Curbside Classic: 1962 Buick Electra 225 Riviera – Thriver

This 1962 Electra 225 Riviera sees a fair bit of the street here in Melbourne and I’ve managed to capture it on multiple occasions. I’ve also managed to meet its owner, who it turns out piloted half a Honda Z360 in the 1986 film Malcolm.

The earliest reference I can find to a Buick Riviera is this 1940 concept by Richard Arbib, who was then consulting at Art and Colour under Harley Earl, before moving on to Penney and AMC. 

It came just after the Y-Job, when Earl was using Buick to parade his most daring around Grosse Pointe. The cowled wheels seem semi-feasible, but from the get-go the brief appeared to involve a pillarless turret.

In 1949 it was one of the first hardtops on the market.

Initially a senior two-door, before the name was also distributed amongst short and long wheelbase Buick four-door hardtops in the years following.

From 1959 the name was restricted to the top of the line Buick four-door hardtop only.

The Electra 225 Riviera shared its roofline with the six-window Cadillac hardtop; with no other GM marque permitted to use it.

At $4448 the 1962 Riviera was the most expensive Buick.

Despite this, it was also the second most popular Electra 225 body with more than 15,000 units produced. 

The cheapest Cadillac six window was $5213, and the Olds version introduced the year before was $4118. The Buick was the most restrained of the three. Quieter prestige.

1962 was also Buick’s best year in sales since 1956, and styling had something to do with it. 

The roof’s fast and straight rear pillar was well echoed by the lower body’s trailing edge, a much cleaner treatment than the past few years. 

The straight-through bodyside accents enhanced the shape’s dynamism superbly. Being able to capture our CC during different times of the year really brings these qualities out.

It’s a CC in the best sense of the term – pretty much original and still regularly used.

Survivor class has become the class to join in classic car circles. I get it, but sometimes the obsession can get a bit, well, obsessive.

This lovely beast isn’t a survivor so much as a thriver.

Since purchase, Paul has only replaced the tyres. He’s not a factory chalk mark original air in the tyres kind of owner – he just lucked onto a very, very presentable example that gives him no trouble.

He’s even avoided the temptation of warming up its 325 hp 401, despite the fact he also has a taste for restomods.

Paul is great for a chat about cars.

Get him onto bikes, and at some point he might tell you about the time he worked on the movie Malcolm. It’s an Australian classic, thanks in part to the quirky contraptions built by David Parker, who co-directed the film with Nadia Tass.

Best gag was the splitting Honda, but the producers couldn’t find anyone capable of piloting the half bodies.

Rounds of stunt riders were brought in, invariably resulting in a damaged prop that had to be fixed and fixed again.

Paul got the call and met the production team at a house in Maribyrnong.

The prop was quite literally a Honda Z360 body split in half, with each chassis rail retained. A 90cc Honda engine was mounted at rear, and a narrow steering bar had the hand throttle attached. And there were no brakes. After positioning shotbags to balance the body, Paul slid into the seat.

He received a push-start, then gunned it as soon as they let go.

The half-body remained upright, and Paul summoned enough command of this demi-car to end his first trip in a figure-of-eight.

David Parker threw his script in the air, shouting ‘We can finish the film!’

And here he is in action.

1962 was the last year the name Riviera meant an Electra 225 body style.

For 1963 the six-light hardtop was now called the Buick Electra 225 4-Door Sedan, while the four-light hardtop was called the Buick Electra 225 4-Door Hardtop.

That was the year the name returned to two-door configuration, for a special body Cadillac had rejected.

With thanks to Paul Chase


Further Reading

1953 Buick Super Riviera vs.1953 Buick Special Riviera by Aaron65

1959 Buick Electra 225 by Rich Baron

1961 Buick Electra 225 Convertible by Joseph Dennis

1962 Buick Electra 225 by Paul Niedermeyer

1963 Buick Riviera by Aaron65

1972 Honda Z360 GL by Tatra87