimmicky and the minions fell into line and so such things went away. Given how people now are addicted to interacting with such devices, GM was just early, not wrong.
While this is an attractive pristine survivor, I am less enthused by the bodywork. When GM’s signature style bombed in the eighties they erred in trying to make there new cars look like their old cars instead of boldly trying something new. Probably indicative of the depression gripping the organization and now virtually universal in car design. Again GM was early, buy this time wrong.
Good point re instruments. Sometimes manufacturers overdid electronic dashes, but here, I like the way GM blended [simulated] analog gauges with digital, recognizing that both have their place. As you said, GM can’t be blamed for doing the same thing Japan did earlier.
At least the Riviera’s were durable; old-school speedometers or cables don’t always age well. I would hope that by now, driveline optical sensors are used instead.
I think by now the guage part of an ip is probably the most expensive part. The current Sonic with it’s tiny pod of digital is probably where at least cheaper cars are headed.
It was great to view this car through eyes of a younger generation. I lived through these and would have no interest in one now, but for someone a generation behind me, these are fascinating exotics from a vanished era.
There is nothing like firsthand experience of a car from an earlier age. You noted how this Buick feels heavier than it is. This was GM’s gift, in that the company had the unique ability to make it’s cars feel heavy, solid and substantial. My mother’s Lacrosse is the same way. I am convinced that “feel” sold a lot of cars back in the day.
It is funny that you mentioned the door handle flashback. I experienced the same thing last weekend when a fellow let me open the passenger door on his 56 Studebaker Hawk. The moment my hand grasped that meaty handle, I flashed back to the many rides in the 60 Lark that my best friend’s mom drove until I was 12 or 13.
While not intentionally echoing JPC, I must second what he says about it being great when people drive cars older than they are. It is such a wonderful eye-opening experience, giving first hand experience instead of just reading about it.
You were lucky to have somebody let you drive their car. I also think it’s wonderful that Jeffrey has such a passion for these. These have obviously left an impression.
Nothing like having a little mystery wrapped into this. My money is on it having been one of the five show cars.
This car will live on because of these great pictures and fantastic write-up. What a gorgeous Riviera, and one of five with that paint code, “what?!” This post kind of made me want one of these, myself. I remember seeing the new ’90 Riviera at a Buick show under the dome of the (now demolished) Autoworld theme park in Flint, and thinking to myself that Buick had finally, again, done right by the Riviera nameplate.
Fantastic write-up as always, Brendan! This car is especially cool to me and I will tell you why – if there was ever a duplicate of my Mom’s ’79 Riviera in an updated style, then this is the car. The color combination is very similar to hers. I honestly believe if Buick wanted to come back with a retro version of the ’79-’85 Riviera today in 2015, this car actually would have worked!. There are so many styling cues that were taken from her ’79 it is crazy. The coach lamps on the vinyl top, the front grille pattern, the seat pattern, the woodgrain used on the dash and doors – the list goes on and on! I never realized just how much it resembled it until I looked closely at the pictures of this particular car.
As far as the color is concerned, I know that GM has a weird way of discontinuing and adding colors at weird times. When my Mom ordered her ’79 it was in February of that year. Buick discontinued a light pastel green color and added a dark green metallic that Dad had considered with a matching vinyl top and saddle interior. He thought it would give the car a “British” look, but my Mom had her heart set on the Firemist Charcoal Gray metallic with a silver vinyl top and oyster white leather interior. That car was a looker; we had people stop us all the time asking what kind of car that was. So you can see why this featured car is so striking to me. I found a picture of her color combination. If I could find another Riviera like this I’d grab it in a heartbeat.
That is a gorgeous Riviera. The color is killing me! Hell, I’d be showing it if I owned it.
Brendan, this is a really interesting, unique and detailed write-up. Jeffrey, thanks so much for sharing your car and enabling this drive report.
The background on this particular Riviera is particularly compelling, both how Jeffrey fell in love with the car and was able to acquire it, as well as the possibility that it was an auto show car. If it was on the show circuit, I imagine those light-colored seats would have had to have been replaced before the car was sold–that many “butts on seats” would have left their mark!
I hope the current custodian of this rare Riv keeps the history and tradition alive and well. Maybe one day in the future I can look forward to seeing this car on the fields at Hershey.
That was a wonderful story and a great opportunity for you to sample a car that is as close to being “new” as something of that age can reasonably be. Good for Jeffrey to take the initiative like that, I can’t think of many others that might do the same.
Nice write-up, Brendan. As one of the millions of thirty-somethings straddling the Gen X’ers and Millenials, I certainly appreciate the numerous variations of FWD luxo-boats that GM peddled for over a generation, all powered by the venerable 3800. We’ll never quite never see cars like these again.
Did have one question: Was the Riviera perhaps running hot when you drove it? In the pic showing the gauge cluster, the temp gauge is reading hot. Could just be a bad coolant temp sensor.
I don’t recall it running hot while I was driving it. I took the photos after driving around for about two hours with the A/C running, so that could be why.
The oil pressure is zero, so the engine is off with the ignition on for the photos.
I think the 170 hp version of the 3800 came out for the 91 model year, so this should have a 165 hp engine.
I did own a 1990 Riviera for a while before getting the 1995 model. I also test drove an 86 Riviera, and would have bought a T-type but they were not yet available.
While the 86 was not a nice looking as this 90, visibility was much better for the driver to see cars behind to the left side (blind spot).
the 170 hp 3800 version was only available on the T-Type regal in 1990 for some reason….as per the 1990 Buick brochure – last pages that highlight features of each car
Thank you for pointing out that detail. It’s been fixed.
Very nicely done, all the way around. You managed to make me appreciate this fine survivor much more than I ever did when they were new 🙂
A very nice write-up. It’s great that this car was bought by someone who truly appreciated it.
The 1986 Eldorado, Riviera and Toronado were all huge disappointments when they debuted. The restyling of the Riviera and Toronado worked wonders, in my opinion. The Eldorado’s restyling effort was less successful.
I’ve seen a few of these Rivieras around Harrisburg (one of them in very good condition), and my appreciation for them has grown over the years. If the face-lifted (or, more accurately, tail-lifted) Riviera and Toronado had been released in 1986, these cars would have been much more successful.
Great write-up of an underappreciated car! I fully agree with the criticisms of the ’86 model – it did look just like a scaled-up Somerset – but the facelift was a huge success. The car regained some of its presence and gravitas, and the shape was generally more appealing, without changing any of the hard points. And this one in particular is very intriguing–the auto show theory sounds like the right one to me as well.
Back in 86 when mom got her Riv it was quite the shock. In fact I remember the feeling of disgust seeing it pull up in the driveway. It actually ended up being one of moms favorite car of all time. Peppy, good mileage, smooth and solid. Amazingly no electrical problems up to 118k and no mechanical problems ever. Much easier for a lady small in stature to drive (previously driving a 78 Park Ave & 67 Eldo) especially in urban areas. Yes it did lack road presence, but mom actually appreciated having a luxury car that did not command attention. In fact the Riv led to a succession of “loser” E/K bodies of which a Reatta still resides in the family fleet. If you could get past the size and styling (the 89 rework doing much to help) these where neat little packages that in my opinion where better than their predecessors except in road presence. In one sad aspect these did pave the way for my parents to convert to the Germans. These cars taught my parent that luxury was not related to size. Sadly moms 00 STS provided to be nightmare in body/interior integrity and electrical reliability. A Eldorado followed two years later with the same results. I will give credit to GM that these cars were actually well engineered. Its too bad that at the end assembly and materials fell quite short. It is impossible to get any family member to this day to consider GM.
Great story, nicely done.
But you still won’t convince me this one’s extra length was cooler than the previous generation with their touchscreen controls. Which in hindsight was a terrible idea, but I sure thought it was awesome at the time. 🙂
Great write up on a great example of this car. As a former owner of a ’65 Riv and a big fan of the ’79, I too had a hard time with these when new. Much improved over the ’86, but too much a slave to putting ’79 details on the ’86 car, resulting in some odd proportions for the times. But, this rather rare bird is now a grand old example of the nameplate, and was undoubtedly a comfortable drive as you noted. GM was technically very good with modern front drive when it was working well, and the luxury versions were quite nice places to be.
very nice write up sounds like quite the rare car
just a quick comment/note
“Had Buick equipped the Riviera with the same supercharged version of the 3800 as in the Park Avenue Ultra, I wouldn’t have had any objections. That being said, the Riviera never felt under powered, with 170 horsepower and 220 pound-foot of torque from its naturally aspirated 3.8L V6 being perfectly capable for this grand tourer, especially at higher speeds.”
this car should have the 3800 V6 with SFI with the following specs
the 170/220 (SFI and tuned-port injection) version arrived during the following year
the Ultra didn’t really start getting the supercharged engine until 1992 – and I agree it was silly not to offer that engine for the 1992-1993 versions ditto with the Reatta and Trofeo
The Reatta ended production with a couple of thousand 1991 models, one of which I got. The 92-93 Riviera’s might have been offered with the supercharger, but perhaps there wasn’t room?
yes I am wrong about that. I think a lot of features migrated to the riviera too once the Reatta disappeared (14 way seats etc)
Thanks for pointing that out that detail. It’s been fixed.
Brendan, this was really great to read! I’m glad you got the opportunity to drive this now unusual car and took full advantage by turning it into an interesting report. I’m going to share this with a couple of friends who may have detailed knowledge about Buick auto show/ordering practices in those days. I’ll let you know if I find out anything!
Thanks! Let me know if you find out anything. If there’s any info out there, I’d love to pass it along to Jeffrey.
I will go on record here as saying that I liked the 7th gen Riv. I have always liked this version better then the 79-85 with its bloated Monte Carlo styling and its carbed 307.
Quite a good looking car, not sure about owning one but would enjoy taking one on a long road trip. Enough luggage space, charming but would not attract too much unwanted attention, enough speed to keep up with traffic and FWD for those light snow etc moments. What’s the highway mileage on these things?
Usually for the Buick 3800 with 4AT+overdrive, the highway mileage more depends on wind drag from each bodyshell. For ’91 LeSabre and Park Avenue, it’s 0.36 and 0.31 each, and it translate to 26 to my LeSabre. However, if capable of keeping up with the traffic depends on each different areas, and in some cases, this engine isn’t enough for acceleration nowadays.
wow, didn’t know about the lack of power to keep up with modern traffic. Perhaps a swap of 3.8litre turbo?
If driving around Flint, Mi in my LeSabre during summer, police would use radar to check out if I was driving above minimum speed. 3.8 turbo/SC definitely works as long as keeping the transmission maintained properly.
If anyone wants to take an 89 riviera for a spin just let me know im in minnesota
Your description of how the Buick drives is spot on. Parent’s last car was a ’93 LeSabre with the 3800 engine, and it drove just like the Riviera. It would get close to 30 mpg on the highway as well. It had about 115k miles on it. The engine was never touched, but the transmission was rebuilt along with the AC system while they had it, they put a lot of money into it. Drove them up to Bainbridge Island from Vancouver a couple of times to visit brother, it really was a nice car to drive and pretty peppy as well. Toward the end the body was full of dents, nobody was going to take the keys away from Dad. Until I finally did. Of course, he would just buy another car, for a while I felt like a used car dealer repossessing and reselling his “replacements”. I did have Dad tell me how both bumpers got banged up, the cops were trying to pull him over and finally sandwiched him between two cruisers and braked him to a stop! Like he said, what are they going to do, put an 87 year old man in jail? Found the paint marks on the garage door frame to explain how the right side mirror “fell off”. Never got the story on the bashed in rear door, however. My brother eventually bought the car and drove it to California and used it for a while, he really liked it and once the fuel pump was replaced you no longer had to fill it up at half a tank or else it would quit running going up hill. Glad to see this well preserved car went to a good home. Great story. Funny story about GM paint codes, I worked at an VW Oldsmobile dealer for a few years and once ordered touch up paint for a customer with a GMC or Chevy pickup. Got the paint code off his build sheet and the red touch up paint did not match his blue truck. After he came to pick it up he said every other dealer he ordered it through had the same problem! He bought it new, it came from GM with the wrong paint code.
A very nice looking example of that generation. That interior looks flawless.
This was very well done and a pleasure to read, Brendan! I am going to share your article on a FB group I belong to, Buick Town. If I find anything out about this car I will let you know. Cheers!
I just saw one the other day at a Walgreen’s parking lot in Providence! I’d guess it to a 1990-1991. White with red top. My favorite part? White interior! I think these were some of the last cars with white leather!
This write up captured the character of this car. When I lived in the US I was very taken by this generation of Buick Riviera. They are unusually nicely made and the body-sculpting is superb. The man behind it was Bill Porter who is a very cultured and experienced designer (now retired). I made the Riviera the subject of MA Automotive degree and attempted a redesign – it came nowhere near the refinement of this car. I love the sculpting of the rear fender and the way the rear lamps don´t carry around the corner of the car. Buick was making some very nicely finished vehicles at this time, something the current crop of cars lacks though they are by no means bad. Thanks for this great article.
I live in Denmark so it was a surprise to see this model of Riviera parked outside an old people´s home where I lived. That was the one day I had not go a camera with me and not the time to stop and give the car a good look. I regret that enormously. Three years later I still hope to see the car their again. But I expect that won´t happen, old folks home being what they are.
I drove a 89 in high school and just purchased a real nice 92 and am currently spending an insane amount in f money restoring it to 100%. Mine is fully loaded and has the cloth interior. One of the nicest riding cars I ever drove and I can’t wait to enjoy mine once restored in a few weeks.
I absolutely love these cars i basically bought mine sight on scene for 700 dollars and it has never let me down. I am 21 years old and its my baby. Only problem is the transmission is going out and i just bought my first house and its taking most of my time. I would definitely recommend it. Also its an ’89 so it has the touchscreen and everyone who jumps in always asks if its aftermarket and i have to explain to them “no buick was just way ahead of the times”.
The legacy lives on
I had one of these for about 3 years purchased from my mom. I sold so much **** and drove around at all times of night always getting pulled over. Silver 1990, I remember taking it to LA and Vegas and some guys on the Beach were like wasssup Blood. I sure miss that car. If anyone knows of or has another pls let me know, as mine was totaled in a accident. “ not my fault “ btw
Brendan, thank you for your story on this great old Riv. These cars were unappreciated in their day because of the drasticaly downsized 1986 upon which they were based. the 1979 – 1985 generation Riviera was a very tough act to follow, particularly by a 1986 that looked like a clone of the little 1985 Buick Somerset, a much cheaper car – and was THOUSANDS MORE than the price of the aforementioned Rivieras. Bill Porter told me of a crash program on the 1986 that added almost a foot in width to the car that design staff undertook at the 11th hour which just made production. One can only imagine THAT jackpot had it not happened. Anyway, the 1990 you tested had a lot of the great flavor that made a Riviera a Riviera, with a bit more length and old school plushness. Thanks again!