Thanks to Eric Clem for these two relevant snapshots. The survival of this grey specimen of a car which was never especially popular, especially in import-crazy Washington state, and which isn’t being kept in especially well-loved condition is a noteworthy occurrence, certainly worth stopping to take a picture. For fans of the Riviera, any hope of a revival of sorts after the controversial boat tail (which still had its charm) was dashed when this car came out. With so much less to love, it must’ve been quite the comedown.
The bustleback, while not the prettiest thing, at least aims to be distinctive. It’s the rectangular quad headlights which hurt the car the most, looking dull, static and almost truckish, making the entire thing a dreary mess. Who can blame GM, though? Sales were what mattered and in the Riviera’s market, athleticism was never rewarded. So the solution was to saddle the car with as many faux-classical touches as possible. When popularity is the name of the game, sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) you have to aim low.
Related reading: The Cars Of GM Designer Wayne Kady and 1980 Cadillac Seville
Ouch! that’s very painful to look at.
It actually got worse after this generation. The 5th generation ’77-’78 model years were completely generic looking until the beautiful ’79 version came out.
Awful. Simply awful in every way. That pretty much says it all.
After the boat tail this is like the difference between Pavarotti and Chas and Dave.The battleship grey paint doesn’t help either
I went to look at a 76 Riviera for sale recently. The exterior was in much better condition than the one shown here. We have a cold climate where I live and the plastic fiilers that disintegrate in the south are usually intact on the Buicks and Cadillacs from this era. The worst part of this Riv was the interior’s design. It looked so depressingly awful and cheap I didn’t even bother taking it for a test drive. GM must have thought their customers were chumps to try and pass this car off as a higher end “personal luxury car”.
Depressingly awful and cheap? I know the ’70s interiors were a letdown from a 1963 or 1966 Riviera, but I don’t know if I would describe them that way.
Here’s the 1976 S/R interior. I think the console and shifter are pretty cool, and it looks positively sumptuous!
That picture of a new Riviera certainly makes the interior look good. 38 years will take it’s toll on the plastics and upholstery but if you sit in a Lincoln of that era they are much nicer and have held up much better. Yes I know the Mk Vs were more expensive but the Riviera should have been better than what it was. I also looked at a 76 Electra Park Avenue recently and while the Flexsteel “Talisman” style seats were super soft and plush the dash just looked sad. The quality of plastics were like the one’s used in an old 70s clock-radio. I want to buy a classic cruiser but I could not sit and look at these Buick’s dash’s.
Well, you could get a Riviera with leather, which spiffs the interior up a bunch.
I have a 1975 Buick, so I have stared at this dash for about a decade now, I don’t find it objectionable, I like the wrap around dash from the 1971-1974 ones more. I think that the 1975-1976 Buick dash was designed with the GM ACRS in mind, hence the glove box moved up to the high position.
Is your speedo black on white?
Black numbers on a silver background, Buick did that for several years starting from 1974 up, it was kind of their “thing” for a while, they did it until 1982-1983 or so.
Its also interesting that Buick went to round gauges on the big cars from 1977-1985, interesting for a big domestic car, and then back to an almost miniature updated version of the 1975-1976 dash for the new 1985 C/H body cars.
Yes, my ’77 Electra has the silver 1940s style gauges, seems so out of place with a 70s-80s design mold when almost everyone had horizontal “TV” speedos. The only other car I can think of with those was the Grand Marquis which kept them forever. Interesting, Mercury ostensibly being Ford’s “Buick” or attempt at one, they would both opt for the odd man out silver round or square gage-ery.
Everyone did them at least once in the 70’s…Cadillac did them for 1974 only, same year Buick introduced them on the big cars, Pontiac did it one the first year downsized 1978 A-bodies, as did Oldsmobile on the Cutlass for 1978.
Buick is very tradition minded, I always thought the 77-85 big Buick dash was an homage to the 1940’s-early1950’s Buick dashes, right down to the clock on the passenger side and the big center stack.
Sorry if I insulted your car Carmine. I’m not here to bash Buick. My dad had a 75 LeSabre 4 door hardtop with the same dash. I drove it a lot and it looked OK for a LeSabre. I just wish the Riviera had been a bit more luxurious. Do you know if the interior quality of the 77-79 Park Avenues was any better?
They were the similar formula, heavily padded velour seats, nicer door panels, but they all shared the Buick dash.
At least the Riv had its own Buick steering wheel, the Mark V used that horrid bent spoke design fron the Ford parts bin, found in everything from the Mark down to the Pinto!
Yeah, GM fake wood in the early/mid 70s was particularly bad.
thats the best buick could do in 1976 for the riviera? its awfully plain looking for a 1970s personal luxury coupe…
Does anybody wear driving gloves anymore?
Yuck, I never noticed this generation had the GM patented deteriorating plastic filler panels like Cadillacs of the same time. At least the Caddie ones were shaped nicely, the cut lines on the Riv seem completely random.
This era Riviera was not very plush, not very sporty,,, come to think of it not very anything nor was the model that replaced it. I never quite figured out what those two generations had to offer over a LeSabre coupe. This is one of those few times I would have preferred a Toronado over a Riviera.
I agree this is one of the darker moments in the Riviera’s history. It may seem odd that they abandoned the boattail styling, but I think sales dropped considerably during the boattail years. So they tried this new rear end styling, which is obviously influenced by the Cadillac LaSalle and La Scala concepts from circa 1973. Those themes were intended for the Seville, but got shelved except for this Riviera until the (also controversial) “bustle-back” Seville in 1981. This 1974-76 period was probably the only time (I’m guessing) when Riviera was outsold by Toronado, since it had much safer Eldorado-esque styling. But it certainly makes an interesting oddball now!
The reason the bob-tailed Riviera came about was that Lee Mays, who became Buick’s general manager in mid-1969, haaaated the boattail, which at that point was not yet in production. I gather that it was too late in the development cycle to kill outright, but he wanted it gone as soon as feasible.
The bob-tailed car actually sold a good deal worse than the boattail cars, although how much of that was due to styling and how much to the OPEC embargo is debatable.
I found the perfect car to drive to a Greenpeace fund raiser….I never liked this style without the boat tail, though the 2nd set of Toronado style brake lights were kind of cool. They still have pretty nice interiors and you could still get a console, which is kind of interesting, I think this is only full size GM car post 1970 that you could still get an operating console in.
This one does have a certain charm in its run down state, this car would look perfect parked out side of seedy motel or run down porno store.
A car for the bouncer in the next Roadhouse film?
PS. I don’t even remember this model.
Ahhh, the Dodge Custom 880 of Buicks – a sliced, diced and modernized treatment on an old design that is both new looking and instantly recognizable, all at the same time..
A good analogy. Unfortunately, unlike the 1962 Dodge showroom, in Buick showrooms the smaller, less expensive model on the floor – the Regal – was also better looking and much more youthful in appearance.
This era Riv looked like a Toronado wanna-be, or a cheapened El Dorado, not unique enough. Also, this was the ‘personal-lux’ coupe hey day, and the big Riv looked too heavy compared to Cutlass Supremes and Grand Prix.
The boat tail may have turned off ‘traditional’ Buick buyers, but in long run is more memorable.
If I recall correctly, sales of this generation remained below the those of the boat tail model, even though the new-car market had recovered by late 1975.
The boat tail Riviera was a love-it-or-hate-it model, but this generation only seems to have elicited yawns. GM would redeem the nameplate with the 1979 model.
They did the because they were unhappy with sales of the boat tail Rivieras, and they ended up with worse sales, which I guess made Buick management in Flint just throw their hands up and say “fuck it” for this and the next generation 1977-1978 Rivieras, I imagine that they were still profitable, or they would have dropped the Riviera altogether, but they weren’t going to take any chances with anything that wasn’t tried and true Buick and they were going to do it with minimal effort, again, see the 1977-1978 Rivieras. The 1979-1985 Rivieras did a lot to redeem the Riviera nameplate, they were great sellers too.
Too bad the 1977-1978 gets kind of a bad rap, its a pretty nice car, properly equipped, they could be pretty decent cars.
I believe that because Mays hated the boattail design so much, the decision to revise it was made before or just as the boattail went on sale. That’s the only way I could see it being ready for MY1974.
AUWM: that might make sense if the ’74 Riviera was truly a new car, but I strongly suspect it didn’t take three years to make a change to the rear part of the car. It’s not like this was a unibody, and required lots re-engineering or whatever. I guess a relatively minor change like this would have taken 18-24 months, depending on how much it was rushed.
I have to say that the 77-78 Rivieras is the best Riviera I have driven. Maybe the best B-body too. It was very quiet and had a really nice ride. But I have not driven the 74-76 Rivieras.
The later FWD E-body was not so good I think, but it’s always difficult to compare. The 86-93 remind me of a 1980 X-body Skylark when you drive it.
I don’t think its a bad looking car at all personally.
I’ll admit to having a soft spot for this generation of Rivs, although I do prefer the 1st gens and the boat-tails.
My Great Uncle Roland (Grandad’s brother) had one of these. I was told it was originally silver, but he had it repainted white. it had a red half-vinyl top and red interior. They lived in Maine but it was always garaged, impeccably maintained and looked like new.
Not long after my Grandad died, I heard that the Riv was traded on a Chevy Celebrity. I don’t think he got much for it on a trade-in either. Uncle Roland must’ve done this without telling anybody, because a few of my relatives probably would’ve been happy to buy it from him.
This car had a lot of the same styling elements as other models like the Eldorado and Toronado, but somehow they just didn’t hold together quite right. Especially the front end. The proportions were “off” somehow. I think it needed more finlike protuding front fenders like Eldo, Toro and even Grand Prix and Monte Carlo had.
Just read the CC about the 68 Riv. I personally prefer this 1975, I think the 68’is ugly.
Different strokes for different folks I guess.
It looks like something AMC would have run up in a hurry from old Ambassador parts.
Today must be Riviera day here! This is one of the years I was discussing. I can tell you who had something to do with this design. It was a designer named Wayne Kady. If you ever get the chance to see his design work for Cadillac and Buick, you will see that rear design you all dislike on a lot of his work. He had something to do with the 1980-1985 Cadillac Seville as well.
I found a link to him and his design work:
This site did a story on him too:
Two 1975 Buick Riviera videos:
I don’t hate this car. Its not terrible. Its not as nice looking as the boat tail but much better than the hideous tornado bloat mobile. Would rather have a Cordoba or mark v though. I don’t like the high mount break lights.
I think what really does this car in is the depressing grey November color it is painted. It accentuates any of the downsides of its design. In some ways it’s cleaner than that wacky boattail.
I can see it looking much more flattering in black, Buick-catalog dark green, red, or even yellow.
The same grim shade was used on the 1977 Lincoln Town Car PN did a piece on back when CC was on TTAC. It didn’t look so great either, but compare it with the examples Tom Klockau has taken pictures of, and suddenly you see paint color and lighting make a huge difference.
A nice clean black one with the Buick road wheels looks better, not great, but better.
What self respecting bad guy on Barnaby Jones wouldn’t want to drive this….
My 1975 Riviera is the Verde Mist color and it has the console shifter. I bought it for $305 off eBay in 2010 and finally got around to restoring it a few months ago. It should be finished by April 2023.
Wow. Knowing what the ’66-ish Riv’s looked like, and seeing it go to this….like young Elvis to fat Elvis….
It’s like going to a school reunion and seeing the star athlete is now a fat balding middle aged guy
With the combination it’s color, condition, age, marque, and size, I imagine the driver of this car as being a 100 year old man with coke bottle glasses
See that and raise you this abomination:
Because that 1968 Grand Prix wasn’t ugly enough:
The 70 Riv looks pretty good compared to the 75! I like the Grand Prix,there again 3 of my favourite cars are Edsels,70 Dodge Coronet/Superbee and the Ford Zephyr/Zodiac MK 4!
Abomination? ugly? OH, well…I think both of those are good-looking cars! Loved the noses on the 68-69 Pontiacs…and the 69-70 Rivieras, too…these were the “new” cars when I was a kid. I remember going out and buyin’ the model of the ’69 Riviera to put together.
What gets me is seeing people go on and on about ugly, squared-off, generic-looking 80s and 90s sedans…any of the US cars of that era, which, to me, are the blandest, dullest things on earth. I just don’t get the nostalgia for 80s cars.
Yes, I sound old.
cut a hole in the hood and put a blower on it
I’ll provide some defense of the ’74-’76 Riviera. It’s a fairly clean design for the era that is inoffensive. Probably exactly what the executives needed and wanted along with an Alka-Seltzer after the controversial boat tail era. But, weak sales, about 20,000 a year, the poorest of any Riviera until the disastrous ’86 downsizing, confirm that in a style driven genre, this car missed the mark.
By ’74 or ’75 the basic ’71 Toronado was preparing to keep soldering on through ’78, festooned with progressively more goofy gee-gaws to freshen a stale look. I’d take this Riv over some of those Toros – and I’m usually an Olds guy.
Until ’86, I usually was least interested in the ’77 – ’78 Riv. Too much a gussied up LeSabre for my tastes – and the framed door window glass was an absolute offense when the entirety of the competition was still paying homage to the hardtop in some fashion.
The ’86-’88 was the most unacceptable Riviera of them all.
Expectations of a new Riviera were always high; no new Buick introduction was going to match the impact of the introduction of the ’63, the ’66 and the ’71 Riviera. With that said, how bad was the ’75 – ’76 Riv in the context of all the other GM cars of that period? Is this Riv really worse than ’86 -’93 E-bodies? Really?
Some context for 1975: take the 75-76 Eldorado. If we’re picking the Riv apart, IMHO there’s a lot about the Eldo that deserves all the same censure aimed at the Riv we’re discussing here. In fact the Eldo was just overdone -especially the Biarritz (but in that period-perfect pimpoid way -just like the ’58 Roadmaster Limited or the ’59-60 Eldos).
If anything, these 4th Gen Rivs were just a tad bland (especially in comparison to the a concurrent T-Bird, Eldo or a Mark V).
The interior on this car? I agree with the comment that Lincolns did it better -but the Riv was no worse than the ’75 Cadillac Brougham (totally cheezy, doesn’t-even-resemble-plastic-wood -called ‘pecan’ But that was GM at the time.
The Rivieras of that era were eminently forgettable. I fully agree the silver gauges were an abomination. I had none in a Buick but had two Mercurys with them. To make things even worse, the Mercurys used a black speedo needle that just disappeared at night in the horrid gang-green glow.
I think the 1974 version of this Riviera wears the chopped tail look best, it still has some lean to the front end, which they tried to design-out of the 1975-1976 version of the Riviera. If you had to have one of these, this would be the one.
Here is a nice image of a 1975 Buick Riviera. I agree that the car lost its’ uniqueness and special appeal.
I guess even Bill Mitchell can’t bat a thousand!
The top rendering (shown below) was one of many submitted by Buick studio designers to retain almost all of the ’71 Riv original overall design while redesigning the rear to eliminate the boat-tail. The Sweep-Spear is left in tact. This was done by John Perkins, a great GM designer. I believe the final rear re-design was his.
The bottom rendering is his work also in 1968 and speaks of future Monte Carlo’s, Camaros and Corvettes. (these are a couple of my favorite renderings in my small collection of GM studio artwork.)
I thank you for sharing. I always like seeing these design concepts. It shows what they were thinking at the time. I really enjoy looking at the design sketches you shared.
Very interesting, the top car seems to predict the “bent-wire” rear glass technique that was used on the 77-78 Toronado XSR and the 77-79 Caprice/Impala coupe. How does one acquire art like this?
If I’m not mistaken, I think the “bent wire” or “hot wire” rear glass technique might have premiered on the 1967 Eldorado.
I like these… Grand Theft Auto 3 and Vice City had a near-double of these called the Idaho (and a 75-78 Eldorado clone called the Esperanto). Loved cruising in them in the game world.
Love that name- most def. more Idaho than Riviera in this model!
The subject car is almost identical to my father’s demo from 1975, except that his also had the optional stainless steel band that went across the roof between the painted section and the landau’s vinyl (I ordered the car for him and spec’ed every available option). If I recall correctly, it had a pretty nice burgundy leather interior. The combo of the silver paint (which was much less common then) and the burgundy top and pinstripe made it one of the few Brougham-y type vehicles that appealed to the adolescent me. Although I didn’t have my license yet, the 455 probably didn’t hurt either lol. I know I’ve got pics of this car somewhere, because it’s the one they brought my baby brother home from the hospital in. 🙂
I had a decent 62K 74 a few years ago, what you would call a 20 footer, nice colors , dark blue & white. Typical well kept older owner car. After trying for two years to sell it for $3000.00 with zero interest I finally sold it to a urban dealer for $2000.00 who told me the ‘Big wheel’ crowd likes them because there nice cars cheap. If I had a $1.00 for every time I heard ‘Too bad it`s not a boat tail’ It would still be making me money. It was a nice car but I found out they have no following