CC Capsule: Cars I Never Bought–1984/5 Buick Riviera T-Type

Riv T-Type 1

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?

Riv T-Type 3

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.

'63 Riv

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!

1985 The Art of Buick-12-13

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.

Riv T-Type 2

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.

Riv Interior

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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.